EMA - "Little Sketches on Tape" c32 (Night People)

  This was kind of a nice surprise.It's hard to tell what you might be getting into with a new Night People release, but it's always sure to be fresh and inventive music nonetheless.EMA's newest offering, a 32 minute cassette entitled "Little Sketches on Tape" is just that.Erika Anderson, formerly of the dreamy avant-folk act- Gowns, gives us a beautiful and mysterious cut and paste tape collage.The entire album is made up of completely spontaneous clips of hazy vocal play, fragments of lullabies and soft-spoken poetic charm.The guitars are chopped into a million pieces and given out a bit at a time, notes always bending upward and outward, and disappearing into thin air before an actual chord is constructed.Lush piano strides are thrown in at random and play only a tiny role in this, but add to her woozy melodies quite nicely.Hints of folk and early jazz make their rounds,but no more than to nudge your brain a bit either way,if only for a split second.
  These songs possess a heap of charm, a cleverness that lies in the fact that you never really hear a complete "song", in the traditional sense anyway.The polite rush of anticipation and wonder you get from this as a whole, is more than enough to carry it's weight.This is a heartfelt, and deeply personal project,and I really hope we get to hear more from her.Stunning.

Get it from Night People.

PETE SWANSON "Ghost O Clock" c20 [No Label]

Excellent self-released tape from Pete Swanson, formerly known as 1/2 of the Yellow Swans, with a spoo-oo-ooky title perfect for this Halloweekend. I've seen Pete play a couple times solo and he always rules but the first time I saw him was my favorite. He had his trunkload of gear set up per usual but through the performance the dude was just rockin' out, singing his song like the punkest noise dude in history. Anyway, the two side long pieces here are close to that territory. A smidge more mellow than said live set, the darkened cloud of noise on "Side A" features Pete's guitar strums and occasional vocals at its heart with a dusky outer coating. Really great track.
The flip side is an even better storm. The song bleeds through more and Pete layers a number of great guitar leads into the swarm. I love that the tape sounds smeary but not without definition. The chords cascade into each other seemingly in haphazard fashion but they all fit into the grand sleepy scheme. The tape sounds great at any hour but it's best at Ghost O Clock.
There's not much that really needs to be said about this; Swanson has been making fantastic music for nearly a decade now and his train keeps on rolling. If you haven't heard any of his solo work yet I highly recommend tracking this cassette down.
Also check out his LP Where I Was for a sampler of Pete's series of tapes over the past year or two.

SLEEP OVER - "S/T" c20 (Night People)

Wow.Such a pleasant surprise, from front to back.Christa Palazzolo, Sarah Brown, and Stefanie Franciotti make up the wonderful Sleep Over.They are a fairly new act, hailing from Austin,TX.You might remember them from the "Dark As Night" tape compilation on Bathetic last year, in which they had two dreamy tracks to contribute, "The Key" and "Your World is Night".They have since returned with a release of their own, a dazzling new cassette for the Night People label.
On their new twenty minute cassette, these three Austin future-witches cast a heavily sedated dream-spell on some fairly intense and dynamic minimalism and reinvent the somewhat exhausting of shoegaze altogether.Their lush and endless layers of vocal harmonies run so insanely deep, they could easily pull this off all on their own.But with the help of some rather ethereal synthesizer grouping, and dense machine-drums gently pounding away slow as molasses, they build up giant walls made up of black magic and breezy melodies, turning your brains to a pink sparkling liquid in the process.Psychedelic pop beautifully smothered in pagan ritual chants and drug-addled mind power, at it's finest.
Fans of early Cocteau Twins, Lush, and the current "witch haus" movement that includes Salem, oOoOO, and SURVIVIVE will surely melt right into this mysterious three piece.They are way ahead of the pack,that's for sure.I can't say enough good things about this.Get it before it's gone.New releases are in the works.

Get it from now from Night People.

EAGLE CHALICE "Let's Float" c20 (Hidden Fortress Tapes)

Another two sider. Who'da thunk? A two sided tape!
First side feels a little too together. The parts are there and anyone with ears can discern the wah-pegiated synth from the bell tones but for me it feels a little phoned-in, like it's mood music or a keyboard preset demonstrating a sequencing effect on a new model. In particular the drum sounds really feel like the 'rock' setting just slowed down which makes it difficult for me as a listener to feel the agency in the music. Other folks might have an easier time just sitting back, untying their shoes and letting themselves drift and float.

The second side was a whole other slice of banana bread. The entire tone is way more suggestive and subtle. The minimalism gives each component more strength by demanding more out of it. A bit darker but definitely not approach cold or goth it still has the 'floating' vibe hoped for in the title but this trip feels a bit more unknown and tenative lending itself to a sense of adventure and discovery whereas the first side feels content to sit on the 'new-age' surfboard and cruise the clouds.

Well done art / layout and just because i'm less of a 'chiller' may mean other folks will have the exact opposite feelings. It's nice though. TWO SIDES for real!

Released by the very likable Hidden Fortress Tapes

ENDAHL/KHOURY/RIGGS "Average Handle Time" c11 (Detroit Improvisation)

This tape, featuring the names of the players instead of band name, features a short piece per side, clocking in at 5 and a half minutes each. It's like a tape version of a seven inch; the opposite of a mp3 download code. Each of the people involved have their instrument listed : guitar, violin, piano. And that's what you hear.

It feels slightly unusual to have such a transparent release! There is a 'traditional' feel to the electro/acoustic improv vibe here, none of the instruments travel too far outside of their standard range or palette but there is a definite comfort in the approach and the relationships. The guitarist (Chris Riggs) sits back for most of the first side and on the second side wobbles a low end almost-drone that gives the pianist (Matt Endahl) and violinist (Mike Khoury) plenty of room to start and stop, bob and weave and otherwise make the most of their brief sides.

Nice, simple (in form) release, from the black and white art to the attention given to the instrumentation.

No label site:
Email: Entropystereo@yahoo.com
Distro: http://www.tomentosarecords.com/selfnoooo.html

XIPHIIDAE "Science Everywhere" c45 (Housecraft)

The alias of Housecraft label owner Jeffry Astin, known as Xiphiidae, is a project subject to change direction with every subsequent release. At times, Astin will focus a tape on bowed guitar mantras, or sometimes a tape will be based on lush field recordings and found sound. In the case of Science Everywhere, Astin provides a pretty unfamiliar sound in comparison to what I've heard: here we have 45 minutes of hypnotic, fractured, and heavily percussion-based soundscapes, with the occasional incorporation of the warm guitar textures that are instantly recognizable with prior knowledge of Xiphiidae's past releases. Though carried out for this length, this new direction never spreads itself thin; certain movements emphasize cut-up, warbled tape edits while others sport more definable rhythms. The most fascinating aspect of Science Everywhere is how the sounds at hand are utilized: they're taken out of the context of their original recording and put in a completely new foundation, from musique concreté clatter to brooding tribal percussion. Sporadic, colorful and entrancing-- it's a bold yet refreshing change of pace.

This tape is sold out at the Housecraft site, but I would keep my eye out on the usual distros: Tomentosa, Discriminate, or Amethyst Sunset.

ANGEL OLSEN - "Strange Cacti" C24 (reissue) (Bathetic)

Bathetic Tapes is pretty well known for their unique, genre-bending roster, and each time i buy a new tape from them,i can be sure are sure that it will be completely different than the last.The majority of their releases have been deeeeep lo-fi/bedroom pop,rock, and drone projects.With the release of Strange Cacti, they take a dip into more the stripped down, affected folk-hymns of a beautiful singer/songwriter named Angel Olsen.These six new songs are some of the most passionate, honest, and well written folk tunes that I've had the pleasure of hearing.
At first glance, you may hear something in the arena of Joni Mitchell's steady strumming and affectionate voice.In fact, there are elements of just about all the more obvious names in classic folk music, Melanie, Joan Baez, and even hints of Nico's deep and haunting croon makes it's way into her songwriting.Olsen sprinkles her own glittery magic over these heartfelt songs, and her insane vocal range is her secret weapon.Olsen's powerful,yet somber voice flutters around her gracious and confident strumming, and the two often intertwine to deliver deep, hair raising chords.Everything here is clean,untreated and her music doesn't rely on drowning in effects and studio trickery.There is a bit of chorus and reverb added to her voice,and it accents her wild pitch control very nicely.
Strange Cacti is a deeply personal album, but the songs leave plenty of room to insert your own story into their warm,heady vibes.It's full of heart wrenching howls, thick chord progressions, and just plain good songwriting.I can't wait to hear more from her very soon.Comes on solid white pro-printed, and dubbed cassettes with printed black and white photo j-card.
Get it from Bathetic

WONDER WHEEL "Natural Selection" C60 (Hobocult Records)

"Natural Selection" is a collection of recordings Paul A Rosales made over the years with some help from Ines Navarro & R Stevie Moore. If Brian Wilson had to "struggle at the piano" for weeks to emulate the ocean's tide & enormity on "Til I Die," Paul seems naturally inclined to make motor music. About half of these songs are actually cars or buses motoring along, & about half are more varied & sideways.

The cars are all unique but they're all built to drive: bass, crushed & specific drums, what sounds like two synth parts (one frothy lead & one more playing against it, maybe played at the same time), occasional support guitar. Paul sings from a pretty limited "melodic palette" that keeps the wheels on the ground, sometimes like early-Bats-style Robert Scott, but this is not the early Bats. The locomotive attitude of these songs works really well to create wide open spaces where intuitive bass playing, perfect-simple drums & well-placed synthesizer parts can frame Paul's vocals. "Future Home" is a great car.

But even the songs that play it straight get weird. Try to count beats in "Bedtime" -- whoa! "Algebra Problem" has a jazz thing. One of the most exciting songs on the album, "Thirteen" is structured over a super hot ascending synth line, like: short searing guitar solo / Ron House-ish vocal verse / short searing guitar solo / verse / etc. "Sleep" is another highlight: ideal mystery TV, erotic dream vocals. "TV Screen" builds in speed toward some wrong vocals & UFO chord changes.

OK you get it. Hey, check out this video of Paul's song "Crimes." Hobocult says "Natural Selection" is out of print but you might be able to get a copy from Paul (myspace here), who has a bunch of other music out, including some you can download from his blog.

KENNETH JOHN GILMORE - "Anina" cassingle c6 (Discotheque Records)

you might have seen Ken, Kenny, Kenneth Gilmore's live hands moving from guitar to creepy synthesizer & back in Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. did he come up with that added riff in their cover of "Bright Lit Blue Skies?" anyway, Anina's not on the stage but in the studio, in that kind of vague, Surf's Up-era Beach Boys studio where all things technical are so assured that there's room for the weirdest pitch mysteries & dissonant consonances. "Anina" is a really subtle song. as its parts repeat & develop, Gilmore tries out different guitar phrasings, and leaves behind incredibly attractive hooks that the song could be about. the end result is a confident lounge vibe that fades out after all the "band members" each have their moment to shine. Gilmore really plays like he's different people, and maybe he is.

the b-side "Thick Leaves" is a kind of stunted jam, with a great-because-too-quiet synth/organ lead melody playing coy as a nasty piano bass & drum machine rhythm section chug along. Gilmore doot-doots along like he's conducting the band. water sounds, sniffs, coughs, room and street sounds: sounds of real life filter in not really as "part of the noise" but as if the track is scoring an invisible movie.

great cassingle. hopefully this guy records more because his writing and playing are exciting. this was also the inaugural release on Dischotheque (think they're up to DTQ003 now), who are already MVPs in the cassette mansion.

go to discotheque records' website for a preview of the main event.