Just to be safe I've waited until the final minute of 2011 to post my best of list for the year just in case somebody scored right before the buzzer. It goes without saying that this is by no means definitive or complete, but if you don't have these tapes, your cassette playing power is certainly diminished. In no particular order:

ALTERED GEE "European Gees" c69 (L'anumaux Tryst) - what a great surprise. This is a 19 year old kid making extreme chillout R&B/electro that completely tops every synth and drum machine album released this year. The fact that I seriously doubt this guy knows he's part of a trend makes it all the more enjoyable. Sample here but definitely purchase here.

RYLEY WALKER & DANIEL BACHMAN "Of Deathly Premonitions" c30 (Plustapes) - steel string guitar duets that definitely have the spook about them. There's plenty to love when both of these young fingerstyle acolytes get together. Some of the material also has an Indian influence. Listen here or buy here. Ryley's solo tape "The Evidence of Things Unseen" on Plustapes is no slouch either.

"Buried Goods" c28 (Not Not Fun) - for a band that doesn't even play live and probably isn't even really a "band," this tape is seriously great. Modern psychedelic music. Listen here.

VILLAGE OF SPACES CORNERS "Morning Nap" c46 (Turned Word) - lovely folk album from Village of Spaces, nee Uke of Spaces Corners County. A demo version of the fine "Alchemy and Trust" LP. The tape is sold out from the label, but you can score a copy from Second Layer in the UK if you've got the dough, or just buy the LP version (different recordings, same songs, plus it's got Michael Hurley on fiddle on one track!) from Turned Word.

TOMY GARM "This Eros" c90 (Creature King) - This is probably my favorite tape of the year. I just wrote about this last week, scroll down...write to theancientmainer@gmail.com for a copy.

R. STEVIE MOORE "Ariel Pink's Picks Vol.1" (Laughable Recordings RSM Cassette Club) - really fine compilation of tracks from out Moore's distinguished home recording career, compiled by Pink. Available as a free stream and maybe purchase a few places.

NUDE SUNRISE "Should Be" c62 (Spooky Town) - expansive and gritty rock, a la "Sister Ray." Still available from the label.

BRUCE HART "Music For Drawing" c31 (Not Not Fun) - Zach Phillips, keyboardist and songwriter for Blanche Blanche Blanche and man of many pseudonyms plays to the sci-fi soundtrack set and does it better than rest. Audio sample or purchase.

BLANCHE BLANCHE BLANCHE "Songs of..." c32 (Night People) - I'd be crazy not to include this one here as well. A spotty dubbing job mars the quality of this outstanding first effort from the Brattleboro, VT duo of Sarah Smith (vocals) and Zach Phillips (keys, vocals). The song writing takes front seat and arrives with the same kind of freshness that must have been felt when Truffaut and Godard released their first 12" chillwave singles in 1959 and 1960. Still available from Night People.

UNTITLED TAPE that I received while playing a show at Gay Gardens this Spring - not sure what this project is called but it's an exceptionally well done collection of skewed folk. email nathanrainer@verizon.net and tell him Cassette Gods sent you.

BLOOD STEREO "Tape Hiss For Brainwash" c30 (Feeding Tube) - now that I don't work for the label, am I allowed to finally sing it's praises on Cassette Gods? I hope so...this murky and frightening little number is a fine addition to Blood Stereo's catalog of twisted vocal and tape experimentation. Get it here.

LEFT BEHINDS "Recess At The Psych Ward" c9 - great muppet hardcore a la the first Meat Puppets LP. Go here and you'll figure it out.

BIG BLOOD "Dark Country Magic" (Don't Trust The Ruin) - anything from this Portland, ME duo is worth checking out. They have lots to listen to on the Free Music Archive, but you really should buy some of their releases for the beautiful hand printed packaging that comes with tons of inserts. Their "Dead Songs" LP on Time-Lag is one of my favorite records of recent memory.

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED "Second Edition" & "The Flowers Of Romance" (Virgin) - finding sealed copies of these on cassette during the most recent Cave Bears/Knight Howls tour just about made my day. Thanks to the Cambridge In Your Ear!

that's all yolks.

TOMY GARM "This Eros" c90 (Creature King)

Happy Boxing Day! Just about once a year I find something that I can unequivocally recommend to just about anyone. Last year it was Chris Weisman's Fresh Sip. This year it is the music of Garm. I will go on to review the cassette I'm holding in my hands by Tomy Garm, but first off I'd like to recommend that you go right out and buy B.R. Garm's just released first LP "The 78th Morning Tide" from Don't Trust The Ruin the swell imprint run by the band Big Blood. It's the best new LP I've heard all year. Completely skewed apocalyptic folk for all centuries. Okay, are you back from doing that? Good. Go back and buy another one or two copies for your loved ones. Done with that? Then read on...

The Garm moniker is used by Brendan Evans of the band Visitations (R.I.P.???), one of the most delightful and mysterious groups of the mid 2000s "free-folk" renaissance. Both their single LP/CD and double LP on Time-Lag are essential. Visitations also performs from time to time as AM Frank, a Suicide tribute band. On top of all that, Brendan is also the owner of Portland freak-haven Strange Maine, one of the coolest little music, movie and curio shops in the Union.

On This Eros or 'Something No One Wants To Hear' This Year's Opus...Down Home Whisperings he goes by Tomy Garm. The tape plays almost like an outtakes compilation of the LP. But like the best of those kinds of releases, it is more unfinished, sprawling and, in many ways, more illuminating than the LP. That being said, both albums are absolutely stunning, blending warped folk songs with weird sonic effects. The cassette is the first release on Creature King Tapes and CDs, a little home brew operation run by Brendan and Caleb from Big Blood out of the back of the record shop.

This long 35 song, 90 minute album is divided into a Garageband side (as in the Apple program) and a four track side. The first section is mostly made up midtempo eerie electronic vocoder songs (I'm feeling a little bit of Trans but also the dark pop of Danielle Dax circa Jesus Egg That Wept), but also touches down onto some wobbly folk-psych terrain that finds Brendan harmonizing with himself in a high falsetto recalling the work of his friends and collaborators in Big Blood. Wide ranging is the name of the game here. Some people may be turned off by such a long diverse album, but to me it plays out like a mix tape made with the utmost love and care. The apocalyptic edge of the Garm LP is somewhat subdued here. This is both due to the songwriting and the presence of synthesizers on many tracks. This Eros is by turns sad and sexy and at it's best occupies some sort of middle ground where erotic love and romantic love seem mingle with the bittersweet. He even throws in fucked up covers of Neil Young and Gordon Bok for good measure.

There isn't an immediate differentiation is sound once we get to the four track material on the B side, which goes to show how well Brendan utilizes the usually scummy sounds of Garageband to create natural sounding music. The instrumentation remains about the same: guitars, acoustic or electric percussion and keyboards. Upon closer examination, the four track cuts are definitely less dense and more reliant on stringed instruments. I'd say that the material on this side is darker, more experimental and improvisational, but there are many defined songs here as well. While I probably could have gone for 90 minutes of the more fully fleshed out material on the A side, it's hard to argue with an album that is as good as This Eros.

The double sided three panel fold out has great artwork that my poor cellphone camera photo does not do justice to. My copy is also hand water-colored, and I bet yours will be too. There is nothing on the internet about this tape, so you're really going to have to trust me on this. If you want a copy I suggest writing Brendan directly at theancientmainer@gmail.com

SAMPLE from This Eros Tomy Garm TAPE (starts at 1:45)
SAMPLE from The 78th Morning Tide B.R. Garm LP

A HAPPY JAWBONE FAMILY X-MAS GIFT TO YOU, 2011 "Vol. One: Operation HO! HO! HO! (Spooky Town)

Merry Holidays dear weevils! I thought I'd share a little bit of the x-mas cheer with ye all. I received this delightful cassette as part of the Happy Jawbone Family Band Christmas Spectacular Musical Paegent and Jamboree up in Brattleboro, VT a few weeks back. It contains a number of cheerful holiday numbers performed in the glorious ramshackle way that only the Family can provide. The cassette first appeared as a freebie at said show and is now available on the Spooky Town website. The band has been kind enough to offer it as "name your price" download here. Ron Schneiderman has also been kind enough to release it as a CDr on his Spirit of Orr sublabel Blueberry Honey. Grip that here.

Happy Jawbone website

EARTHMASTERS "Dwellings" c20
(Fabrica Records)

Still catching up on back-submissions. I apologize if I'm writing too much, thus sending some tapes that deserve a much longer time in the spotlight hurtling towards the nether regions of Cassette Gods. That reminds me: did you pick up that Selbyville tape yet? Be sure to look forward to a very special post of my favorite tape of the year on Boxing Day (the day after X-mas) and a best of 2011 list that will be posted the minute before the ball drops and we enter the final year of our lives... JK...In the words of my main man Danny Cruz, "DONT BELIEVE THE LIE. 2012 IS NOT THE END"!

Today I'll let you in on a little secret known as Fabrica Records, purveyors of fine tapes aimed at sending your innersoul into the stratosphere and also distributors of LPs with similar goals. Check out their site here.

A Full Cosmic Sound brings what might be one of the best mind expanding recordings I've heard in awhile. The group is a loosely coagulated assemblage of weirdos from Santiago, Chile and they've scrabbled together whatever stringed instruments, keyboards and drum machines they can find to make this excellent recording. The whole tape is made up of one driving kosmische bass riff with various sounds coming in and out of the mix. The drum machines are straight out of Suicide and the bass from Pรคrson Sound. It makes for a heady mixture. I can't recommend this highly enough if you're a fan of this sort of thing. AFCS comes at it from such a pure place that I can't help but be swept away. Highly recommended. Check out some AFCS sounds.

Earthmasters deliver a nice set of woozy drone. It's much more organic than many similar projects and has a lot of heart. Were it not for the aforementioned tape, I would probably recommend this just as highly. You might as well pick this up too when you buy the A Full Cosmic Sound tape, which you're going to do. Right? Check them out here.

This is a great label and surely one to watch. They'll have their first LP released by February. It'll be by Maryland droner Insect Factory.

c20 (Imminent Frequencies)

Whenever I get music by David Russell, I'm like, "oh God, not another Kirtan chanting tape!" But then I realize, "oh not that David Russell." Then I'm like, "oh cool David B. Russell!" But I put the music on and instead of horrific mongoloid shrieking I hear some heavy noisescapes. Finally I realize "oh David Russell Stempowski of Cleveland". This tape recorded under Collapsed Arc moniker is alright. Contact mic and vocal loops of moderate to moderate/high levels of harshness. There are some decent dynamics going on. I've got to say, this kind of stuff is never going to move me that much. I mean, this tape is pretty well done. It's not just a wall of noise and the loops don't go on for so long as to become boring. It's got a nice tactile feel to it, but I can't help but think it would have been much more enjoyable as a collection of discreet sounds without the loop pedal repeating everything 8 to 12 times. You hear that noise people? If you send me your loop pedal tape, I am liable to not like it. Until these three Davids get together for that epic chant/shriek/scrape trio set, I'll be left wanting more. Label website.

DISSERIPH "s/t" c11 (self released)

warp tunnel Cover Art
Not entirely pleased to post two not-exactly-glowing reviews in a row, but sometimes these things just have to be done. At first when I played this right after the Collapsed Arc tape I thought to myself "oh lord, not another loop station tape." But upon checking the Disseriph bandcamp, I learned that this music was in fact recorded live. Well I give the dude props for that at least. What do we have here? One guy playing four short songs with repetitive acoustic guitar figures and vocals. Self-tagged as "acoustic math rock new jersey." I really would have thought the licks were looped and it definitely takes some skill to play that way and sing over it. But that singing is some kind of emo-tionality heart-feelieness that just always rubs. me. the. wrong. way. And that kind of guitar playing has surely seen better days. Does anyone remember Storm & Stress? They were a gateway drug between Don Caballero and Battles (guitarist Ian Williams was in all three bands) and their 1997 debut on Thrill Jockey was letter perfect. I was even able to forgive them for their similar singing style, because the vocals took up about 3 minutes total of the 2LP set. Check THAT band out.

(Buffalo Tapes)

widows Cover Art
From Kettles To Cloaks gives us a good tape of weary tunes. The instrumentation is pretty basic (guitar, minimal keys/electronics, mildly distorted male vocals) but all the songs are fully formed and recorded well. Most of he songs are semi-acoustic dirges, but a reverb drenched female vocal enters on the last track on the A side ("Morrina") and suddenly we are in different, more electronic-psychedelic territory, giving the first hint that this might be a band, as opposed to a solo project. Flip the tape and we're back to the sound of the first songs again. Almost sounds like two bands. The male sung cuts are reminiscent of One Foot In The Grave-era Beck or anything by Charlie McAlister, though one song ("Porcupine Park") sounds very much like acoustic Sun City Girls. Imagine all that, but with definite electronic underpinnings. Couldn't find anywhere where you can order the tape, but you can listen to the music here, you might just like it.

EX-CROWN "646 592 3423"
(Whiteness and Pinkness)

What a cool tape. The A side is a collection of recorded phone calls made by Ex-Crown (aka "Miles Pflazn") to various payphones in New York City. First he says where the payphone is located (New York Chess Club, subway payphone F line 6th avenue, Angelika Film Center, etc...) and then we hear the recording of the call. If anything it shows the disappearance of the payphone in the American landscape. Almost all of the calls result in "I'm sorry this number is no longer valid". The only one that actually gets picked up is not a payphone at all, but a Chinese laundry.

The B side "Please Say a Command" is a humorous bit of Miles talking to the voice activation system on his cell phone: "bring me oysters in a half shell", "pay my rent", "take me on a long vacation", "I have a gun", "get a job"! There seems to be a breakdown in communication between this man and his machine.

The tape is spray painted pink and comes in a white spray painted case, with a double-sided glossy photo insert.

Miles was part of an underappreciated duo called Crown Now that probably only I and Jelle Crama were fans of. Actually, I bet Id M Theft Able was a fan too. They had some really great tapes that mixed poetry with musique brut. I suggest you track those down if you can. I'm not sure how one would procure a copy of the phone calls tape. Maybe call the number of the title? (Whiteness and Pinkness website - Ed.) At any rate you can check out some of Miles' semi-recent sounds here and there are a few Crown Now tapes for sale on discogs.

JASON MARTIN "Harmonic Time Cycles & Scary Guitar Man" c60 (Yeay!)

First off, I'd like to say that it's been WAY too long since the last cassette release on Yeay! (rhymes with "whey", which is pronounced like "way")... Say...HA HA HA, that rhymes with all those other words too!

First off, I'd like to say it's been way too long since the last cassette release on Yeay!, the label run (from time to time) but Fat Worm of Error drummer Neil "Neel" Young. Some of the releases that Neil was putting out 3 or 4 years ago are among my favorite tapes of all time. Track down Jeremy Latch Love Songs For Everybody and Vapor Gourds Dagger Magic at all costs!

This new release from Jason Martin keeps with the label's "out there" aesthetic and comes highly recommended. The A side is a radio play that was first broadcast over unsuspecting airwaves in upstate New York during 2008. It consists of a variety of cut up music for guitar, shortwave radio, tape player, bass, drums, percussion, function generator, organ and samples of a preacher talking about the very P.K. Dickian subject matter of ancient Romans enslaving humanity by freezing time. Apparently this very particular strain of looniness wasn't exclusive to the author of "Valis", but had a few other proponents as well. The full title of the A side is Harmonic Time Cycles or How the Romans Sent A Disruptive Time Piece To Psychotronically Entrap Us Within Our Own Minds. As the piece progresses, it becomes less cut up and a little more musical in a way that is reminiscent of Caroliner, or something like that, but without lyrics. A great grating mass! Towards the end we hear Jason's voice overlaid onto the preacher's voice to awesome effect and we do finally learn just how those crazy Romans did it (entrap us within our own minds, that is). It all ends with a little fractured dirge leading into a rhythmic beeping that brings us back to reality (hopefully).

The B side, entitled Scary Guitar Man is a series of improvisations and spoken word pieces dedicated to Don Van Vliet. The music doesn't so much sound like Beefheart, but surely it's a tribute to his anarchic spirit. The poems, on the other hand, capture his mad sense of lyricism, though they owe much to Williams S. Burroughs as well (second time I've mentioned him in a review during the last week). There are passages of distorted (acoustic?) guitar that sound like lots of different kinds of animals that are really angry. That's cool. Listening to this side made me realize that my favorite parts of this tape are all the little distortions and broken sounds that push Martin's recording device to the max. The beauty is in the details, as they say.

All of this is made clearly audible by the fine dubbing job by Young. The artwork is a double sided full color fold out with insert.

For all things Yeay! - here - "yeay! plastics" leads you to the label
Jason's very informative website - check it out

QUICKSAILS "A Fantasy in Seasons" c30 (NNA)

The thing that immediately stands out about this release by Chicago's Quicksails is that this is a synth album with some really excellent percussion. That makes plenty of sense when you learn that the man behind the keys is Ben Baker Billington, drummer for the assblasting free jazz group Tiger Hatchery. As if the genuinely kosmische analog synth wasn't enough, Billington tricks out each track with some exceptional accompaniment on tabla, timpani, log drum, clinking metal and drum machine...or at least it sounds like that's what it is. None of the percussion is drivingly rhythmic, but is instead used to further the expansive psychedelic thing he's going for here. I can't recommend this highly enough. Quicksails was my favorite part of the recent Raw Meet fest in Boston and this has got to be my favorite release on NNA thus far. Waiting for that LP...who's putting it out?

"Shut Up Egg" (self released)

Shut Up Egg Cover Art
We meet again Robert Ridley-Shackleton. This guy is some sort of British maniac who makes some pretty wacky music. Here is the "blurb" that came with the one-sheet for this tape:

Hi everybody my name is Robby as you know already. In this album I got into my demi-dog state where I am touching god and then I noticed that an egg was beating my wife in the kitchen. So I smashed him and saw his yoke splat all over the floor. Much later, after an incident with a naughty dog. The dog told me that the egg I beat up was actually Humpty Dumpty. I realised I had made a big mistake as I worship Humpty. I then saw a vision of him falling off a wall. When my mum finally came home from her job she saw the mess in the kitchen and as a punishment I have to eat eggs for the next 8 years.

Well there you have it. Words to live by. Robby's plays simple repetitive carnivalesque casio lines (sometimes over primitive drum machine rhythms) on top of which he "sings" his lyrics in a mildly frightening manner. Comparisons could be drawn to Wild Man Fischer, et al. One of the best things about his recordings are the way in which lo-fi recording quality makes them sound like missives from an insane asylum. That seems to be the modus operandi for just about every release I've heard from him, but hey, it works for me. I mean, you can laugh at this stuff and just say "this guy is taking a piss," but he's so committed to such a specific brand of audio insanity that you've got to give the guy credit. Shut Up Egg is actually my favorite thing I've heard from him so far. What makes this one stand out for me is the really beautiful keyboard instrumental that follows the brief song bit on the A side, the grimy riff that closes out the B side and the unified subject matter (eggs).

Robert's music webpage has tons to listen to.
This tape is distributed by Eggy in the USA.

SKELETON WARRIOR/MEAGER SUNLIGHT "Seasons Of Nudity" (Good God Energy Chronicles)

Hey! I think I got tricked into reviewing a 12". I swear to you I'm holding a cassette of this split in my hand with the same artwork and everything, but all I can find on the internet is references to a split 12" EP. Either way, this'll surely get your Kwanzaa party started and have the whole family up on the dance floor. Skeleton Warrior are Florida boys who do mildly geeky dance music with songs about stuff. What that "stuff" is, I can't exactly tell. I think there is an element of mild depravity that I am picking up on. Meager Sunlight is the duo of Jeremy Harris (Lazy Magnet) and Daryl Seaver (Supernaturelle) and their music sounds like it could reach the top 40. Female singing, with songs also about stuff. Definitely stuff. Stuff that sounds good when you are dancing too it. "Show me an innocent among you"... These groups make such great split-partners it's not even funny. Happy arpeggiated keyboard riffs, throbbing bass, you know, TECHNO. Or whatever the kids are calling it. I don't think I'm getting across the fact that I like this. I LIKE THIS! OKAY? It's super fun and kind of fluffy, but that's exactly what its going for. Pick it up, whatever format you happen to find it in.

You can pick up the 12" here or here. No clue where to find the tape....Nguzo Saba

This just in from Meager Sunlight member Daryl:
Tapes can be had from Jeremy and I! email themultiverse@gmail.com ... ... or just 7$ PPD to same address.

SELBYVILLE "Send Selbyville to Disneyworld" c40 (Tea First Records)

If I said this evokes the same kind of feeling that Hal Hartley's music does in his films, would you catch my drift? This tape is a little thing of wondrous beauty and it comes as quite a surprise, especially seeing as some of these guys live pretty close to me. It says here that this is a reissue of something that was first recorded in 2005 and released the next year. There is very little information available on Selbyville, but what I gather is that they are a trio whose members live in Portland, ME and Pittsburgh, PA. The band's music is mostly made up of interlocking guitar figures, but is occasionally augmented by some minimal keyboard playing, wordless vocals or light percussion. Selbyville's music immediately conjures up a kind of wintry nostalgia that I find incredibly moving. I mean deeply and truly moving. This is instrumental music played with real heart and grace and it's this kind of thing that makes the world a truly better place to live in.

Pick it up here before the drifts of snow cover your door...and you really should. The label has a Selbyville LP too. Hmm... I also found this interview with Artie, who runs Tea First and is a member of Selbyville. Thanks for sending me the tape Artie!

MATTRESS - "Lonely Souls" c26 // EYES - "A Candle In The Crown Of Dawn" c40 (Field Hymns)

  Portland's Field Hymns label has been belting out all kinds of audible treasures this year, with a really varied batch of tapes from the likes of Oxykitten, White Glove, Zac Nelson and Adderall Canyonly.These two releases are definitely my own personal favorites from Field Hymns, and possibly even two of the more memorable cassettes I'll come across in 2011.Take a look at their catalog, listen to some tunes, they've got something for everyone.
  The first is a quite addictive new album from Portland lone wolf, Mattress.Lonely Souls is dimly lit, doom-filled stagger across some rather dreary terrain, a minimalist bender soaked with drastic tones, hazy synth repetitions, shuffled beats, all of which are completely punch-drunk on Rex Marshall's brooding, haunted vocal passages.His vocals have all the deep, well-read bitterness of Stephen Merritt, with a bit of Nick Cave's demonic slurring, and Alan Vega's breathy barks and yelps.All of these are fairly obvious comparisons, but the more you hear his voice, the more soulful and unique it begins to sound, despite the blatantly bitter vibe he give off.He's got a style of phrasing that's all his own, unraveling his bold words with powerful sermon-like delivery.Unlike a lot of similar solo ventures, this isn't some barely audible  bedroom tinkering.Mattress' music is completely focused and full-bodied, powered by bulky analog melodies and backed by a dense percussive swagger.He's joined by a live drummer on a few of these tracks, which fleshes them out a bit, a might give a little insight to what he sounds like on stage.
  Lonely Souls has all the sleaze and muscle of early Suicide, with heavy organ repetitions and a sweaty, sexual vibe, harboring all of the elements of classic soul and r&d recordings, and gently topped off with layers of modern synthesizers and other digital sounds.A bit of a departure from 2009's Low Blows LP, this album is a severely solid listen from front to back, and is sure to end up on at least a few upcoming "year end" lists, including my own.

   The second cassette comes from a relatively new band called Eyes, who shares ex-members of Roots of Orchis,The Lambs, The Finches, etc.Withing the first two minutes of A Candle In The Crown Of The Dawn, I was already hearing a bunch of early psych and prog mainstays, more specifically Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Can, and even some of the more modern indie-prog dudes, like Mars Volta and 31 Knots.After a few minutes, things began to really open up nicely, and I realized that Eyes have something a bit more original going for them.They are an insanely talented bunch of boys, and seem to be heavily influenced by classic Afro/Cuban weirdness, just as much as the aforementioned acts.Their music is as tight as tight gets, carefully glued together by a barrage of propulsive drum patterns and intricate instrumentation.
  Personally, I think that things like this can be a rather grueling listen at times, and tend be a lot more exhausting than pleasing.Thankfully, Eyes may very well share the same opinion.Their songs are full of tempo changes, instrumental freak outs, and interesting shifts in all directions, yet they spare us from the mindless jamming that a lot of these progressive bands force into a good song.The vocals are clear and soulful, and the singer drops his lines in all the right places, leaving room for his unstoppable rhythm section to flourish, which they do quite often.They utilize the few open spaces they create very tastefully, filling in the cracks with deep, underlying organ melodies and the occasional wailing saxophone.The standout track for me was Moonwhite Hour, a pleasant and twisted labyrinth of sorts, in the form of a song, with some cool key changes and wild turns along the way.
  Eyes have made a deeply original and very accessible rock album, and I can't wait to hear their most recent digi-album, Dust (self released).Get both of these great cassettes from Field Hymns.

NOISE NOMADS "Menacing Bells" c30
LAURA WARHOLIC "What Comes Before The Word?" c26 (Faux Pas Recordings)

Like the snarling wolfdog on the cover, Noise Nomads means business. The music of Western MA mainstay Jeff Hartford is kind of like a line in the sand, with the man standing on the opposite side not giving a fuck whether or not you cross it. As a live performer, Hartford explores the extreme reaches of volume, often with the most minimal equipment (contact mic, metal zone, digital delay), though my favorite shows are the ones where he dresses up like a pinecone, covers a bunch of junk with saran wrap or scares small children while dressed as a horrifying birdman. Due to the nearly unlistenable volume and wacky performative nature of his live gigs, it can be easy to forget that Noise Nomads makes, first and foremost, really great music. In the comfort of your home, where you can choose to listen to his tapes or records without earplugs, Hartford comes across as an expert creator of visceral yet dynamic soundscapes. Half an hour of piercing feedback shrieks and mangled clanging that'll surely help the relatives evacuate your home during the holidays.

Laura Warholic is the first (?) solo release from Mark, keyboardist for the "it girl" group Angels in America. Damned if I don't like this tape even more than the duo's work! This is some sort of poetry tape with very minimal musical backing, plus a few songs thrown in for good measure. Mark reads work that is similar in tone to Burroughs, but manages to find its own distinct voice. The songs sections are sad and murky little swamp pop children that end each side nicely. On the whole, really hep stuff that totally eschews the histrionics of the Angels material.

Buy tapes here.

"Sylvan Pass/Debt Management" c90
(Gilded Throne)

A fine split tape. Can't go wrong here.

Silent Isle (aka Anastasia Clarke of Hudson, NY) lays down successive layers of twinkling guitar picking and semi-wordless vocals that, as they build, become more and more washed out and trance inducing. By the end of the tape, you'd think you were listening to a hazy synthesizer jam. If you've been paying attention to my reviews, you might notice that I am generally not a fan of loop station work, but Clarke keeps it varied enough for this long-building piece to hold my interest. I had the pleasure of seeing her live set in a basement recently and it certainly delivered. Just be prepared to commit some time to this, I think we've got about 45 minutes of continuous music here.

Belltonesuicide is the (mostly) one man project of Mike Barrett of Northampton, MA. Mike has been laying it down in one way or another since 1998 ('99 under the Belltone moniker), issuing a slew of releases with inventive handmade packaging. I'm not going to pretend to understand what exactly this man is doing with his table top set up, which often includes a mixture of pedals, sound producing electronics and household objects, but the results are sonically immense. Underneath the monolithic wall of harshness that makes up the first half of this recording, you'll find subtle and melodic bass tones that belie and influence of a more danceable strain of electronica. My favorite section is when the tape "mellows out" about half way through and a there's this wonderful part where the tape sounds like it's eating itself alive under a "cathcy" feedback solo.

Silent Isle - here or here or here
Belltonesuicide - here or here

SCALPED / COGS AND SPROCKETS "Split" c7 (Exquisite Morbidity / Utopian Society)

Scalped does away with the social niceties that have plagued extreme punk and metal for far too long: why dress a sick breakdown with anything at all? These naked odes to the churning pinnacles of Infest and Crossed Out songs focus on not burying the most furious and knuckle-dragging songwriting elements: no intros, no chorus, no bridge, no solo. Just the parts where your more tasteful, aware encephalic functions are drowned in a desperate injection of adrenaline. Scalped reminds us that there is literally nothing worth venerating and refining after all these years of recycled nostalgias than those golden moments of true release.

Cogs and Sprockets are one of these bands that make me so angry they are so good. I imagine whatever malcontent behind this hateful object of fascination to be, in fact, made of a drum kit. That would better suit my description of the drumming on this tape to be the sound of some organism flexing its percussive muscles before a beating so precise and well-delivered that it practically demands its victim choke out a thanks before they expire. This release expands on its brilliant predecessor (the "Black Friday" cassette was made to shame and humiliate you) by bringing Cogs and Sprockets guttural growls into a powerviolence-y bark as the tape progresses. With a band this good, this is essentially adding a new wing onto the compound of drugged out followers.

A stellar release, available here for $4.00 if there are any left.

BASTIAN VOID "Horicon Sketches" c32 (Digitalis)

This is the second release from Joe Bastardo's solo project Bastian Void. Joe is a member of the great group Gay Shapes and a fine graphic artist as well. I received his first tape, also on Digitalis, but somehow never got around to reviewing it. In some ways, I'm glad I waited til now to write something about his music, because it's grown in leaps and bounds over the last year. I enjoyed Ported, released earlier this year, but Horicon Sketches, pleases my ears even more. Joe manages to showcase the range of his talent across 11 distinct keyboard pieces that segue beautifully, like flying cars changing lanes on the skyhigh highway. Huge variations in rhythm, tone and texture occur from song to song, but the whole thing feels unified by the good vibrations bubbling up from beneath the synthesizers. That's not to say it doesn't get a little spooky from time to time; one segment that sounds like a digitized witchdoctor ceremony is especially effective. This tape covers a lot of ground in its 32 minutes: raygun meltdowns, zero-g dance parties, openings of heavenly gates, sci-fi police chases and vocal sample manipulation all have their place. Now pardon me while I go ride my condor through computer chip canyon.

More info and samples here.

JUNK SICK "Rising Damp" c30 (Magik Crowbar Tapes / Altered States Tapes)

A co-release between two Australian noise labels, Rising Damp finds Australian noise duo Junk Sick making Australian noise with a (presumably) Japanese tape recorder and a loop pedal made in...well what does it matter. Very murky and, well, junk-sick sounding. If the shoe fits... Junk Sick had a split 12" lathe with C.C.C.C. earlier this year, so that's pretty cool...A lot of the A side sounds like a horse being boiled alive, i.e. AWESOME. The B side, brings it down a notch, sounding like what's left over after said boiling is completed. Maybe a little too much loop station on that part, but still, a solid effort all around.

Altered States Tapes
Magik Crowbar Tapes

PERPETUAL RITUAL - "Perpetual Ritual" c17 (Skrot Up)

  Perpetual Ritual is the moniker under which Mitchell Saulsberry, a Seattle-based musician, performs with a revolving cast of close friends and other like-minded noisemakers.This is PR's first release for Copenhagen's wondrous Skrot Up label, which has been giving us all sorts of noisy gems as of late.Perpetual Ritual lashes out with five new scorchers, all banging with 70's garage rock swagger,  and soaking with grungy, blown out guitars.The first thing that came to mind, was the rattling cave-pop of Mississippi wild man, Flight.The vocals are similar, with a thick blanket of distortion and chorus effects, laid over top of  Saulsberry's straight-faced, baritone howls.The drums sound huge, and bang away like hammers beating on metal trash cans, constantly crashing through the buzzing guitar attack no matter how loud they seem to get.The verses seem to kind of wander off into choruses almost by accident, steering clear of "the norm", and it makes for an interesting listen indeed.This actually sounds like something that could just easily find a suitable home on garage-worship labels like Hozac, In The Red, or Florida's Dying, and that is absolutely meant to be taken as a compliment.These five songs are catchy, dark, and anything but polished, and I'm already searching the web for more of this stuff.Highly Recommended!
Grab one here.

MBB / RODENT split c50
PISTOL PETE "Concentration EP" c45
RHAGMAGMA "Silksnares"
(Skrot Up)

I received these three tapes from the Danish label Skrot Up, that also appears to have "offices" in Los Angeles. I first heard of this imprint from the LP they put out for Boston WTF? collective Kid Romance earlier this Fall. Here's what I thought:

Miguel Baptista Benedict (MBB) gives us a dose of noise, tape samples, guitar, song and sound manipulation with "Prom Night Wearing Nothing But An Anklet (Airconditioning For Those With Hot Faces)." Takes awhile to get going, but this MBB stuff transverses so many different sonic territories that I was really taken with it by the end. There is some really great processed guitar stuff towards the end and a few random little folk songs too. I applaud this loudly for its effortless flow and large pallet. The B side of this tape is called "Halved" and it's by Chicago's Garrett W. Anderson, who plays as Rodent. I found this stuff not as compelling as the MBB material. The whole thing felt much too reliant on the loop pedal, which never goes over well in my book. There are a few different sound sources at work here: some keyboard, one sing-songy vocal bit that dissolves into eerie looped death cries, but whereas the A side had an organic approach to sound organization, the B side feels too mechanical and it left me bored. I think the connection between the material here is that both of these artists have lived in Ypsilanti, MI. I would say this is worth picking up for the MBB material.

Sacramento, CA's Pistol Pete turn in a double A sided tape with "Concentration." Although the vocals are often buried in the mix, the instruments come out loud and clear. Noisy guitar/bass/drums rock with some decent moves, but not that great really. Some Flipper-esque snot vocals mixed with Sonic Youthicky guitar figures and some Brainbombs-lite heavyosity, then a sudden left turn into some sort of amped up version of Public Image, Ltd., and then finally to '77 UK Punk...weird. I like the last two phases of the tape a little better than the more "indie" first one. I would probably dig these guys live, but I'll stick with the real deal on record.

I was unable to track down any credible information on Rhagmagma, other than that this tape was recorded in Seattle. The music on "Silksnares" is a rather sleazy blend of keyboards riffs and beats. Definitely well-made and memorable. Nothing terribly innovative but I liked it nonetheless.

MAJEURE - "Synthesizer Of The Gods" c40 (VCO)

  Anthony Paterra is Majeure.He's better known for his role as drummer/human metronome for Pittsburgh's blessed synth/italo-prog duo, Zombi(he's also co-owner of VCO).On his debut solo venture, Synthesizer Of The Gods, Paterra  puts down his sticks (momentarily) to give us a focused, well crafted night cruise via- deep synth workouts, glassy arpeggios, and muscly drum repetitions.At times, his work does bring a rather bare-boned version of Zombi's works to mind, but this stuff is much more straight forward and direct.A few of your favorite kraut and prog heroes, as well as a handful of b-film scores will come to mind, but he is anything but a hack-y revivalist, and these tracks aren't just any old Zombi b-sides or scrapped recording sessions, either.This is Paterra's own personal work, solely for Majeure.
  Side A starts things off with "Solar Flare", a moonlit jog that will surely bring any decent John Carpenter film score to mind, respectively.Enter the pulsating percussive thump, and before you know it the beat begins to sink slowly into a vast canvas of icy synth runs and deep, gyrating analog sprints.His Arp Solus has such a warm tone and demanding presence, and really holds things down while everything else just seems to sprout up around it.There's some nice key changes that come out of nowhere, and things tend to shift in different directions pretty unexpectedly, while keeping it's mesmerizing, robotic charm.
  Side B gives us the epic "Synthesizer Of The Gods", a strictly synthesizer based piece, that owes as much to Harold Budd as it does Claudio Simonetti.It's rich in texture and full of beautiful chords, and a pleasant listen from front to back.I find that most things of this nature tend to lack in any real movement, or foreseeable destination.I usually bail after the first 5 minutes of any heartless droning, but Majeure's cycles are deep and memorable, constantly flowing in that same direction, yet they all end up in no place in particular, and the slow ride there is a very rewarding trek.Recommended headphone listening.
Edition of 70 on clear cassettes.Get one from VCO.


  It is my own personal opinion that split releases, especially those of the modern punk and indie varieties, generally involve two painfully similar sounding bands or artists, may or may not even share band mates, and rarely offer up any sort of real contrast, or even slightly varied styles.But, every once in a while two rather similar musical entities do find one another, they do the dance, and you end up with something totally worthy of flipping a hundred times.MJMJ Records (Twomichaeljordans) has recently done so, by bringing Messy Sparkles and Treehopping together.This brilliant looking/sounding split cassette is filled with delicate and brightly colored shapes and sounds.
  Messy Sparkles is a Texan named JD Paul (also co-owner of MJMJ), but by listening his full-bodied and quite tropical pop mastery, you'd think he was backed by at least a handful of talented musicians.He's quite the rhythm machine, laying down fairly intricate and textured beats, and building up a skyscraper of rich guitar and trickling synth melodies on top of them.Not so different from recent Animal Collective output, with the occasional steel drum swagger and deep vocal hymn, but with a scattered, yet charming diy/bedroom production.His voice is a bit juvenile and slightly off key, and after a few listens, I've realized that this wouldn't actually work any other way.His tunes are youthful and full of life, filling your speakers with nothing but good vibes at all times, and I can't get enough of this side.A very pleasant surprise indeed.
  Gainesville's Treehopping fills their side with a similar blend of shimmery island-pop, complete with dense, organic drums, and layers of fun guitar interplay.This kind of sounds like Surfer Blood's more tender and staggering moments, without all the power chords and verse/chorus/verse formula.You'll most likely hear a bit of Broken Social Scene's orchestrated guitar weaving, and tightly wound percussive bounce.There's a really nice syncopation going on between the spot-on drums and punchy bass, and they both keep things moving along at a solid pace, without being too overbearing.Fragile keyboard melodies are scattered all over the place, with a wide range of tasteful soft-synths floating throughout the songs.The vocals are for the most part sincere and tuneful shouts, with some well executed group harmonies and choruses.The recording quality is just right, and everything in it's place, without sounding "polished".These acts really complement each other in a big way, and I absolutely recommend this to anyone looking for some good vibes.

Junior Pande "Tape One" cs (Spring Break Tapes)

  Junior Pande is a bedroom/random recording project from one Justin Peroff, drummer of Broken Social Scene.Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm rather pleased to tell you that it doesn't sound anything like Broken Social Scene.(Disclaimer: Not a dis.I absolutely love this band.)With his first release for Spring Break Tapes,(as well as their first release) Tape One, Peroff takes a fairly rewarding stab at minimal electronic skittering and tiny bedroom bumps.Side A plays on with more than a few similarities to the epic, yet minimal Tortoise, Mouse On Mars, and Remote Viewer albums everyone was obsessed with in the late nineties.Plenty of chirping synths, deep swelling bass lines, and a ton of open spaces to fill.The beats are in miniature and scattered all over the place, but also prominent and catchy enough to make you want to stick around.The last five minutes of this side are pure sonic bliss, with a stretch of deep, uplifting strings and woozy bursts of warm synth chords.
  Side B comes from a rather different place, with a few nods to introvert hip hop jams, wobbly electric guitar samples, and piles of 90's bedroom dance and microhouse nostalgia.This side's thicker, driving beats are just a tad more  present, and the machinery is beefed up with a bit more muscle.Some of these tracks are just begging for a solid remix or three.Altogether, Tape One plays on like a solid mix tape full of semi-obscure IDM and other minimal dance jams, and it's very easy on the ears.Peroff himself dubbed this a "beat ambient space junk tape", and it's actually pretty accurate.Hopefully we'll hear more from him sooner than later.
Spring Break.

DAIN DALLER "Tirehouse Tapes Vol.1" c48
SAM GAS CAN "Life On Earth..." c24
(Lighten Up Sounds)

The Minnesota based Lighten Up Sounds is run by the eminently likable Matt Himes (Shep & Me, Mole Hole) and is one of the spiffiest labels in the Midwest. From fancy lathe cuts, to beautifully designed cassettes, Himes really puts an artist's touch on the full color packaging of everything that the label releases.

The Hermetic Trio plays an occult form of free jazz known only to dwellers of basementdom's sub-sub-spheres. "Recorded beneath Providence, RI on April 25th 2011" as it states on the handsomely designed j-card. The two named members are reed players Bill Doob and Jefferson Zurna and a third "mystery" member who contributes percussion by gently pounding on basement air-ducts. The music is more in the vein of melodic instant composition, than total shriekfest. The clarinet and the zurna weave subtle patterns that recall both the ecstatic forays of the Master Musicians of Jajouka and the complexity of Anthony Braxton's best work while the percussionist lays down a framework of rhythmic echo. All in all, a very engrossing listen. Highly recommended.

Dain Daller, of the Chicago band Tiny Music, now lives in a self-constructed house of automobile tires in the desert of New Mexico (pictured on the artwork). This tape resonates with the unique vision one might expect from someone with such a hermetic existence. "Tirehouse Tapes Vol. 1" is an album length collection of thoughtful musique concrete constructions. Daller employs household objects, skipping or crackling records, snippets of radio and perhaps an instrument here or there to create 7 distinct compositions. A suite that shows the path toward a possible future for music in a post-technology collapse.

The full title of this tape is Sam Gas Can & The Charter Communications Defamation League "Life On Earth Is Pure And Golden, Life On Earth Is Hell On Earth." Our boy Sam has been working hard of late and this is my favorite thing I've heard from him so far. A really good overview of the Gas Can sound: casio jams, hypnagogabop, downer acoustic folk, humor. All in 24 minutes! Love the cover with it's "I'm standing in a corner" self portrait and the funny insert listing the negative characteristics of Pisces. Highly recommended. After 10-15 EPs, I hope I'm not the only one eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first Sam Gas Can LP, whenever that may be. For all things Gas Can, head over to here.

Black Cum - "The Second Cumming" (self-released?)

I found this tape today, in a package sent from Salt Lake City, Utah of all places. After opening the package on the street in front of my apartment, lined with holiday lights and families buying stupid shit and eating expensive, bland food, I discovered that the sender, who had marked themselves as "BC" on the return address, was a band whose name is definitely Black Cum. Their tape, which is titled The Second Cumming, was apparently recorded in "Tucker's barn" and features a black and white fold-out j-card, the cover of which depicts an abortion being performed. Despite the overall theme of anarcho-punk nihilism, there's plenty of sarcastic, gross-out humor and juvenile Anal Cunt-ery to be enjoyed on this. Great song titles too, like "Tellin' Everyone I Know to Burn Down America", "Smother the Pope w/ a Cum Soaked Pillow", "I Want to Hang Myself and Fucking Die" and album stand-out "Every Living Thing on This Planet is Going to Die", only add to their comparison of Anal Cunt. While the band themselves expressed in their brief, information-less note on the inside of the package wrapping that this is an admittedly "shit tape", the cassette is actually pretty well-crafted, both musically and physically. Along with the xeroxed dead-baby cover, the band, while obviously recorded with one mic in a room somewhere, is surprisingly clear. The music, seemingly informed by classic spazzer punk stylings of bands like Napalm Death and Void, is surprisingly nuanced, if not a little trying sometimes. The occasional sampled lead-ins of newscasters talking about terrorism and the like are funny and well-placed. Overall, this band/tape isn't doing anything particularly new or different than any high-school-ish stoner/metalhead/punk bozo bros. They aren't even breaking any rules, to be honest. That's not a discredit; it's obvious that this band is having a pretty killer time making this music and what they're presenting here is some silly, overtly-political fun with dark and disgusting jokes that are easy to giggle over and share with your other stupid friends. I would only recommend this to a certain set and you already know who you are. I could only find this bandcamp. Kill God!