Not much like 'em today.

Various Artists - "Moments of No Erase," c62, Dakota Bones - "Bones," c37, Potions - "Sea Legs," c32 (Pretty All Right)

Pretty All Right is a Chicago based label that dabbles in the art of the chill. Lucky for me they sent three mellow tapes of high quality mood music.  "Moments of No Erase" is a various artists compilation put together by Roland Potions and, according to RP, it was recorded, " a dingy cellar of a basement in Pilsen, Chicago. These were all sessions made in my basement with friends who came over to jam, drink beer and have fun!" You can hear the vibe and the relaxed groove on every minute of these extended jams. I don't mean to imply Grateful Dead rock band noodling or experimental Can worship freakouts either (though maybe closer to the more relaxed Can sides). What I mean is these tunes are exploratory beat machine/percussion, synth, bass, etc rompers that start kinda amateur, but before ya know it, you've been listening to twenty solid minutes! The six pieces of music on this release all flow together nicely. It's remarkable they were jammed out by a different group of friends each time because the music seems like a preconceived album. Groovy.
Dakota Bones' eponymous album is one that I will force my friends to listen to. The group give off 80s club vibrations...90s raves before anyone knew what "rave" meant as well. Musically sorta very demented Peter Gabriel (absolutely no cheese tho) and way less pretense. The album starts with "Morning One," which includes a sample of a Townes Van Zandt song called, "Be Here to Love Me." The dobro riff is such a great hook!! Plus I LOVE TVZ. So right away I'm thinking this tape is going to take me places. Don't let the folk troubadour sample fool you into thinking this is roots music. The synths (and even horns!) and occasional vocals draw from lots of sources in the electronic world, but I don't get the impression of simple genre copying from this group. Ambient nods and dance rhythms are here as are dub influences - really this tape has it all. "Dracula's Castle" is going to be playing at the party in my mind all month! My vote for a must have for electronic music aficionados.
Another pretty all right release from Pretty All Right. Chicago has a fine cassette and musical community obviously, because I hear a lot of good sounds coming from the land of the Cubs. Potions' music is perhaps the most typically electronic of this group of three tapes, but ask me in a week and I might disagree with myself. "Sea Legs" swims in ambient textures for sure. It's a worthwhile collection of aural travelogues to the bluest waters on Earth. The album also features one of my new favorite song titles of all time, "Hot Mega." The composition is cool too. With churning  bell like keys and drums with rattling percussion, it's seasickness, or a mushroom party on the beach!


Arklight - "The Callow Summit" (Faulkner Tapes)

Not enough labels these days are named after classic American writers, allow me that editorial...Faulkner Tapes are both the sound AND the fury. The label's fourth release, Arklight's The Callow Summit, was a commissioned work. The label approached Arklight with the request of producing a "world music" piece. They delivered a strangely wonderful amalgamation of soundscapes and rhythms that defy typical associations one has with the loaded term "world music." Beats are cut and pasted atop skanky fuzz and blurgg. It's as if the dial has been set in between frequencies on several radios all blaring in a small room. Multiple rhythms shuffle in and out of these compositions, while genuinely beautiful melodic (samples?) strings and tones weave betwixt the beats. This tape could be called "tribal," I would call it highly evolved sound art. 

Side Note: On the label's page they describe the cassette packaging perfectly with this statement, "The tapes come with hand-cut "j-cards" of pseudo-"World" fabric, painstakingly made using a highly sophisticated method consisting of binder clips, scissors and a Michael Bolton j-card. I guess the band liked them, so maybe you will too." Order this tape because it is one of the better conceptual art projects you will hear this or any other year.


The Debts "On the Banks of the Big Muddy," and Noah Sterba and the Cocktails "Chooglin' with the Cocktails" (Unread Records)

Folky Nebraska low fidelity duo The Debts have a helluva quality tape here. Titled On the Banks of the Big Muddy the album is The Debts (Dane Sybrant and Kevin Shaw) ripping through originals on a dusty and chipped 4-track. These are sturdy songs though, not the kind of fragile Daniel Johnston style, but more like Lomax went traveling 'round Omaha the past spring and found two guys singing and playing just for the thrill. They happened to record their music. The artifact exists. Find these midwest musings and pop them into ye old boombox.

Chooglin' with the Cocktails is one of the most fun tapes I've had the pleasure of reviewing. Like the Holy Modal Rounders jamming with Brian Jonestown Massacre, Noah Sterba and crew are flying high. Some drunk hit record on the machine and failed to tell the band. This is whacked out freak music. Jams begat songs and vice-versa with allusions to Bob Dylan as an added bonus. The electric guitars are garage...the acoustic guitars are comfortably quaint. Unread Records is a great label and, dear readers, that is no joke. 


GEM JONES - "Symphony In P" c26 (CGI FRIDAY)

   Iowa City's Gem Jones returns with a fresh batch of decade-less whatever wave, in the form of "Symphony in P."If you are familiar with 2011's split cassette with Part Time Cruiser, then already you have some idea as to what you're getting into here, or so you'd think.Recorded straight to 4-track in 2010, Symphony's tunes blaze through a strange universe filled with forgotten genres, flashing it's brights at all sorts of eccentricities along the way, making for a terribly fun and interesting voyage.There is however a subtle, easygoing vibe that pumps throughout this cassette, and somewhere just beneath the rows of glitter cannons and after-hours space discos, this album's actually got a lot of heart and soul.

  Side A comes on strong with "My Nine To Five," a driving, funky tune that oddly resembles the better known 9 To 5.A propulsive, bouncy dance beat carries the layers of 80's synth leads and funky bass lines, and Gem's "psychediva" vocal delivery couldn't be more appropriate.His neon synth lines are loose and infectious, and work nicely with the spaced out guitar interplay.It kinda of sounds like a funkier version of Haunted Graffiti covering a Chic tune..or maybe an LSD influenced Rhythm Nation of sorts, with a hissy, warbled production that brings Gary War's more recent jams to mind.It's strangely addictive and more than a bit of fun, and I actually played this side three times before flipping it over.

  Side B starts off with the mellow, drifting "Ellegua/Black Resin," a shuffling tune bent on jazzy organs and scratchy funk guitars, and when that crawling bass makes it's way in, things are off to very good start.Over the next two tracks, Jones' moods shift and melt into a more sporadic and "jammy" zone, equipped with squealing guitar solos and blissful keyboard wizardry, there's plenty of tempo drops and changes, but it doesn't really ever lose it's soulful momentum.All in all another strange victory for Gem Jones, and another great release to add to CGI Friday's already bangin' catalog.
 Art by Gem Jones.Pro dubbed/printed tapes, mp3 download code included.Get one HERE.

White Poppy, "I Had a Dream" (Not Not Fun)

Vancouver, BC's Crystal Dorval (aka White Poppy) released her debut tape on Not Not Fun back in April and its a groovy way to say hello. This intimate collection of soliloquy music -  guitar loops, bliss echo vocals singing half remembered syllables of sleep, and narcotic rhythms - is a rewarding listen from beginning to end. I didn't want to wake up! "Wish and Wonder" is a song that actually causes the listener to get high. Winding tonalities, tempos, and delay pedal wet dreams keep each of the eight tracks interesting, even on back to back plays. There are influences that appear in the music, the 80s-ishness of the Cocteau Twins for instance (the floating vox of Ms. Dorval), but overall this is a "top o' the heap" type album and fans of nocturnal pop will want to own this tape before the day is over.

Sample and Buy HERE.