Fear Konstruktor - Transparent (Lava Church)

    Fear Konstruktor’s “Transparent” isn’t scary; it’s more desolate than anything. You can feel the harsh cold of Moscow where Nikita Evsuk (Fear Konstruktor) is from. This tape sounds like a wasteland, it’s so empty, and is quite sad. That hollow feeling looms throughout the tape. Envisioning the large bronze statues and political figureheads becomes easy. A post apocalyptic world lies in front of you, the ground is bare, the rivers have run dry, and the city’s infrastructure is a thing of the past. Ultimately, there is something quite beautiful about the wreckage. All in all this tape is a good effort, and would be a perfect addition to the tape collection of any noise head.

    The packaging is great; full color everything, and even a trading card from the label Lava Church is included. Worth checking out! 

Buy Here
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loopool "∞" & "∞ II" c∞ (Welcome to the 21st)

This first loopool tape must have spun a good 30 minutes before it occurred to me that I was listening to no more than a 15 second tape loop. First, I haven’t encountered a cassette assembled in such a way to do this before, so that sort of threw me for a, well, loop. Secondly, good loop-based music has this sort of way of dissolving time or, at least, messing with your sense of it, prompting all sorts of questions. In the case of "∞", is that chiming sound the beginning or the end? Why do those panned gurgling textures shift in-and-out of focus with each passing listen? With "∞ II", did I just start in the middle? Why are those muted horns coming at me now and not at the end? Where is the end? Why do my dog’s ears keep popping up at this section? How long should I listen to this? Why am I listening to this? Jean-Paul Garnier, the Los Angeles-based sound artist behind loopool, writes on his website that, “Among the many goals of loopool are: the expansion of the musical pallet, the usage of music outside the realms of entertainment, and creation of music that is a psychedelic, not psychedelic music, but music that acts up the brain to alter consciousnesses.” After listening to both of these tapes, multiple times in fact, I’d say he has achieved these goals on all three counts. What could possibly come off as some overly conceptualized gimmick is, by contrast, a rather mind-bending listening experience. As a wise, yet misguided, space traveler once proclaimed: "To infinity and beyond!!"

Blood Bright Star/Obsidian Towers - Split (Constellation Tatsu)

I received four sleek enticing tapes in the mail recently from a new label called Constellation Tatsu out of San Luis Obispo, CA. CT's site lays out their musical philosophy as, "adventurous with spiritual artistic sensibilities." There's also a quote from Faulkner, a variety of mad mixes, and collage art pics, but I'm not writing a review of their damn web design am I?  With this post I'll be discussing two of the tapes and in a few days I'll finish off the batch.

The evening of my listening session came after a lengthy spell of depressing political junk television. Talking heads babbling about jobs in one segment to international bloodbaths in the next. It was all horrible. I couldn't take another wretched moment so I jacked in my audio freak headphones (big fat mothers) to my stereo and let the A side rip. Guitar music at walking speed like that of Earth except not comatose, it begins with simple picked lines/arpeggios multi-tracked before blending into louder amp driven fuzz patterns. Heavy bottom and soaring highs hitting my spot, shit I want the guitars to keep a candle burning at the orgy! This piece is much too short. I could've listened to another ten minutes. Alas, the tape stopped. Time for the B. Obsidian Towers is classic taper drone in my opinion, with long tones of distant scree and tinder hiss moving in and out of focus. Not bad, just typical of the genre. Overall the split is a strong inaugural release. CT's debut is housed in fine red pro-everything (graphics and lettering really grabbed me on this one-QUICK NOTE: CT's visual aesthetic is professional and at the high end of the cassette product world), I know right away the label wants to make a good first impression, which they do.

Tape #2 of my sleepless night...the ambience of a modern day dust bowl raping God fearing innocents, at least that's how I hear it on first listen. Brazilian musician (and likely not concerned with the ravages of drought) Gimu is a psychedelic/drone/ambient individual...a wanderer by trade even. The tape's title gives it away, A Silent Stroll on Sombre St. No other time but the nocturnal for this album. If the sun rises when the tape rumbles, a law somewhere must be breaking. This is a consistent work, if nothing else. The drones battle for space with what sound like looped vinyl pops at times. Individual compositions don't stand out to me so much as the start to finish quality. I might have one too many lost in space tapes currently on my shelf, yet this is one of the better examples of the form.

Listen and Buy HERE.

Little Spoon - Allergic to Jerks (Self-Released)

    Songs about having dreams run amuck on Little Spoon’s “Allergic to Jerks”. Which is appropriate because Boston, Massachusetts’s songwriter Cameron Potter creates infectious bedroom/dream pop. It’s all about how the beats and melodies intertwine on this tape and it is definitely the type of tape you slip into your Walkman and take on a journey. It’s pretty reverb heavy and despite its pace drags you into a slower more mellow state of mind. When I saw him he had a broken rib and still managed to play drums through his whole set, so as you might imagine you can really feel this guys passion for his music.

    The packaging on the tape is pretty solid, nothing mind blowing, but it’s about what is on the tape, and it comes with a free digital download too if you are into that. Either way, this is a solid slam for the dwindling summer. 

    Listen and Buy HERE!

Hear Hums - Psych Cycles ( Kassette Klub)

Hear Hums, “Psyche Cycles” is a constantly spinning wheel of interesting sounds, and that pop song you have heard somewhere before. An abundance of floor toms, decaying delay, and vocal yips and yawps drive this tape forward. To me it’s hard to not compare music like this to Animal Collective or Abe Vigoda. There is a lot going on, and the music is very sample driven, but remains pretty interesting. Ultimately, it’s best listened to either very loud or in headphones. In this jungle it’s about the adventure of peeling through the brush, rather than avoiding the wildlife. 

The tape itself looks very beautiful and was a nice introduction to the kassette klub label! It has neon green/clear case and the tape is red with nicely printed text on the A side. For fans of that wild tropical psych it’s worth picking up!

Listen and Buy HERE!

Bermuda Triangles - "Transmissions" (C.N.P. Records)

Jason Hodges is busy being noisy. A man of many projects (Suppression, Mutwawa, etc.), the Richmond, VA sound sculptor recently released a new tape by his group Bermuda Triangles titled Transmissions on his own C.N.P. Records. These herky-jerky boys have all the wail and madness of early Pere Ubu. Synths are performed percussively and the drums could almost be playing along to a different song entirely. This is off kilter stuff. Hodges' vocal howl wavers on top of and around the pulse(s). Recorded in 2011, the music of the BT's could not sound more out of time if it tried. Opening tune, "Black Knight Satellite," is part nightmare arcade acid flashback and part pile-driver. The title track recalls surf-rock snare drum rolls as Hodges and co. try to break on through. The band's angular beat music and tropicalia horror is of the highest order on this album. Bermuda is calling you to visit, can't you hear it?

Buy and Listen HERE.

Luscious Skin - "Ventriloquist" c35, Softoft - "Techech" c15 (Alchemist Records)

I always want to type "Luscious Jackson," but the duo is actually called Luscious Skin. Dancing their way from the midwest disco wastelands of Kansas City, LS manage to sound glossy and low budget at the same time. Their (Rhys Ziemba and Kyle Combs) "world" beats and pop vocal melodies are immediately attractive from the start on their album Ventriloquist. The title tune is a hooky acoustic guitar loop on top of a South American drum pattern with well done harmonies that hypnotize for over six minutes.  LS craft real pop music here, something that seems suited for a major indie. "You Belong to Yourself" is a bouncy bubbling synth jam that could be a "hit" if "hit" records still existed. "Office Furniture Exoskeleton" is my favorite tune with one of the better vocal arrangements I've heard this year. The album is pretty solid all around. LS knocks it out - I would recommend this tape for the synth-pop fanatic in your family.

Softoft is Paul Slocum of Dallas, TX. His EP Techech is a fifteen minute dance odyssey sound saturation to the max. Samples and club beats hit ya from the moment go and don't really let up. Some pieces tango with industrialesque whir or lo-fi buzz, but mainly this is a drum and happy synth party. It's hard to be disgruntled about something so short, so I'll just keep dancing, with or without you.

Listen and Buy HERE.

Zany Zongas - "Northpark" (Old Monster Records)

I walk to and from my job in Austin, TX. The blistering sun shoots me with death rays every summer and this summer isn't any different. When I get home - sweating like a cold beverage bottle - I grab the mail, throw it down on the coffee table, and try everything I can to lower my body's core temperature.  My skin should love the sun though because I spent my toddler years in the golden shine of southern California, but holy F how I hate the sun! I received a package recently containing a cassette by a group called Zany Zongas and a short note from their label Old Monster Records. I scanned the note and immediately noticed the phrase, "recorded live to tape in San Diego..." AH HOME! Brothers! I have to listen to this now as I decompress from a long ass day. Where's my frosty mug?

Zany Zongas' tape is titled Northpark (one of the neighborhoods in San Diego) and their LSD on the beach sound is improvised metallic guitar ooze. ZZ is a duo from what I can hear with guitars, bass, minimal keyboard upper register tones, and occasional percussion, playing slow circular riffs and orchestrated feedback. I would use the word "sludge," but that implies a certain kind of "metal" which I don't think is quite right for these guys. The music is dark, reflective, inward aiming, and causes me to sit back with my eyes closed daydreaming at sunset. The second piece, "Ahadu," is my favorite on first go around. The guitars approximate swirling light shows and somewhere deep in my mind a hippie woman is twirling barefoot. The pacing stays slow from start to finish so this album only works for me as mood music. It has, at times, the quality of an interesting demo. The last piece, for example, just kind of slows to an ending instead of reaching a real conclusion. I have the feeling that these riffs can be elongated and stretched out on stage, taking them past the rehearsal room. This is a good effort.

Listen and Buy HERE.

Scammers - "Magic Carpet Ride" c27, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk - "Soda" c32 (Lillerne Tapes)

Readers, is there a better city for cassettes than Chicago these days? I want to know...write me and let's take a poll. 

Bowie had Aladdin Sane. Disney had Robin Williams. Chicago label Lillerne Tapes has Scammers' Phil Diamond. Diamond is a one man show and, according to the label's website, he's a goddamn great performer. Magic Carpet Ride is a concept album about Aladdin, but don't go screaming, running in the opposite direction from the word "concept" because it doesn't bloat this album one bit. In fact the tape is a scant twenty seven minutes! Hardly Quadrophenia people...On my first listens I didn't even bother with the lyrics. I'm not that kind of listener anyway. What I noticed what how much I liked the sounds coming from my stereo. The first cut, "Blue Satin," is very Bowie/Eno "Berlin" mixed with a heavy helping of Ian Curtis vocals. It is a slow developer, but I couldn't turn it off. One element I really liked was the drum programming. On several tunes big thuddy tom-tom fills roll in and I smiled and kept on dancing. The up tempo numbers are the most immediately enjoyable and again, I don't give a fuck about a lamp and three wishes, I have to shake da rump! Scammers' tape is a good one. I eagerly wait for his next offerings...take that Jafar!

Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for slow build textural drone works. Hell, I'm only human! Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk (Crazy ass band name, but cool right?) wallow in the lush life of methodically constructed music. Their sculpted tones did nothing for me when I first listened. I was kinda distracted to be honest. The night was calling my name, but I wanted to sit down with this tape and stare it down. So I listened, yet heard only the muttering crank in my head. I don't recommend forming an opinion of some band's musical efforts while in a foul mood, but that's what I did...I'm guilty of not paying attention to BBDDM. I've since listened again and the patience of the musicians to record this work must have been great because I  don't think I could've accomplished the slow motion performances. Now, I might be a faster bpm dude who likes songs, but BBDDM is recommended to the listener who can focus on minutia. I have this suspicion that I'll go back to this tape and suddenly find new things to like about it. Such is life.

Listen and Buy HERE.

Beach Dawgz - "S/T" c62, Potions - "One Buck" c32, Chicago Jim - "S/T" c62 (Pretty All Right)

Electronic music is our "folk" and the cassette (combined with the Internet) is the community conduit. Like the broadside and radio (pre-TV), cassettes are the medium with a message, available on the cheap, and away from the GREED merchants of the 1%. Maybe it's because today is Woody Guthrie's birthday that I'm ruminating on such notions. The technologies of the day and the crazy affordable nature of music producing tools have caused my mind to race with the beats (& spacey waves) of three high quality electronic releases from Pretty All Right records. As I write, popping in tape after tape, my ideals, dreams, and fears mix with Casio tones & banger dance vibes. I wanna rail against the man, but I'm sweating my ass off to the boogie...

First up is Beach Dawgz self-titled freakout. BD is a trio consisting of George de Moura, Tom Owens, and Drew Gibson. All three individuals have outside projects, but for this release they came together to work off of one another. The results are psychedelic, fun, and surprising. I found this tape to be my favorite of the batch because the sounds coaxed from the player's instruments were obviously heightened by working as a unit. 

Second on the playlist is Potions' album One Buck. This is the most lighthearted listen of the three. Recorded by Roland Potions sometime in 2009, his thumps and circuit bending whiplash keys, represent some of his earliest recording experiments. Side B's final piece is a trance inducing love-in gropefest of monotonous organ chords and percussion. I feel like the minimalism here succeeds where others might be unable to keep the interest going for six plus minutes.

Finally, on my tripping rave analog journey I meet Chicago Jim. His self-titled tape is traditionally electro and solidly "dance." Recorded using Tr808, Tr707, June 106, MicroKorg, MC202, and MPC2000XL, Jim's quirky electronica isn't as exciting or sonically inviting as the previous two titles, but it pounds the floor the most. It has a good beat and you can dry hump the air for about an hour.

Bottom line: Chicago has some great electronic mad musicians and they're doing it on tape.

If all that wasn't enough, enjoy this vid clip by Potions:

POTIONS - UNTITLED I from broken machine films on Vimeo.

Horse Thieves - "S/T" c20, Mole People - "Mole Scroll" c40 (Tolmie Terrapin Press)

Since taking up the cassette criticism vocation I've heard the good and bad of most any genre one can imagine: doom, punk, lo-fi pop, sythn-pop, ambient, drone, dance, noise, etc, but I've yet to hear bona fide country jams. OK, so maybe Los Angeles' Horse Thieves is more country-punk than say a traditionalist might hear 'em, but fuck it...I LOVE THIS BAND! Their twenty minute EP is so rawhide enjoyable I can't keep from playing at least once a day...It's damn fantastic. The slide guitar playing has me slapping my knee every time and the vocalist is like a drunk (or drunker) Kris Kristofferson mixed with some whacked out Meat Puppets slouch (not any of the acid punk rock however). Every song is good, tight, and under three minutes long. I love me some terrifying hiss scum noise blasts, but as an average listener I have more song based records in my collection than metal machine disciples so when an honest to God BAND cassette falls into my lap I always pray to my analog Buddha that it doesn't suck. "Red House," the first cut, accurately sets the cow punk dive bar on a Saturday night scene that lasts for the rest of the EP. Perhaps it's my Austin, TX home drfting into my brain as I listen to Horse Thieves, but I'm thinking about cold pitchers of Fireman's #4 and hot buzzing amps...and it makes me feel good. DO IT. BUY Horse Thieves!!

Mole People's Mole Scroll is presented wonderfully as it comes with a small booklet of poems that comprise the lyrics to the songs of the album, glow in the dark labels, and moody mysterious cover art. The demented No Wave Residents-ish vibe of the twenty song project is solid from start to finish, but I had little emotional response to the music. Honestly, rats and moles and sewers and grime all make me interested not and grossed out. I'm not being objective...tough. The guitars do crunch and squeal pretty nicely and the vocals are often treated to menacing proportions...I'm just not into creep rawk. Many listeners will probably think I'm dead wrong and that's fine. Give the Mole People a chance and prove me incorrect.

Listen and Buy HERE.

J Fernandez - "Olympic Village" [Reissue] (Teen River)

Oh shit, I've just discovered my new favorite tape label...at least for this month. Teen River is a funky fun lil label based in Chicago (I know, again with Chi town...but the city has the goods y'all) and they have released a ton of titles during their relatively brief existence - so read on and follow the links below. Come to think of it, I do remember reading about this label via Impose a while back, but memory is an unreliable authority.

J Fernandez's Olympic Village (reissue) is just a sweet ol "pop" album with dark melodies galore. Apparently the January release sold out so the minds behind TR (Gordon and Katrina Stonehart) have released it again. Fernandez's songs are wrapped in reverb, feature both acoustic & electronic beats, and are sprinkled with keyboards, but what I like best is that they are really songs. That is to say, the music comes across as thoroughly composed and well produced. I don't hear many tapes that have that "classic" produced vibe. Like when I was a kid hearing The Beatles or Beach Boys or even Radiohead, and marveling at how immaculately the instruments fit together. Fernandez's album makes great use of electric guitar too. He uses it like The Byrds used theirs. Chime & jangle, long may you ring. The opening tune, "Wasting the New Year," has a rolling riff that is just plain memorable. "Corridors" is another one of my fave songs here because it surprises me. Is that an accordion? Distorted organ too?!?! An instrumental song, "Impulse Mistakes," reminds me of an almost Brian Wilson composition for the Garageband era. OK, so I personally get a little tired of too much echo on music today, but for this tape I wouldn't want it "dry." BUY THIS ALBUM!

Listen and Buy HERE.

Teen River Soundcloud stuff (TR releases all styles).

Tabernacle - "Denovo I & II" (tabernacle tapes)

Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg (OVERDRIVE) strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum yelp wail jingle chim (pause)  Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum fuzz fizz hiss screech (turn tape over) Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg (OVERDRIVE) strum strum yelp wail jingle chim (pause)  Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum Jangle jangle ring clannnnnnnggggg strum strum fuzz fizz hiss screech (repeat)

Tabernacle's two volume collection is electric guitar as percussion music. Steady repetitive strums ring out their minimal tonalities and stay in one headspace. Tabernacle's recordings are like setting Marfa, TX to the routines of a guitar student, in his bedroom or basement, who loves hitting the instrument without learning anything past the act of strumming noise. If you dig this kinda thing, the label tells me their tapes are currently sold out via Tomentosa, but another batch might soon be on the way. Keep yr eyes and eardrums open.

Nigel Taylor/Nick Neuburg - "Sometimes, it's just so cold outside" and Dog Suicide, "Windows and Lunch" (self-released)

Nigel Taylor and Nick Neuburg are two Boston dudes skronk tumblin' and wheezing and exploring their way through a minefield of jagged glass the size of the Mojave. Taylor plays amplified trumpet and Neurburg plays amplified percussion, but neither sound like they perform either. Nowhere on this five track album do we hear Miles Davis fusion note runs or anything resembling a regular beat. The duo squish sounds that approximate a balloon being tied into animal shapes and allow feedback to have a conversation with itself. This isn't harsh continuous noise, but it is n-o-i-s-e. Each piece is like a theme and variation because of the limited palette of frequencies the musicians work with. It's almost Baroque in form, an organ fugue maybe (???? probably not), but it's improvised noise clang so...weird stuff. I'll listen to this again though.

Listen and Buy HERE.

The second tape featuring experimental percussionist Nick Neuburg is by Dog Suicide. DS is a duo of Neuburg and bassist Pat Kuehn who improvise live noise and record it direct to 4-track without the burden of overdubs. This is in the moment sound kidnapping. It works well for the most part and kinda reminds me of Lightning Bolt without the trappings of "rock" music or virtuosity. Dog Suicide might consider editing however. There were more than a few times where the electronic doodling grows tiresome. I could go for more bass actually. "Search 4 Green Suitcase" is a performance that doesn't go anywhere and leaves too many gaps where silence doesn't add to the suspense, but detracts by giving the listener the impression the two musicians are grasping for inspiration. When the duo find a commune of tones that excite them, the performances definitely grab ya, like on "Leaving Swamp" and "Dry, Dry, Desert." Overall, decently flawed experi-tronic-prov.

Listen and Buy HERE.