"Absquatulate Azimuth" C30
(Bicephalic Records)

Milwaukee’s Bicephalic Records knows their noise! Here’s a great pairing of two primarily atonal ambient artists exploring the edges of sonority and rhythm, each in innovative, distinct ways.

On side A, Southern Spain’s Miguel A. Garcia isolates and curates the overtone-rich sounds of heavy machinery, industrial wire, and walkee-talkee interference, posing each for and against the other through expert timbre augmentation.

On Side B, Wisconson’s own BR label head, August Traeger, weaves organically harvested reverb with intimate, meek textures and subtle haunting drones for a disassociative mantra, then proceeds to turn the world on its head, taking the previous 25 minutes of themes on this tape, digitally electrocutes and syncopates them into a clumsy robot elephant dance while the crowd looks on in bemused horror.

Pretty great stuff! This is one of four splits Bicephalic has put out and I’m looking forward to spending more time with the others now!


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

“Where Do You Think We Should Live”

New York-at-night music by nature reeks of escapism, defeatism, helplessness, but also hope and an unimaginable wonder of and insight into a place that’s unreachable for those who haven’t lived there. (Full disclosure – I have not lived in New York. But I have lived in London, for whatever that’s worth.) Urban young adulthood is well served by Eamon Fogarty, as he brings a mix of ennui and longing reserved for likeminded artists such as Kal Marks, 764-Hero, Hayden, and even Simon & Garfunkel. Solo pieces are offset by full-band jaunts, and Fogarty excels at both. Where Do You Think We Should Live? is a snapshot in time, a cathartic Inside Eamon Fogarty set to the warm hiss of a tape-deck speaker, a question important enough to be asked by artists facing eviction from their apartments by greedy developers ignorant of the term “rent control.” In fact, Fogarty, guitar case slung over his shoulder, would likely be just as willing to share a beer and a couch between gigs if that’s how it had to go. I’d buy him a beer anyway. I get it.

--Ryan Masteller

“Fairy Super Crystal Blue”
(Noumenal Loom)

Whose half face is sculpted on the cover of Fairy Super Crystal Blue? Our patron saint of carbon, carbonation, the free leader of the carbon nation, benevolent and smiling (in an unobservable dimension) while simultaneously being created and disappearing. You can’t explain it, not with Word(s), but with Paint, MS Paint, and synth patches. This plastic cassette has already done a better job than me at understanding and perceiving. My expressions, my language, have physically materialized into an ectoplasmic puddle on the floor of my office. I’m staring at it, and it’s not moving – it’s inert. I’ve failed. I look to the cover, and the face is still obscured, hovering between creation and extinction. My escape is through the window, up the ladder, to the clouds. Yeah, that’s it.

Vapor drifts in through the open window, in case it wasn’t already obvious enough.

I can’t detect the nodes EATQS has attached to my body via fiber-optics through this seemingly innocuous cassette tape. At once narcotic and efficiently kinetic, Fairy Super Crystal Blue pulses through my nervous system. I see in iTunes Visualizer palettes. It’s my worldview now, and my office, ectoplasm communication failures and all, has all but disappeared, replaced by cybernetic geometry and strobe lights. My mouth struggles to make words to describe this living music, but the sounds become one with the tones, and the tones become one with each other, stretching over their allotted time frames. Voices appear then disappear. My blood is purple milk. My heart is a gas giant.

I can’t detect the nodes EATQS has attached to me because they’ve taken control of me and they’ve erased any trace of themselves in my consciousness. I can see the complete absence and presence of the cover bust, and the extradimensional result, out of place when perceived in human terms, is terrifying. But the music soothes and smooths and points me to the ladder by the window, by which I now must escape to the clouds if I’m going to come back from this close to what I once was. It’s not a done deal though either way. My wave patterns might be cosmically altered.

--Ryan Masteller

“Invictus” C20 (Bonding Tapes)

Throw down your legally obtained firearms! Mr. Abstract Butta Fingas is continuously undefeated, yes, that’s what “invictus” means because I looked it up (do you think I speak Latin or something?), and there is nothing that you can do to upend his meteoric rise to global overlordship. Just listen to that production and tell me his beats aren’t the shit-tastic bombastic three-dimensional club traxxx, the plague that makes your booty move, infectiously thumping intensely sublime grooves. You pop this in your tape player like an aural antibiotic and all the cares of your Zika-infected mosquito blood will dissipate into a mixtape beatscape, acting as your own personal quarantine. Check that, let’s build a Mr. Abstract Butta Fingas wall of subwoofers around any xenophobic flashpoint to isolate only the greatest and best things in our lives. Let’s not share anything with anyone, just narcotize into a subviolent defensive haze. Somebody’s gotta have their finger on the safety trigger. I submit that we just let that “Somebody else” do it.

Throw down your legally obtained firearms! You won’t need them on the streets of San Diego in 2016; that head-nod action is video-game ready for special-move status – there will be no bosses able to contend. Invictus, undefeated, rolling through the city on a confidence high, power spiked to the red, Mr. Abstract Butta Fingas approaches partly in this plane of existence, partly on an unseen one, fully encompassed when seen through eyes that can perceive the totality. You will underestimate him as he approaches, and he will overcome. There is no defense, just pure submission. Invictus, a soundtrack to conquest, our fears soothed by the utter dominance. Let the blood pulse through disarmed veins. Let the groove saturate our dissatisfaction and numb our diseased anger. Music is the answer – music is the weapon. Remember where you were the day Mr. Abstract Butta Fingas rolled into town.

--Ryan Masteller

CHUNKING MANSIONS AND m a l i b l u e : (
“Hydra” (Adhesive Sounds)

Where liquid water flows, there also begins life. There’s an inherent tranquility in that, and in its proximity to liquid water, life thrives. In the absence of liquid water, life recedes. It’s why, in these days of fracking and polluting the Earth to death, our greatest minds look to other stars to find a new potential answer for extending humanity. It’s why, also, that an audio representation of these concepts is so intriguing to the inquiring mind. It allows for thought that transcends the lowest common denominator, the base instincts that suggest we shouldn’t try at all, that doing anything worthwhile isn’t worth the effort it takes to do it in the first place. It might even give us glimpses of a future where we brush aside the outdated modes of discourse and process, giving us the tools to perfect our resurgence and rebirth as humans. God knows that, with all the insane manifestations of direction in the halls of global power, we need an outlet to figure it out away from the public sphere. We need a tool to combat evil at its source and not strike fruitlessly at its many heads where they emerge.

And so, with the world populated by supervillains these days, it’s also not crazy to think of the eponymous Marvel organization when gazing at the cover of this excellent split on Adhesive Sounds, or at least a reasonable facsimile. What do they have planned for us? How are they going to upset the balance? The wind turbines rising from the sea only solidify the idea that they power some underwater fortress from which nefarious global plots are hatched. It’s all offline, all self-contained. Heavy hitters, major players, and all-around swell cats Chungking Mansions and m a l i b l u e : ( meditate on the power, where it’s concentrated, who it’s for, and where it will take us on Hydra. They’re either condemning the policies of the elite or chilling at the bottom of the sea, drinks in hand, relaxing Dr. Evil style in modern living rooms and toasting their Svengali-like success. Maybe they’re the puppet masters, and they’ve surrounded themselves with water! Are they the source? They are encased – our information is unreliable.

Or maybe, truly, Chungking Mansions and m a l i b l u e : ( have seen the future, and they’re the future, but so are we all. Scrap that James Bond villain horsemeat – the concept is outdated, and that’s what the shadowy figures behind the scenes want us to focus on anyway. They don’t want us diminishing their power, the fear that grips us and that they hold over us. No, it’s an ecopunk world, and there’s no time for hesitation, to rally around the good things in our lives. Make it about people, maybe. About the Earth. Embrace the water, the air, and that’s what the story’s about anyway. Promote life – and remember, we humans are not the only ones that are alive. We are part of the ecosystem, part of an anti-Hydra with an equal reach. Maybe if we deny the ugliness its authority, ignoring its hold, our focus will clear, and the shadows will be rooted out with the introduction of light. Maybe we’re the source, debilitated into a malevolent presence by our own inaction.

So that’s it, we as a civilization are teetering on the edge. On one side, chaos, on the other, salvation. One half Chungking Mansions, the other half m a l i b l u e : (. Drip water, suck air, make your choice. Or drip air, suck water, and invert your perspective. Life pulses in this music, it fills the empty spaces. There is no void, no escaping real life. Plug into it or risk being left behind.

--Ryan Masteller

Stefan Christoff / Post Mortem "Waasland"
Old Bicycle Records OBR 031

Another split tape, this time from Stefan Christoff and Post Mortem. Though unmarked as to A/B, the tape was wound to play Christoff's side first so in it went. The first cut, "fenetres sonores" immediately garnered my interest. Nice effects and a near melody made this somber piece deserving of the premier track status it received. It was followed by a organ dominated piece appropriately titled "organ rhythms under the rain" which flows nicely coming out of the initial selection. Church organ sounds with just a touch of abstractness, and again, a hint of a melody.

The remaining four selections were more of the same, though not to imply this all sounds alike. Christoff knows structure or feels it inherently and is conscious of not overdoing anything while still allowing for enough of a theme to provide a glimpse at his aural vision. Sadly, there was no contact information for this artist, but the credits indicate it was recorded between 2013-2015 in Montreal.

Post Mortem is the brainchild of Jan Kees Helms, and was recorded in 2015. This side initiates with what could be a river flowing albeit rapidly, then quickly you hear garbled voices and a repetitive squeaky sound (crickets?) which again is layered with a number of natural sounds, all the while building toward something.

Like the previous side, the composer has a great feel for not taking a good idea too far. The piece keeps moving with a vast array of abstractions and is further textured by a softly played piano adding to the intrigue. The interesting use of a nature soundscape intertwined with minimal electronica makes for an enjoyable sonic journey and though the track, entitled "Soundsources",  is lengthy, it never sounds dull or monotonous.

The experimental path is a difficult one to follow successfully. With little or no restrictions, artists can-and often do-throw in way too much baggage. I'm happy to say that this tape is a splendid exception. Everything here seems necessary and the music created by these two artists is both challenging and comfortable to listen to. Extra marks for a very creative housing for the cassette itself. Good stuff here.

-Bob Zilli