BUS GAS “Live On Leave Us” C27
(Spring Break Tapes)

On “Top Ten Funerals,” Bus Gas slather deliberate coats of synthesizer tones and various other loops on top of each other until the entire fourteen-minute composition is a viscous iridescent lava flow more suitable for drastic landscape change (if the landscape was composed of marshmallow) than overt introspective heart-tugging. I get it – thinking literally about the concept of “Top Ten Funerals” is a silly thing. First, I haven’t even been to ten funerals (thank god), so I can only back away and chuckle to myself a little bit when considering a list exists somewhere for someone who has a) been to enough funerals to be able to even make a list and b) has the constancy of character (I guess) to rank one funeral ahead of another for whatever reason. I can’t even fathom the idea. It’s funny to me. You may fail to see the comedy in the track, but it’s there.

I doubt the collective known as Bus Gas set out to make me smile like this, but the Nebraska drone crew sure does plaster a grin all over my face regardless. Divorcing myself from the absurdity of the concept of “Top Ten Funerals,” it’s easy to get utterly lost in the majestic waves of pure tone that almost literally (I mean, I’m picturing this music liquefying and spilling out of my speakers, to be sure) wash over me, fully encasing me in their physicality. It’s almost amniotic within the secure environment of this music, but it’s filled with enough tension in its chord progressions to serve as a reminder that we’re out here in the real world, sort of. “Infinity Cymbals” continues unbroken from “Top Ten Funerals,” but there’s nary a percussive instrument to be sensed. Guitar is the main event here, and its majestic presence is underscored by a continued multitude of synthesizer flourishes, less thick, sure, but no less gloriously iridescent. More intensely focused on disruptive behavior than on ambient therapy? Absolutely. Still, Bus Gas’s sonic magma flows from fissures in conscious reality, and once it is upon you, there is no escaping its density. Perhaps life is lived better that way. For me, I’m still smiling upon this marshmallow bedrock, content to let Bus Gas do its thing and terraform the whole shebang right in front of me, and over me, and even through me.

--Ryan Masteller

“Forests and the Hunt”

I’m not going to lie. At first glance, I was really expecting this to be a death metal band because of the artwork and because of song titles such as “Ashes of North America” and “The Demon Star.” Don’t worry, I was wrong!

I want to clarify that while I did think that this was a metal band, the art and presentation is really great. It even came shrink-wrapped (which I realize isn’t that big of a deal, but I get very excited when I get to open a brand new untouched cassette.) It was all really aesthetically pleasing.

Once I finally put this in my Walkman, I found out that Forests and the Hunt is actually a pretty sweet instrumental synth-pop project from Saint Louis. I usually have a pretty hard time getting into bands that use excessive amounts of synth. It’s because they always seem to get carried away and add layer after layer until their heart is content. Forests and the Hunt really has some great music and part of that is because they have great restraint.

Favorite Track: Magic in Denim

Forests and the Hunt

-- Garrett Douglas

“Reasons for Balloons” C22
(Dinzu Artefacts)

End-of-the-Line Folk. Some Welsh. All Female.

Me, Claudius in a descriptorific nutshell, and I have nothing to add. And anyway, who needs reasons for balloons? Nobody. Balloons all the time, I always say. But who needs Reasons for Balloons? Oh, that’s a different answer. That answer is everybody. Everybody needs to get in on this one.

Reasons for Balloons is immediately different from everything in the first Dinzu batch. “Heartbreaking Shuffle and Statuesque” is chock full of samples, twisted bass grooves and jazz inflections, filled to overflowing with masterful use of spoken word snippets. “Safari. Church Style. (‘I, the people. Cut into squares’)” is chock full of samples, twisted bass grooves and jazz inflections, filled to overflowing with masterful use of spoken word snippets. Yes, thank god, yes, this becomes a new revelation, the new standard for experimental music. It’s wickedly calculated and expertly crafted. It’s essentially the very definition of kinetic energy, but applied with a nuance that is but should not be surprising. Get off your Norelco shell high horse and live a little! What, you think someone else is going to make all your decisions for you? Actually, if you don’t mind, I will make this decision: you will buy this tape. Enjoy, and tell your friends, and remember that I’m here for you.

Hey, whaddya know, I didn’t even do the whole I, Claudius thing. I restrained myself.

--Ryan Masteller

“I Do Not Want What Heaven Gave Me”

I don’t want it either. And what is “it,” exactly? Is “it” some sort of divine blessing, or a message, or a power? How am I supposed to use “it”? Dino Spiluttini doesn’t want “it.” And yet, I think he yearns for something “other” from a supernatural source, something more real and tangible than what we experience in our fast-food religious culture, with its manufactured praise bands (triple yuck!). That’s how it is in America, anyway. I don’t know how it is in Vienna, where Spiluttini is from. Still, the seven songs that comprise I Do Not Want all point to the past and unearth complex emotions about love and loss, life and death. The permanence of history, of time, the passing into the future, or beyond life. They read like a hymnal: “Praise,” “Psalm,” “Chant,” “Requiem,” “Hymn,” “Prayer,” “Mass.” Indeed, Spiluttini was inspired to compose these pieces after his mother showed “him the place where their ashes would be interred after their deaths.” The music was culled “hours of organ recordings from that very church,” adorned with additional piano, and unleashed unto us. As he copes with mortality, he allows us to read into his work the importance – how important depends on the individual – of cultural history and how much it impacts personal history. But then, what do we do we do with that? How do we process an “it” or an “other,” clearly something being grappled with in this music? Even if we can’t come to terms with “it” ourselves, we can use art like this to turn our magnifying glasses outward, to see what’s happening out there in the world today, to react to policies and actions that do not allow all people the luxury of introspection or personal history. We are leaving old legacies behind us, beginning new ones. When we’re ready for reverence, though, we’ll call on Dino Spiluttini.

--Ryan Masteller

"On Hold, Hold On" C17

“Eggs on Mars” is a very DIY, feel-good rock band straight-outta Kansas City, Missouri. This album, “On Hold, Hold On”, is their 4th recorded offering via bandcamp. It sounds fun. It will inspire you to play music with your friends. When they engage in falsetto singing, it sounds even more fun.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"I Could See the Smoke" C23
(Lost Tribe Sound)

“Music for Octavio Paz” meets “the Glass Bead Game” in this drop-dead-fucking-gorgeous exercise for attacking and caressing a plethora of trembling, sympathetic strings. Is he bowing a cello, or that very same 12-string guitar? &How’s come so many wildly differing timbres, expertly culled from steel, nylon, & paired octaves, fit so perfectly now, where they’ve always otherwise sounded competitive and distracting?

Organically recorded and produced (well, pretty much), this EP is a brilliant taster for what could very well be the torch-passing from Ben Chasny and James Blackshaw’s former Psychedelic/American-Primitive feats to this UK newblood, Andy Cartwright, aka Seabuckthorn.

The physical tape is (rightfully) already sold out, so keep an eye out for anything in the works.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan