SAPPHOGIEST "s/t" (No Rent Records)

SAPPHOGIEST, and as a result, this release (S/T) is the brainchild of one Zoe Burke, known perhaps better in comic circles as creator of Sanpaku Rose. This is her debut audio release, which cleverly defies traditional descriptions so instead, I suppose, falls under electronica, ambient, sfx, pop, hymns and shrouded undeniably in darkness.

Five tracks grace this cassette release which I assume is available direct through the label though they have a Bandcamp page where only a download version is available. Not to neglect the actual content, the tape is captivating enough-something one of this variety rarely does-and builds, in a subtle sort of way into the closing cut "a lie" which I found the most engaging of the lot.

All in all, high marks for creativity and production. This is a well executed effort that I would rank in the top end of these genres that I have heard of late. B

-- Bob Zilli

"On Dockweiler Beach" C46
(Constellation Tatsu)

Deep breaths in & out, salty air mixing with slightly runny nose, heavily sunscreened earlobes sweating off liberal protections, recurring thoughts of li’l sandy cephalopods possibly occupying shoes perhaps not carefully enough placed soles down…

Sans one single wave or gull sample to be heard throughout the tape, “On Dockweiler Beach” manages to transport us to and lead us through the very essence of high and low tides, their accompanying glares, shadows, moods, and manic episodes. This be Bitchin’ New Age Beach Loops for Bashos.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

CMMZOZMM // ELECTRONIC QUARTET “Whereas” C40 (Tingo Tongo Tapes)

Today’s an amazing day, because it’s the first day I’m watching spring training baseball on MLB TV! I’m just beyond stoked, although my beloved Phillies are looking pretty inept against the Yankees. It’s OK, it’s just the young kids playing. They can mess up all they want. They’re not the… ahem… future or anything.

Speaking of the future, I’ve decided for some reason to pop this CMMZOZMM // Electronic Quartet tape in the player and listen on headphones while the game plays in the background. First things first – if you’re trying to pronounce that word where only one-eighth of the characters are vowels, go ahead and give that right up. It’s an abbreviation consisting of the first and last initial of each of the four players comprising the “Electronic Quartet.” Well, sort of – MZ is for “Mike Meanstreetz,” obviously. But the rest work! There’s also Cameron MacNair, Omar Zubair, and Maneesh Raj Madahar, the CM, OZ, and MM, respectively.

Now that I have, or have lost, your attention, let’s talk about that “future” that I’ve alluded to. Whereas is a gastric nightmare of electronics and percussion and guitars, all applied like Sonny Sharrock would in a timeless vortex, where you could neither move forward nor backward but would remain in stasis forever. Which notes did you play before the others? Which came after? Doesn’t matter. They all sort of exist at once, all observable, and over two 20-minute tracks, CMMZOZMM reassigns all the theories you ever had about physics and music. Your relativity to Relativity has been compromised, because if you can pass through the gauntlet of Whereas in the same molecular configuration, if your DNA remains unchanged, then you’ll understand the implications for the future of science. Sustainable energy, faster-than-light travel, you name it – it will all come to pass on the inspiration Whereas gives its listeners. Provided that they’re scientists of course.

Now listening to that proved to be way more inspiring than watching this awful game, and the fact that every commercial break featured the mic-drop Verizon commercial with the Silicon Valley guy three times per break was a soul-sucking experience every half inning. But I didn’t have to listen to it. I listened to CMMZOZMM concocting vibrant magic for forty minutes. Turns out that was all I needed to get through it. Nicely done, CMMZOZMM – nicely done.

Tingo Tongo Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

"Depiction of Saturn & Other Planets Floating In Space" C60
(Midnight Circles)

This Book of Kells release of 24 cosmic vignettes plays somewhere between a Stars of the Lid record at 45rpm and a Constance Demby at 18, which is to say, not so much derivative but rather in great company of some minimalist/drone masterpieces.

As the title suggests, the themes explored herein are clinically cold but elegant, far removed from life but teeming with objective radiance, all conjured up by a series of floating synth clouds, binaural solar winds, and sparse, asteroidal accents. This could easily fit into the Hearts of Space catalog if it gets noticed enough (as should most of the releases put out by the up & coming Midnight Circles label out of Mannheim, Germany), and I sure as hell hope it does. It is no easy task being so harmonious & melodic without sacrificing wise mood over fleeting, clever riff.

All (inter)stellar releases via Midnight Circles bandcamp page are pay-as-you-wish, so get on board & spread the good word!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Argusterfelder A-C" C42
(Midnight Circles)

Midnight Circles, out of Mannheim, Germany, are a relatively new label (read: Xerox & hand-dubbing), yet are all ready to make noteworthy waves; subtle, nuance-worshipping vibrations, that is. Minutiae is the name of the game, here, folx, and Jon Liefhold’s three part minimal-flirting-with-new-age opus “Argusterfelder” is one hell of a meditation. In four layers or less, JL cobbles together some low-mid range organ drone, warbly, high-Hz texture, looped field recordings and an equalizing element of movement between sound-poses (read: change-ups) that keeps repeated, repeated, repeated listens fresh and earnest. Jon Liefhold and Midnight Circles are now officially on my radar (read: obsessed over for at least two years) and I’m purty durn excited to dig deeper into their solid back catalogue!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

BILLY GOMBERG “Transition” C30
(Dinzu Artefacts)

If there’s a Dinzu aesthetic, Billy Gomberg’s got it. It’s like that scene in Back to the Future where Marty’s playing Chuck Berry at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. “Hey Billy, it’s your cousin, Marvin … Marvin GOMBERG. You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well listen to this!” Obviously, it didn’t quite go down that way, because Billy Gomberg didn’t get a phone call from his cousin directing him to listen to some future person whose sound he would later “originate.” (We can argue closed time loops all day and how ridiculous they are, but we won’t.) But really, is there a more fitting home for Gomberg’s music than Dinzu Artefacts? I submit that there is not.

Transition is an album that lives up to its name, a drifting, evolutionary signpost marking the passage of time. As befits a Dinzu release, field recordings are processed through effects and electronics, the sounds taking on entirely new identities as they’re filtered through Gomberg’s vision of glacial motion. The tracks are untitled, marked only by the amount of time they fill. And fill they do, as you must pay careful attention to the compositions, allowing them to consume your focus so that you don’t miss a single detail. You could call them drones, but that would be selling them short – there’s distinctive movement in the works, distinctive tones, unearthed emotional stimuli whose raw receptors remind you of events in your life that you’d forgotten. Wisps of memory once again become tactile. You remember who you once were.

Now, transitioning back to me being a cad, imagine again Billy Gomberg, hero of high school dances, enlightening an auditorium full of students with his cerebral excursions. Instead of foxtrotting to the pure sound emanating from the PA, everybody would go all glassy-eyed, entranced by the sonics. They’d be under the spell of Billy Gomberg for hours. That would be something. Somebody spike the punch.

Billy Gomberg
Dinzu Artefacts

--Ryan Masteller

(Astral Spirits/Monofonus Press)

Free jazz just freaking talks to you, man, it’s a crazy conversation, but when you pin it down, such great depths of detail and language are revealed that you can’t unhear them. Stick a trio as remarkably in tune with one another as Keefe Jackson, Jim Baker, and Julian Kirshner in a room and hit record, and the sky’s the limit. “Well, duh,” you say, “that’s what jazz is sort of about, you chattering ninny.” It’s easy to generalize. I understand what you’re getting at. What you should understand, though, is that while The Noisy Miner exhibits all the hallmarks of improvisational sessions, it’s still a remarkable thrill hearing the interplay. I can’t help myself. What was the last great jazz record you heard? What grabbed you about it? Here, the trio burrow directly into your ear canals (especially if you’re listening on headphones) and tighten a vise grip around your chest, causing your heart rate to spike to unnatural levels. Sax bleats, piano runs, drums scatter, and your pulse quickens at the seemingly unresolvable momentum. But the players sense that, pull back, allow periods of relative calm, plateaus of rich tone, before they plunge headfirst into a new, mesmerizing freakout. Elements of classic ensembles punctuate the pieces – the press mentions Coltrane (especially on side A) and Sun Ra (side B features some far-out synth work) – and it’s not difficult to consider The Noisy Miner as an extension or even blood relative of remarkable records by such luminaries. But Jackson, Baker, and Kirshner provide their own stamp on their work – side B’s full-length meditation “There Is No Fact, However Insignificant” (perhaps an insight into our times) is proof positive that vast swaths of sonic exploration are as yet unexplored. Consider it a mission statement, an introductory inferno all up in your personal space. It is as welcome as it is uncomfortable. That is until it burrows under your skin and becomes a part of you. Then you owe it your life.

Astral Spirits/Monofonus Press

--Ryan Masteller

JACK PROPANE “Purity Control” C20
(Kudzu Productions)

I know a guy who would hate this, but he hates techno of all kinds, no matter how interesting in the end. (You might know him, he writes for this very site. He’s quite an astute observer of all things non-techno.) Jack Propane’s Purity Control might be the tape to change his mind. It’s got that four-on-the-floor rhythmic thud that’s as reassuring as it is foreseeable, but it falls squarely in that Orbital / Underworld (without the vocals) sweet spot that I so desperately loved when electronic music was smacking the mainstream in the face around 1997 or so. Then it stopped smacking the mainstream in the face (because the mainstream was ignoring its noodley whappings) and disappeared back into the underground. Maybe that’s where it belongs, in the shadows, discoverable only by those who care enough to look that hard. Through speakeasy doors down dank alleys or in poorly lit basement house shows. That’s probably where Jack Propane hangs out, dangling his tapes like prizes won following the defeat of minotaur-esque foes at the end of labyrinthine quests. I have no idea why I’ve decided to add in some Greek mythology to this review – Jack Propane is from New York – and I’m not sure it’s necessary. I bet he at least packs a club to the gills, though – whether or not you have to vanquish mythical creatures to get inside is not something I have any control over. If you don’t want to chance it, you can just order Purity Control on Bandcamp, then you’ll get it in the mail, without even having to leave home!

Jack Propane
Kudzu Productions

--Ryan Masteller

"The Land Of Perfect Twilight" C31
(Fluere Tapes)

The ever prolific Andreas Brandal has found a great home in Sweden’s Fluere Tapes, releasing a brilliantly dark half-hour’s worth of moody, cinematic pieces that bridge the gap between the eerier, droning soundscapes of Constance Demby and the brooding, beatless, atmospheric interludes of your favorite Scandinavian, atmospheric black metal outfits. The results aren’t euphoric so much as informed, stoic peace, and the light-dark tug-o-war motifs are pretty much all you could possibly ask for on a rainy day. Andreas Brandal continues to deliver!

Also, if you’re into this sort of thing, do keep an eye out for more releases by Fluere Tapes, as they’re both relatively new to the field and slated to be game changers!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Live At the Spot +1" C60
(Astral Spirits/Monofonus Press)

This here is a live recording of Tashi Dorji (guitar) and Tyler Damon (percussion) collectively loosening their minds together via maximum soundwave disruption AKA jamming-the-fuck-out-of-their-ever-loving-minds. Dorji’s creative use of loop and effects pedals takes this out of the typical free jazz offering and into a constant state of “Now how in the hell is he producing AND stringing all those sounds together like that?” while Tyler Damon expertly picks & chooses his battles as to which nooks & crannies to power-pack full of bombastic freakouts to. On Damon’s solo (beginning of side 2, clocking in at 13:56!), his blending of scrape disciplines, steam-of-conscious phrasings and subtle tribal rolls is beatifically disorienting and hypnotic and evocative of animal rutting and fighting and writhing and I think it’s the bees knees &…well…I think you ort take a listen for yourself via the link below.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

CDX “Smiles” C20 (Suite 309)

Embrace the squelch.

Hug it, love it, squeeze it till it oozes all over the place. Make it your best friend in the world. Understand it so that you can serve it better. Utilize it so that you can be free.

Tim Thornton of Tiger Village (music) and Suite 309 (music label) feels the squelch and the ooze and the smoosh at almost all hours of the day. As such, he is in the perfect position to foist it upon us, the unwitting audience, secretly, clandestinely, until it envelopes us within its squooshy center. Or maybe not so covertly – CDX, his moniker when he wants to get all Boards of Canada–meets–Black Moth Super Rainbow on us, slathers the cream all up in your hazmat like flame retardant at a chemical fire. Before you know it you’re coated in the sheez and a mush-mouthed Donald Duck is exclaiming “Get ’em!” Cue devolution to cartoon shimmy shake.

Embrace the clicks and pops, too – the beat. CDX doesn’t just smear, CDX gets it on down, and the combination is a liquid heavy metal bath in the cone of Vesuvius. Yeah, those beats will prop up the magma synths for a minute, then they’ll melt when the grand whole engulfs itself, taking with it listener and stereo rig and cassette tape alike. But before that, there’s a discernible wiggle in the vibrations, a 4/4 tremor that shakes the room and causes something to happen to your human butt. Don’t resist – give in, dudes and dudettes, and feel all Smiles flowing through you like an amniotic Force-esque singularity, replete with Midichlorians and other single-cell amoebic entities contaminating the flow with their presence. It’s all gravy.

Embrace the squelch. Embrace the clicks and pops. Embrace CDX. Smile.

Suite 309

--Ryan Masteller

ANDREW HOWIE “Scars Are Like a Beacon” (Autoclave Records)

Scottish singer-songwriter Andrew Howie’s The Great Divide was a completely different recording than Scars Are Like a Beacon. Howie normally plies a full-band, guitar-based alternative style on most of his output, and The Great Divide sounded like an absolute triumph in that regard. Immaculately recorded, it fell somewhere right between the type of music released by his fellow countrymen Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks. That’s good company.

But like all restless artists, Howie basically wanted nothing to do with The Great Divide after it came out, content instead to move beyond it to the next thing. That’s his MO. Only this time, his MO caused him to pause, glance back over his shoulder at The Great Divide sitting there, all alone in its shrinkwrap, and say to say under his breath, but mostly to himself, “Maybe I’m not done with you yet.

And he wasn’t.

Inspired (understandably) by Tim Hecker and William Basinski, Howie took the stems from The Great Divide and fully reworked them, allowing them to stretch, breathe, expand, then decay, in the process becoming something fully and completely other than what they were on The Great Divide. And Scars Are Like a Beacon, in my opinion, is a more interesting listen, a puzzle to piece together how these ethereal, ambient results came from what is essentially rock music.

With his newfound case of “the drones,” Howie recontextualized his music away from something aiming toward mass appeal, reflecting instead an inner vulnerability expressed only through wordless meditation. The tones he generates over the entire tape are gorgeous, angelic, fragile, ready to wisp away when you’re not paying attention. Maybe it’s too obvious, but there’s a distinct connection at times to the opening of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the part before the guitars come in. I’m a big softy at heart, so I love that kind of stuff. Sounds like Andrew Howie is too. We’d probably get along.

Andrew Howie
Autoclave Records

--Ryan Masteller

MIKE PURSLEY “self-titled” (self-released?)

Good old Mike. Old Boat-Cover Mike, they used to call him, back when he was releasing tapes with boats on the cover, like this one. Is this self-titled, self-released? I’m not sure. I’ve done all I can. At least I’ve provided a link to something. Start there.

Good old Boat-Cover Mike probably watches ships come in from his apartment balcony in Fells Point, if he lives in Fells Point, which he might not, but he’s from Baltimore, and a raging Oriole fan (like all good Baltimoreans), and a patron of the Soundgarden, and has seen Ministry at Rams Head Live! – no, wait, that was me on that last one. It was the Adios tour.

From his balcony in Fells Point he plucks his acoustic guitar in the style of early folk musicians and also post rock acoustic musicians like Pajo. It’s a decidedly warm and inviting flavor, and each of the short sides contains one entire piece of music. The recording, clearly to 4-track tape, retains the ambience of the room and the flaws inherent in such a rudimentary setup.

If you can get your hands on old Boaty McMike’s tape, you should. I like it.

Mike Pursley

--Ryan Masteller


THE CRADLE “Bodies Coiled Around Themselves Drink the Water” (self-released Feeding Tube)

Dear nerds. Question. What’s the point of sending two records by the exact same artist in the same batch? Because guess what – here’s the same review, except with some minor changes. What do you want me to do, honestly?

“Paco’s music is much more interesting than I expected it to be. Terrible moniker (The Cradle?), terribly produced “j-card.” better produced j-card than Bodies Coiled – that’s what not self-releasing will get you, I guess. What do you do? Hope it’s not another garbage fire that’ll ruin yet another cassette player. Well, I’ve got good news for all of you on the other side of this: my tape player still works. Still spitting out music, sometimes like a real jerk, like a jackass. That’s the stuff I don’t like. Paco – well, he somehow channels a wide-eyed innocent version of the brothers Kinsella, sometime before Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain. It’s pleasantly indie, pleasantly low-key emo, and all around bookwormy in the neatest of ways. Get past the “book-by-its-cover” nonsense my undisguised cynicism if you really want to live your life like an American Football. An AMERICAN FOOTBALL. Get it? They just put out a new album not too long ago. Owen.”

Going to sleep now. In my man cradle, i.e. big boy bed.


"Northern Palms - Volume One" C53
(Palm Tapes)

This comp might put words into mouths; words unpronounceable. A tongue might feel embarrassed by the bmp, mayhaps overwhelmed. Maybe this is what some want to wake up to? Gives their mind an extra perking up? A li’l poke? Perhaps your neck’ll nod in agree’ance, as opposed to my no-no-negatory-good-buddy.

This 4 way split ‘twixt M. Walter, Burn Cycle, Ado, & Matoko splits the difference, letting your personal deference ‘tween beatific background conversational rhythms & forceful beats come to the fore, or recede, stadium side. At some point, surely R. Reagan did Bust A Movement?

-- Jacob An Kittenplan