(Black Bug Records)

Talk about enthusiasm! Ridiculous band name aside, Nunofyrbeeswax are an eager couple of whippersnappers from Berlin who play “a bunch of pop songs as raw as their hearts in a minimal set up,” and boy, I’m just getting the cutesy garage feels from these two. I mean, sure, there are definite post punk undertones, but this is way more fun than huddling under that scene’s dour blanket of misery. They hew way more toward the new wave side of things, a dank combination of fifties throwback jangle and proto-indie wobble. “Pop Your Heart” even reminds me a little bit of Komeda, actually, the Swedish mod band whose “Boogie Woogie/Rock’n’Roll” appeared on a million mixtapes I made twenty years ago. And while Nunofyrbeeswax plays much more raw and unrestrained tunes, they’re still a lot tighter than maybe you’d expect them to be. Davide and Angela (and whoever else plays with them) sometimes come off as a goofier Boss Hog, especially on “Outrageous,” where the groove’ll get those hips wiggling faster than you can say “Winn Coma.” Even on the slurring indie of “Rhino” and the somehow seven minutes of “How to Handle a Non-Audience,” Nunofyrbeeswax never loses their winning charm or boundless energy. In fact, they seem to have vast reservoirs of each at their disposal. And it sure doesn’t hurt that the songs, all in English, are sung with the most adorable German accents you’re ever going to hear. In fact, it totally makes up for the band name – you can forgive the fact that the idiom’s not the most interesting or, dare I say, cool. But that’s OK, that’s part of the charm! You’ll be too busy having a blast to care anyway, what with all these great tunes. And that’s your beeswax and your beeswax alone – not anybody else’s.

Black Bug Records

--Ryan Masteller

(What’s for Breakfast? Records)

This is some p dope punk rock and really the only kind I’ve ever known anything about unless you count Green Day, who is my favorite band in the world and nothing like this. But that doesn’t matter cuz why would you even want to be compared to Green Day when you are making this kind of music? Prolly you wouldn’t. Or maybe you only like Green Day’s early stuff in which case maybe you wouldn’t mind. Still this tape has nothing to do with Green Day. Bleeders is doing it right. Doing a good job. Pat them on the back next time you see them and say Good job Bleeders I believe in you and I understand your vision. Their mind is in the right place and they sing about cool things like aunts that you love even though everyone else hates them. They also sing about things that are not cool at all but are good to sing about. Like when people misbehave in unforgivable ways and how it’s important to tell them to eff off and that what they have done is wrong and it would be better for everyone if they changed their ways right now by owning up and begging forgiveness. Punk rock has always been a really great way to say these kinds of things, which is probably why people invented it. In direct opposition to all that is evil. There’s lots of diff kinds of punk these days and Bleeders is the best kind, the early kind, the original kind, the kind that everyone thinks abt whenever u hear the words punk rock. I’ve never known about Bleeders before now and yet they make me feel v nostalgic for the punks of yesteryear and happy to know that they have begat the punks of today who drive their legacy forward through the dark and treacherous times.

-Ricky Lemonseed

SAINTES "Melancholia" (Crash Symbols)

Straight outta France, crazy synth-wave named Saintes.
Sophmore album, lo-fi dark winter Anne paints.
Sorry, I don't rap well. Melancholia is Saintes second album, released May 12th of 2017.
It's pretty straight up lo-fi bedroom pop, lots of synth action going on.
Similair to bands like Rainbow Edition or Purgatory, Saintes carves out their sound by doing things their own way.

-- Chuck Wolfe

C40 (Hylé Tapes)

Looking back on a year ago is the equivalent of reliving a painful psychological beating, and every time I think about something it’s like I’m poking at a bruise. So why is it, then, that Matthias Puech’s A YEAR OF TIME actually forces me to attempt to make peace with the past year instead of continuing to grumble about it? That’s not to say I should reduce the social and political turmoil we’ve all gritted through to mere afterthoughts – anaesthetizing that part of my brain would be foolish. Instead, I think, Puech’s given us A YEAR OF TIME as a form of reset, to meditate the bad vibes away and refresh our outlook before it gets irrevocably coated in psychic grime.

The Paris-based Puech, a “synth designer, programmer, teacher, and researcher” beyond his forays as a musician, splits this tape into four 10-minute “seasons,” with “Spring” and “Summer” on side A and “Fall” and “Winter” wrapping up the tape on side B. Each passage approximates its season in some way: “Spring” mimics melting water and birdsound; “Summer” imagines glacial pools and intensifying heat; “Fall” betrays the emotional ups and downs accompanying the shift in temperature and temperament; and “Winter,” like “Summer,” takes a placid approach but with a more downtrodden tone, broken at times by static blasts that play like icy wind gusts. Each track is an immersive experience, as if you’re transported to the best memory you have of that particular season and are encouraged to relive it repeatedly until the track ends and you transition into the next season. The pacing is gradual and deliberate, forcing you to stop what you’re doing and think about the passage of time in terms of a bigger picture, one where you’re not the most important thing on the face of the planet. That perspective should serve all of us well, as the less inclined we are to be selfish, the better everybody’s situation is bound to be.

I could list all the awful junk that’s transpired over the past “year of time,” but it’ll just serve as a reminder of despair and hopelessness. That’s not what you want from me, and that’s not what you get from Matthias Puech. Instead, this tape is a great reminder of the power of introspection and personal healing, getting yourself right before you can truly and convincingly assist others in struggles for justice and peace. These synth excursions exhibit medicinal properties, filling your ears and mind with righteous vibes and good intentions. Internalize that, then point it outward. Let’s make the next “year in time” a whole lot better than the last one.

Matthias Puech
Hylé Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

BUCKET BRIGADE “Mnemosyne” (Love All Day)

Bucket Brigade brings a slew of modular synth tracks for “Mnemosyne” - each demonstrating one to a few instances of continuously moving modular creations over the span of a couple minutes. Like with most modular music there’s not really a particular lead line highlighting the track rather than an ooze of moving synth patches always slightly changing form, pattern, and sequence but retaining their general timbre. The opening track is pretty and lighthearted, and the tape itself makes for some smooth background electronica that you can choose whether or not to get lost in.

--Lucas Martinez

"Faith In the Unknown" C30
(Superdreamer Records)

Cowtown’s own Aaron Troyer has a heavy hand in several rockin’ acts near his collegiate Ohioan metropolis (Day Creeper, Pink Owl), but this here tape showcases a slick compilation of some past seven years’ worth of his solo compositions alone. Here, you’ll gleefully soak up some unapologetic influences of the Kinks and Television, as well as a few nods to the Boss, the Clash, and even U2. Incredible bass lines and on-point mixing make this a pretty sweet half hour’s worth of nostalgiarbation; so crank up the jambox and maybe invite your uncle who sometimes parties a li’l too hard. The feeling that y’all should be singing along to these ne’r-heard-before jams will feel surreal enough to spring for some WAFFLE HOUSE hash browns at dawn.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Marjoram" C25

A Michigander and Tokyo-gander met via Soundcloud, decided to collaborate, and made electronic pop songs that would fit on popular radio stations worldwide. Their bandcamp page includes a “librarycore” tag, which was a first for me. So, here’s the thing: instead of my telling you about my opinion* of their music (aka “doing my job”), I am electing to, instead, strongly urge you to forego the bandcamp link/listening aspect of this project and rather just open up your heart and mind to these folx as individual, incredibly brilliant, creative human beings who have a rad cartoon project on their hands. Their dream needs more exposure, and it’s one I can really get behind, so please thoroughly explore the second and third links provided below and ask yourself if you don’t want to see this awesomeness bear fruit!

*not favorable in the least, honestly. Yes, I’m a heartless bastard sometimes.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Personal Voyage" C90
(Maple Death Records)

Blak Saagan invites us all to explore the universe with him on Comet 67P. In space, of course, there is no sound, but there is in your space suit, right? Samuele Gottardello uses analog synth and a drum machine to create the soundtrack to an eternal journey. Throughout much of the journey there is little action, allowing time for introspection. Not entirely enveloped by the sound, you watch planetary bodies slowly drift in the distance. Light bends around Jupiter as you are slowly drawn by the gravitational current. You stop on one of Saturn's many moons, Enceladus. Do we hear footsteps here, or dripping water? The drums flow in and out from rhythm to texture and back. Synth lines are slowly layered upon one another and as you stare deeper into the void, bodies become more defined. You begin to realize that there may be no end to your journey, that you may be forever hopping planets and navigating between stars. Forever hoping to discover...

The audio contained is wondrous, calling to mind the likes of Silver Apples or Cluster, at times the propulsive melodies of chiptune games and at others the boogeyman boogie of Angelo Badalamenti or Barry Adamson. The cover art is perfect for the sounds and ideas contained, but as you can see the tape has some annoying flaws. The screws are on the B-side, but at least they labeled it. I may play screws first in the future anyway because they hit my biggest peeve: a short A-side b/w a full B-side. I hate to have to fast-forward through 8 minutes of blank tape at the end of my A. It does come with a download code to bypass this issue. Other than that this is a solid release.

--Ben Myers

"Like A Fountain Stirred" C38
(Dead Language Records)

Mercy Choir takes a page out of the Castanets’ playbook on “How to Darkamify an Indie-Folk Song” & adds a healthy sprinkling of showtunesiness, making “Like A Fountain Stirred” its very own, stand-alone beast to be reckoned with. While the songs hang loosely from a pop’s tried & true scaffoldings, a whole host of careful arrangements, lush orchestration, various tempo/rhythm changes, consonant/dissonant shifts & layered male/female vocals make this a serious, psychedelic study in pop music, & well worth repeated listens to hunt down all those subtle sonic details.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Love Do Your Worst To Me"
(self released)

Us Presidents are a band from Denton Texas. Denton Texas is a very notable place, not as popular as Nashville, or seattle, or LA. However many great acts have come out of Denton; Roy Orbison, The Marked Men, Neon Indian, and The Riverboat Gamblers just to name a few. So, I had very high expectations before I even removed the shrink wrap from this album.

Clean guitars, drawn out vocals lines and a synth are the key sonic elements defining this album.
Rhyming ideas [i-de-ers] with fears in Moon Ship made me laugh out loud, 
and not in the 'your joke sucked but I want to validate you' kind of way, more like the I snorted while I snickered kind of way. I really enjoyed "Things You Do", it's a bass line driven pop song, with a nice catchy riff, the kind of song you can hum along to. Another catchy track is Master Magician, the vocals have kind of a King Gizzard feel, its real short though, and rewinding sucks (it also is a big factor in reducing the life of your cassette), so check out the bandcamp link at the end of this post.

Four panel color J-card with light blue colored cassette, pad printed and shrinkwrapped.

-- Chuck Wolfe

"Stereochronic" C30
(Punkadelia Records)

If you were just pleasantly wondering what a shoegaze band out of Norfolk, Virginia might sound like, I have good news for you; pleasant news, even. “You’re Jovian” fit the bill. Yes, one jangly rhythm guitar trades spotlights with another more heavily pedal’d lead guitar while a confident bass player & lively drummer pleasantly hold down the fort. Since any semblance of diction in this genre was banned around four decades ago (opinions aren’t guaranteed to be pleasant), YJ dutifully obey The Recipe, both burying their vocals in the mix AND running them through every reverb pedal they could find. The result is, as you’d imagine, pleasant; straight up pleasant. Barring the requisite dissonance of wah-and/or-phaser-drowned solos planted throughout, this release, along with pretty much every other decent shoegaze band worth its salt(y tears) would fit perfectly, pleasantly & innocuously into the background of a low-key picnic or family gathering, letting all within earshot either mildly sway along or attempt to ignore (and subsequently, subconsciously mildly sway along) with the vibes. Give a listen via the link below. You might be pleasantly surprised.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Lizard Brain Decision" C32
(Audacious Art Experiment)

Say what you will about the pop song (unimaginative, simple, predictable), but to even attempt to write half an hour’s worth of three chord songs with lyrics that aren’t absolutely miserable pap is, well, HARD WORK, and to do it in six days is pretty goddamn insane. Joe Ashe of Sheffield, UK manages to not only pull this off, the writing within 6 days, but PLAYING all the instruments AND recording it all, as well! But here’s the kicker…IT’S NOT JUST POP! In fact, though built around the garage rock aesthetic, Sleep Terminal steps it up with intricately arranged movements, creative, nuanced feedback, noise loops, and a mélange of effects that I can’t possibly imagine he had in his brain while cranking this beastly mess (and by “mess” I mean “incredibly tightly executed wall-of-death sound”) in less than a week’s time. It takes most bands YEARS to churn out this kind of quality…and, really, the majority don’t ever achieve the half-way mark (however the fuck one measures that). I’m bowled over, and, as you can maybe tell by now, a li’l jealous of JA’s skills. I wonder if his amygdala didn’t take a time out on its fear-watch to lend a helping hand in bridging the left and right brain for 144 hours so they could expertly, automatically churn this puppy out. As far as I’m concerned, witchcraft is at play here.

If you like psychy garage-rock, or simply want to admire songcraft on the fly, this release ought to blow your goddamn mind. Listen loudly!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Genushenka" C55
(Shadowtrash Tape Group)

If someone on the street hands you a brand new Fidelity Astro tape, you keep it. You put it in your breast pocket and walk carefully but immediately towards your most trusted tape deck back home and you wonder what the themes on the tape will be. You know they’ll have a hip-hop beat behind them, and some kind of easy listening vibe, sure, but will there be ambient soundscapes on this one, or will it have remixed devotional singing soundbites? Or both? Will it be jazzy, romantic, or new agey? Will there be field recordings of local birds or city noise? That there will be loops upon loops of relative chillness is for certain, but what qualities will they possess? What instrumentation? What pilfered pre-existences will get new life breathed into them? Through each release, quality has been the only consistency, and that’s one hell of a trick to pull off in a world of “I farted into a microphone and dubbed thirty copies!” May we all aspire to be so concerted in our craft.

This particular artifact contains (per Shadowtrash Tape Group’s website):
“a tribute to '70s lounges, scratching, breakups,
new love, gospel wisdom, and actress gena rowlands.
sad beats and victory anthems for late nights.”

I couldn’t agree more.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

RUBELLA "The Pit" C30 (Self-Released)

If you’re creepy and you know it, clap your hands! If you’re creepy and you know it, clap your hands and re-fucking-joice!

Rubella are from Lakewood, OH, which is pretty much Marilyn Manson’s backyard, as far as the rest of the USA is concerned, and, as far as I’m concerned, this secretive band (how many members?) may as well share the same eyeliner/sweat-smattered keyboard stands. Either way, this is some gritty, noisy, pitch-black synth-punk that’s well worth a rumple-faced nodding along to. My guess’d be that there’s just a drummer and a singer playing bass and lead synths, but I could be wrong. What I’m fairly sure of is that this has got to be one hell of a live show! If Ohio is good for anything, it’s the art of celebrating the dismal. Want proof? Check out the tongue-in-pale-cheek videos on their blogspot below! “Life in general is suffering”, indeed. ☺

Keep this shit up!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan


Oh, have we got some goodies for you today, kids. Just in time for your pre-Harvest stockup comes an Autumn cornucopia of sonic wonderment from our friends over at Tymbal Tapes. Label honcho Scott Scholtz has three of his thumbs in as many delicious pies, and he’s served them up hot and delicious for your autumn enjoyment. Come for the promise of wonderful music, stay for the swell artwork by Tiny Little Hammers and a bunch of unrelated metaphors.


Drone at me, little synthesizer, and I will be enthralled until your sound ends. Valle De Galgos do more than that of course – harmonium is a key ingredient, as are field recordings and … voice? – but the building blocks are irrelevant once you’re in the middle of it all. The project, a newly formed duo consisting of Argentine sound artists Atilio Sanchez and Pablo Picco, hit all the philosophical touchpoints you’d ever want in an ambient release. Buildings? Check. The sea? Check. Geometrical shapes? Check. Outer space transmissions? Check. Inner voices? Check. Ghost dimensions? Check. Anything else? Check, but you have to let your imagination run with it. Mine went to what I know about Patagonia (which is very little, sadly) and conjured rocky shores at the southernmost tip, where you’re just a hop, skip, and a journey stowed away on an icebreaker from Antarctica. Fitting that seabirds make an appearance on “En camino a Calera”? Probably. It helped with my visualizations anyway. Regardless, once the initial chord of “Florence Westfalia / Tierra de Nilivilves” began to stretch and the harmonies began to augment it, I was hooked, even when it decayed into static. Guide me, little synthesizer (and other stuff). Guide me.


I had the idea to just make the review of this tape a laughy emoji, but then I asked myself, what am I, some Pitchfork staff jagoff from 2002? I most certainly am not. I do, however, get a chuckle whenever I see Terry Crews’s face – that dude is so self-aware, it’s amazing. And when I read the description of “Wow This Beard,” I nearly doubled over in an intense guffaw. “Wow This Beard” is a plunderphonic exercise whereby normally reliably ambient maestro Nate Wagner sliced apart a bunch of Old Spice commercials featuring Crews and recombined them into a fairly coherent vaporwave approximation. And as you might imagine, the tape smells really dang good! I always found the Crews commercials pretty entertaining, and that’s coming from someone who barely has a second to become immersed in television anymore (a very good thing, I think). So maybe it’s no surprise then that Wagner succeeds in applying his keen critical ear to commercialized product and dissecting it before us to reveal the deep, dark underbelly of the marketplace. Is it weird, then, that I’m also constantly reminded of Crews’s role as the president in Idiocracy? Does “Wow This Beard” provide commentary on the realization that I’d prefer Crews’s fictional president to our current one? Let’s answer that question together as we listen, shall we?


Romanian artist Somnoroase Păsărele is no stranger to the Tymbal world, having released “GAMA” on the label waaaay back at the tail end of 2015. He returns triumphant with “ESSEN,” an electronic masterpiece that is at once difficult to scrutinize and easy on the ear – that is, if you like your synthesizer properly kosmische’d and dissonant. Hey, turns out I do, so as this thing plays out, I’m falling more deeply in love with it as each minute passes. Păsărele does not let up on the tension one iota, and so “ESSEN” is an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter that reflects his home country’s rocky history and the divide between East and West. “ESSEN” sounds like it could have emerged from the Berlin electronic underground, and I wouldn’t blame you if that was your initial impression, but the communist stormclouds that once gathered to the east, at least until 1989 and the fall of Ceauşescu, are still deeply felt. Maybe that’s me reading into it, or maybe it’s because I just literally read a book on gender in Romania. Either way, “ESSEN” is fascinating, and your attention to it must be undivided.

--Ryan Masteller

RYNE ZIEMBA "Dirty Sunset #1"

Hairdo rock. Glam. Sass. Rolling Stones kitsch.

-- Kevin Oliver

Review. Brief. Undetailed. Possibly lazy. Possibly enough.

-- Editor

"Adapta y Sobrepone" C17

San José, Costa Rica’s Caídas Libres blurs the lines between ‘90s indie, punk, & shoegaze. Think muted/minimal Husker Du meets Swingin’Utters, with a touch more dissonance & creativity. Most notable are the bell-like swells taking the place of guitar lines early on in track 3 as the drums and bass play a slower, groovier number, just below. The heavily reverbed vocals taking a backseat to the guitar is also pretty interesting, too. Per bandcamp, this is Caídas Libres’ debut EP (and far too damn short a one) so keep an eye out for a full length, hopefully!

6-panel J-card comes with lyrics (which you’ll need cz the vocals are BURIED in the mix something FIERCE!) and good looking graphics.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

ILLUSION OF SAFETY “Surrender” (No Part of It)

You’re in an airport bathroom stall wrestling with a malfunctioning auto-dispenser. Macabre transactions are occurring out there past the smell of ammonia and rotting caulk.  The airport TVs are blaring again, but each one blends into the next one so that the news program says that another boy has been shot by the cops & another flight is cancelled, but you don’t know which boy (is it you this time?) or which flight (is it you this time?).

-- Kevin Oliver

"split" C40 (Funny Not Funny Records)

One East and West Virginian open mic hero each rolls up a pearl-snap’d sleeve and deals pensively sensitive blows to the harsh realities of perceived life and relationships with their steel string guitar, medium/soft hardness pick, and honest words/lyrics. The soundperson turns up the reverb on the vocals and nods to their friends who bring lively dates to the table. The cycle continues.

RIYL: singer/songwriters, guitars, lyrics, barstools, mood

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Goldsound" C50
(Time Release Records)

Cleveland, Ohio’s Gina Kantner (aka Chromesthetic) is a lone looper, harnessing the power of the pedal through stoner rock riffage, delay/reverb’d feedback, and…drum machine? Yep, that’s a drum machine.

I’m not gonna lie. The first few listens, I wish’t that I was in an alternate universe where I was the reviewer for “vinylgods” and I had the pleasure of drowning in my own drool over the mantric riffage of Kantner’s eponymous debut. Nearly perfect throughout, it doesn’t seem to hold the same consistent weight as this newer, more experimental offering, but maybe that’s a good thing? Why re-mix a tried & true algorithm when there’s so much more to explore? What is heaviness but anticipation?

Still deeply focused on tone and the timbral products of so many recurring* posits running to and fro, Goldsound’s ebbs & flows give the brain some room to breathe, side-track, and re-orient, before nodding along again in sweet, sweet relief. Best if listened to LOUD(!) on bass-y speakers. Apologize to your neighbors in adavance.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

CDX "Smiles" C20 (Suite 309)

Sounding like maybe the perfect union between my two all time favorite tape labels  (Orange Milk Records and Constellation Tatsu), CDX is the most accessible alter ego of Tim Thornton (Tiger Village, Suite 309) and this all-too-short “Smiles” EP smacks of all his signature moves, including but not limited to:
-classically arranged bloop-tee-toodinals
-spastic vintage drum machine sputterings
-soaring and/or fuzzy modular synth lines
-sunburnt-at-the-beach drone swells
-vaporwavygravy sample bastardizations & good vibes

…all within a more easily mappable structure and, dare I say it, consistent rhythm. Well, for the most part. This cat is forever aaaabstract, and even his more conventional projects are destined to push the boundaries between pop and the classical/avant-garde. As an added bonus, this li’l morsel manages some electronic ululations that would fit in nicely with many an experimental rapper out there. Somebody hire this chap!

Did I mention that this tape is waaaay too short? Across twenty minutes & split up into only four tracks, not one minute gets old, even after listening on loop for over an hour straight. Pretty damn brilliant! Keep ‘em coming!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

BBJR “Pareidolia” C40 (Already Dead Tapes)

My familiarity with BBJR, aka Bob Bucko Jr. of Personal Archives fame, has been limited to his releases as guitar/drums jazz freakout duo Sex Funeral (with Matt Crowe) and his more abstract solo material, so it was with great surprise and joy that PAREIDOLIA conformed to none of my preconceptions about Bucko’s work. Tapping into mad psych and towering interstellar ambient, BBJR punches holes in space-time with guitar and sax alike until he’s created, like, a bunch of new black holes. I can’t even count them, it seems as if they just appear throughout PAREIDOLIA. Not surprising, then, is the density of these compositions, each a heavy isotope (not to be confused with a heavy metal, of course) that will decay as soon as it ends, with radioactive material all that remains. So, a public service announcement: wear lead suits when listening! Anyway, there’s lots to love here for the psychic space traveler, ready to wrap your mind around concepts that make very little sense on Earth. Each of these four astral blasts explore the outer regions of the mind and the universe and make connections of one to the other as if it were as simple as direct observation – no complicated mathematics required. BBJR clearly imposes patterns and ideas on PAREIDOLIA that make perfect sense when all is complete. Wait, I’m getting a message here … seems as though “pareidolia” is a phenomenon where order is perceived when there actually is none. So … I was probably way off on suggesting that Bob Bucko is some sort of theoretical genius. Still, he’s pretty good at this improv stuff, and it’s not TOO crazy to impose some order upon it … is it?

Already Dead Tapes

-- Ryan Masteller

“Yhvasca” (Jungle Gym Records)

African Ghost Valley is a Canadian/European electronic duo that produces self-described “heavy, loud and floating landscapes.” On YHVASCA, the group’s first effort for Jungle Gym Records, listeners are presented with six concise dark ambient numbers that act as “a soundtrack for post-apocalyptic suburbia.”

YHVASCA opens with “APO IIXII,” a constantly shifting piece with loops and synth drones fading in and out of the mix, competing for space. Some other favorites include “WARMA”—which sounds like the remnants of a song crushed to bits and buried beneath electronic murk—and the title track “YHVASCA”—featuring waves of foreboding noise and light, twinkling chimes lurking in the background.

With YHVASCA, listeners are offered a brief glimpse into the universe that African Ghost Valley inhabits. The enigmatic and ever-shifting nature of the album, coupled with its run time of just over twenty minutes, lends itself to repeated listens. Check it out, and let YHVASCA be the soundtrack to your droning dystopian nightmare.

Jungle Gym FB
Jungle Gym Bandcamp
African Ghost Valley FB
African Ghost Valley Soundcloud

-- Brandon Spaulding


This album is great. It’s also difficult. Jo Miller-Gamble is dorky and guileless. I wish the vocals were clearer so I could understand the words better. On first listen I didn’t like it, and I thought to myself, “Well, maybe it was made by a bold and silly teenager.  Since I don’t want to say anything mean, I’ll put it aside for now.” Then I played it again, and I started warming up to what I found repellant at first. I noticed the somber beauty of “Scent of Life,” and I realized that I had misinterpreted this album. Try listening to “Scent of Life” when you’re feeling relaxed and see for yourself. The songwriting is good. Miller-Gamble is “free” because of his depth. There is a depth to this album that can be appreciated once the superficial confusion has been passed through.

-- Kevin Oliver

"Yawnkillers" C26
(Auralgami Sounds)

Tony Robot’s side on the “O” card hosts some sort of masked robot warrior, right hand out, gesturing a lightningbolt clad finger “downward”, perhaps suggesting that you’ll want to “get down” with this release, or maybe that you’re “going down” in a fight with said arbiter of pain. And with the three song titles on his side: “Doom Stick”, “Death Adder”, and “Fatal Roundhouse”, it’s safe to say that a double entendre hath been implied, as the dozen minutes feel like yet another sequel to the Rocky training montages, only adapted to today’s sports/energy drink aesthetic. Plenty of “hard hitting” beats, replete with actual explosion sounds and “heavy” pulsings throughout. Tony Robot, indeed, wants to “bring it”.

Atomo’s side is markedly more eclectic and explorative, albeit just as “extreme” in the “get down and stay down” department.  Track one explores a sweet li’l piano lick that’d easily fit in the background of Big Boi’s “Boomiverse” album, but with a roller-skate-rink-on-speed’s accompanying percussion and processed “beep beep” (think Samba’s whistle, but 4 octaves lower) to keep the booty and neck from shaking in unison. Track two is a doozey, weaving between 5/4 & 4/4 seamlessly, and adding a catchy vocal line at the end, with a 6/8, pitchbending, apartmentcomplexburner, to boot! The final jam, in 8/8, aims to please you into the ground, with effortlessly upbeat energy for days. Maybe millennia. Really, I’m too damn old to be dancing, or even neck-swaying to this shit, so I’m glad this set is short, being so incredibly condensed and all.

If you’re in the mood for dance-tronic beats from where the mid-west meets the mid-south, this is good food for your jambox.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Transparens" C51
(Idle Chatter/Fabrica Records)

Idle Chatter is Fabrica Records’ cassette-only partner label and NaEE RoBErts’ “Summer Care” is but one tape in “Transparens”, a femme-focused 3xCS set, alongside Montréal’s Gambletron and Floridian (tape curator), Wren Turco. All 3 three artists work to expand upon electronic music, with NaEE RoBErts taking a decidedly vocal focus, oftentimes singing atonally overtop droning, warbled synth lines and busy, techno beats.

These brazen vocals will likely make it or break it for you, as their time spent “between the keys” (or maybe a quarter step up/down?) can be a bit disorienting for the western ear. The tonally strong musical arrangements they’re pitted up against provide a pleasing anchor that’d be really hard to lose track of if it weren’t for such imposing singing, and maybe that’s the point, and this is truly groundbreaking? Find out for yourself via the link below.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Higher Art Vol. 1" C44
(Halfshell Records)

Looking at Seattle, WA’s Swamp Meat profile, I see “thee oh sees” in their tags line (per bandcamp), and I think to myself, “Do I need to research this band that I’ve been hearing about, in passing, for maybe ten years now?”

I am a person that hasn’t fallen in love with Radiohead or The Flaming Lips or Jazz or The Blues because, honestly, I haven’t been ready for it. I think that, when the time comes, a certain aesthetic or tone or chord progression will SMASH YOUR FACE IN, IN A REALLY PLEASANT WAY, and that I don’t need to rush it.  Anyways…that’s my justification for not seeing how Swamp Meat compares to Thee Oh Sees.

What I CAN tell you FOR SURE is that this album of previously unreleased tracks, Thee Oh Sees covers, and/or live songs are a great, diverse collection of cosmic, carnified-garage-psych jams and dark, chamber-pop devotional ditties (with some overlap!) that makes for great headphone listening. There’s lotsa hidden gems (like ghostly melodica lines and trembling organs) buried beneath the louder melodies (mostly richly bowed strings and/or soaring pedal-soaked guitar tones) that are well worth searching for with eyes closed.

It’s good to note, too, that this release is a fundraiser for one of the largest, non-religiously oriented homeless shelters in the PNW, so, feel free to donate!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"A House, Floating In The Middle Of A Lake"
(Anthropocene Recordings)

A cassette whose two sides feel different enough in tone and makeup that they could pass for separate EPs, at the very least.  Side A is a mellow affair, masterfully blending acoustic guitar with synths, and with an undercurrent of urgency that makes it clear that there is something buried just beneath the surface here.

How did this find me?  There's a vocal centerpiece on side A, "Ghost of the Harvest," a haunting, stark voice, an acoustic guitar.  This feeling of being haunted occupies the side, unrelenting in its insistence that there's something just beneath the current.  Is that you, behind that tape hiss (it's always there if you're willing to listen.)

There's the feeling of this construction owing something to drone, though there isn't a lot of drone here until side A folds in on itself over the course of the last track, "The Wind At Your Back," where a pulsing chord played like the sound of a breath across bottles accompanies a slowly building piece, with beautiful bass and an ethereal plucked string-through-water overlay.

Side B ventures further afield, more experimental, with a notable jazz influence on the opener, "Grass Burning In The Palm."  Vibes and saxophones, a laid back vocal, we're in a smoky bar here, somewhere out of time.  The side won't reach exactly this level of displacement again as it settles toward a more ambient and electronic pulsation.

Buried voices, shouts from somewhere, some looped conversation and dirty guitar.  You brought me out here but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be seeing.  Is that a weed or a flower?

The album comes back to center at the end, finding a lovely little melodic piece with just vocals and guitar in "Map."
Your tape found me well, I'll keep digging in the back yard.

--Kingo Sleemer

SMELLYCAT “dearest” (Self Released)

Smellycat’s “dearest” is a four part collection of quick moving mini vaporwave tracks, loops, sound collage and beats. Most tracks are very short but it makes for a fun listen keeps the listener pretty attentive with a nod to some contemporary approaches to online electronica in the past few years; lots of samples, quick cuts, and slowed lo-fi loops. “dearest is like a news feed of profound indifference, soaked with neon anime colors, lo-fi vaporwave vibes, Tumblr soft porn or cats, cats, cats.” Spoiler alert: Toto’s Africa does appear somewhere in these two tapes.

--Lucas Martinez