"Shifting Lands” C41
(Polar Seas Recordings)

Polar Seas Recordings (out of Toronto (Ontario, Canada)) specialize (with a hard S) in putting out mesmerizingly intricate ambient/drone/minimalist releases that are unbelievably inspiring for daydreamers, painters, or those who like to read Ray Bradbury and pause to imagine themselves alone on another planet. Pretty much every release I listened to (on their bandcamp site) would also fit perfectly as a substitute soundtrack for any space or nature documentary devoid of human beings.

Anthéne’s “Shifting Lands” doesn’t just stick to terrestrial, muddy drone-swells and seismograph-exciting grumble-textures.  Many a track also patiently incorporates plenty of multi-level’d, wispy, angelic swells (and on others, varying, dissonant drizzles) that hover high above thick, mid-low binaural floes, for maximum dynamics… and plenty of opportunities to play “now, exactly how many layers are going on here?” The end result is a hazy, hallucinatory drone-scape to take a relaxing (albeit lonely) mindwalk around in.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

BEN ROBERTS "Unit Audio" C40 (Staaltape)

I could not find much info on Ben Roberts as far as past releases so I am not sure if there is may more releases available. For this release, I would say it is tape manipulation done very well.

From the beginning of the tape, there is a lot of sampled audio from various sources. While reading the Bandcamp description it is all found tapes. Found tapes with audio remnants, TV/Radio/Music extracts, Mechanical or other tape sounds.

Tapes are sped up and slowed down over layers of creeping audio most likely from other found tapes. Working with found sounds can be done very poorly and while this isn't my favorite artist interpretation of this type of work it is done very well.

Staaltape is an interesting label that started a while back as a side project label from the legendary Staalplaat, excellent hand made packaging and super limited release numbers. This tape is limited to 24 copies so if this type of music interests you I would recommend picking it up soon!

- - Marc Benner

EXPO 70 “Exquisite Lust” (Sonic Meditations)

Justin Wright, Sonic Meditations honcho and Expo 70 himself, is, more accurately, a neutron star personified. Meaning: his core is somehow so dense that sound emanating from his guitar playing orbits around him as it’s caught in his gravitational field, at once daunting in its physical properties and euphoric in its celestial execution. Like, it’s spacey drone madness, dude, if you want me to get all simplistic on you.

There’s nothing simplistic about the interstellar jams seshes Wright blasts off into at any given moment, whether they’re testing the limits of spacetime as they’re stretched across the event horizons of black holes or zooming through space like radio signals from a pulsating quasar. The slow burn of the delicate fretwork and the experimental odysseys of effects manipulation are particularly otherworldly, transporting you as you listen to the outer reaches of galactic discovery. The gold-glitter-flecked cassette tape sure helps with that too – maybe you’ve just been inhaling the physical by-products of an Expo 70 improv session this whole time … or for a really long time.

The vast unknowable forces manifest themselves as sound within the human body and morph into all kinds of human feelings, sometimes confusingly as lust. Forbidden, exquisite lust. And there you have why there’s two porn actresses adorning the cover of this tape.

But gawdDAMN if I’m not astral projected right out of my sneakers and into the center of a nebula by this Expo 70 tape, nude ladies or no.

Expo 70 

Sonic Meditations

--Ryan Masteller

QUALCHAN. “Vera’s Dream” C20
(AEscape Sounds)

While working on “Vera’s Dream,” Qualchan. was influenced by the novel “Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston” by Ernest Callenbach. The book, which I haven’t read (I mean, I have a reading list a library long, sue me), is the chronicle of a society working toward an “eco-utopia.” Callenbach has called the society “imperfect,” rather a work in progress than a fully realized vision.

Qualchan. has seemingly captured that sentiment in “Vera’s Dream,” as the “imperfections” of the recordings are perhaps my favorite things about it. You can probably tell I’m a big Leyland Kirby/Caretaker fan, and that really helps in enjoying what Qualchan.’s up to. You really get the sense that the tape unfolds like a distant narrative, like there’s a story obscured by the sounds, an indistinct account whose blanks you have to fill in yourself.

Whether or not “Vera’s Dream” is intended as a portent of future events or is just an audible longing for even the process of becoming better doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is that its enjoyability doesn’t even hinge on prescribed conclusions like the philosophy of utopian society. See, I haven’t even done the homework necessary to get into the same headspace as Qualchan., but I like “Vera’s Dream” just fine. I just have to inscribe my own history and personality upon it.


AEscape Sounds

--Ryan Masteller

SETH KASSELMAN "Left Out" C90 (self-released)

You take a lot of stuff from a lot of places, don't you?  I don't know, maybe you don't; let's call it the royal "we." This is about Goodwill, apparently, with a capital "g", that place where you go and find leftover junk and buy it and somebody profits and somebody doesn't... there's a political statement in the j-card, along with a tax form, a separate level of meaning given to whatever meaning the listener gives what's on the tape. 

What's on the tape is kind of exactly what's in the Goodwill - tapes and records and CDs (and some ceramic statue of a dog) you wonder why anybody had in the first place, but you buy anyway, so you can dig in there and see if you can make something out of the other something that's not really a sum of any parts but is, instead... what? 

There are clanging bells here, various samples of sounds (maybe recorded from junk retrieved there, maybe not,) along with what is definitely recordings of tape recordings played sometimes at the correct speed and sometimes not.  Chanting people and drums.  Some of it sounds a little like that stuff in the desert scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, along with some percussion that may be someone beating on a water bottle with a mic inside.. 

Essentially plunderphonics and sound collage, various sources thrown on top of one another, manipulated and turned into something else, Left Out is a journey, and by no means the kind of one-trick-pony that something like this often becomes in lesser hands.  There's a flow here, and, while there are periods that won't let you forget you're hearing someone else's garbage collected in thrift shops, there are also transcendent moments in which there's very little in the way of guideposts pointing you back toward that shore.

For me where these things can come alive, as they do beautifully here, is in the sounds sourced from someone's personal audio, recordings from meetings, phone calls, the day-to-day ephemera, probably important to someone at the time of recording but now set adrift and out of context, devoid of its original meaning but given a new, more universal appeal through the sheer randomness of hearing it in this way.  This is immersive music made of scraps of everything, and worth hearing.

-- Kingo Sleemer

"Sequencer Works Volume Three" C90
(Personal Archives)

You know that scene in Cool Hand Luke, where Paul Newman is getting worn down to the bone by the warden, told to dig a hole, then fill it, then dig it again, then fill it again, over & over, on & on? I imagine that THAT’s what Arvo Zylo’s late 90’s sequencer knobs must have felt like, so mercilessly twerked & oscillated to the ends of the Earth, much like rusted keys struggling with the locks to the Gates of Hades.

& Let the above stretched analogies parallel this documented output from said Yamaha RM1X Sequencer; both creators haphazardly exploring the yields of their craft, if only to produce personal documents of growth and chops. Unapologetically honest and unselfconscious.

“Sequencer Works Volume Three” is an hour and a half of some of Arlo Zylo’s earliest works, and it’s one hell of a trip. In a phrase, “Stream of Uncompromising Counterpuntal Consciousequences” would be best fitting, here. Save two tracks (out of 17) every sound was coaxed from said sole sequencer, with sonic overload as a Means, not just an End. The result is gritty, dynamic, glitchy, raw, & pregnant with possible interpretations, aversions, and oddly infectious earworms.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

(Chthonic Records)

Honeysuckles is a structure of field recordings and airy instruments with HOOPS voice dead center guiding you through this world they have created in the style of musique concrète. "Honeysuckles" opens with softly wobbling electronics and an acoustic guitar being plucked into an open abyss. Here we are introduced to our narrator and the theme for the rest of the album. The title track is the story of an old man who is trying to protect his garden from children eating his flowers. A fairly straightforward story which ends in his ascension. Throughout my entire listening I could not help feeling tangled in every soundscape. "Show Me the way to that Old Oyster Bar" is definitely the most driving of the album in regards to a 'traditional' take on music. My two favorite tracks are the closers, "No Shelter for a Kitty Cat", which follows the protagonist waking up to a beautiful day. The story quickly changes when a cat greets our narrator at their window. Our narrator never gets out of bed and transcends into the body of a cat with no where to rest and no where to hide. Again, this track features various field recordings and electronics as its lead and an electric guitar guiding the melody in the background. The closing track "On the Sleepy Side of Things" is a great conclusion to this surreal experience, calmly portraying the end to these adventures for today. The album finally closes with our narrator yawning and snoring away to a drum machine as if to say goodnight.

- - Julienne Pasta

SETH GRAHAM “Gasp” (Orange Milk / Noumenal Loom)

[A collaborative review; italics: Jacob An Kittenplan; roman: Ryan Masteller]

“My desire is for you to stop being a fuck wad.” —Seth Graham

“No, seriously, stop being such a fuck wad.” —Seth Graham

“Gasp!” —the national media

“Damn, that’s a good idea.” —Seth Graham

The anger distilled into chaos. The chaos splattered with pink slime. The slime-coated chaos sprinkled with jimmies. What melts in the minds of humans hardens into EQ spikes, like the dying final breath of a bassoon clicking with precise afterlife.

Seth Graham killed a bassoon. Let’s not lie to ourselves.


Master of juxtaposition, servant of none, what hath “The Cream” (or was he “The Juice”?) paired seemingly effortlessly this time around? Staccato and Legato, for sure, as percussive scattershot slices and dices through most modest swaths of reverberating, disembodied consonance. And surely acoustic classical instruments and ccllaassssiicc MIDI culture and cheese get the brain all congested and discombobulated, as does the electroacoustic phenomena wiggling all willy-nilly alongside (Inside? As Above and So Below?) the equally dished out electronically limited glitch?


Barfing classical music in a free-jazz whirlwind, Graham’s computer somehow makes its music with Photoshop while jolting the maestro himself with electricity, probing his mind and freezing his hands to the keyboard via 2400 watts of pure <em>juice</em>. Is the computer sentient? Is it running Orange Milk Records? We have to ask these questions, you know. These days it’s confusing to understand what is source and what is output, what is composed and what is random.

But then again, Seth might just be having a go at us.


How, like, seriously playful? How lethal said whimsy? How much “ITAKEITBACK” must a sonic posit make before being completely forgotten? Such are the conundrums within the wizardrous mixing of Gasp.


That brain of yours has got to crack right down the middle, like a boulder-battered windshield, before it can reconstitute any of this. Seth’s laptop screen is a blank spider web of blunt force trauma, the contents of its hard drive backed up to a lake where an entire orchestra wanders knee-deep in the shallows, attempting to play from memory everything Seth’s ever created.

Don’t you get it? The orchestra is the hard drive!


Keep in mind that under zero conditions could this album be actualized (with 80% fidelity) live.


And it’s soaking wet.

This is modern classical!

Brain, meet retooled functionality. Orchestra, meet your greatest performative challenge.


One cannot pair the jangle of pocketed pennies with fiercely pounded tympani, lest it be expertly curated.


When we have listened to ourselves, to our forebears and contemporaries, we can eschew obligation – along with things such as “structure” and “modern technology” – and metamorphose into that great incandescent magma-like density, hovering without gravitational limits or buoyed by heretofore unknown space-metal pinpricks. Such is the magic of the OM, that time and space are suspended to allow for these timbral and dynamic extremes to parley, interweave,  s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e, crystalyyyze and, really, like, to really get the fuck down, to get the fuck w-e-i-r-d, for the sake of psychoacoustic partying! And there stands Gasp above the pulverized remains of our former selves, heartstopping, jawbreaking joy in the face of everlasting fuck wads. What is there to understand here? Smash the bassoon! Gasp into the void!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan and Ryan Masteller

“Always On” (Valley Heat Records)

Heavy rock has fallen out of fashion in music in our modern times. But don’t worry, The Dollar Bill Murrays still remember how to rock. With this band you’re getting fuzzy guitars, pounding drums, and vocals that show a knowledge and sadness beyond the years of the person they come from. One thing I really enjoyed about this band is even though they are a heavier band the slower songs and ballads flow well, they don’t seem forced, not like what you’ll see with many other similar bands.
Favorite track: I Want Everything (Acoustic)
I know what you’re thinking, but that’s a cassette exclusive, we can’t get that on digital download. Well too bad, this is Cassette Gods and that’s my favorite, besides digital download gods just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
So kick back and get ready to be a little sad, but in a good way. 

-- Drake Douglas     

VARIOUS ARTISTS “Swamp Comp: It Came from the Midwest” C60 (Woody Records)

You’ve got the right to remain violent, so says the band Johnny Switchblade three tracks in to “Swamp Comp,” and that’s probably as righteous a tagline as any for this massive 20-track punk collection of the best miscreants the Midwest has to offer. I feel like I’m in high school again discovering lo-fi punk rock for the first time. There is no shortage of snottiness or rambunction, and of course there are great band names aplenty like Cuddles, The Biff Tannens, Bike Power, and, the punkiest of all, The Hemmorrhoids. Too bad Warped Tour is a big steaming bag of garbage, otherwise the artists on this comp could tour the hell out of it and rake in a bunch of dough. It’d be better than any previous iteration of Warped, that’s for sure. Is Warped Tour even a thing anymore? Who cares.

Swamp Comp is limited to 500 copies. Buy from …? I dunno, help me out here, crowdsourcing!

Woody Records Soundcloud

--Ryan Masteller

"Fissure” C46
(Eh? Records)

NoisePoetNobody generally deals in motor-like, textured modular synth combustion, but here, on “Fissure”, he’s joined by Eveline Müller and her cosmic host of meditation-focused instruments. Now, from your own home, you can bear comfy, pajama’d witness to soundhealing’s mélange of tuning forks, singing bowls & a great many other coaxed metallic objects, all of them blending in and/or standing out from said NPN motordrones, plus a few other home-crafted noisemakers. The timbral yield is dynamic, as are both arrhythmic sputterings and free-ringing decays. The mixing is spot on, which makes you feel like you’re in an intimately candle-lit warehouse.

Great stuff to zone out to, or play “track the elusive groove”. I can dig it, man.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

CONVIVIAL CANNIBAL "Death Dubitabulis" (Ignorant Ear Tapes)

I don't know what the fuck I'm hearing, which is probably, sometimes, the point.  Other times there's a guitar.  I hear very bass-fucked-overdriven feedback noise, like you just dropped a microphone inside of a speaker cabinet and let it drive itself. 

With titles like [i can't read this shit] and i can't really read this shit either (I can't read this shit,) you get exactly what you expect, if you knew what to expect based on the cut-out minotaur that doesn't fit in the case and the sort of card-stock hard-to-read deal that's the jacket and the blank cassette.  (actual song titles are things like Assassins Of Our Youth, Population: Liquid, Society Senectitude, and Curveless Crookedness, in case you're actually looking for information here.)

This is brilliant if you're looking for something that makes you wonder if you're shit's fucked up (or maybe my shit's just fucked up,) with voices from inside the capsule of a moon rocket, except the voices are talking about scrabble, maybe, or what's for dinner.  (Nobody's talking about anything, as far as I can tell.) And that's probably the point. My mind puts into this what it wants, and when that's not "fuck is my shit broken?" it's "I could probably use this in the garage this halloween to cover up the actual screams." 

There is a success achieved here, a dark and frightening cauldron of noise, sloshings, backwards things buried in that broken speaker cabinet.  Some little dude in the corner keeps asking if I'm sure about that.  I'm not.  This low rumbling speaker broken rocket thrust sound is overwhelming, and though it's certainly not making me shit myself, I'm listening in the middle of the afternoon and the sun's still out there and I'm glad for it. 

Probably the way tapes ought to be used, this mess of downtempo fuckery, sampling and weirdness, in the jacket with the name of the album spelled differently that it is on bandcamp ("dubitabilis" online, "dubitabulis" in the jacket that looks very much like a photocopied, dirtied up collage of death imagery and song titles that are hard to read,) this is DEFINITELY something you want on cassette more than any other medium.  Feed that noise from that deceptively thin piece of ribbon with all that magnetic magic on it right over your metal play head and ignore anything anybody has to say about it. 
The package matches the chops, here, and though there's nothing groundbreaking or surprising, this is solidly compelling and will be useful on halloween, during ritual sacrifices, or if you just like listening to dark, droning sounds that, somewhere in the chain, definitely encountered or caused some broken shit.

-- Kingo Sleemer

GAMBLETRON / WREN TURCO “We Can’t See Past the Cliff” / “Artesian Pressures” (Idle Chatter / Fabrica Records)

My esteemed Cassette Gods colleague Jacob an Kittenplan has already done the heavy descriptive lifting on this V/A triptych with his writeup of the NaEE RoBErts third of the bunch, so I’m going to leave the label/concept out of this and just point you to the hyperlink above. Gambletron’s tape is all over the place, in a good way, beginning with “Guelph, Ontario,” an ode, presumably, to “The Royal City.” Beginning with layers of texture, the track morphs into a club banger before pulling back into instrumental hip hop territory. At twelve minutes, it makes me want twelve minutes more of whatever comes next. Hey, there’s a second side? Brilliant! “AM Radio Theremin Drone” packs all the menace and weirdness of hovering theremin and combines it with radio signals and static, suggesting outer-limits communication or deep-space intelligence. Or maybe somebody’s spying on you from behind the Iron Curtain, and your radio and phone are tapped, producing the interference. And this is the 1960s or 1970s or something. Creepy!

Wren Turco is the curator of the Transparens series, and her contribution, “Artesian Pressures,” glows with electronic neon hyperactivity. Never static, always restless, Turco’s tracks take on lives of their own and sustain themselves with seemingly little effort, much like the wells suggested by the tape title maintain their water levels without much interference or need for pumping. Thus, to cliff-dive facefirst into an awkward metaphor, sonic irrigation of the mind can commence. Oh, groan! But, perhaps, Turco’s tape is the closest of the trio to come to exemplifying the cover artwork, which was, in her own words, “created from a sequence of transparent sculptural projections that gradually mutate in motion.” Apply that to “Aretsian Pressures,” and you’ve got a conceptual match.

Cassette edition, limited to 100, is still available from Fabrica. Act now!


Wren Turco

NaEE RoBErts

Fabrica Records

--Ryan Masteller

Morgan Garrett
"Spiral and Spiral II” C47
(Self Released)

I once thought that
Xiu Xiu
might have done
too many

I do not.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

LOL - editor

"Boundaries” C46
(Trrrash Records)

Included below, between the Bandcamp link to this specific album and a Facebook link to the record label is an interview with Sarmistha Talukdar, the cancer biologist that expands both her research AND creative expressions through this far-reaching sonic probe, Tavishi. Cagean, but not cagey, “Boundaries” is the crossroads between Western Avant-Garde Experimentalism and Hindustani Classical composition; a thoroughly, intelligently designed documentation of assigned sounds correlating with cancer cell identifiers, planetary observations and, oh, what the hell? Anime? Yup!

To say that this tape is “rife with subtext” is an under(grad)statement, but, hey- we’re all learning here- this just goes to show that a deeper inspection of the W-H-Y///H-O-W only intensifies a given product.

Again, I strongly suggest reading the interview first (and maybe a few others) before listening. Included with the physical tape are liner notes on what math-nerdy processes were followed to yield each track, compounding the already Deeply engaging aural product, rendering it both escapist/spellbinding and edge-of-seat-titillating!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Nobody, Never, Yeowe” C86
(Five Records)

ATTN: Weirdos,

If you’re interested in experimental music, sound collage, audio diaries, and/or pretty much losing your mind, you really oughta read this guy’s manifesto, accessible via the first hyperlink below. Really. Take the time. Even if you don’t get around to the sounds, it’s truly inspiring.

There is no way to really “review” this tape other than to alert you to what it stands for; a general expanding of your consciousness concerning how you feel about certain sets of statistically unrelated, dynamically divergent sound relationships. Well, that and what it sounds like to walk through an art gallery consisting of someone’s random thoughtsketches, but HEARING a lifetime’s differing aesthetics/perspectives instead of just SEEING them. If that didn’t make sense, it will after listening to this.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Appropriate Modes & Zones” C40
(Skin Trade Recordings)

Permanently etched into my consciousness is Dylan Carlson’s assertion that “there is nothing heavier than the drone,” (roughly paraphrased from an interview included with Earth’s  “Hibernaculum” DVD).

LAST truly embodies this sentiment, 200%, with the gold-star niche that Hi-Fi speakers are pretty much required to truly get all of the nuance that has been magnetized to this tape. With a below-low end that varies texture like a good massage, “Appropriate Modes & Zones” may well be the number one hit for the deaf community… if marketed correctly.

I once went to a show where the composer arranged pieces that were all played under 20Hz (for the layperson, that’s below what most mortals can actually hear), and the audience all wore earplugs so that the reverberations from the specially fabricated speakers could better shake our noggins like an empty snare drum (our chests like floor toms and bass drums, depending on our physiques), and this particular tape bridges the gap between that experience and what a longform SUN O))) chord sounds like, wrung out into infinity.

Living in an apartment building,  I couldn’t really give this tape its proper due by playing it through a full stack bass cabinet, but I hope one of y’all get a chance to, soon! Deep tissue massage on all your internal organs, I tell you whhuuuutt!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Von Bock Strasse 18” C30
(Ana Ott)

Michael Valentine West’s sophomore release for the (ground-breakingly badass) Ana Ott imprint is a patient, meticulous, finely nuanced beast. Painstakingly stitching together glitchy tones, blown out field recordings, modular synth swells and dramatic, narrative dynamics, this release is not likely an easy listen for those seeking instant gratification. MVW’s compositions are beyond complex AND well planned out, establishing unique, meditative loops (that could easily stand up on their own) before breathing yet more life into them, just as you’d swear your ears were already super-saturated.

In just under a half hour, and spread across three tracks, “Von Bock Strasse 18” is a hypnotic, hallucinogenic journey through serenity, ecstasy, and nerve-wracking anguish. Strap on some decent headphones and find a quiet spot to listen to this one at least twice in a row, each time.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

BR’LÂAB "Molochville” C22 (Ana Ott)

Along the North Western German border labors a freaky dream factory known as Ana Ott, who specializes in shedding dawn on unknown artists who want nothing more but to Keep It Fucking Weird. Seriously, every single artist on this label’s roster is brilliantly innovative and truly left-of-left-field. LOVE IT!

Br’lâab’s “Molochville”, a side project done by a film score composer-gone-batshit, is an all too short collection of hazy dream sequences woven into yet more blurry vignettes, utilizing chopped/screwed samples & loops, field recordings, & semi-virtuosic instrumentation. The result is a warped meeting of several realities and the complete disassociation from time and space. This has to be what Timothy Leary heard as he waded through his bardo. This is for reals something special and not to be missed!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

DON GERO "Wizarding” C40 (Crash Symbols)

This album is pretty much the audio equivalent of a strobe-lit inner-city high-speed car-chase. For-serious. Oughta come with a warning for possibly inducing seizures. It’s basically camping porn. Fuggin’ InTENTS!

&In a word, “Wizarding” is relentless. With equal parts focus on hypnotic-tribal beats and unabashed minimalist synth arpeggios that vary slightly with each passing measure, this non-stop aural assault is living proof that you don’t need breakneck speed to get the heart rate pumping overtime.

If you’re suggestible to such visions, consider this the perfect soundtrack to watch a bunch of metalheads thrashing about in a circle pit whilst the elders (read gen X’rs) surround them, lost in lotus meditation.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Black Sea II” C32
(No Index Recordings)

Havre de Grace are a free improv group (read: jam band) that focuses on filling out the entire room with heavy/psych blues rock aesthetics. This is a live-to-tape documentation of one of their earlier meetings, and it’s safe to say there is some pretty good chemistry going on. The moods captured range from peaceful midnight walks in the fog to rush hour police chases though a crowded train station, and plenty of spaces in between. The opening track has a VERY strong tonal likeness to Cave In’s “Creative Eclipses” EP (specifically the 1st track), and it plays like a natural extension/appreciation via instrumental meditation that any fan would dig.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

“Music for Cosmic Nights” C32
(Cosmic Winnetou)

Bio-dome life, feel it. Somewhere out there in the wilderness there’s a geodesic dome where scientific experiments are happening and the subjects are isolated to the point of going stir crazy. Except, of course, for the fact that nighttime is the right time, the right time to get your stargazing on, no light pollution, just you and maybe your colleague(s), done with your experiments for the day, checking out the Milky Way and all that other great stuff in the sky. Dry Valleys playing on the stereo, of course, like Night Ranger during coupleskate, as “Music for Cosmic Nights” is pretty exactly the go-to tunage for actual cosmic nights viewed sometimes through the clear roof of the geodesic dome. Drone meets “phone home” as outer space connections are made, the motes of soundtrack fluctuating in place of true communication, but we only want the approximation of it anyway, don’t we? It leaves our imaginations alone, allowing them to spiral off like galaxy arms that those bio-dome subjects are witnessing, blurred into incomprehensibility by the unmooring of perspective. Maybe the time in the dome is doing them good, the days pass, the weeks, the months, the experiments continue, but there’s still the night sky, and there’s still Dry Valleys, and there’s still release. It’s only when the bio-dome inhabitants realize there are stowaways that the spell is broken and the mayhem ensues. Then it becomes a party, the work is forgotten, but “Music for Cosmic Nights” lingers in the minds of those hijacked by the pursuit of personal gratification, a ghost of purpose now past.

And oh my god yes, this was all an elaborate alternate-history Bio-Dome reference. Don’t let my idiotic digressions detract from the magic of Dry Valleys.

Dry Valleys

Cosmic Winnetou

--Ryan Masteller

FURNITEUR “Perfect Lavender”
(Prince George Records)

Omg at first I was like oh dang it this is gonna be a hard one to talk about because I don’t even like 80’s music when it was from the 80’s. But when the second song started and the singer was singing about how American girls aren’t on her radar my attention was piqued. The chorus comes in and the singer talk/sings “I’m a brat, I’m a brat” a few times and it’s terribly satisfying. Like your friend comes up to you at Lagoon and is all “Hey Rickey try this a big bite of cotton candy cloud, you’ll rly like it!” but you know better because you hate cotton candy ever since it made you so sick last time and so you tell your friend no way but she’s not gonna hear it and so she shuvs the cotton candy in your mouth and actually its wonderful! That is an analogy for how I feel about this album when I listen to track 2. The third track I can’t remember v well because it was skipping, or I mean the audio was going away and then coming back so there were some weird lil eras of silence that rly took away from whatever emotions or daydreams the track might have had me explore. Quite the avant garde decision! Side two starts off p good. The whole album sounds exactly like the album art. It’s super sugary like I’m gonna get cavities, but isn’t it fun to get cavities? Not to have them but to get them. It was Halloween the other day and I ate lots of candy but none of it was as sweet as Perfect Lavender. The audio goes in and out again on side two, but only a little bit this time. Nothing all that memorable happens the rest of the time but this isn’t a discredit, I’m still having fun. If this album were a party I would have a tremendous time hanging out on a comfy couch getting drunk on hpnotiq and viniq with red bull. So thanks for having me, it’s been swell.

with love,
Ricky Lemonseed

WORN LEATHER “Tape Three” (Reflective Tapes)

This tape grew on me. It is torch-bearing punk in the lineage of Velvet Underground, the Replacements or the Minutemen. They have good songs that utilize the natural strength of a 4-piece rock band, featuring a lot of guitar work and soloing. Raw, frugal, honest, understated—in fact, the main weakness in Worn Leather’s style is that the singer is somewhat emotionally muted and dull-sounding. But the more I listen to them, the more I like them. They seem like nice guys: thoughtful, trying to make something good, filled with sadness and rage and boredom and fear. Actually, Worn Leather remind me of a band I know in Worcester, MA called Gnards. They share that classic punk (with guitar solos retained) style; they are hard-working; and they’re nice guys. I imagine Worn Leather to be among this crew. Maybe they’ll throw in a little glamorous touch from time to time, but mostly what shines through is their common-man quality—simple, raw, good. I give thumbs up to these punks from New Haven, CT, as well as their people over at Reflective Tapes in Olympia, WA. The marker drawing of a rather non-descript duplex on the tape cover is oddly wonderful. Also, one final detail that enhances my enjoyment of this album is in the liner notes: “Recorded by Stefan Christ in a snow storm.” It seems that all records of substance nowadays are done with help from Christ during bad weather. Nicely done, guys. 

-Kevin Oliver 

LUKE JUMES “The Collected Luke Jumes Vol. 1” C53 (self-released)

When the future comes, there will be an indie folk musician from Massachusetts with a working iPhone and an endless optimism named Lukey, and there will be a beard snake crawling around his chin until it registers to the horrified onlookers that it’s a friendly beard snake. And there will be songs recorded onto the iPhone called “Get My Goam” and “Pee Jazz” (not one but two!), and Lukey will hum you to sleep over the sounds of robots and spaceships. No one will be angry anymore and everyone will hug. The songs will wilt like flowers in the summer, magnetic tape losing its resilience over time and hardening and cracking. And joy will flow in rivers and streams throughout the land, until it pools in lakes and reservoirs and finally oceans, tapped for birthday parties and anniversaries. It will be Nathan’s birthday every day, and Ashla and Nathan will love this music for all time. Even ten billion years from now when nothing but dust covers this planet, Luke Jumes’s songs will be remembered in the calm between the dust storms, hovering still in molecules and DNA strands. But until then there’s a tape, and the tape may be for sale if you can find it.

Luke Jumes

--Ryan Masteller

(Monorail Trespassing)

Walking the finest line between harsh noise and black metal, Slow Tongued Beauty, aka Ryan Scott Kerr, unleashes a maelstrom of highly digitized mayhem that’s truly impossible to ignore. Rhythm insinuates itself under the constant white-hot blaze of electronic aggression, although it tends to drop out suddenly during quieter ambient passages (before, obviously, coming back in and scaring the crap out of me – I have had to adjust the volume [and my pacemaker] while listening). “Sopportare” means “to bear” in Italian (thanks Google Translate!), and if “Sopportare” the cassette is any indication, Kerr’s has been bearing quite a heavy burden for an awfully long time, and this release is, ahem, his release, a primal scream of gnashing demons rotting the very interior of his heart. He also has some other releases, so perhaps we consider this a therapeutic outlet. Regardless of Kerr’s intent, his recordings are as gripping as a Velcro body suit at a fabric convention (clearly don’t know how Velcro works), and it’s impossible to turn “Sopportare” off, no matter how overwhelming or distant it gets (or how broken the “Stop” button on my tape player is). It’s the latest in a long line of solid and sturdy Monorail Trespassing releases specializing in the artistic within the static and the void.

Slow Tongued Beauty

Monorail Trespassing

--Ryan Masteller

MICHAEL CLAUS "Memory Protect" (self released)

Michael Claus (no relation to Santa) is a unique Bay area house artist. Exceptional synthesizer sounds and poly-rhythmic drum machine cascades fade in and out in tight grooves all locked in to a bass drum pulse. With pillow soft synth waves, some morphing basses, and laid back, concise beats; the tracks make for an excellent burn. The tones are familiar but also abstract while the production is crisp and organic sounding. This might be everything you'd expect from a solid house album and more!

"Past Era" has some amazing bubbling synths with canon delay. It brought me to a place of laid back I may not have previously known. The album has a specific flow to it. "Forests" is a beautiful synthesizer cascade forming a large polyrhythmic, modular soundscape. "Dissent" introduces a darker, more mysterious element (which reminded me of Brian Eno's Another Green World or Tangerine Dream) while maintaining elements of filter funk. "Tidal Shift" combines elements of drone with a complex yet heavy tom driven dance beat. "Ocean Side" may  be my favorite tune on the record; its perhaps the funkiest and most house music oriented.

This self release is unfortunately sold out !!

--"Jamband" Josh Brown

“Heel Flipper” C48
(Small Scale Music)

The Sommes Ensemble toured Europe in 2015 and 2016. Wanna know how I know that? “Heel Flipper” is the result, a document of the “strategic, organized chaos” the quartet blazed through the clubs they visited. Featuring alto sax, guitar, bass, and drums, the ensemble is an unsightly smear of fusion and free jazz and free-form freakouts, a perfect signing for Montreal’s Small Scale Music, a purveyor of the strange and the challenging. Whether the Sommes Ensemble is blasting out shards of anti-jazz or stirring a sonic cauldron of audio witches’ brew with the deepest restraint (we are on the cusp of Halloween as I write, after all), the result is never less than captivating. Or visceral. Definitely visceral, what with all the shredding and slashing and other instrumental violence wreaked upon (probably very willing and totally primed) audiences. You can hear the musicians’ skin lacerating and the blood pouring as they play, such is the intensity of performance. The unholy bacchanal of arterial spray surely whipped their audiences into frenzies so uninhibited that old Freddy Krueger himself would blush if he heard it (and if he had facial skin). But what makes “Heel Flipper” much more than just a live document is the inventiveness and the singular in-the-moment clicking of personalities. The energy is beyond palpable – it’s mesmerizing, and it penetrates you like old Freddy Krueger’s knife hand, scrambling your equilibrium as if it were opening an irreparable chest would. But of course everybody left the Sommes sessions unscathed, and probably more than a little keyed up. But mostly happy, at least until their next brush with violent death at the hands of a fictional monster… Or their next Sommes Ensemble show. Boo! Halloween…

Small Scale Music

--Ryan Masteller