“Split” C20
(Motorcycle Potluck Records)


Doghouse/Revelation fans-from-way-back, perk up those ears…

This Denver/Minneapolis split is bleeding-from-the-heart-sleeve saturated with undeniable CHAMBERLAIN-esque Emo vibes: State Drugs might blissfully assume the monicker Colorado Is the Reason*, kicking out some serious post-punk, mid-tempo 1-2—5- clap-along-able anthems; and Nato Coles embodies the rest of Chamberlain’s 90s -era polished-gruff pop-radio-vibrato-rich vocals & sleek indie hooks, with a slight nod to Blues Traveler and the Traveling Wilburys. Feels like MTV again!

If you’re in the midwest and looking to book some serious pop nostalgia, hit these fine folx up!


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

*but with less nasally, more earnest vocals

BOB HEAVENS “Higher” C40 (Bob Heavens Records)

Here’s where we don’t know anything. Bob Heavens is a label, and apparently an artist? I don’t know. The tape doesn’t give any indications (other than “produced by Bob Heavens”). It’s on Lather’s Bandcamp page. Let’s assume Ben Myers has something to do with it then.

“Higher.” Judging from the pot leaves on the spine, this is a tape about weed or made under the influence of weed. I would not be surprised either way. (Did you see the band photo on the Lather Sommer Duo tape? Prominent bong.) At times like Woody Guthrie at extremely slow speed and run through the worst speakers on the planet, at times like Soundgarden at slow speed and run through the worst speakers on the planet, “Higher” promises two things: slow speed (for smoking weed to) and terrible speakers (for smoking weed to). The Norelco is Slimer green, for Pete’s sake. The tape shell itself is glitter green. It looks great.

So, are you high? Nice. Get “Higher.”


“Seven Shooter” C37
(Moon Villain)

Seven Shooter is enigmatic mood installation. Canned feelings shotgunned, swapped. Hard conflict is looped, lassoed, limped. Sound bites and synth arpeggios vie for attention and die, non-committally, while other aspiring melodramatix are emboldened. This album doubles as a low-flying relaxant and high-level anxiety-booster. Great for just about anything except job interviews. Enjoy the sonic double-entendre at varying decibels! Definitely for fans of CDX or Constellation Tatsu’s dancier electronica releases.


— Jacob An Kittenplan

ABBY LEE TEE “Imaginary Friends I”
C20 (Czaszka [Rec.])

Austrian artist Abby Lee Tee goes right where I’m interested in going when considering works of experimental composition on tape: the imagination. Tee has some imaginary friends, it seems, as fourteen “Simulacra” represent over the 20 minutes or so that this tape lasts. These sonic representations offer a glimpse into Tee’s mind, and it’s an intriguing, playful, and mesmerizing place to be.

Utilizing “everyday-life sounds as well as acoustic instruments and field recordings,” Tee crafts a living, breathing menagerie of sound and compiles it into an artistic whole. “Expect obscure soundscapes full of grunting hedgehogs, squeaking otters, sizzling electric fences, and whistling water kettles.” “Imaginary Friends I” certainly is as tactile as that sounds, and part of the fun is trying to parse the sources. Regardless, this tape is inviting and strange, vivid and imaginative. There’s that word again! Can’t escape it.


“Regarding the Music of Others” C20
(Patient Sounds)

Chicago’s badazz Patient Sounds imprint has done a serious solid for all the stale hawnkeetawnk watering holes out there, re-birthing SHANK TRILLIAMS! 

This 20 minute sound collage finds ol’ Hank Senior’s tone & mood dramatically unsmoothified, & outright angularized, his renowned, graceful swagger and slide-licks junkstapausingly glitchified and appropriated for some seriously beatitudinal blissing-outs! Sans vocals, this release will either prove (at low volume) a sleepy set up, or (at high volume) a str8 up dance-floor masher. 

“Regarding the Music of Others” is proof-in-le-pudding that electronic music can breathe new life into well-beaten paths!

— Jacob An Kittenplan

LATHER / DREKKA “Live: Concentration Club” C26 (Bob Heavens)

Lather, Drekka, how do you tell all these experimental artists apart? Luckily, Lather is Drekka and Drekka is Lather, but Drekka’s coming out in the end here, even though they’re sharing this release, and Drekka’s on the A-side. Don’t ask me how that works. Split personality? Maybe.

“Live: Concentration Club” captures Lather “from the first Concentration Club, Cat Head Press, Indianapolis, IN, 12 May 2017,” then flips it around with Drekka and the “final Concentration Club … etc. etc. … 15 JUN 2018,” with each side documenting a day in the life of Concentration Club (initial and final). Drekka plays the room, filling it with a creeping soundtrack of noise bursts and prepared implements, haunting listeners with the vibrations of periphery, the latent sonics that work into your nerves as you explore hidden spaces.

Lather’s all up in your face, though, with white hot drone and blistering accoutrements.

Implements used include: prepared Audion Interlude, plastic bags, heatsinks, metal bowl, Styrofoam, bow, screws, plastic object.


"Skyminds" C44

Skyminds is a hypnotic collaboration between Oakland stalwarts Selaroda (Michael Henning- Sanity Muffin/Inner Islands/Petit Mal) and Ashan (Sean Conrad- Inner Islands, Itinerant Home), both of whom are no stranger to releasing mesmerizing ambient/new-age soundscapes with a fresh, world-fusion tinge added, for extra zing.

Their debut eponymous album reveals itself like a book of short stories, all songs loosely related in their authorial voice, but each detailing a separate tranquil world to get lost in. Through cosmic synth swells, infinite organ drones, celestial chimes, pensive piano ploddings, saucy lap steel licks, Djembe pulses, quena riffage and more, Skyminds tells their timeless tales of inner cultivation and celestial beauty.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Physical World" C17

Harsh R is a dystopian Olympian (WA) electro-goth act with an anomalous niche; while most other artists in this vein rely on industrial dissonance for heaviness, Harsh R further employs a left -hook in hardcore-punk tropes str8 outta a 90s Victory Records playbook, from tough-groaned lamentations (though slightly softened & snottified to fit a more goth-punk aesthetic) to chugga-chugga percussives (though the downbeat is instead accented with a low-level laser pew-pew sample) and that looooong breakdown for emphatic… emphasis. It’s mosh music for fog machines and strobe lights. It’s weird, heavy, and weirdly heavy. Have a listen for yourself via the link below.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Sonelab Sessions" C26
(White Reeves Productions)

On “Sonelab Sessions”, minimalist/exorcist-pianist, Melissa St. Pierre, cooks up an overwhelmingly disjointed blitzkrieg of sprinting atonal runs, choppy/piercy, full-stop phrasings, and an occasional ghostly oasis of semi-melodic ambiance, that sets the listener’s ear on edge, in reverse. If a student ever contests that pianos are considered “percussion" instruments, play them this tape. If they’re not inspired by the breakneck, tabla-esque rhythmic permutations, they’ll be jazzed to explore chromatic arpeggiation, at the very least. Not for the faint of heart!



-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"A Call To Ignite" C13

Adam Void embodies the Renaissance artist, a multi-disciplined explorer and creator of sound capture/sculpture, photography, painting, writing, you name it. What really stands out here is a raw, sincere reverence for the unpolished, industrial-strength vibrations, their wringing out cyclical jolts of brute force, trapped and/or emulated by AV, and stuck to tape in DIY/No-Fi fashion. “A Call to Ignite” may bear only one lone train whistle in its denouement, but the preceding 12 minutes boast a jarring series of possessed/distorted Casiontone beats and Dial-Up-Modem-core destruction that carries every bit of weighted battery as any rusty-railed bridge bearing a heavy load across its creaking back.


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

"Freight Noise" C11

A mile away, as-the-crow-flies, runs the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Amtrack, and maybe some other trains. Riding to work, I am occasionally stalled, waiting for these ginormous steel caterpillars to pass by. The sounds their frictitious, heavy stories clang out are always mesmerizing, and I never really wished I wasn't “held up”. 

Listen to “Freight Noise”, on your own time, and also fall in love, with what it means to “plod along” and “deliver".

To sweeten the pot of danger-free novelty, A.VOID provides an earnest account (mini-zine)  of what it meant for them (and a friend) to hop trains for two weeks, through the south, in the rain.

Tape release includes a gorgeously earnest manifesto/zine. This is pretty much why an ephemeral tape culture exists, right?


-- Jacob An Kittenplan

“92 Minutes In The Tea Room”

To be a reviewer around here you have to be at least part sleuth. Information is not always forthcoming from labels and tapes. That said, what we have here is a split tape between Mid-Air! and DDDDDDDDD’s-that’s nine “D’s” friends.

Side one is Mid-Air! and that begins innocently enough with some  simple repetitive piano and percussion. This doesn’t last long and before I can clean up my spilt coffee they (he, she, it?) are expanding on this theme and then taking it in new directions altogether. Uh-oh, now we’re beating on the pots and pans. Simple is gone. Innocent is hiding. A simple cymbal tap in succession. About midway we are treated to some grunts and groans accompanied by a sinister backward piano. Some sense of rhythm returns and on it goes. And this is only side one.

The D’s, as i lovingly refer to them (him, her, they?) are a little more on the dark side. Subterranean. This is the soundtrack for the subway to hell. About half way through the side, everything stops and a voice announces “side two”. Well thanks, it’s been side two for 15 minutes….all is forgiven though as the music returns to twisting and turning like a day-old taco in your large intestine-all with a touch of low-fi to boot.

Don’t be mistaken, these are two separate and quite different performances on the two sides of this tape. The originality is the common theme.and not much else.

Aptly titled as its a total 92 minute tape, these guys call this “trip-hop”-which sounds about right. It’s not music in any traditional genre nor is it strictly electronic or ambient or even experimental. There’s some structure here. it’s not really free-form. It’s none of these and all of these. It defies categorization. Both bright and dark, silly and serious. This tape has found the lonely path of uniqueness. This is good stuff.

-Robert Richmond

MID-AIR! “Painting Music” C42 (100% Rare Cassette Tapes)

It can’t be easy to care for someone who is critically ill, and I lack (at the moment) the experience to relate to that. I can only imagine the emotional fluctuations throughout such a process, mood shifting on a dime depending on what sort of news you’re getting on any given day or on the mental and physical state of the person in your care. Short, intense bursts of anger, fear, or relief spike through your brain and body at will. The uncertainty of any given moment is a constant companion.

Mid-Air! guides us through exactly what this feels like on “Painting Music,” a rumination on facing this exact scenario with a “beloved family member.” “Painting Music,” a sampledelic instrumental hip hop/trip hop mixtape, lurches and sways, covering all manner of potential highs and lows, but mostly slipping back into that median medicated haze, either yours or the patient’s, denoting the long days and nights of worry and disquiet, all of which end up blurring together. Mainly sampling jazz and lounge records, Mid-Air! weaves together a sickly sweet narrative, one that highlights both the melodic delight of love for the person and the wobbling, offbeat rhythm of an uncontrollable situation.

But even if you are as far removed from this situation as it is possible to be, you can still apply “Painting Music” to any number of circumstances and still come out fuzzily optimistic on the other end. Easily a winner.