“Dissimilar” C18

To be both incredibly accessible AND extremely abrasive is no easy task.

With Jawbox-esque vocals and a saccharine stock of 90s radio-rock scaffolding, Tides Away crosses over countless boundaries, through their creative employment of captivating boobytraps of electronica, industrial beats, metallic tones, eastern-tinged progressions…wow…at the end of the day, this band is undeniably interesting, even if the genres they’re mixing might not directly appeal to you…and surely they couldn’t ALL…

To be both incredibly accessible AND extremely abrasive is no easy task. That meme about Mountain Dew may apply here. Give this a chance (it’s a short suite) at least two times in a row and you might be surprised at how much each disparate sub-genre blends so satisfyingly with the other and then right into your earholes!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

JONNYX AND THE GROADIES “Liquid Crystal Despair” (self-released)

I really wasn’t expecting this, like at all. What did I expect? I … don’t know. That cover is Tangerine Dream meets Judas Priest, so that would’ve been a mashup. But then I was like, don’t judge by the cover, don’t judge by the cover…

I didn’t judge by the cover. I’m a genius.

This is hellish cyber–thrash metal, a visceral wasteland where prog keyboards interrupt black metal séances mid-ceremony, but the metalheads accept the nerds and everyone gets along. I love this stuff! Even when the vocals approach human (rather than demonic) singing, I can get into it. There’s quite a variety here, and the band’s been around since 1996, so you know they’re tight as hell. And, being from Portland, Oregon, I’m SURE they know those wacky Wolves in the Throne Room cats. Or maybe they don’t, who knows. I just assume everyone knows everyone else in the Pac NW. Still, they could share a bill.

More melodic than your average black metal shredders, but sharper and more dangerous than your average thrash-metallers, JonnyX and the Groadies should scratch that headbanging itch you’ve been having since you threw out your high school denim jacket with the Celtic Frost and Iron Maiden patches on it. I know you miss it, but when your wife wants you to throw out your filthy old jacket, you listen to her.


“Scapes and Devotions” C45
(Histamine Tapes)

On “Scapes and Devotions", Christopher Flores gently wafts three distinctly autonomous layers of moon-cold drone and noise that each feed off one another without ever falling in sync, the meticulous panning of these proving a composition in its own right. The two most easily agitated eddies pace and spiral each other from on high whilst the third trembles a seismic constant from below, only admitting disturbance as mountains do the wind. &Only intermittently does any liquid percussive tone pay visit here; &when it does, such subtlety comes off like hail. 

“Scapes and Devotions” could feel like high desert or tundra’s windscapes were it not so geometrically rigid in perpetual movement. 

Good headphones a MUST, here!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

“Inner Work” C33
(Histamine Tapes)

With “Inner Work”, Brian James Griffith (ex-Greyghost, & current collaborator in Electric Sound Bath, L’Éternèbre, Screaming Claws Collective, etc) has sound-painted his most vibrant, consonant, and evocative offering to date; and make no mistake, his back-catalogue is s-t-a-c-k-e-d with some seriously heavy-hitting ambient releases!

Here, he has traded in that somber mood-tint/focus he’s masterfully crafted so many previous dronescapes with in favor of sculpting an airier, more outward connecting, celebratory new age vibe; all this while still spiking his pieces with the gripping field recordings and noisy accents that set his work apart from so many other stellar NA albums of past decades. Visually, it’s hard for the mind not to drift to the coniferous edge of some high-altitude, near-frozen, fresh water lake at dawn, taking in flora and fauna’s excitement of another set of sun rays coming to bathe them into bliss.

It’s always great to see an artist you’ve loved take a sharp, creative turn, only to see that they’ve likely been sitting on a crystal-mine you’d not yet dreamt of!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

MIA LOUCKS “Old” (Related Records)

Released on a self-described “oddball/weirdo/specialty label” based in Phoenix, I must say Mis Loucks is a proverbial breath of fresh air. Composed of eleven tracks which feature Mia’s soft spoken talk-sing and straightforward backings, this tape nevertheless is mesmerizing from start to finish.

While the collection is primarily folk guitar driven, there is some use of keys which helps to break up any sameness that could possibly derive from the simplicity of the structure of the songs. While I have it on no authority, I suspect this album was recorded on cassette, which adds an additional homespun touch to the proceedings. The songs themselves are hook-laden and in some cases, feature multiple track vocals by Ms. Loucks.

The cassette is nicely packaged with an extended full color j-card in the traditional jewel case.
There is little information on the packaging or the website beyond song titles other than the notation that everything was written, recorded and performed by the artist.

I find myself curious about some of the other releases on this label and hopefully some of them will filter through for reviews. Be that as it may, this is a highly enjoyable, if not a tad, uh…unique offering. If you’re inclined toward outsider music, this is a sure bet.


-- Robert Richmond

“Five Pieces” C30
(Histamine Tapes)

Germany’s Dominic Razlaff takes to task a slew of reverb-soaked synthesizers, obfuscated field recordings, destroyed tape loops, and, most novelly, a ukulele and a cavaquinho, to churn out some insanely hyper-saturated, quasi-oppressive drones; &through these last two (the lutes’ wooden cavities, specifically) he unapologetically harnesses and weaves in some fairly shrill overtonal whisps and bulldozer bass feedback, yet still manages to remain fairly pleasant, if not a touch morose. All in all, this is still a gloriously relaxing set of drawn out tones; only when you crank it up to 11 will the deeper, grittier intricacies reveal themselves; and maybe that’s not everyone’s cup of tea? Good thing this is so versatile! 

Depending on the reverberant qualities of your listening chamber, dynamic response of your headphones, and/or volume choice, “Five Pieces” allows itself to expand and assume the shape of easily a handful-and-a-half of varyingly perceivable albums. Choose your own bummer adventure!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

“Lonely Psalms” C34
(Histamine Tapes)

The first half of Aisuru’s “Lonely Psalms” is an ambling flotilla of over-saturated submarine drone-swells that shrug off glitchy, white noise reverb-runoff in currents toward the surface, their slow, minor chord streams melding into an ever crushing melancholia along the disphotic/euphotic border. There, above this mid/mid-low range of depth, only a slight crest-disturbance of hazy static overhead illuminates the zooplankton and krill of blown-out production. Forgive the marine parallels here, but did I mention this tape was dubbed onto an old, beat-to-shit Beach Boys rescue?*) The warble and decay will only add to this unwieldy beast as time/play goes on!

Side B starts off with a left hook** and then trades its KBD vibe for a more Rose*** one, rounding out the tape’s lonely, lost-at-sea feel for a more recurring-memory-loop/rescued-and-beaten-but-homeward-bound one. For an engaging nap-xperience****, put this on and lie down in the afternoon sun for a pleasantly woeful, if not outright discombobulating surprise.


— Jacob An Kittenplan

*Histamine Tapes makes it a point to not add to the carbon footprint as much by dubbing their fresh hot takes of ambient/experimental bliss/weirdnesses onto old hat thrift-town dinosaurs like said tape above)
**don’t wanna spoil the mood-twist for ya, k?
***as in Rose/Reuben Sawyer
****bonus points if you have a water bed!

“Gardiner’s Bay Phantoms” C38
(Histamine Tapes)

Hovering juuust over-top a median surface of oceanic white noise reverie, Cario Canio proffers tide-bound drones that keep his (mysteriously) misted, nautical visions illuminated sufficiently enough to witness AND still open enough to add your own thematic, fanciful daydreams alongside.

Knowing that this tape is inspired by sea-faring ghost-lore, it’s pretty much impossible to disassociate the sound of distantly lingering fog-horn beware-alls with [CC’s] lowest-of-lower-Hz swells (?) that underlie* the first half of this tape***.

Played at a low-moderate decibel level, “GBP" is tantamount to lugging the beach (and its local history’s tall tales) straight towards your livingroom jambox; but amplified To the Max, it’s a melodrama of boisterously buoyant proportions most inescapable! The attentive youth (or at least those who have also appropriated the term) would use the adjective “epic" to describe this release, easily. Give it a few meditated listens, with great headphones, and fall in love!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

*much like any RALE release, the experience of listening to this release is dramatically undercut by speakers lacking dynamic output**
**ie: shitty speakers host less than desirable/intended results, right?
***second half being a Bonus Track reward-addendum that’s equally as engaging as the initial release, though more Basinskian in loopering than the first three tracks’ sprawling ambles. 

"La Vie Prend Une Eternite"
(Flower Sounds)

On a hot pink tape, with spray painted and hand colored covers, sits fifteen tracks of charming and joyful post-whatever electronica. Choppy and cartoonish, sounding as bright as the physical shell containing the music, this collection of ERRSFORRS recordings is a pleasant throwback to the early 00’s bedroom electronica scene. Remember Myspace media players? How about hastily made CDrs left around local bars hosting hipster DJ nights? Sometimes, and usually, those wouldn’t be good, and would end up in the rubbish once your hangover cleared up. Sometimes, but more rarely, you’d find something charming that you’d leave on repeat while counting cracks in the ceiling waiting for your hangover to clear up.

The bandcamp page claims these recordings were built in Northampton. Oh, Northampton. A town as cherubic and discombobulated and whimsical as “La Vie…” A land for the pre-post-grads, a stop off to be your artiest self and drink and love and grow until you get the itch to move to a bigger city, or a communal anarchist farm in the mountains.  ERRSFORRS gave us a love letter to Northampton. But the Northampton of your twenties. Cold, wet across town walks after last call. Caffeine jitters on Sunday afternoon. The pure excitement of just creating, having the time and freedom to be creative without pretense or pretension. The way we spent our days before everyone discovered yoga and crossfit.


-- Michael Barrett

“Open Color” C35
(Histamine Tapes)

Blanket Swimming (aka MS’s Nicholas Maloney) is an incredibly dynamic sound artist who employs all your favorite SOTL chops (tonal swells, feedback, low-flying field recordings) and ups the ante by further peppering his compositions with either ominous loops or distant/subtle toasty-souls-of-the-damned wails (tasteful and restrainedly, mind you) for maximum sense-heightening. 

“Open Color” feels suspiciously like an expertly-DJ’d "Best of” compilation, as it touches on all of what makes the Ambient-Drone sub-genre (and Histamine Tapes, out of VT, for that matter!) such an engaging, useful resource for both relaxation and focus, depending on your aim and time of day.

Listen to the mesmerizing mix via good headphones for best balanced results!


— Jacob An Kittenplan

“Coral Music” C37
(The Gertrude Tapes)

While I’d prefer not to Sleep With the Fishes just quite yet, I sure wouldn’t mind taking a nap with 'em on some guarded atoll whilst listening to this “Coral Music” release, Aaron Russell’s debut album as a solo, minimal electric guitarist.

&if his instrument could take a slow walk down memory’s shifting shores, this six-string soliloquy might be just what it’d mutter to itself; recurring thoughts (notes) stretching out (reverbed) over long expanses of mood to color the following frenetic fancies (next movements) that all deep reminiscing doth yield. 

With equal punch dedicated to sympathetic strings ringing and quick bursts of top-speed noodlery, AR’s first contribution to the Gertrude Tapes catalogue makes for a pleasant mid-afternoon respite amidst the backdrop of a hectic day’s wrapping itself up. I personally dug this the most as an accompaniment to the backdrop of tapering off rush hour traffic, but it’s simple enough to be incredibly versatile like that.

—Jacob An Kittenplan

“The Stubborn Organic Emblem of Social and Biological Survival” C40

“The Stubborn Organic Emblem of Social and Biological Survival” is a macabre, 40 minute radio drama that mixes equal parts gore and dystopian eco-fantasy. The story line is as dark as it is bizarre, with a backing soundtrack equally unnerving.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

MATCHI “Oblivion EP (Abridged)” / “A Lil Something Wrong with Cute” (self-released)

“I’ve never seen your stupid fucking show.”

Thus begins the “Oblivion EP (Abridged)” by Matchi, half of this tape that also features “A Lil Something Wrong with Cute,” and thus ends my engagement in any meaningful way. Is this bad music? No. Not even a little. Fuzzy throwback indie punk, dream scuzz, Veruca Salt circa now. You will like that very much, because there you are. I see you. Music is good. Music is fun. Listen and be amused.

No, I do not engage because the anxiety of youth is wasted on the likes of me. I will not blow bubbles of gum toward you. I will extend a conciliatory arm. I am the great mediator.


“Year of Solitude” C46
(Castle Bravo Tapes)

It’s generally German Army’s MO to travel to some inspiring, non-USA spot, get a feel for the local vibe, bottle that up, come on back to Pomona, CA, & infuse it with their own brand of cyclical noise, so “Year of Solitude” is quite the departure. Instead, it sounds pretty much like each person spent a year locked up in separate Hoosier storm cellars, huffing black mold & communing with the half-frozen moans of lead water pipes and hollow knocks & internal explosions of coal-burning furnaces. It’s grimier, heavier, more industrial*. 

There are still a few Eastern-tinged themes visiting a handful of tracks, but all in all, this release stays solidly just short of spooky, certainly ominous, & most definitely top-quality GeAr output. 

—Jacob An Kittenplan

*straight up “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse” vibes up in here!

KUPKĀ “Agony and Extasy” (Verydeeprecords)

So this is where we are now, eh, Kupkā? We have a little agony, we have a little extasy [sic], and we understand each other, the universe. Is that how it works? Is that what we’ve become, a strict dichotomy, a caricature of ourselves? Where’s our nuance, our depth? Where’s our HUMANITY?

Look, I apologize for the outburst there, but do realize that it’s just what your “tones and drones” do to me, you know what I mean? They sink in, get all up in that spongy mass of brain situated somewhere in that skull of mine. They make me think uncomfortable thoughts, make me question what it is everything’s all about. It could just be the ones and zeroes, or it could be the organisms reproducing rapidly under the microscope, but I just can’t seem to get a sense of scale right now. I may be my normal six-foot self, or I may be hundreds of billions of miles across. Agony.

Extasy. That’s it, isn’t it, Kupkā? Just gotta pinpoint the extasy and I’ll have it. Then maybe there’ll be a balance, an equilibrium, a moment of transcendence. But I’m not there yet, I’m still percolating in your primordial sauce, your secret star potion, your magnificent ooze. I’ll percolate there for a while yet, drifting from one thought to the next, unable to break the stasis and get a grip. Unable to center.

We can’t all be you, Kupkā. No matter how goddamned hard we try, we can’t all be you.