AARON OPPENHEIM “Cumberland County” (Full Spectrum)

This is sort of a surprise coming from a Real Life Rock & Roll Band member, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore, I dunno. Cumberland County is three longform experimental pieces that Aaron Oppenheim recorded and then ran through software that turned the source material into a mosaic of pixilated sounds, fragments upon fragments of data input and then spit back out into an unrecognizable and fascinating whole. According to Oppenheim, Cumberland County stands as “a tribute of sorts to … Windham Hill … and their particular strain of New Age music.” It’s certainly a head trip through esoteric landscapes.

The three pieces each have a distinct flavor to them. “September Seas” runs piano compositions through software until its unrecognizable in its original form, but over the course of its ten minutes becomes a new, hybrid entity that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Orange Milk catalog. “Many More” starts along as a high-pitched, cut-up digital blitz, until it coalesces into a surprising ambient drone. “Brick by Brick” is a twenty-minute evolution of acoustic guitar work mulched by a “Sanyo TRC 9010 cassette transcriber,” which loops and layers and distorts the guitar into strange, alien alignments that nevertheless whirl in enchantment until they, again surprisingly, sputter out at the end.

No rock, no roll here. Just a fantastic entry into the Full Spectrum catalog, and one that’ll have me coming back to Aaron Oppenheim’s work in the future.


INDIRA VALEY “Yemas” (Antiquated Future)

Singer, poet, experimental musician, and actual living spirit Indira Valey uncorks the bottle and lets the genie out of it on Yemas, a wonderfully original freak-folk ritual from the surrounding Portland, Oregon, woodlands. Like a collection of séances more so than a collection of songs, Yemas taps into that natural ancient elemental aura, weaving gossamer atomic threads and connecting them via symbols and runes, a pagan call to action, or at least to attention and remembrance. This incredible celebration of life and physical and mental connection through secret and universal language fills you with its magic and its joy, lifting you from an existence marked with meaningless drudgery into a realm where so much more matters, and more importantly. It’s easy to get lost in the mysterious atmosphere, and you might even come out the other side forever changed in some way.


FINAL COP “A Structure of Violence” (Clan Destine)

Among the misfits littering Glasgow label Clan Destine’s catalog, Final Cop fits right in. The German Army side project makes negative music that sounds like the visible representation of the j-card cover’s gun- and knife-wielding everypunk: blackened, false-color rhythmic lurches toward an insignificant target that you gave everything to try to take down. Misplaced anger begets misplaced chaos. You haven’t really thought this through.

A Structure of Violence is here to help you get back on track, to center you on a path toward productive disruption. It’s like harsh industrial manifesto that gets in between your ears and agitates you until you feel like you’ve been shaken by factory-grade canning machine or something. Then it fills you with dread – dread for the future, dread for yourself, dread for your soul. Blistered in infernal forges, the death-electro tracks on A Structure of Violence are coated in crust and seared to indigestible ash. It’s an appropriate sound for an appropriate motivation.

But that’s just it – the fruits of violence are like crust and ash filling your mouth till you choke on that anger and that desperation. Is whatever’s left worth fighting for?

Let’s put down the gun and the sword and figure out a real way to make a difference. That still doesn’t mean you can’t rile yourself up from time to time with a little bit of Final Cop action.


BEN TAVARES “Janitor of Lunacy” (Endangered Species Tapes)

“I’ve lost a friend and I don’t know why” – that is emblazoned on the inside of the j-card, the front of which is a doodled caricature of, probably, Ben Tavares. It’s a somber note, but it might be referring to, say, a computer whose hard drive finally gave up the ghost, or a treasured guitar that melted in the microwave. The possibilities are fairly endless.

Tavares wreaks havoc with manipulated guitar feedback, giving form to low-end squalls, the kind that precede massive nor’easters. But the nor’easters never come: the pacing is deliberate, allowing the instrument to drone on into infinity (if it wanted to), and Tavares never lets anything off the leash, keeping the storm at bay. For a dense, roiling fog of ambient guitar work, look no further than Janitor of Lunacy.

Maybe the missing nor’easters are the lost friend ...


“Survival Burden” C42
“Anura" C56
(Sivilised Recordings)

Welsh tape-slinging sorcerers, SIVILISED, have lined us up with a really great pair of tapes to get lost in, and I humbly suggest enjoying them back to back as I have for the past week or so!

Onus’s “Survival Burden” starts out with the mood of some wizard captain’s hazy tale of sailing seas of fog and seductive miasma-burned-aura, his declarations weaving violently back and forth between manic and stoic, the baritone guitar work and bass lines independently choking the atmosphere further, the ritualistic percussive mantras flirting with overwhelming fervor; make no mistake, Onus know how to kick out some seriously thick grooves and still keep on an ambient tip, still urge the mind to wander a thousand distant shores while still being spellbound by their tidal pull.

Enter into this equation Atlantikwall’s “Anura”, a palpably sweat-palmed conjuring pose, a blitzkrieg of alarm clock persistence, bleating disembodied organisms half-orgasming in electrically syncopated throes of bliss and confusion. Between these two bands, a spirit-DNA is shared around post-punk aesthetic, the desire to maul your mind into submission (one through enchantment, the other with melodic estrangement), and just outright being reminded how goddamn good the 90s were for East Coast/Midwestern (USA) indie bands like June of 44, Lungfish, & any number of Louisville visionaries!

These two cassettes come in sexy O-Cards with understated printing and are Well Worth the effort to listen to on a repeated cycle for many a day. Headphones or not, separate or together, they’re a series of R-E-A-L trips!


—Jacob An Kittenplan

SEFFI STARSHINE “Virtual Goddess” (Houdini Mansions)

Ambient vaporphonics fill the courtyard, and it’s all we can do to avert our eyes as the menagerie of classical sculptures comes to life, revealing the gods and goddesses trapped within. Seffi Starshine has freed them from their marble prisons. Their glory and aura fill space, overwhelming us human visitors.

Seffi Starshine walks among us, but is not one of us. Wielding aural power as only an immortal can, Seffi brings the enlightenment, guiding all who listen on a path toward infinite peace. “Virtual Goddess” is the record of Seffi’s ascension, an accompaniment of all molecules leaving earth for the great expanse. “Virtual Goddess” is the artifact left behind to guide us, to help us evolve in the right direction.

The mood in the courtyard dissipates, and gods and goddesses are once more encased in stone. Seffi Starshine is gone, never to return.