“Inferno” C46
(Puro Fantasia Music)

From the City o’ Angels cometh the puzzlingly cohesive, lo-fi party-bringer, J Dendê, a fast & loose yacht-rocker gone 90’salterna-grunger/pop-punker, who just kinda…well…shreds it up over breakneck drum-machine overdrive and/or croons (like dude from Party of Helicopters, but more sober and bilingual) along with laid back vaporwave jamz. 

The album needs to be listened to, front to back, to really get the whole experience, and that experience is a pretty fuckin’ good time, if not a bit nostalgic. 

Party music! 

Remember parties? 





—Jacob An Kittenplan

VARIOUS ARTISTS “Vulpiano Records Ten-Year Anniversary” C45 (Vulpiano Records)

I got the Knight of Chalices, aka the Knight of Cups, right-side up, meaning, in a divinatory way, that I should be on the lookout for offers, opportunities, and invitations. The card was included in my copy of Vulpiano Records Ten-Year Anniversary, and every one of its 100-unit run (I got hand-numbered 33) contains a similar card. Which one did you get?

The UK label is home to an array of experimental artists, and the title of this release pretty much says it all. And why wouldn’t an artist or label want to celebrate ten years of existence, acknowledging the hard work and creativity and quality output the past decade had to offer? By the time this posts, my site, the Critical Masses, will also be turning ten (although the latter half of that time was spent maintaining a social media presence more than anything, as I wrote for other sites much more than my own), so I get it. It’s as good a time as any to take stock.

Vulpiano starts INCREDIBLY strongly with a track by the rightfully beloved Natural Snow Buildings, whose “Charles Thomas Tester” sets the mood with an ambient dream-gaze track enveloping hushed vocals. The duo is rightfully lauded for their restraint and subtle world-building abilities, and they succeed wildly here. From there we’re treated to varying degrees of minimal electronics and, gulp, chillwave, the melodies and textures intertwining among artists (Delicasession, Xqui, ish10 yow1r0, Enrico Falbo). There’s even some mildly orchestral chamber indie in Anton Rothschild’s track “Wednesday,” delightful instrumental folk from Zapa (“Ghosts”), straight-up synthwave from Taker 51 (“Marte”), and the gorgeous lullaby “Memories from a Dead Star” by Osiris Saline.

But my favorite discovery has to be the inclusion of Derek Piotr’s “Witness.” Long a Piotr fan, I always find the digital shapeshifter a joy to listen to, no matter what spectrum of electronic music he’s tackling at any given time. On “Witness” he channels some of the inspiration he had for Drono, his first truly “drone” album (hence the title), but instead of big, lengthy passages he keeps it under three minutes. Still, fragments of tone are sprinkled across the frequency, peppering the second half of the track with these microdisturbances. It’s like he’s allowing us to reframe what’s come before on the comp in a completely different way, offering us a new perspective on how to approach Vulpiano Records and its anniversary collection.

If that’s not an invitation to an opportunity, I don’t know what is.


“Still" C45
(Wood and Wire Music)

Inspired by the challenge to write and record an entire album all by his lonesome during the shortest month of the year, NY veteran lute player, Jim Goodin, unleashes a sprawling drone-ambient beast bursting with looped string explorations that low, groan, chirp, and bicker as animatedly as any animus-filled vocal chords flexed to date, all wrought via "Lap steel, violin, (and) granular oscillations created, played, triggered using Pure Data programming”.  

All in all, side A sounds like a midnight spaghetti-western themed zoo featuring zoo-ghouls, both foreign and domestic, calling out into the night, and side B is their damned response, a sweet, sweet extra-terrestrial liberation…which is to say, it’s pretty compelling, if not a li’l spooky. Very cool.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

“Cry Me A Highway" C18
( F r e a k s )

Nick Wortham (Healers) has a new solo project, Time Fraud, and it’s a beacon of super-playful, lo-fi synth-pop pastel prismatix, something akin to a test-tube baby cooked up with equal parts The Faint and Mates of State in mind. 

Whimsical organic instrumentation meets gritty synth hints, off-kilter/pop-punky vocals, drum machine drive & good ol’ fashioned DIY work ethic* on “Cry Me A Highway”, and it’s a pretty enjoyable earworm you’ll find yourself humming along with by the second pass.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

*per NW’s bio, the Vox were recorded in the cab of his truck with a mic hanging from the rearview.

“Acid Escape Vol 2” C38
( F r e a k s )

Oakland’s Zachary James Watkins & Ross Peacock play an unwieldy blend of glitched-out, acid-fried-to-a-crisp dub with requisite bass finesse, but also drum machine v. hand percussion drive, dying sampled keyboards, deliciously distracting noise/synth elements & a sneaky sonority that plays peek-a-boo pretty much the whole fuckin’ time, keeping the listener perpetually on the edge of their ear. 

Hard to tell what mood this tape would best help to achieve other than “confused” or “onset of a bad acid trip at the club”…which, at the very least, keeps it interesting, right?


—Jacob An Kittenplan

“Hillboggle" C40 (Red Tape)

So, check this, ya dig; Papa D. Gedalecia lays down some slick banjer lines, right? Plucks, clinks, hot-licks, does the whole lot, right? Then progeny sonny D. Gedalecia comes along, yeah? Snags up those chops, those poses, those sonorous posits & sliiides & such; &so, he, he takes ‘em into his compututationthingamabob, right? Tweaks, twerks, twitches, stretches, iii-sooo-laaates, & further abstractomaphies the whole she-bang, right? Stops this maybe li’l warm-up-gone-shred-gone-warm-up-gone-shred sesh from being just in-tim-mate and just BALLAST-am-phies it all to Mars or Pluto or wherever the hell he’s pointing that sound-freaker raygun or whatever he’s got buried ‘neath his laptop towards.

HILLBOGGLE. More “for" the weirdos than them hammerclaw-homies, for sure, but, HEY! Could turn some heads! Could ‘least bend a few ear-sets t’ward stranger compositions, more adventurous ahm-bee-yan-cés, amirite?


Listen up, fools!

—Jacob An Kittenplan

“Waever“ C20

The Tuesday Night Machines have put out some really fun, beat-oriented stuff over in Köln with those weird-weird-fun-havers, Strategic Tape Reserve, but here, with “Waever”, they swap out the drum machines & samplers & general Good Party Vibes for a modular AE Synthesizer and the somber drones and mesmerizing texture’s in its dynamic wheelhouse.

The overall effect is a touristed waterboarding of the senses, a viscous, heavy blanket, a glimpse of overwhelming isolation as the washes fill and wet every wrinkle of the sulcus with plumb fucking purple woe. It is beautiful-through-desolation, a heart-wrenching deep sea dive into aquatic depressions, and probably great that it’s only 20 minutes long as you’re bound to be holding your breath for most of that time. Perfect soundtrack for aquatic spelunking and/or getting keelhauled in slow motion.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

“The Corner Office" C38

Max Zuckerman illustrates sparkled, opulent muzak-cartoons of characters expressing “the quiet parts…[sung] out loud”,…& they are, by far, the douchiest grotesques one could possibly imagine walking our scenic boardwalks. 

Imagine the hubris, gaudiness, & libido of Bukowski & Kanye melted together, haughtily toe-tapping on the lift floor of some freak maritime vessel involving a submarine with a mirror-ball lit, translucent elevator shaft rising slowly through the heart of a gilded cruise ship & further skyward, to the top floor of a neon-coated lighthouse, one of three atop said vessel. Over the top much? Yes, but accurate.

MZ’s “The Corner Office” is half a dozen long-form tracks of cocaine-itself-snorting-Tom-Selleck’s-thrice-signed-Miam-Vice-button-ups that have been soaked in pastel smooth-jazz, elevator tone, yacht musk/mildew, and blindingly white, white, white wine. So obnoxious, you might not be able to stop listening, once company finally arrives. Beware, but do not be ashamed. GALTTA sure as shit isn’t.

—Jacob An Kittenplan

KIDS BORN WRONG “Giallo” C18 (self-released)

Maybe it’s the expectations that killed this before I even turned it on. Here, according to tape cover and title, I thought I would be getting some fake soundtrack to a fake Italian horror movie or something, along the lines of, say, Goblin or Tangerine Dream, or maybe Umberto – at least S U R V I V E! But no – the rockabilly guitar twangs introducing “Great Mutant” spoke toward a more raucous, rambunctious, unruly reality, one that, sure, hewed much closer to the “Nasty Ass Rock & Roll from Louisville, KY,” as emblazoned on the Kids Born Wrong’s Bandcamp page. I wasn’t going to be spooked – I was going to be pummeled.

Which isn’t always a bad thing.

And Kids Born Wrong do it quite well – nasty-ass R&R indeed, this punk firebomb is a lit fuse in the face of authority, wrapping DIY techniques with southern grit and sweaty gristle. And honestly, it sounds like a bunch of sweaty gristle got together and made this tape. Again, not a bad thing.


VARIOUS ARTISTS “Chthonic Records Presents: It’s Halloween Time” 2x66.6 (Chthonic Records/Almost Halloween Time Records)

We’re at a disadvantage, we music writers. There’s just so much out there, right? Almost too much to cover with any sort of consistency or timeliness. Scratch that – just timeliness. (I’m nothing if not consistent.) That’s why I’m writing about Halloween in the doldrums of Isolation April, and it’ll be May before you even read this. See how that works? This October 2018 compilation – still available, I might add – landed in my mailbox a month or two ago, and I’m just getting to writing about it. And now you know the inner workings of the process.

Meh, it’s not all like that, but that’s how the chips fell for Chthonic Records Presents: It’s Halloween Time, a double-cassette release that clocks in at 66.6 minutes per tape – that’s a really spooky number!* In conjunction with Almost Halloween Time Records, the Bari, Italy, label that gave it a second life in October 2019, Chthonic Records cobbles together a compilation of outsider weirdos that give new meaning to the phrase “horrorcore,” in that there isn’t a lot of horror and also very little core. Instead we’re treated to a bunch of lo-fi mood pieces that run the gamut from seasonal incidental music to trippy sample collages to actual ditties about Halloween itself, and/or creepy goings-on. (Plus extra credit to the dude who calls himself “Charles Dingus.”)

Still, we’re not talking “Monster Mash” or “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” to spruce up a party or anything. It’s more like Cougheteria’s take on a Twilight Zone episode (“The Ghosts We Know”) or Hoops’ funereal dirge (“A Monster at Home”). There’s also Restaurnaut’s usual garbage-can soliloquizing (“I Was Possessed [by a Ghost]”), Painted Faces’ spiked-punch reeling (“Hippy Halloween”), and a surprisingly straightforward turn by Bob Bucko Jr. (“We Are Not All Monsters”). But nothing you can really dance to. Which is totally fine if your Halloween consists of sitting at home, by yourself, sad that you’re not a kid anymore, and slowly peeling and eating every piece of candy you bought for trick-or-treaters, none of which seem to want to ring your bell.

Is that sad, or do you just live in the country?

*Sorry, Tabs Out references just slip in subconsciously now.


AYATOLLAH “Monoambiente Insalubre” C32 (Nailbat Tapes)

Perhaps I’m a product of a certain time, but whenever I hear the word “Ayatollah,” I immediately think to the secretly mohawked caricature at the beginning of the first Naked Gun movie, an utterly classic film (casual Zucker brother political incorrectness aside) – don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. There are very few gags, sight or otherwise, to be found with this Ayatollah, however, the Colombian noise artist Luis Felipe Henao Bustamante, aka Filipo Laresca. This Ayatollah is as humorless as a heavy black turban resting appropriately in place. This Ayatollah is ready to grate the scalp from your head, not adorn the hair thereupon with spiking wax or Manic Panic.

On Monoambiente Insalubre, the sense of dis-ease begins quickly and sustains itself throughout. Ayatollah warps frequencies and piles them on in unsustainable quantities and at unreasonable volumes, intent to crush your head with the power of sound alone. It nearly succeeds – my only escape was to reach for the volume knob to turn it down, but that seems like an easy out for anyone; for me, I happened to be testing Monoambiente Insalubre inside a sonic chamber within a secret lab beneath a disused nuclear silo at an undisclosed location. Turning down the volume literally did save my life. It may also save yours, but if you’re not, like me, a scientist working on clandestine projects, you’re probably already in a lot less danger. 

So, maybe, turn it up?