Jazz nerds Patrick Shiroishi and Dylan Fujioka sure have been hanging out together for a long time, ever since they met at band camp (the activity, not the juggernaut music marketplace) in junior high or whatever. Maybe not that long ago. At least as long ago as that 2013 Chelsea Wolfe record. Chelsea Wolfe, people! That’s not jazz.


This is jazz. And it’s on Orb Tapes, which means that, since Orb knows its shit, the jazz iz good jazz. Both Shiroishi and Fujioka have popped up on Astral Spirits before, so they know what kind of company to keep. (To clarify: that’s good company.) Both players are in fine form here, Shiroishi on sax, Fujioka on the kit, and both have incredible chemistry as they cook up two long-form improvisations (and one short one). Shiroishi’s playing is positively Coltrane-esque, and Fujioka splits time between modern exploratory patterns and straight-up Art Blakey worship. Look, when I start saying “Coltrane” and “Blakey,” you know you’ve got something cooking here (or that I’m full of crap).


Since I’m not full of crap, you can be sure that an utter wonderland awaits your exploration – a Neba Neba land, maybe? OK, that may have gone too far, but adventure surely will follow every time you pop in this tape. Adventure has followed me to this review, which … is it exciting? Doesn’t matter, listen yonder, order below.




CHANNELERS “Isles Beyond” (Inner Islands)

How does one get to a place that’s as Zen as Sean Conrad’s state of mind at exactly all times? Because if someone’s got the secret, I’d like to know about. Maybe it’s not such a secret after all – Conrad’s been running Inner Islands for a minute now, and this is his tenth (!) Channelers release, and first since 2015. He’s recorded solo and with others as Ashan, Orra, Skyminds, and he’s surrounded himself with a likeminded group of astral travelers and interior explorers. The secret is all in the music itself – bottled, distilled, ready for distribution.


Isles Beyond is an exploration of devotional improvisation utilizing mainly acoustic instruments, and the results are stunning (as per friggin usual). No one goes down a meditative path like Sean Conrad does – he’s just the new master of the new New Age headspace, perfectly placing those dulcimer hits and those guitar string plucks and those piano fragments. It’s even more impressive that Conrad does not wield a synthesizer like a crutch – it’s so easy to draw out those tones (and I LOVE me some cosmic synth work, don’t get me wrong), but here the music is much more lived in, the subtleties much more natural, the spirituality much more accessible. How is it that each Channelers release is as gloriously uplifting as the last? It’s that secret again – it’s in the DNA of the music.



FRAGMENT OF JOY “Cosmic Nosebleed” / “Volcanic Brain” (Orb Tapes)

“Cosmic Nosebleed” is exactly the kind of post-hardcore I wanted to play in bands back in college, but I think we were too hamstrung by the allure of psychedelic-length songs to really pare ourselves down. I was right on the verge, right on that edge – but I pulled back into the embrace of odd indie, like Modest Mouse’s first two records. I shrug, whatever, that’s who I was, man. I had a scream that could flay your face – I hid it.


“Volcanic Brain” reminds me what can happen when something like June of 44 blows up in your face – it becomes something along the lines of Planes Mistaken for Stars. This takes me back – I wish I still was that weird aggro/anti-aggro guitar hugger sometimes, one who slink an off-kilter melody from the neck and then stomp the fuzz box when the time came. Dynamics. It was all about dynamics. Fragment of Joy has it down.




BLUE “Only Attitude” (Blacktop Records)

This snotty punk EP splits the difference between Fat Wreck Chords and Vagrant on the scale of fast and accessible. It’s mostly fast, as Ross Miller bangs out seven tunes at a whiplash pace, most much less than two minutes long. The five tracks on side A were pieced together to combat bad attitudes with positivity, and the two tracks on side B were cobbled together quickly “when positivity felt far away.” There’s no denying the overwhelming energy that Miller brings to his music, and pogoing and mosh pits will not be far behind when this tape is played. Let’s be kind in those types of gatherings though – inclusivity, people! Not that we’re getting together anytime soon. With COVID and all.



ASTER “Light in the Valley” (Distant Bloom)


ASTER “Light in the Valley” (Distant Bloom)


Dominic Van Horn is the Memphis-based art teacher who records under the name of Aster. His new tape Light in the Valley is not merely a title describing a collection of music – it’s also a way of life. This is the kind of delicate ambient that overlays the actual magic hour every day of every gorgeous valley in existence. Van Horn lightly produces New Age key textures to accompany sunlight as it catches every soft color, every mote of dust and pollen in the atmosphere. It actively attracts sunbeams through billowing clouds, flecked with pink and offset by the blue sky around them. Dominic Van Horn has spent some quality time outdoors at the right time of day.


As you probably can imagine, the half-dreamed surreality of these moments is fleeting, but Van Horn is an adept guide through this hypnotic state. Wherever he is, he makes me want to be there. Vision and mental image blur with the audio suggestions, leaving a distinct pastel smear across the mind. Light in the Valley is like a deep breath of color that hits every part of your body at once, and allows you to float along on a breeze, rejecting every ounce of stress that could possibly still be in your body. It’s an antidote to the fast pace – it’s a mental vacation you can take every day.



THE IDE OF EARTH “I Dream Seldom That You Emerged on Altered Craft with My Shining” (Orb Tapes)


And here I thought it was me who was bad at Google Translate, but it turns out that The Ide of Earth, aka Parker Weston (PKWST, Butoh Sonics, Smogma, Barrett/Weston Duo, Claustronaut, Sugar Pills Bone, etc.), has no idea what the heck he’s translating. Unless of course I Dream Seldom That You Emerged on Altered Craft with My Shining is an intentional title and not a word frappe expelled out the back end of an internet program. Come to think of it, it could very well be both – who am I to judge?


Awesome title aside, Weston ostensibly goes HNW on us here as The Ide of Earth, but this isn’t your standard blackened blast furnace of sonic hell. Flashing his MO by referring to these tracks as “mantras of pollution for the future of our end,” Weston chucks all manner of junk and chemicals into his media blender and shoots out riotously weird signal after riotously weird signal in our direction. Is he hastening our end with this toxic nastiness, filling our rivers and aquifers and reservoirs with pulsing sludge? Is that what the shining is, this radioactive goo that’s filling our ears until we suffocate or become fully poisoned, whichever comes first?


No, there’s too much experimental fun going on here for that. First, Weston doesn’t hang around one idea too long, preferring shorter pieces so that he jump from one thing to the next. Second, again, this ain’t the most blackened death noise there is. Third, the variety is such that it keeps you on your toes, keeps you upbeat, keeps your energy cooking. That’s what makes this such an active, engaging listen. Now, I wonder what this review would sound like if I translate it into German? Hmmm …



HASSNI MALIK & NICHOLAS LANGLEY “Music by Hassni Malik & Nicholas Langley” C60 (Third Kind)


Fifty is a lot of releases, but that’s where we find our pals Third Kind in July 2020, sitting on their fiftieth release as a label. Fifty! It’s hard to make the case that there’s not a single misstep for a label ushering so much music into the world, but you’ll have to take from me, a noted expert, that there’s not a single misstep in Third Kind’s catalog. Can you believe it? I barely can, and I’m the one writing/stating it.
This isn’t the fiftieth release. That honor went to Bary Center’s Guide Me Through the Hills of Your Home, which you can read about right here. This, on the other hand, is the first release, THIRD01, reissued and repackaged in celebration of the milestone. Good luck getting your hands on a copy of the old one, because you probably won’t be able to unless you scour Discogs or know Hassni Malik or Nicholas Langley personally, and even then they’ll probably point you to the reissue. But that’s OK – because this new thing is quite nice in its folded cardstock packaging, and it also features brand spanking new artwork from Tiny Little Hammers. Yes, that Tiny Little Hammers, the good one!
Malik and Langley, the latter of whom runs Third Kind (like you didn’t know), also have performed in beloved UK combo the Vitamin B12, so this is sort of like a side project for them. The two of them twiddle knobs and beam in transmissions from distant galaxies through the satellites they’ve clandestinely sent into orbit, recording the mesmerizing output to tape. Each of these three pieces were improvised (the titles include the word “Improv” as well as a date), but it doesn’t matter. It all sounds like communication, from outer to inner, then inner to inner, maybe back to outer, but that’s not so important. What is important is that TLH made this tape look like a sci-fi novel, and that’s super awesome. It sounds like the soundtrack to a sci-fi novel. Also, looking at the tape itself will probably get you high.
So celebrate along with Third Kind and the rest of us, and take a trip down memory lane with Music by Hassni Malik & Nicholas Langley. Sounds as fresh now as it did then.

THE WEIRDO FROM ANOTHER PLANET “Broken Fence Syndrome” C30 (Self-Released)

The Weirdo from Another Planet (aka Fidelity Astro [siiic]) has broken free from the hip-hop beat here to re-examine their relationship with tones & tropes far beyond the comfort zone. 

Throughout this half-hour set (same on both sides), you’ll find War o’ the Worlds dramatics & fantasy film theatrics paired with droning organ layers that ingest themselves on the regular. 

You’ll find galloping drum machinations struggling under driving bass & tiny-room feedbacks that already obfuscate already obscured chants & passing vocal utterances.

There will be bleeps & bloops a-la dial-up chaos corralled. Tribal whoops blending into industrial percussives paired with early techno-treble pew-pew-pew onslaughts. 5/4 and 7/8 riffs. Some stoner/grungy themes…and chiptune…amidst turntablistic tendencies. At the end, there’s an “epic”* indie-new-age meld that brings me back to the stretched-out interludes of Christie Front Drive.

Listen with headphones and an adventurous heart.

—Jacob An Kittenplan

*as defined by “kids-these-fucking-days”

CONTAGIOUS YAWNS “Dream of Consciousness” C39 (Specious Arts)

If you couldn’t get enough of “Work and Non Work”*, but also wouldn’t mind swapping out those ghostly/catatonic vocals for passing, disembodied movie non sequiturs (and the occasional smoky horn accompaniment), has Contagious Yawns got a hazy beat tape for you!

Good for watching the sun finally break through impressive cloud banks.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

*an early Broadcast compilation

GOLDEN HALLWAY MUSIC “Rules & Chance” C51 (Self-Released)

With so much reverb and wah/warble bouncing off the walls, this nearly hour-long electric organ journey jauntily paces the shiny golden halls of echo and grandeur like a danger-free victory-lap in an 8bit RPG. Perfect for long, mid-fast paced, headphone-strapped walks along paths favored and mysterious!

—Jacob An Kittenplan

JEF MERTENS New Music for Mouth Harmonica” C30 (Dadaist Tapes)

NM4MH is one of two things; it’s either:

A) Somebody unapologetically huffing around with a harmonica and some extended effects pedals…


B) an admittedly aleatory but nonetheless strongly-intentioned simultaneous mixing of the most venerable tones concerning long-range sonic communications devices between mountainsides AND the dying breath of the steam engine.

Think: Spaghetti Western.

Think: Deep valleys and soaring vistas echoing the tremble of exhaled exasperations.

Think: Chirps, coos, roostering, high-tide’s arrival.

This is either a deep listener’s delight, a semi-antagonistic exercise in controlled room feedback (a la CAVITY*)/ambiance, or…just annoying. Or all three, at varying intervals.

Be adventurous & play loud in an unpadded chamber!


—Jacob An Kittenplan

*perhaps FL’s best buried secret

KRĀLLĀR “big sad” C54 (Amek Collective)


A tape is always a winner when it starts out recalling the incidental music playing over the bottom-of-the-wishing-well scene in Goonies (is that rich stuff?), that sparkling melody of wonder and awe, the minor key suggesting something’s just off enough to set that fascinating discovery on edge. I guess if you’re a bunch of kids dodging the booby traps of a long-dead pirate while being chased through hidden tunnels by wanted felons, then any such moment will be a little more stressful than it needs to be. But that’s what growing up is all about, isn’t it? Being able to handle the massive amounts of disappointment in between fleeting instants of satisfaction.

These kids have grown up and are krāllār, at least the ones who get it, you know? (Not the actual Goonies – they grew up to be adult actors, except for Chunk, who’s a lawyer!) The human entity behind krāllār is actually called Ivan Shentov, and Ivan premiered the material that would become big sad at Amek Bummer Nights 2019, a live event hosted by Sofia-based tape label Amek Collective (Sofia’s in Bulgaria, and Amek must be gotten hip to by you if you have not been hipped yet). Shentov makes huge sounds, which might seem odd considering Shentov works his magic in drone (and, sure, noise I guess), but if you haven’t figured it out before now, Shentov’s “drones” can work incredibly as soundtrack material. It’s amazing what you can do with a mastery of tape collage!

Because that’s what big sad is: a massive slab of collaged tape loops and feedback and effects. After the Bummer Nights performance, Amek’s Angel Simitchiev begged Shentov to record what he’d just done, just so Amek could properly introduce krāllār to their exponentially expanding (I can only imagine) audience. In a studio setting, the material was brought to insane life, as if it was conjured via black magic and properly mixed and mastered. So what you hold in your hands (I imagine you’re holding it in your hands, and if not, please rectify that) is an incredible document of the overwhelmingness of life crushing down on you, but it’s only overwhelming because you started out with so much hope anyway. That hope’s not all gone, but it’s sure running out. It seems like krāllār’s just as confused and bitter as you are. You guys would make a good team.

But all that hope ends the minute you ride up Troy’s bucket.


UNDERWORLD ORCHARD “Underworld Orchard” C37 (20/20 Records and Tapes)

Baltimore trio composition: Two witchy vocalists, one banjo, one heavily-pedal’d electric guitar. Perhaps a cavernous recording room? A slew of towering, immaculately rusty candelabras? Three or more wax-splattered skulls* of varying charismatic megafauna?

Underworld Orchard sets up a serious M-O-O-D with their MountainMan-meets-IndiraValey mix of dark, harmonic vocal blends, story-telling asides, buried, atmospheric string-amblings, and str8 up spiritual lamentations. 

Not exactly an upper, this is a great soundtrack for candle-lit watercoloring or just actively examining the backs of your eyelids amidst the flicker of a nearby red tea light.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

*legally and respectfully obtained, of course

SLEEVE “Sleeve & Mala” C28 (20/20 Records and Tapes)

Sharing some serious sonic DNA* with the likes of Grizzly Bear, early Clientele, and Bats & Mice, Baltimore’s Sleeve kicks out some seriously noisy/psychy indierawk that’s as catchy as it is quirky. Driving bass and busy drumming boosts jangly guitars and earnestly half-boasted vocals that never overpower the delicate, artful arrangements. Throw in some odd xylophone and room noise and you’ve got some great city-traversing that’s energizing enough to get you through the morning and then some.

Good headphones’ll help you find all that buried treasure so low in the mix.


—Jacob An Kittenplan


UV RAPTURE “Cardea” C30 (Vernal Pool)

Gracefully fitting in* between indie-divas Björk and Julia Holter, Providence, RI’s Rachel Asher, under the nom de guerre “UV Rapture”, paints up half-trancy/half-dancy dreamy synth-pop with production precision. Her just-an-ounce-heavier-than-ethereal vocals float gently above warm and twinkling synthesizer ambiance and supporting drum machines, stalwart bass, and a caché of supporting/accenting guitar licks somewhat reminiscent of Mazzy Star, without being in any way a reboot. 

Great study music or for just sitting on the porch with iced tea, watching clouds drift along.


—Jacob An Kittenplan

*and how!

ANDREW WEATHERS ENSEMBLE “The Thousand Birds in the Earth, the Thousand Birds in the Sky” C40 (Full Spectrum)

If you’re going to go out, why not go out on top? Andrew Weathers, Full Spectrum label head and mastering expert extraordinaire (honestly, how many of the tapes in your collection has he gotten his paws on?) has decided to retire the “Ensemble” moniker after this release, the fascinatingly titled The Thousand Birds in the Earth, the Thousand Birds in the Sky. Why? What could possibly prompt the dissolution of such a consistently excellent project?


Turns out a little wanderlust is all. Andrew Weathers just wants to do something new, and, as such, he actually is going out on top with the Ensemble.


Wanderlust, or something adjacent to it, inspired Thousand Birds anyway, as Weathers’s frequent jaunts across the West Texas desert kicked neurons into gear within his brain, often igniting the spark of inspiration on those lonely highway drives enough that he’d have to quick run to an instrument whenever he’d get home to get everything out of his head that cropped up along the way. The result is four sprawling, flowing tracks, each one a sun-damaged psychic trip to the edge of endurance.


So now that you’ve looked through all your tapes and realized Weathers has worked in some capacity on 85 percent of them (give or take), you won’t be surprised that there’s a long list of collaborators on board to help him realize the Ensemble’s vision. Everybody gets equal footing, and the result truly sounds like a collective effort. Still, it never feels overstuffed – in fact, it always feels airy and lightly melodic, never dense or constricted. Thousand Birds mimics the desert itself, spreading out, endlessly, in all directions, promising visions and truths to those willing to approach it on its terms.


There’s road-movie aspects to it, kosmische, 1970s fusion, drifting folk, and even Autotune! Basically, anything anyone with a predilection toward any of those things could want in their Ensemble releases. (Even though most of us don’t immediately think of Autotune as such a necessary ingredient – how wrong we were …) So if this is indeed the end of the line for the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, it couldn’t have closed out on a higher note. Can’t wait to hear what Weathers himself has up his sleeve next!



DUSTIN LAURENZI’S SNAKETIME “Behold” C28 (Astral Spirits)

Dustin Laurenzi’s bafflingly great Snaketime: The Music of Moondog LP, a tribute to the late outsider artist (released on what would have been his 104th birthday), has been sold out for a minute. Can’t get it. Not unless you scour back-alley Discogs pages for shifty retailers with OOP Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra wax in their trenchcoats. And they might only upcharge you a little bit. You gotta check the seller ratings. At any rate … Behold! More music by Laurenzi’s Snaketime ensemble, culled from the same performance, is hereby released on cassette tape as … Behold. Four new tunes, now no longer lost to the clutter of the cutting room floor. That’s right, I said Behold! Because you’re not doing nothing if you’re not in on Behold.


Check it: Laurenzi and crew, comprising a who’s who of Chicago and/or Astral Spirits jazz talent, hit up the Windy City’s Hungry Brain with some Moondog interpretations in hand back in 2018. (Pre-COVID.) Why? Because it’s fascinating, that’s why! The collective wound the room into a groovy frenzy, clearly enjoying themselves as they performed Moondog’s tunes. The result is wickedly laid back and sharply loose, as if oxymorons are going to get you in the headspace you need to be in. What you really need to know is that this is a bunch of really friggin’ great jazz players having a great time with a musician’s work they clearly have a deep love and appreciation for. And just because this is an appendix to an earlier document doesn’t mean it’s not spectacular on it’s own. And, to be clear, it is. Spectacular. On its own.



PETER C. BRUNO “Be Linear” C57 (Strategic Tape Reserve)


This is decoy from the start. A relic of the golden age of espionage. I mean, this isn’t even by “Peter C. Bruno” – if the Bandcamp page is to be believed, it’s by the Strategic Tape Reserve Staff, meaning Peter C. Bruno could be anybody. (Or he could actually be Peter C. Bruno! The mind boggles.) True to form, “False Floor” opens the tape with Cold War synthpop, suggesting layers that you shouldn’t see but could if you looked hard enough, or precisely. Spy games aren’t out of the reach of STR’s strengths, and the collective tries its hand at subtle messaging on Be Linear, which, after the “false floor” of “False Floor,” descends into deliberate code. “False Floor” is intended to shake us off the scent – well, at least to mislead anyone who has obtained the contents of this tape in a manner not befitting the intentions of the label. They even suggest you keep the tape rewound to the beginning of side A when it’s not in use to seem innocuous if the authorities ever get a hold of it.


But what’s actually recorded onto this tape is meant for certain ears only. Each track is a list of secret code words expressed over secret synthesizer tones, all of which form an elaborate codebook. When words and tones are transmitted to those in possession of Be Linear, they can use the tape as a cypher to interpret messages. These messages are likely of the life-and-death variety, alerting agents to enemy movements and actions. I can confirm this – since this tape has arrived in the mail, I’ve already received a voice message of synth pulses and carefully intoned nouns that, when compared to Be Linear, alerted me to the fact that I’d left the stove on after heating up some leftover pizza at lunch. This tape has already saved my life!


Or maybe I’ve said too much.


So whether you think this just a complex piece of performance art or an indispensable tool for the freedom fighters still at it behind enemy lines will likely determine whether or not you should even be in possession of this thing. If you fall into the former category, your instructions are to burn this tape as soon as you finish reading this “review” (bleep bloop).



YORISHIRO “II” C40 (Self-Released)

Spain’s Yorishiro's sure carved out a pretty rad niche for themself, pairing stoner rock guitar aesthetic with soft-yet-funky bass lines, almost non-existent percussive accent, and a looooong, sleepy organ drone that forces the question: “Are they lazily rocking out, or somewhat agitatedly relaxing into a dialied in mood?” There’s prolly a fine line, and “II" explores it further in depth than his last release on Constellation Tatsu, “I”.

Think American Analog Set covering Acid King covering American Analog Set covering Acid King covering…

Pretty novel and definitely enjoyable and worthy of back to back repeat listens to get further in the zone(s). Crank up the volume to feel those keys!

—Jacob An Kittenplan

ALEX MAERBACH “Will the Low E Still Be There Once You’ve Come Down?” C60 (Orb Tapes)

Alex Maerbach drafted the Low E Ensemble to help out with this thing, and it’s a doozy. As a “rumination on the IV humors, medieval pseudoscience, alchemy, and gnosticism,” Maerbach and Low E fully lean into the forms and functions inherent in medieval performance, all while injecting it with a healthy dose of twenty-first-century technology and rumbly noise. Ostensibly beginning as drone pieces, each of the three long-form compositions shortly incorporate all the players into a more traditional “band” performance. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for experimentation (because there is!). Acoustic passages appear, as do static and feedback clouds, all making for an exhilarating and astounding experience.


If we were going to dilute the utter complexities of this release into a hamfisted comparison, we’d probably come up with something like “Seaven Teares meets Do Make Say Think at a freak-folk convention (or maybe Voice of the Valley).” But that wouldn’t even scratch the surface of tape closer “Choleric + Phlegmatic,” thirty minutes of heaving exploration and interplay, the roiling tensions and seamless transitions from maddening buildups and oscillations to cathartic bursts of frantic playing. Of course it ends on acoustic guitar and lonely brass and reeds, all atop apocalyptic spoken samples and feedback. If the apocalypse was going to come, and, if my theology is up to par, those medieval folks sure probably thought it would, I’d want it to sound like this: utter uninhibited id ready to go down with the ship.


Plus that artwork … *chef’s kiss*



JOEL SHANAHAN “Frozen Clock Hovering” C84 (across 2xC60) (Ratskin Records)

Joel Shanahan has made quite the name for himself (Golden Donna, Auscultation, et al) peddling highly abstract and energetic electronica for a while now, but this project under his own Jah-given name is something else entirely and, if I may so myself, his best work to date!

Across 84 minutes, JS covers a TON of ground skirting the ambient electronica subgenres, with nervous drone-swells, competing/asynchronous synth hooks that fall in upon themselves into anti-pulse reverse-cascades, and a remarkably tasteful employment of Basinski/Cortini-an decay peppered throughout. 

While a few beats are scattered here & there, the overall feel of this beastly 2xCS is of a consensual haunting, a purposeful study of sci-fi horror in slow-motion, emotionally removed but for the viscous syrup between speakers and recipient earholes. Not party music. Not study music. Definitely melancholy art-makin’ jamz for days, though, & the whole thing sounds great both via headphones and mid-range stereo speakers, making it dynamic to the third power!

The art is also pretty fucking stellar here, with two purty yeller tapes snuggling up in the sleeping bag of a heat-resistant sparkly envelope that’s superglued to two esoteric b/w prints, each kissed with oil-spill-ish accent. Ratskin wasn’t fuckin’ around here ONE BIT!


—Jacob An Kittenplan

SHAME “I Don’t Like You” (Orb Tapes)

“Shame is not here to make friends.” Well duh, not with a name like “Shame”! And, well, also not with a tape titled I Don’t Like You – I probably should have flagged that first. Indeed, Shame, the solo moniker of Abdul Hakim Bilal of Among the Rocks and Roots – whose Raga tape, also on Orb, floored the bejeezus out of me when I first heard it – is as antisocial* a project as it gets, opting for harsh, gristly noise at all costs in order to repel you from Bilal’s presence. And honestly, why would Bilal want any of you in their presence? You’re all a bunch of freeloading, whiny babies. Bilal is right to not want to have anything to do with you.


But then there are the select few who get what Bilal's got going on, who hear the outré sonic mayhem and are pulled in, gravitating toward the center of the hellish concoction. People like me. OK, listen up, gather round – you hear that oscillating static? You hear those sampled shrieks? You withstanding that piercing feedback? You resisting the demonic temptations of that buried whisper? You churning like that pulverized cement? You becoming one with that barely tolerable pitch? You frying on that flat-top stove?




I don’t like you either.


You can hang out though and listen to this. You’ve proven worthy of remaining in Bilal’s presence, and that’s good enough for me.


*Well, I Don’t Like You isn’t totally antisocial – the awesome Orb alum Samuel Goff makes an appearance on “Transmission Dreams.”



THANOS FOTIADIS “Five Triptychs for Upheaval” (Plaża Zachodnia)

Upheaval, clearly, is the act of disruption, of lives interrupted by outside forces that cause palpable changes to the status quo. Upheaval doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing – such shifts can shake off rust, get you out of a rut, point you on a different, better path. Upheaval can be a bad thing too if you’re not ready for it, or if it actively inhibits your ability to procure the basics for living. We could go down that rabbit hole and get ourselves upset about a bunch of things. But you know what I mean.


Thanos Fotiadis, a “composer”/“curious human being,” contemplates the minutiae of upheaval throughout his, well, aptly titled Five Triptychs for Upheaval. Each of the five pieces is set up as a triptych, so you have to cut them into thirds before you hang them on your wall. I kid! Using “a modular system and a Soma Ether,” Fotiadis enacts his commotion on an atomic level, shaking the very molecules of your existence, agitating them with currents and pulses. This feels like drone, Five Triptychs for Upheaval is more a live wire just under the skin, electricity rippling through your body until you’re out of your chair and moving a lot quicker than you were before.


It’s only a matter of time before you leave behind what you once knew and embark on a new and determined path. As Fotiadis says, drone equals time, and he’s there to underlie your processes as they unfold with his drone. Let’s just hope he doesn’t snap his fingers while wearing that Infinity Gauntlet, right? That’ll really get us upheaved!


Sorry, bad joke, but I couldn’t help myself.



BIZARRE STATUE “The Polish Embassy/The Cane Field” C37 (Woodford Halse)

Bizarre Statue is Bill Foreman, onetime singer/songwriter, and The Polish Embassy/The Cane Field is his attempt to shed his former skin. No longer confined to tropes or conditions of his former idiom, Foreman leans hard into esoteric, sprawling composition, more interested in letting his songs breathe deeply, performing novels than short stories. That’s how The Polish Embassy/The Cane Field came to be – this newfound freedom of form released Foreman to pursue incredible new angles and observe hidden corners. Bizarre Statue escaped its amorphous basalt origins and took on a new, untraditional, and distinguished shape.


Each of the two long tracks follows a character through a narrative. The first, “The Polish Embassy,” focuses on a British agent in Cold War Berlin, and the track is appropriately late-1960s chilly and downbeat, veering in and out of a Pink Floyd–ian soundtrack vibe. The Central European locale is as much a character as the agent himself, the crunch of sidewalk snow underfoot as shoulders hunch into trenchcoat and scarf against the wind. “If it’s true that they’re keeping me another year behind the wall,” the protagonist notes to his handler, “I’m going to need that pistol you promised. So give it to me.” Whether or not said promised pistol emerges we’ll never know, but the risk is true, and the loneliness of a secret agent in a foreign land is palpable and oddly mundane, the danger a dull ache behind a perpetual stress headache.


“The Cane Field” points toward hope, though – its character is an escaped eighteenth-century slave groping for freedom on St. Kitts. It’s not remotely easy, and we’re with him as he’s crouched, taking a break, taking stock, thinking about food and about danger and feeling the spark of excitement as a life beckons to him beyond the reach of slaveholders. Still more (More?) Floyd-ishness as acoustic strums and doubled/harmonized voices melt into baritone registers. Maybe it’s a little more Hergest Ridge in its pastoral applications, with Foreman introducing vocals to the Mike Oldfield format. At any rate, “The Cane Field” opens up – again – and any direction you choose is the right one. Well, except for backward – there’s no returning here, only open possibility.


These stories and these songs build on motifs and stretch out till every longing, every striving moment these characters experience demands your empathy. Bizarre Statue hooks you early and easily and refuses to relinquish his spell.




I’m not gonna lie, I have the last Hell Hole Store album on my jogging playlist. So every once in a while, I hear Darko pumping through my earbuds, and that butter-smooth energetic flow kicks me into another gear. I often find myself chuckling at Darko’s wordplay. So imagine my delight when the latest Already Dead batch included the latest Darko the Super tape. IMAGINE IT!


I’m probably gonna upload this one too. Or, uh, wear a big chunky Walkman and play the actual tape, since, you know, this is a cassette site. (Psst: I’m not gonna do that.)


The Devil Defeated continues Darko’s Del/Serch storytelling saga, and this time the Philly rapper takes on the greatest enemy ever envisioned – the Devil himself. Fortunately, before we even hit bar one, we know that Devil’s going down, because Darko said so, and at this point we believe Darko. As impressive as that feat is, it’s not as impressive as the wordplay making an absolute mockery of the foibles of everyday life, ripping a new blowhole in every demonic interlude.


See, the Bible tells us that the Devil is behind every bad thing, like traffic and indigestion and Twilight. So that just means the battle is real, every day, all the time! That’s exhausting, but Darko can do it, Darko can take it on, always, and here with a cadre of companions led by producer Steel Tipped Dove. (Hell Hole buddy Ialive makes an appearance too!) And not only do Darko and crew take on the most malevolent forces of evil, they do it with style and swagger.


Or, you know, you just roll with this great tape and don’t worry about what’s going on behind the scenes. Darko’s got you covered there too.



ALDERHOLMENS FUTURISTISKA “Nutid” (Do You Dream of Noise?)


The trio Alderholmens Futuristiska is rooted in the now, get me? That’s what Nutid means, anyway, “present,” like you gotta be there, you gotta be right there to get what’s going on. Well, everybody, I’m here, I’m right here, so I’m reporting live from life, on the unshakable linear bedrock of time. It’s super easy to tell where I am on that timeline. I’m at the exact point where everything is happening.

That’s gonna be so weird for you future readers.

LEHNBERG (it would be so awesome to have a single, all-caps name), Olle Oljud, and Slim Vic comprise Alderholmens Futuristiska, and they can create quite a racket. They can also create quite a calm, serene atmosphere too, don’t get me wrong – it’s the juxtaposition of these two things that make Nutid such a fascinating listen. The murk of their drift is punctuated by sonic detritus – spinning vortices, blinking lights, sinister undertows – and there may even be human moaning within the morass as well. But every second counts, no matter how long or drawn-out any of this material is. There is no past or future here, no time to dwell on anything or anticipate. The space is all there is, and the AF boys fill it.

So while the overall experience is one of innerspace synthesizer machination, don’t be dulled into thinking that’s all there is. AF is adept at peppering the tones with noisy accoutrement, never allowing any track to sink into its own murk. And that’s right on, right here, right now. Or anytime, who’s to say?