SAM GAS CAN “Gone Doing” (Already Dead)


Lifer. That’s what Sam Gas Can is, a lifer in the outsider cassette underground. We hear from him periodically, and we rejoice in his release schedule. Listening to Sam Gas Can is like drinking milk: the calcium from the process helps promote strong bones. We feel that health determinant coursing through our bodies. It feels like every day.
Every day of our life this is needed. Gone Doing is the delivery system, and just when we thought we’d have Tascam-damaged shoegaze, we got speak-jazz rap. Just when we thought we got folk’d to the marrow, we heard the transmissions, we perceived the satellites. I remember the day I first heard Beck’s Stereopathetic Soulmanure, and Sam Gas Can’s Gone Doing hits a lot of those scattered-yet-cohesive-in-the-scatteredness’s spots. I loved Stereopathetic Soulmanure at first sight. I feel the same way about Gone Doing.
When you’ve done this for a while, you get comfortable – no, confident in the vision, the focus. Because even when it’s a bunch of crazy ideas tossed in a pot and stirred beyond recognition or intention (bah! Look at me talking about intention!), the result doesn’t have to curdle. The result can be the weirdly unified and secretly brilliant work of a dusty old treasure just waiting to be unearthed from the Northampton, Massachusetts, soil. Is Sam Gas Can a dusty old treasure?
No, we’ve been over this. He’s milk. Music milk for the bones. Life-giving, life-happening.

ISAAC + DR. RUBY “Dragon’s Coldness” C16 (Fish People Birds)


The tour tape is always a tempting proposition for diehards. For Isaac + Dr. Ruby, Dragon’s Coldness represents that ever-elusive artifact for their 2019 East Coast/Indiana (that random Midwestern state) tour. (I guess you gotta go through Indiana on your way to the East Coast from Ypsilanti.) With mandolin and organ and whistle and what have you, Isaac + Dr. Ruby craft quirky folk tunes that every single dorm-dwelling undergrad should have a recording of. The bad news: the tape is sold out. The good news: you can still listen to it on Bandcamp, or even purchase a digital copy of it!
But this is a tape site, so digital files can suck it. If you can somehow find a copy of this lovely little item, you’ll get a stickered Dragon’s Coldness Norelco and a colored-marker-adorned tape shell, perfect for chilling out to after studying for two hours. Plus it’s only sixteen minutes long, so even if you only have time to take a quick break between research papers, it’s perfect for unwinding. Especially with cute/sour songs like “Draw Me in Gasoline” and “Dicks.” Great stuff. Too bad you missed the tour, though.

VANISHING DMC “Vanishing DMC” (Podunk Label)


Having never lived closer than seven hours from Boston, I never had the privilege of seeing the charmingly named Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth live. Fronted by Danny “Monster” Cruz, FDOME was a band for the people – Cruz would invite the audience to grab instruments and play with him, and he’d teach them quick stuff and they’d make songs out of it. Sounds like an absolute blast.
Danny had Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy, and he died of a Duchenne-related heart attack in 2017 at the age of twenty-five. On Vanishing DMC (the “DMC” standing for Danny “Monster” Cruz), recorded in 2016, Cruz felt mortality encroaching. And yet, with Bob Fay (Sebadoh, Deluxx) and Matt Robidoux (Sunburned Hand of the Man, Speedy Ortiz, Curse Purse) in tow, Cruz cranked out weird new outsider fuzz rock like his spirit was flying as hard and as fast as possible. Tapped fully into his creativity, there was no stopping the DMC energy. And we are the lucky ones still living with Cruz’s output, still benefitting from his astounding life. We oughta whisper our thanks to that dude for flying the freak flag and keeping it absolutely real, all the time. Some good tunes too.
So while I probably never would’ve seen an FDOME show or caught Vanishing DMC in the act anyway, since I moved even farther away from Boston, I can at least partake from afar and in the future, reveling in Cruz’s invigorating songwriting on psych-fun tunes like “Dark Castle,” “Doggin’ a Pizza,” “Watch U Fuck” … haha. This craziness just puts a smile on my face. Put one on yours as well, and remember to treat everyone well and help those in need. That’s what I get from this.

COACH CAMPA “If You’ve Got the Hammer” (Already Dead)


I’m a coach as well, just of U10 soccer players. They can get pretty rowdy I guess, but they listen pretty good. They learn, they get better. They play fair. Isn’t that all that matters in the end?
Coach (Ethan) Campa is a different kind of coach altogether. I’m not sure he has a patient approach, or even one that appreciates the learning process. It’s “Get it right or get out!” with that guy. He also plays drums, so he’s constantly hitting something, which isn’t something you can do with U10 soccer players. They frown upon that. But Coach Campa is still a leader, somebody who has to wrangle his “team” for a singular vision. And that singular vision is blistering noise-rock-core-punk, four descriptions of music that I smooshed together with bubble gum and hyphens. They’re kind of lazy, but so what. I do understand that I would be kicked out of Coach Campa’s program with that attitude, but here we are.
Coach Campa’s team consists of other members of his band, and we get bass, guitar, ukulele (!), and trumpet along with Campa’s battering of the kit. If You’ve Got the Hammer is a heavy ride through a barrage of mathematically precise instrumentation, speakers blown out by heavy distortion, octopus drumming threatening to bring the whole scaffolding down upon everyone’s heads. But enough wild instrumentation peeks through the rhythmic onslaught to anchor the freeform freakout of Campa’s virtuosity. Hey, it’s Campa’s band – Campa can do whatever he wants. And his ship is the tightest-run ship you can imagine. Just like my soccer team!

KOLE GALBRAITH “Panna II” C74 (Obscure and Terrible)


Panna II is the champagne bottle smashing off the bow of  Kole Galbraith, Josh Medina, and Sean Waple’s new label Obscure and Terrible (huh), part of an inaugural batch also featuring a cassette drop by Medina’s own Medina/Walsh combo. (I wrote about that one too.) Here, veteran artist Galbraith digs his heels in and rolls through a vast spectrum of texture and noise, utilizing field recordings and loops and manipulating them and slathering them with effects (probably). Drawing on the darkness of history and relations, Galbraith guides us down paths and into hidden corners and clearings, shaking our foundations by what we find there.
Still, that kind of thing is what prepares you for dealing with the world – those unforeseen and unfortunate discoveries catalyze mental processes, getting your dander all up for resistance. Galbraith has resistance in his blood, being a descendent of Colville and Sinixt tribes, and also a member of the Peoria tribe in Oklahoma. Panna II thus plays as stoic observation, taking in the territory, the land, and cogitating toward the next steps in the struggle. It gets under your skin and in your blood, and it pours down from the sky in the rain and whistles through the trees like wind. And still that anger boils at its core, a molten furnace energizing the body and mind toward action.
Seriously, take a listen, see if it doesn’t make you feel the exact same way.

THE BEEKEEPERS “Song Demos” C22 (self-released)


Great job, Nicky Reynolds! On Song Demos, the first of three such releases in 2019, Reynolds whips up a lo-fi power pop maelstrom that would line up nicely next to some Children of Nuggets tunes, or maybe some New Zealand indie records of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The songs are incredibly tuneful and composed, and Reynolds looks really young to be doing this – says me with a critical schoolmarm eye. “Nicky Reynolds, shouldn’t you be studying for your SATs instead of practicing these guitars at such a volume?”
No, I can’t pull it off.
Point is, the Beekeepers is something you should really try to get your hands on if you like a little Kinks with your XTC, or a little garage with your New Romantic. It’s can be a secret between friends, a tape passed back and forth like a talisman to ward off outside influence when you just want to escape. It’s music for hiding behind your book bag and hoping nobody notices you. It’s the crashing waves of self-doubt when romance eludes you, and the exhilaration that there’s something out there for you anyway, even if it’s in the form of a battered yellow tape. Listen!

MENTOS GULGENDO “Mentos Gulgendo” C44 (Endless Happiness)


If the universe was indeed created by lunatics, then I’m almost certain that “Ionesendr,” the first track on the self-titled Mentos Gulgendo tape (“Ionesendr” is seventeen minutes long too!), was also a product of their handiwork. How else would you explain the appearance a lengthy, piercing organ tone that bores into your skull and never retreats? Well, actually, it does retreat in favor of some very nice psychedelic kosmische synthesizer, but still, that’s not the point! The point is, why do it in the first place unless you’re a lunatic, and apparently one who helped create the universe?

See, Mentos Gulgendo is a fictitious philosopher, so we’re getting into some nice sci-fi territory here, but who’s to say that Gulgendo is not actually real and Gulgendo’s philosophical musings are not actually the backbone of the entirety of existence? At least allow for this type of appearance in a theoretical multiverse, because everything that could ever happen has happened/will happen. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The artistic endeavor known as Mentos Gulgendo, the duo of Antonina Nowacka and Mila Nowacka, channels this madcap synopsis into a reverberating drone, “electromagnetic waves … weave a field of transcendental beauty penetrating the structures of each other.” I agree, if Mentos Gulgendo sounds like anything, it’s electromagnetic waves penetrating solid structures and turning them into a “liquid, unsustainable fat.” I mean, if we’re stacking the universe up like this, it only makes sense that we’re all pretty much melted butter in the end.

The piercing becomes more periodic poking by the time “Suruliandr” rolls around, which resolves into rhythmic pulses and processed operatic vocalizations. It’s as if we were created, pierced, pulsed, churned, and poured, then hardened and made to endure the throes of whatever it was that actually did all this work in the first place. But what does it matter? Because this, in fact, was created by two people. Maybe they’re the lunatics. Or … the visionaries?


MANURE MOVERS OF AMERICA “Cut the Shit” (Already Dead)


I love that we’re just skipping straight to the puns, the humorous one-liners, the cockeyed references. It’s easy to do, especially if you’ve named your outfit “Manure Movers of America,” which Manure Movers of America have done. And true to form, the MMOA are heaving all kinds of refuse in all kinds of directions, sifting through the detritus of this country and commenting on it via noise and frequency. Also true to form, MMOA seem pretty critical of the results.

But let’s not dig in too deep here (PUN INTENDED), because then we’ll miss all the noxious sounds piping through the speakers. Yeah, this is noise, and yeah, there’s a track called “Get in the Van” (help me count the levels of humor there), but you’re going to miss the subtleties if you’re hoping for a Hank Rollins cameo or a wall of harshness obliterating you. MMOA is a careful entity, weaving layers of rumbling turmoil throughout things like “Gift Horse” and pinging odd nodes on other things like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Shit” (pun/reference alert!). Plus, haven’t you always wanted to scream “Hardly Workin’!” in answer to that ubiquitous question you’ll obviously be asked by some jagoff customer someday? MMOA helps you do just that with knives of feedback.

So do it, Cut the Shit and get over yourself. Get on with your life. Manure Movers of America have certainly done so, and they’re here to help you out.


TRISTAN MAGNETIQUE “3” C32 (Muzan Editions)


Anybody else find it odd that Tristan Magnetique releases shrink in size as the number of said release increases? The first TM jam was a triple cassette on Otomatik Muziek, and I wrote about it here. For those of you keeping score, that’s release number: 1, tapes in release: 3. For 2, on Cosmic Winnetou (again written about here), TM dropped a double cassette on us – so 2:2. Now we’re on 3, the subject of these words, on Muzan Editions, and we’re down to 1 measly cassette. Turn that into a chart and the line shoots up and to the right at a direct 45-degree angle. What’s 4 gonna be, an unplayable half-cassette released Auris Apothecary style (perhaps filled with sand)?
I only point out this pattern as an observation, not a critique or a criticism. Because if there’s one thing you can’t do to a Tristan Magnetique release is criticize it! (I am, currently, critiquing it.) Perhaps that’s because Tristan is the alter ego of ambient GENIUS (and Cosmic Winnetou label head) Günter Schlienz, sometimes styled “Guenter,” but don’t let that fool you – that’s just for people who don’t want to deal with umlauts). We like Günter Schlienz around here, and by proxy (and evidence), we like Tristan Magnetique too. The fact that he’s finally paired with the equally GENIUS ambient label Muzan Editions seems like a fait accompli, a match that was so destined from the outset of the careers of each that the intersection is almost too banal to even mention.
For 3, Schlienz pared down his gear list to include only a “Casio CZ101 and a few effects pedals,” and with them he crafted another ambient dreamworld populated by field recordings captured around his hometown of Stuttgart. It’s certainly a psychedelic wonderland, the hypnogogic tones and soft-focus palette make for an utterly immersive experience, and that’s absolutely the point – you want these two long-form pieces to simply overtake your worldview for a while, to cause you to float in a half-awake state until the line between awake and not awake completely blurs. It’s easier said than done, but with Günter Schlienz at the helm, it’s easier done than said. And he does it, like, all the time!
Also, Peter Taylor, aka MAbH, did the artwork for this tape, along with two others in the batch.

CONTROL POINT “Dreamer’s Disease” (Hot Releases)


Everything’s a dirge to Control Point. Dreamer’s Disease finds Philadelphian Lindsay Gambone in slow-motion darkwave mode, each track a lurching funeral procession over synthesizers and drum machines. Proceeding at a crawl, Gambone clearly feels an existential weight bearing down on her, like gravity’s kicked up a notch – or exponentially. Her deep, chanting vocals take on a goth sheen, the ritualism invoked in each excruciating moment a demented prayer of deliverance to whatever monster deity lives out in those woods. I honestly don’t want to get too close to it, that’s for dang sure! Regardless, the Control Point MO spreads across this EP’s six tracks, never wavering from the seeming goal of rendering everything in sight and in life nothing more than a sacrifice to some midnight whim. God help us all.

BABIES IN THE BARDO “Babies in the Bardo” C52 (Sister Cylinder)


Every time I look at this tape, I’m like, “Let’s throw another baby on the bardo!” You know, like my go-to phrase whenever I affect an Australian accent – let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie? You knew that’s what I say, right?


So forgetting the general awfulness of babies and barbies and whatnot, Babies in the Bardo isn’t just a fun thing to try and untrip your tongue over. It’s actually the solo minimal darkwave/post-punk (so easy) of Early Day Miners bassist Jonathan Richardson. You may remember Early Day Miners from their tours with and/or their comparisons to Grandaddy (which may only exist in my mind – I connected those two bands somehow, and I may be making this all up, because the internet is NOT confirming my suspicions); you may remember reading about them in blogs at some point back in the day. Either way, at least one of them is back – in tape form!


So “bardo” is the Tibetan Buddhist idea of being in the state between death and rebirth. And that makes sense here, as Richardson uses synth and chugging bass and percussion to get at that and other states of uncertainty, injecting emotional throughlines we can connect to and prop ourselves up against. And no vocals! Or guitars (besides the bass). But mostly vocals, because if anything will annoy me about anything, it’s vocals. But only the annoying ones. Annoying vocals annoy me. Richardson wisely eschews them, and we can thus project our own thoughts onto the music.


Babies in the Bardo is lean, its spartan approach a boon to its listenability. Richardson connects nicely to the universal aspects of his chosen genre.



TOWNER “Towner EP” C13 (Crush Grove)

Presumably the cover is an illustration depicting the back of Towner the four-piece band onstage playing to a crowd of five outraged or indifferent people. It took me a while though – normally the back of the band isn’t used in press photos (or, in this case, images). Towner, which I’m guessing is short for “out-of-towner” (because, you know, the life of a touring band), play it fairly straight, copping mid-1990s indie/college rock that’s easy on the ears and just fine for any dorm room situation. The singer has a sort of speaky-version Black-Francis-meets-Peter-Garrett-from-Midnight-Oil voice. Not hard to enjoy. Dunno why that dude in the tie is angrily covering his ears or that one girl is yawning – there’s nothing really offensively loud, obnoxious, or boring. The texty girl gets a pass – everybody texts at shows.


DEXTER DINE “Self-Assembly” (self-released)


Self-Assembly, Dexter Dine’s 2019 self-released tape, does a nice job mixing sound collage and disparate source material with melody. Utilizing every electroacoustic trick in the book (probably) (what book?) Dexter works with an intriguing palette that teeters on the edge of found ambience and Orange Milk-y start/stop experimentation. If Self-Assembly is intended as the story of a mechanical entity gaining sentience and putting itself together, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. There’s some Short Circuitmeets–E.T. thing going on here, and a deep dive into Dexter’s work reveals an imagination at work that dreams way beyond the human experience. In fact, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility that Dexter himself is some kind of sentient machine. He certainly is able to tap in to the nuances and details of mechanical science. Self-Assembly simply serves as an outlet for all that innovation.

J.G.D. AZZOPARDI “Phone Sex for Ducks” C43 (Moon Myst Music)


It’s creepy, I get it. And I live on a retention pond, so I get to see actual duck sex more often than I’d like. But thinking about a duck on the phone quacking away all sexy like while another duck on the other end of the line rubs one out with a wing or whatever gets the ick up in me. It’s just not something I want to think about. The obvious pre-doing-it ducks on the cartoon-strip cover don’t help.


J.G.D. Azzopardi doesn’t give a shit what I think. The Shack in the Barley honcho has decided that no matter what the taboo is, he’s going to break it, and damn my aversion to anatine coitus! On Phone Sex for Ducks, Azzopardi ratchets up the atmosphere, shoving dense noise collage after dense noise collage (four of them!) through my tape deck until I’m squirming on the floor in anguish. On the title track itself, telephone rings smoosh up against audible tension in a Twin Peaks–esque nightmare of wondering if and when the duck will actually answer. The phone continues to ring!


And Phone Sex for Ducks plows down its tense path until resolving itself somewhat with “Cemetery Improv – Sarah’s Grave,” which features some of what I can only refer to as “playful noise” – whatever that even means. It’s an odd, fitting end to this tape, leaving you skipping off into whatever it is you skip off into after whatever it is Phone Sex for Ducks is ends. That is until the skies darken and the aliens come and steal you away. Honestly, talk about a buzz-harsher.


Despite my feelings on the whole subject, this is riveting stuff.



KRIS AND TAVI “Kris and Tavi” (Misophonia)


German Army’s Peter Kris has been known to carefully compose and/or improvise a heady guitar tune here and there (or maybe more like six hundred friggin thousand of them), so it’s no surprise that Kris and Tavi is full of heady guitar tunes. Likewise, Tara Tavi, solo artist and erstwhile performer in Amps for Christ and Auto Da Fe, has been known to lend her “Siouxsie Sioux” (if we’re naming instruments, that can be a good one for her voice – Tavi and Siouxsie approach a similar range and timbre) to musical endeavors here and there, so it’s no surprise that Kris and Tavi is full of righteous paeans. Together, Kris and Tavi send off minimal devotionals into the night sky, hoping for nothing and achieving everything.


These dusty meditations resist the light, opting for evening rituals by firelight, the guitars snaking around the voices and fluctuating together, like they’re breathing fireflies or something. As the hour grows later and the darkness continues to encroach, Kris and Tavi’s enchantments grow heavier, deeper, lifting power from the soil and weaving it through fingers and tongues till melancholy spirits appear and supplicate the gods on our behalf. In the end, the duo is actually doing us a great service – what other kind of pagan experience is going to get you in with supernatural beings? I wanna be on their good side, that’s for sure.



YAIRMS “Hope’s Stable” (Related Records)


Delightful and quirky indie rock from Brooklyn, Yairms delivers the skittery and jittery charm as he weaves an album-length tale about a horsey and its barn. At least that’s what the j-card will have us believe! At any rate, don’t you want to know what said horsey, named Hope, wants to do with her life as she canters out under the stars? I know that I do. Meeting at the halfway point between the Figurines and of Montreal, Yairms and band wrap their arms around the night and dream delicate melodies supported by lo-fi lattices. The allure of the tunes’ unearthly sweetness is overpowering to the point where it’s all but irresistible. Hop on that horsey and ride!

YLAYALI “Here” C11 (self-released)


Supreme blackened noise from Saratoga, New York. Sounds like Ylayali uses melted guitars and hellish feedback to cloak hellishly distorted hellspeak. All light is crushed out. You are only Here, you are only in the midst of the storm. Eleven minutes in the grip of the merciless. It slowly crushes you, then smears your corpse over the gravel. Eerie, evil, and enervating – that’s the Ylayali way. Tape’s sold out, but get massacred anyway below!

ANTHÉNE “Protection” (Distant Bloom)


Ambient music is a shield against the world. I often refer to it in terms of things like warm blankets or amniotic fluids (actually, that’s a new one, but it fits) or some sort of covering protecting me emotionally from external forces. It’s a centering tool, a formal way to align my mind and my outlook so that I can face each new day, and each new awful experience (this is the year 2020 after all), with a demeanor that promotes not only my own mental health but that of others – I can project this Zen outward and hopefully brighten someone else’s day beyond my own.


That’s all because of ambient music, which I’ll admit to listening to a lot, especially with this important job of writing for Cassette Gods. (I get quite a few ambient tapes sent my way to listen to and write about – I love it.) And that’s why Protection by Anthéne is such a “duh” kind of tape – it makes perfect sense that someone made the connection that I was subconsciously making and put together an entire  album cycle in its honor. Protection acts a “protective” bubble, causing the outer stimulus to dull and smear into a haze so that it no longer acts as an acute stimulator of the stress centers of your brain. It follows a narcotizing pattern, smoothing as it does the brittle sharpness of the edges and lulling you into a sense of security. Is it false? Doesn’t matter – the outlook changes, and therefore you’re a force for good.


Protection is like walking barefoot through the lawn on a summer’s eve, the j-card following my whim here as breeze interacts with skin. Or is it the other way around – am I swayed by imagery? Either way, there it is again – that Zen follows and flows, interacting with me and others. I could close my eyes as I wander, but I don’t think that’s wise out here in the yard. There are, indeed, trees I could walk into. I guess I’ll just keep my peepers peeled and incorporate everything into my experience. Protected from pain and suffering …


Anthéne is Brad Deschamps.




The Social Stomach is like a death-jazz version of Soul Coughing, with Diana Oropeza’s poetics recited over TJ Thompson’s drums-and-electronics onslaught. You need to be an octopus to understand the coordination, because I’m pretty damned impressed as a biped. The Portland, Oregon, band shares a tape with Body Shame, an industrial/breakbeat monolith that merges with noise-rock for powerful, intense blasts of soul-crushing sonics. So sure, #soulcrushingsoulcoughing is the hashtag you’re looking for, even though that’s reductive and stupid. (Seriously, don’t use it.) Instead, bask in the warm ozone of fritzed wiring and spilled blood as the bands jig and jag all over and around you with metallic objects, sending you probably to the hospital before the tape ends. I am shivering in fear right now of having to get stitches. I don’t like needles! (Or COVID.)




I wonder how much use there is for back-porch psychedelia these days, the Appalachian improvisational style that stares up into the crisp and clear night sky way out in the middle of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not wondering that because I don’t think it’s viable style or a valid way to express oneself artistically, I just wonder, as a collection of entities tied together because we all belong to the human race, have we positioned ourselves to ignore the devotional in favor of the quick and convenient? I sure hope not. We’d miss out on stuff like Trance Music.


Michael Potter, Garden Portal curator and Almanac-er, gets his Electric Nature buddies Michael Pierce and Thom Strickland together every once and a while to perform live in front of Athens, Georgia, audiences, amplified and strangled acoustic guitars clutched tightly in their mitts. The three of them run melodies and tones and arpeggios off each other, the notes combining in heavenly clouds, until an actual, honest-to-god “trance” comes over the players and audience (and listeners at home with cassette tape in hand). They get in the zone, and we get in it with them.


It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to be in the center of that trance, but you have 75 minutes to get yourself acclimated and hopefully on the same vibe. But know this – once the embers of your campfire drift into and overlap your view of the stars, it’s all over. You can keep your eyes open or closed, but the results will be the same: Trance Music will become part of your body and the infinite will open itself up to you. You’ll never encounter acoustic guitar music in the same way again, not after this shakes the foundations of everything you believe in.


Was that too much?

Remember to believe in something, don't just get stuck in whatever life normally chucks at you. There's a hugeness out there that's beyond even anything you can imagine. Embrace it. Take experiences like Trance Music and use them to make yourself amazing.



LEAAVES “12 Worlds” (Strategic Tape Reserve)


Nate Wagner is no stranger to the contemplative. Over scores (scores, I say! Well, several, anyway) of releases, Wagner as Leaaves has dived headfirst into many an ambient deep end, whether using synthesizers or guitars or samples, and he has always emerged from his immersive excursions with enough material to drag us along with him, back into it all. He’s even made an off-the-wall Terry Crews–sampling left turn! That one was wild.


On 12 Worlds, though, Wagner is back to the ambient stuff, drawing on field recordings that came to him from some of his cohorts, and with them in hand, he spins hypnagogic dreamscapes that swirl and dissipate. There’s always a sense of place within the Leaaves oeuvre, and here it’s where you are, your present, yet overlaid with secret realities that aren’t often observed. Fortunately, via delicate playing that intertwines with the found sound, Wagner helps to remove the veil from these secret worlds and allows them to interact with the one you’re used to. It’s a neat trick.


So you can let it all fade into your headphones (you’ll need headphones) as the overlapped worlds of your particular place encroach and intermingle. The sounds flow like inhalations, exhalations, processes of connecting with the molecules around you. I bet you just never knew so many things were there at once, such incredible invisible oddities.



HEATMAP “Pulses” (Dimension Arts)


Disco-punk math-rock band from Philly (represent) hopefully has shared a stage with the inimitable Thinking Machines, because those guys rule. Anyway, Heatmap twitches and herky-jerks its way through the most hooky dance rock this side of DFA1979 or Dismemberment Plan or something in those arenas. Clean compositions, tight musicianship, dark matter energy. Chuck a tape in a deck for a late-night party or an afternoon good time. Or maybe you know the band and can hang out at their practice space. God, this is bringing back so many college memories…

CHORCHILL “Nachtfisch” (Strategic Tape Reserve)


Ride your motorcycle from Istanbul to West Germany. The call of the road, the charm of the scenery as it whips by. The pressure, the danger. Do you have to do it? What’s there for you? The freedom of motion, of impermanence. The unknown.


The sadness.


The music tells stories about stories about images. Thirdhand accounts from Chorchill’s father passed down to Chorchill. The gleam of remembrance, the twinkle of regret in the man’s eye. Apel Okuyan had to do it, made the journey in the 1960s, felt the deep longing for deliverance beyond … something. Injustice? General unfairness? Who knows – he was a “prominent figure in a powerful trade union … before his unexplained disappearance in 1995.” Maybe he was into some deep shit. Maybe he was the man behind the curtain.


Chorchill takes a wistful approach. Delicate synth pads, restrained melodies. He longs to understand a life he never brushed against, the Turkish-German underworld, and how his father knew such stories, such people. Nachtfisch, Okuyan’s nickname, serves as a meditation on the secret histories and fantastic adventures of people in extreme circumstances, imagining in its naïveté a cinematic romanticism of the daily interactions that can never be fully comprehended. And it’s this open-ended exploration of the mundane and innocuous that sets the idea of “underworld activity” in relief. In short, let’s get fascinated about mysteries!



FED ASH “Diurnal Traumas” (Orb Tapes)

Knowing that “all proceeds from this release are being donated to Last Chance for Change, an organization dedicated to fighting police brutality and racial injustices in Syracuse, NY,” kind of puts it in perspective. We’re angry. We’re ready for change. And we make loud and brutal music to punctuate our stance. That’s what Fed Ash is saying anyway. Fed Ash is confronting traumas, diurnal and other, head on.


Holding a mirror to reflect those traumas inflicted upon the powerless by those with power, Fed Ash whips together a seething mass of rage and launches its power out into the world. Drawing from crust, grindcore, and death metal, and sprinkled with just enough noise and samples to allow me to add the word “experimental” to this review, the quartet gears itself up and to full-on molten efficiency and blisters speakers and eardrums along the way. If only protesters could blast Diurnal Traumas on repeat at a high decibel level and aim it at oppressors!


And we see everything on screen, every day, right in front of us. We feel helpless. That’s why a band like Fed Ash, destructively vicious and unflinchingly feral, can swoop in and provide catharsis. Knowing that they stand with those most in need of assistance is an added bonus. There’s safety in likemindedness, and there’s inspiration and fortification too. And heavy, heavy music.