SCHWEBEN “Trees” C32 (Cosmic Winnetou)


There’s an easy connection to make between ambient music and forest wandering. You’re just there, communing with nature, and every sound that surrounds you is “ambient” in its basic form: it produces “an encompassing atmosphere.” Schweben, aka Philipp Hager, takes this to its obvious extreme, marrying field recordings with ambient music (synthesizers and such) to produce “an encompassing atmosphere” that you can take with you anywhere – you don’t have to be stuck out in the middle of the woods to have a similar experience. But what you should have is headphones, because otherwise you’re going to miss out on the subtleties of the delicate sonic experience (which you should already be planning for anyway, knowing that you bought this tape from Cosmic Winnetou).
Each track is arboreal by design; there’s “Arbol del Tule” (Tree of Tule, Mexico), “Tree of Life,” “Lone Cypress,” “Major Oak,” and “Baobab.” Each is a gentle paean to growth, as the long-form, patient tones mimic the development of plants. You can almost see sprouts and buds stretching and blooming as you listen to Trees, the intricate detail of the sounds zoomed in to the organic reactions. Sounds intimate, solitary, relaxing, doesn’t it? It sure does! And it delivers as you sink deeper into the trance, the scent of bark and leaves and needles hitting your nose, the underbrush crackling beneath your boots. Maybe instead of taking the woods with you back into civilization you should just give in and take your Walkman out into the woods – I’m actually thinking that’s the best way to go about this right now.

MODUS PONY “Systemmetry” C5 (Superpolar TaÏps)


This is Superpolar TaÏps cassingle series #6, and I’ve checked out #4 (Qualchan.) and #5 (German Army) already, so you should probably go back and check those out. You’ll also find the likes of Adderall Canyonly, Nicholas Langley, and Superpolar TaÏps’s own bleed Air among the releases (a veritable Who’s Who of the international experimental tape scene – this is your third reminder). This time we’re checking in on moduS ponY, and it’s like this whole series was curated with me in mind. How many moduS ponY releases have I tackled? German Army, Qualchan.? It never stops getting old. And here on “Systemmetry” we get two and a half minutes of lovely guitar, synthesizer, and rhythm track, a mathematically precise, avant-garde replication of a music box. Sure, it’s not really a music box tune, but it follows a similar pace, rhythmic pattern, and simple arrangement that, when taken altogether, sounds like the work of a master tinker, one whose deliberate placement of all elements reveals an intricate connection of each piece. We’ve come to know this of moduS ponY throughout the years, yet we can still marvel at it when it confronts us head on. And yes, this one has an unstreamable B-side too, so get to a tape! “2ystemmetry” is too weird looking a track title to pass up.


GERMAN ARMY “What Brought You Here” C5 (Superpolar TaÏps)


Continuing in the Superpolar TaÏps cassingle series following that Qualchan. one, which also features the likes of Adderall Canyonly, Nicholas Langley, and moduS pony, among others (still a veritable Who’s Who of the international experimental tape scene), we come to one of the most prolific artists you can imagine, the San Gabriel, California, duo German Army. Long known for their “critique [of] US imperialism and nationalism,” GeAr has built their brand on punishing sonics, often bordering on electronic or industrial, featuring tribal rhythms and spoken samples, and smashing at the façade of the status quo until it shatters, splintering into abstract fractals that are arguably more beautiful and interesting (and fair) than what came before. On side A of their C5, GeAr blitzes through “What Brought You Here,” a taut drum-and-bass number flecked with ethereal echoes and faded tones. It’s right out of the German Army playbook, and it satisfies every craving you’d think it might. The B-side is called “The Form of Now,” but if you want to hear it, you have to get a tape … no streaming! Which is fine, the tape’s more fun anyway.

QUALCHAN. “Bumper Music for the End Times.” C5 (Superpolar TaÏps)


Qualchan. shouldn’t be a stranger to you, and you can check their discography (a bit of which I’ve written about over the years) by clicking on the link below, or searching online by yourself, I don’t know, it’s your call. Also a thing that shouldn’t be a stranger to you: Superpolar TaÏps’s cassingle series, which has featured the likes of German Army, Adderall Canyonly, and Nicholas Langley, among others, a veritable Who’s Who of the international experimental tape scene. Each artist gets five minutes, 2.5 minutes a side, and Qualchan. peppers side A of their tape with a hearty dose of plunderphonic slow jams, an instrumental hip-hop vape track called “Bumper Music for the End Times.” Imagine if DJ Wally had smoked just a little less weed, refrained from including the giggle-inducing speech samples, and bumped up the crispness level from “dank” to “woozy” and you get the gist. As for side B … well, you’ll need to get your hands on a copy of the tape for that one, titled “To Fall in Love at the End of the World.” You’re not allowed to stream it – the authorities have their eye on you.

CLEARING “Themes” (Lillerne)


I knew it. You knew it too, you just weren’t ready to admit it yet. Or maybe you just couldn’t piece together the thought until you heard it from me. Either way, I knew it – I knew that this Clearing tape was going to simply wash over me in all shades of bliss and make me feel like deep mysteries of the universe were going to be made real to me, and also that everything was going to be OK. It’s funny how nostalgia works – longing manifests in the familiar, the safe, and curdles itself into a cold anticipation, a tempered excitement. I used to thrive on that kind of feeling all the time. I’m having nostalgia for my own nostalgia.
Joseph Volmer is Clearing, and he’s been at it for quite some time. In fact, Themes marks his fifth cassette for Lillerne. The fifteen untitled pieces – well, Themes 1 to 15, I guess – were recorded to hand-cut tape loops and layered and processed from there. Perhaps not surprisingly – I knew it – these Themes billow like clouds, vaporous, opaque, hazy, like soft-focus films of memory or faded photographs. It’s pretty safe to assume that any Clearing tape is worthy of jamming in a cassette deck any time you want the sweet swell of ambience to fill the room, and Themes continues to prove that you’ve made the right choice this time around as well.

FINAL COP/COP FUNERAL “Final Cop/Cop Funeral” (Already Dead)


An appropriate split for the times: Final Cop (German Army/Peter Kris) and Cop Funeral (Josh Tabbia) have joined forces via shared moniker noun and shared penchant for sonic destruction to superheat the establishment until it boils and expands like a bubble, bursting outward in a grimy gust of withering stench. Such is the rot at the heart of said establishment! But hey, I’m not here to get too political …
Look, you’re not going to listen to Final Cop or Cop Funeral for the nonpolitical aspects of it, so strap in bucko, or else you’re liable to get whiplash, or maybe hurtle through the windshield, as this automobile of sound and fury spins out of control. And there won’t be anyone to protect and serve you either! Final Cop does what you expect, dismantling the concept of industrial/electronic/noise and causing it to collapse around samples and synthesizers. There is an amazing track called “Solving Homeless with a Hammer” that encapsulates the cleansing burn society needs by way of blistering magmic synths walls. Final Cop: the authority every neighborhood needs.
Or also maybe Cop Funeral. The Already Dead head Tabbia mixes oily gristle in ProTools and places his laptop strategically atop a lit stove. These are all things that you should not do to oil, or gristle, or ProTools, but the results are fabulous. As Tabbia is known to do as Cop Funeral, he conjures heaving wastelands of utter despair and joylessness and somehow whirls them into a force of formless rage, a cloud of unrequited spirits back to avenge the wrongs done to them. Spotlight track: “I Tried and It Sucked,” a behemoth of disappointment, something we can all relate to these days.
True to form, Final Cop and Cop Funeral are donating all proceeds from this release to CHIRLA, the LA-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, which works “to advance human and civil rights of immigrants and refugees.” Because shouldn’t we just help people, right? Watch out for each other, pick each other up when we’re down, or maybe ensure that the most vulnerable among us aren’t helplessly ground up in the jaws of the machine?

SOLID WASTE “City of the Cosmos” (Distant Bloom)


Solid Waste has dissolved into the ether. (And yes, I know how weird that sounds.) The trio – Nate Bethel, Josh Kahl, and Mario Martinez – once stormed the St. Louis ambient/New Age scene, landing righteously and appropriately on St. Louis ambient/New Age institution Distant Bloom after a couple of other remarkable tapes elsewhere. City in the Cosmos is posthumous – we will no longer be graced with the presence of Solid Waste. (Again, that sounds weird, sorry.) But fortunately, as it happens with all things wonderful that leave us too soon, we are at least able to enjoy one last morsel of Solid Waste (sorry …) before the coming of that long, dark night.
Distant Bloom has it right – the label mentions 1970s German kosmische, 1980s Japanese environmental music, and 1980s-1990s American New Age when discussing Solid Waste. And that’s no lie – anybody mentions any one of those things in my presence and I usually start slobbering Pavlovially. So when I say City of the Cosmos hits all those beats, just know that I basically fainted from sheer joy while I listened. The trio zones out with synthesizers much of the time, but they’re not afraid to knock you out with distinct rhythms, such as the on the surprisingly upfront “Friends of the Earth” (there’s that Japanese environmental music in play!). Even “Deep Forest Portal” has the hint of a pulse, but it’s mostly the synthesizer arpeggios that carry the day. And they carry you into deep trances, all the time, spectral sci-fi goodness washing over you and leaving you floating in pristine stasis.
Isn’t that why we all came here in the first place?
This last little bit of Solid Waste is a perfect career capper, and has me glancing at my watch ready for the inevitable, welcome, and glorious reunion.

AZALEAS “Colorspace” C34 (Distant Bloom)


We now know Azaleas and Distant Bloom quite well, don’t we? We can anticipate what will emanate from our speakers and into our dining rooms and worksheds, our terrariums and yoga domes. I don’t know where you happen to listen to your melancholy ambient music in your own abode, nor do I presume to tell you how to do your thing or live your life. I will offer one piece of advice though: try to listen to Colorspace, the new Azaleas jammer, on a good set of speakers in a room that reverberates out to infinity. Maybe a glass-enclosed one with a swimming pool.
But Colorspace is so introspective that the smaller the space you’re in, the better you may be. The Azaleas trio – Alice Andres, Kat Andres, and Kyle Wade – make music like they’re breathing, each constant huff of vaporous tone a full-body hit of natural wonder. The synthesizers sparkle and twinkle like sunlight on a lake, the entire tableau distilled into the sonic equivalent of vivid wonder. But of course there are storm clouds on the horizon – when are there not? – and an existential danger lurks. But it’s out of reach, out of time, and Azaleas can only harness what they themselves can control. This they offer back to us as peaceful visions, New Age meditations on the Midwestern wind, dispersing into the atmosphere. Floating somewhere out there over us and gently coming to rest within our bodies.

KHYEX “Sparrowing” (Hotham Sound Recordings)


Vancouver’s Keith Freeman is an introspective fella. As Khyex he weaves impossibly gorgeous guitar melodies, loops and samples, and synthesizer accoutrements together into an astonishing whole, at once internally focused and also universal in scope. Vocal snippets appear throughout, and Freeman treats each one with a sense of wonder, giving each some space to breathe and allowing specific personalities to peek through. It’s like we’re listening to a dream he once had, and he’s provided us a soundtrack for it. And while it’s not, Sparrowing could easily be mistaken for a guided meditation recording. I’m feeling meditative, and it feels like there’s a purpose to the whole thing. How could there not be a purpose to this?
Maybe we’re just spectating as Freeman’s own guided meditation unfurls before us. That would explain the hermetic nature of the recordings, the insularity, the inward focus, like he’s processing everything that he’s ever encountered, all moments, important ones and mundane. How does it all together? What gives our lives meaning, purpose? We’re with him here, within him, listening to the Khyex response to stimuli, experiencing the reverberations within his own head. Maybe that’s what this tape is – a continuation of that chamber between his ears through which reverberates the mysteries of life and existence. Wouldn’t that be something if we could help him figure out what he was trying to get at this whole time? I’m sure you can email Hotham Sound if you want to bounce ideas off anybody. Or if you just want to pick one of these delightful cassette tapes up for yourself.

ENOFA “All Roads Lead to Polesworth” C60 (Third Kind)


Enofa’s a decidedly and wonderfully British electronic artist that goes by the name Ross Baker when they do their taxes each year. I don’t latch onto the Britishness of this just because “Polesworth” is in the title or because it was released on Brighton stalwart Third Kind, there’s just a sense that this hi-NRG electronic pulsefest is a total throwback to 90s raver culture, the energetic rhythms and effortless melodies perfect for that retrofuturist dancefloor. I’ve gotta say, too, that I’m a sucker for what Baker’s slinging here – I can pop this on and relax to it all day, proving that you don’t need to stand up and wiggle to thoroughly enjoy it. And trust me – I’m an expert at sitting down these days.
Baker has appeared on Third Kind before with Seltrac as International Debris, another incredible release, and if we’re going to start getting regular releases from them like this, we should probably mark our calendars for when those releases are going to happen. It’s not easy to put together such a streamlined body of work as All Roads, but Baker weaves in and out of cuts like they're assembling an expert mixtape, the more fervent tunes residing with equal comfort and natural placement next to chillaxed comedowns. So yeah, a regular schedule here would be nice. But even if we have to place All Roads in a vacuum and ingest it without context, we’re still taking in sixty minutes of the dance equivalent of high-speed future transportation, frictionless and smooth, efficient and beautiful. And winding up at Polesworth, if you can believe it.

SNOWFLAKE ORCHESTRA “Snowflake Orchestra” C62 (Cosmic Winnetou)


They’re both at it this time. Our favorite Stuttgart ambient synth artists Joachim Henn and Günter Schlienz have teamed up as Snowflake Orchestra, the single greatest frozen-precipitation confab in the history of music. The front cover of the j-card says it all – and it doesn’t even say anything. It’s just white snowflakes against a black night sky, illuminated by a light source out of view; a streetlight perhaps? It’s a solid stab at selecting Stuttgart streetlights as the source streaming silvery illumination into stifling starless sky. But maybe that’s just me, and we’re supposed to focus on the stillness – each white speck is both a recipient of sonic accompaniment and a participant in the chilly nocturnal dance. You can let your mind drift on the updrafts along with our delicate frigid muses.
And that’s what Henn and Schlienz do here – they immerse themselves in the falling snow and become one with it. The Snowflake Orchestra pieces are light and delicate, yet carry a sense of mystery and wonder that begs close attention. Know how every single snowflake is a unique design? The Orchestra here leans into that, treating the natural variations with reverence while watching them blow around through the street. The sounds are what silence sounds like if it had sounds, like breathing and waiting and watching in song. That’s a neat little trick the Snowflake Orchestra is able to pull off – but if I trusted anybody doing that, it’d be Joachim Henn and Günter Schlienz.

VLK “Nur Darme Stu Turmiento” C36 (Strategic Tape Reserve)


VLK’s 2018 jawn Avril and Sean in Camden was my introduction to the New Jersey DJ (or at least VLK was once based in New Jersey), the tape chronicling a young VLK’s commute to and from work with a boss who listened to a lot of Sean Hannity and dumb stuff like Avril Levigne. (I think I’m remembering that correctly.) It is a weird concept, but it absolutely worked. Nur Darme Stu Turmiento is also a weird concept that totally works, and it also happens to chronicle another of VLK’s employment adventures. This time, instead of being stuck in a car, VLK is instead stuck in an Italian restaurant, forced to listen to late-1990s radio and being accosted by “Rat Pack–adjacent” personalities and “the odd operetta aria outsider.” I can only imagine one’s boss at such a 1990s restaurant as a paisano wannabe goodfella. I can already hear him speaking in an amazing accent in my head.
Nur Darme Stu Turmiento is a mixtape that aims to recreate the feeling of working in such a restaurant. In fact, the entire j-card is a recreation of a menu from that type of eatery, and it looks remarkably authentic. The music is not what you would expect to pipe in from the PA – that would be more along the line of Old Country crooners and opera singers wafting in the background. But VLK takes this concept and mashes it right together with electronic proclivities, weaving together an astounding mix that’s singularly current in its stylistic presentation yet retains a distinct Hoboken-Italian-restaurant flavor. The new and the old flow seamlessly together, a winsome meditation on a singular environment by someone who’s experienced both the front and the back of the house. Plus, it’s just a banger of a tape – no need to sugarcoat there.

MIDNIGHT WINDOW SCREEN “Orange Achievement” C38 (Personal Archives)


I am at a total loss when it comes to Midnight Window Screen. Online search engines take me to Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and other companies specializing specifically in screens for your home. But that’s not what I’m looking for, Bing! That’s not what I’m asking about, Jeeves! I want to know more about these Midnight Window Screen folks who make music, the ones who’ve released Orange Achievement into this world. Why won’t you help me out, just a little?
I guess I’ll have to do all the heavy lifting myself, then. MWS is a “band,” ostensibly, in that it looks like there are three people in play here, although their photographic likeness is smeared with paint on the j-card. The trio (I’m just gonna lean into it) dons a meditative fedora for the most part, although “Infinities of Black” begs to be called noise, what with that piercing frequency. But in general, synth tones mix it up with soft drums, while vocalizations happen back there in the mix somewhere. Side B hits a few more noise notes again with low-pitched seismic rumblings, but these are simply grumbly textured passages rather than ear shredders. And while “Pure Tibet” wants to close this thing out with lovely ambience, it gives way to the 10-minute “Cobwebs and Memories,” which sort of wants that, but sort of doesn’t – the drums clatter like far-off thunderclaps that ride the vibe all the way to the end of the line.
So in the end, Midnight Window Screen seems like a singular, focused entity, and it plays like that too. MWS combines fascinating elements and emerges unique. Hard to do, people!

VARIOUS ARTISTS “Content Aware” (Jollies)

A ten-track comp to mark Jollies’s tenth release, Content Aware exists as a perfect reminder of where the wacko electronic label has been and points toward an equally wacko future. I’ve personally enjoyed every Jollies release I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on to a sublimely thorough extent, and Content Aware is no different. In fact, I’m only familiar with two (!) of the artists on it, Kritzkom and Asymmetrical Head, so that gives me an entire 80 percent of this thing to discover. And if that’s not a good reason to dive into a comp, I don’t know what is.


I mean, it’s really the best reason, especially if you trust the label putting the thing out. And I do. And it is. As usual, the lovely, dank, downtempo electro pulses with intense mood, and each artist makes themself at home on the tracklist. Francine Thirteen’s track is a nice vocal-led torch song, and Jap Kasai gets wildly playful on their quirky contribution. But the overarching aesthetic is fully in line with itself, making Content Aware the perfect tenth-release celebration for Jollies. There’s the uptempo crash of Sentry, the clicky pulse of Kritzkom, and the theatrical synth work of Private Grief, all Jollies tested, all Jollies approved. Why don’t you get in here and discover something for yourself, you savvy listener you?



NIGHT FOUNDATION “Let There Be Light” (Flophouse)


Miami’s Richard Vergez does the opposite of what you’d expect from Miami, where you’re normally accosted by all the Dolphins teal and … Vice pink and dusk clubbing and coeds and cheap cocktails – perpetual spring break, right? Well, you fools – strap in, because you’re in for the surprise of your lives! Or maybe not, depending on what you expect from something called “Night Foundation,” and also whether or not you even know about the Miami connection, which I did not until I looked it up. Let There Be Light is, in fact, a tour de force of ambient synthesizer explorations, kosmische introspections that illuminate what it means to be you and how you connect to the wider universe. It’s not, decidedly, a place where brain cells go to die.
According to Vergez’s Soundcloud page (no Bandcamp?!), what you’ll mostly hear in his work is Arp Odyssey, synth strings, and tape loops, and that’s what Let There Be Light mainly offers. Every motion, every movement is deliberate, languidly paced, hints of melody and rhythm peeking through the gloom. Because that’s what we’re doing here – we’re moving from darkness to light, from night to day, from inner to outer, but just barely. Night Foundation holds the noir atmosphere throughout, even when the final strains threaten dawn. There’s probably something there to latch on to, to feel good about, but not until those first tentative steps are taken out from behind the nocturnal curtain. Even if in the end we end up retreating back to the darkness, we’re at least trying something new here, right? And that’s always a good thing – no pink or teal or whatever to mess with the melancholy.

DERE MOANS AND HORSELOVER FLATS “Lax Myths / Essentially Negative” (Strategic Tape Reserve)


What better way to get back into the game than with two of my favorite electronic weirdos, Tony Lien, aka Dere Moans and purveyor of Bad Cake Records, and Tim Thornton, aka Horselover Flats (and Tiger Village, among others) and purveyor of Suite 309? I’ll tell you what better: a split album by these two nuts on the aggressively intellectual Cologne-based cassette label Strategic Tape Reserve! It should come as no surprise that the combination of these three things – artists x 2 and label – have resulted in a wildly inventive maelstrom of cacophony. At times harshly obliterative, at others fantastically mesmerizing, Lax Myths (the Dere Moans side) and Essentially Negative (the Horselover Flats side) dream of definite futures where androids definitely dream of electric shrimp.
Did I type shrimp? Weird.
Anyhoo, Dere Moans hits hard and quickly, with Tony repurposing some material he’s had laying around throughout Covid and mashing it into a chunky paste of noisy sample jams. Don’t call it plunderphonic: or, wait, it’s pretty plunderphonic, but then again, Dere Moans is the best at that, so let’s cut him some slack. Lax Myths is bracing, that’s for sure, and the pace and volume doesn’t let up regardless of what slides through the old sound-mulcher. It’s an action-packed blast of face-melting vibes – the Total Recall of this package.
Tim as Horselover Flats loves him some Philip K. Dick, and as such, we’re kindred spirits (I’m obsessed). Grabbing his moniker from VALIS, Tim last played a show, again before Covid, not as Tiger Village or CDX but as this Dick-inspired incarnation of himself. Armed with sine waves, kick drums, and voice, Tim crafts a paean to the literary master, a future-noise collage whose tracks are all titled after Dick-isms. Appropriately schizophrenic and disruptive in nature, Essentially Negative is his A Scanner Darkly, mind rending but not aware. A glorious, nightmarish trick.
But in the end, you get these two on a tape, you can’t go wrong. Strategic Tape Reserve does not go wrong either. Frankly, they never do.

BBJR / ARU “Europe 2172” C37 (Personal Archives)


I know what I’ll be doing in the year 2172: chilling in the literal afterlife. What about you guys? For Bob Bucko Jr. and ARU, they’ll be fresh of their sold-out, co-headlining European tour, each decompressing in a separate mansion while already germinating the ideas of their next collaboration. Bodies full of legal, mind-altering substances. Evolved craniums pulsing with creative energy.
Imagine that, Europe still existing in 2172! So rich.
BBJr. and ARU – aka long-running Dubuque project of Randy Carter – predict the future here on Europe 2172, an imagined artifact of that glorious triumph of live performance. Bucko tinkers with his gadgets and guitars, his pedals gleaming in the setting sun, melding generous ragas with future meditative jams, all but forecasting what we’ll all be listening to 150 years from now. (Well, those of us who haven’t been raptured, that is.) ARU dares to turn the tables on BBJr., entering with some milky dub that curdles and spills all over the gears and circuits, clouding everything purply, shimmying and shuffling in dizzying chaos. But this is what the 2172 kids are clamoring for – or their clones are anyway, who’s to say which is which, especially from a legal standpoint. ARU delivers. BBJr. delivers.
Our future is once again less bleak. Our past selves from 2021 are grateful that either Bucko and Carter are clairvoyant or time travelers. Either way, we benefit.

DOGS VERSUS SHADOWS “Oscilloghost” (Third Kind)


You’re warned from the start: Oscilloghost isn’t for the weak-willed, it’s for the truly hearty, those whose constitutions can withstand a fright or two. And Dogs Versus Shadows, aka Lee Pylon, lays it on thick, the suspense I mean, letting the spirits occupy his synthesizer rigs and just get all gooey in there with the ectoplasm and the wisps of whatever ether they’re made out of. Maybe they’re just figments of ESP, but they sure sound real. They sure sound like they’re hovering just on the other side of the physical plane, waiting for the right moment to bend reality to their will and manifest.
Lee Pylon allows them to manifest.
Yeah, he’s like a medium or something, channeling otherworldly entities, sometimes like an actual witch or whatever, sometimes like Steven Spielberg when he mixes childhood wonder and horror in equal measure. At any rate, the tones and tales are real, the experiments in sonic parapsychology teasing out the creepily visceral and wondrously ethereal simultaneously. It’s easy to get lost in the inky blackness of a winter woodland, wandering restlessly as you search for meaning. Dogs Versus Shadows provides the soundtrack for that, and maybe it turns out that – spoiler alert, Jack! – you’re the one who’s the Oscilloghost after all. Wouldn’t that be a scrumptious twist!

COPS “Energy Trap” C46 (Cosmic Winnetou)


I feel like we’re hearing a lot about cops these days, but not in a good way, you know? Well, I’m here to remind you that there are, believe it or not, good cops out there, ones who wield their badges with courtesy and respect. Is it any surprise that these Cops (yes, cap “C” now) are from Brandenburg (in Germany) and not, I dunno, Minneapolis? I’d venture a guess that there aren’t many Cops fans in Minneapolis. It’s too soon there … and everywhere really.
But these good Cops don’t wield any weapons, unless you consider synthesizers a weapon! I know a few people who might feel threatened by synthesizers, but you shouldn’t be threatened by Niklas Dommaschk or Oliver Koch, the partners on the electrodub “beat.” Far from the hardened police who face dangerous criminals on a daily basis, Dommaschk and Koch ride the cosmic wave into blacklit swirls, pulling scramble suits over their heads and going deep undercover. The intake is the outtake, and the result is the sea of vibe.
I’d like to see somebody get busted with a kilo of Energy Trap. Intent to sell? Heck yes.
Slow tasered electricity pulses through the haze. Clouds at night. City streets and on patrol. Cops has your back, my back, everybody’s back. It’s hard to believe, but this rehabilitated image is ripe for catching on. These Cops only serve and protect.



As if you didn’t know what you were getting into right now. Angel Simitchiev runs Amek, and is also Mytrip. Linus Schrab is V I C I M, an Amek alum. Together, they should inherently distill the Amek brand/sound into its most basic form. That they do it is not a surprise; that they continue to evolve the work of the label and push themselves in amazing new directions most definitely is.
No, wait – I’m not surprised that they do that at all. I’m just astounded at the result, that’s all. As if “that’s all”! But anyway, Simitchiev and Schrab are dark ambient veterans, infusing their intricate vibes with alternately heavy smears and delicate shimmers of synthesizer. Airborne is the sound of something massive gliding across the sky, shadowing the ground below. It sounds like its size, and despite how big it is, it feels light and airy too, like it belongs up there.
But that’s the beauty of Amek, and of the work of these two label vets – they’ve perfected turning the crushingly bleak into the resoundingly familiar. Every time an Amek tape arrives in my mailbox, I immediately get wistful – then I get my rear end handed to me as it knocks my socks off. See? I can’t even keep my metaphors straight around these folks.

SQRTSIGIL “Grayscale” (Antenna Non Grata)


Taking electronic minimalism to the next level, Polish artist Maciek Jaciuk drops Grayscale, the color equivalent of electronic minimalism. Sometimes, when the world’s against you (well, against everyone, really), you just need to sit back, strap on some headphones, and pop in a tape that’s simply going to sound like you’re listening to electronically translated functions of your own body within the confines of your own head. It’s surprisingly tranquil, like you’re in Fantastic Voyage but no white blood cells are trying to expel you through the anus of the person you’re zooming around in. That’s what Fantastic Voyage was about, right?
But seriously, headphones are a must for a SqrtSigil release, because you’re not living until you’ve experienced nuance. And nuance at this level. I’m a sucker for experimental electronic releases that beg you to follow them over all sorts of crazy terrain, and Grayscale is one that presents a fractured path that must be pieced together as you traverse it. It’s minimal but dense, intricate. Its color palette is deceiving – there’s actually some hidden picture action going on here. Figure it out for yourself!

GIOVANNI GRAMEGNA / AR.MA “Noise Study” / “Insect Hunter” C55 (Plaża Zachodnia)


Giovanni Gramegna suggests noise on “Noise Study,” the A-side of this here split. There’s just too much tone here, too much to grasp onto to really slide it into a “noise” category. Now, if Gramegna has been studying noise itself, and not presenting this side as a collection of “noise” for us to “study,” then he may have found something. Hidden in those sheets of feedback and power electronics are wisps of beauty, shimmering celestial illuminations serving as living groundwork for the onslaught of intensity. Or maybe this is just his idea of noise. If it is, I want to be inside his head, like all the time.
Artur Maciak, aka AR.MA, has a little bit of a different approach on “Insect Hunter” – mainly because side B doesn’t waste much time building itself up to sound like insects themselves. Well, just because “Noise Study” didn’t sound like actual insects doesn’t make it any less of a spiritual cousin. AR.MA gets out into nature at night, where there’s no light pollution, and records the experience. It’s all wispy clouds on the wind and starlight, silhouettes of trees, and rustling, indistinct movement. The insect hunter is always ready, and adventure is constant and meaningful.

ANARCHIST MOUNTAINS TRIO “La terre et la force” (Amek Collective)


When you think “anarchist mountains,” you’re thinking huge, am I right? Massive geographical formation, towering in the sky, and not beholden to anyone’s rules. Punk weight, right there on the face of the planet, in everyone’s line of sight. Well, Anarchist Mountains Trio, a trio (duh) consisting of brothers Jordan and Stefan Christoff and joined here by Joseph Sannicandro, are even more anarchist than you think: instead of vying for your attention with a sound as big as their name, something of the ear-splitting variety, they 180 that thought into the quiet spectrum, turning inward, not beholden to anyone’s rules, even their own. Or something like that.
And thus La terre et la force, or “Land and strength,” understands the limitations of how humans relate to things that are bigger, older, and relatively incomprehensible. Again, instead of tectonic sounds to shock the system, the trio approximates the movement and the scope and the energy of the growth of something like the mountain range of their moniker over millions of years and distills that vision, one clearly observed from beyond a terrestrial position, into a graceful reverie. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is filled with awe – how can it not be – and the synths, guitars, and field recordings intertwine as if they were stardust reconstituting on the surface of the planet. You’re breathing these sounds and reveling in silence, never once considering that the air particles in your lungs are the size of continents. There really is some relativistic chicanery going on here!
But this is perfect for Amek Collective, beloved Bulgarian label. La terre et la force redefines the rules even as they’re being redefined, keeping everyone on their toes at all times and causing incomprehensible discombobulation – all while being as chill as chill can be. This one requires a deep dive – take it, I beg you.

SQRTSIGIL “New Technologies Require Sacrifices” (Tone Burst)


Polish artist Maciek Jaciuk stirs a soup of minimal electronic burbles as Sqrtsigil, periodically lifting his ladle from the mix and tasting what’s cooking, letting it coat his palate, nodding in approval, and going back to stirring again. This process doesn’t require a lot of quick action, but much intentional, contemplative movement. Jaciuk has been doing this for a while too, and it’s nice to be able peek in on the master chef at work and see what he’s up to.
On New Technologies Require Sacrifices, Jaciuk guides his ingredients into the proper configurations, letting everything simmer until it’s perfectly prepared. The process of combination and experimentation yields surprising results, and is captivating to behold. Texture and flavor merge to initiate a spiritual experience, one that lifts the spirits while simultaneously turning one inward. New Technologies gets on in there, and is quite difficult to shake! Now, what kind of sacrifice are we talking about here?

GRIMÉNY “Die Große Aufgabe” (Already Dead)


It is “a big task” to rumble into first place on the all-time great math-rock band list, but Grimény is up to the challenge! Well, I don’t know that there’s really a list of that sort, or if anyone’s really keeping some kind of analytical score, or if the objective and the subjective should intermingle in such a way, or even if the whole enterprise is a good idea, but none of that even matters once Grimény starts blasting away. The Berlin trio punks up whatever early-1990s Chicago trio happens to be on repeat that day and shoots like a rocket into a rhythmic stratosphere of their own devising. It often sounds like Don Cab mistakenly put a quarterstick of dynamite in their mouth instead of a cigar and lit it with a Trans Am match.
Kaboom. Face obliterated by math-rocket-y goodness.
Die Große Aufgabe means “a big task” or “the big task” (I’m fuzzy on my German articles, but I’ll be happy to be corrected), and let’s now call Die Große Aufgabe a completed task – Grimény are ready to bust through to this side of the Atlantic. The groundwork is laid, the fuses are lit, let’s let these firecrackers (again, uh, quartersticks) pop off in tape decks everywhere. The band interplay is spectacular – this isn’t their first go-round after all – and the inventive songwriting keeps Die Große Aufgabe from getting stuck in a guitar/bass/drums rut. That’s because it’s a synthesizer/guitars/bass/drums setup, so you can imagine the echoes of I Am Spoonbender throughout this thing. Gosh, that’s something I’ve missed.

PATH OF THE SUN “Path of the Sun” C40 (Inner Islands)


It’s sort of not fair, is it? Daniel Guillén (Lunaria) and Steve Targo (Inner Travels) uniting under one moniker for forty minutes of cosmic drift? And yet they do, as Path of the Sun, perhaps the most aptly named collaboration in existence. What do you think, in your mind, the sun sounds like as it hurtles through space, part of the Milky Way galaxy, ever pressed outward as a result of the Big Bang? I’ll give you a hint: press play on this baby.
It’s not fair because you’re powerless against it, much like anything in the sun’s way on its celestial path is powerless against it, plowed through or over, or sucked into orbit, or simply obliterated, matter and molecules blasted this way and that by the energy of an actual bloody star. Sounds daunting! But wait, take a step back a minute – remember that everything’s relative? OK, with that in mind, observe the sun from a great distance. Doesn’t look like it’s moving very much, does it? Planets don’t seem to be either. More like hovering. Peaceful. Intense. Soundtracked by synthesizers.
That’s the Path of the Sun experience. That’s how it makes you feel. That’s how Daniel Guillén and Steve Targo work their magic, their alchemy, their science. It’s weight and release all at once, gravity and freedom. The push and pull is incredibly gratifying.

ASHAN “Sacred Springs” (Inner Islands)


Not that long ago I was feeling down, so I did what any sane person feeling down is apt to do: pull out every Inner Islands release on the shelf and systematically listen to each one of them, one by one, until I attain enlightenment. Or something. The point, of course, is to heal thyself. And, as listener of said recordings, I did heal thyself. Myself. Whatever.
Sean Conrad curates his label with this in mind, and as Ashan he contributes his own work to the corpus. He’s done this before – thirteen times as Ashan alone – and the results are never less than stunning. But for Conrad, “stunning” doesn’t refer to “in your face,” or indeed an overwhelming sensation in any way. “Stunning” here is the sense of cosmic peacefulness one attains while listening to an Ashan (or, broadly, Inner Islands) release. “Stunning” refers to how “stunningly” peaceful I feel while I’m awash in Ashan sounds.
Sacred Spring is the third in Conrad’s Drifters Series, following Far Drift Afield and Transfigurations – incidentally two of the releases that helped calm and center me in my time of distress. It too promises and utterly delivers a majestic quiet, a solitude where thoughts merge with the rest of the body, where deep peace is achieved among the flow of the infinite. The concept of forever contained in a hidden mountain spring is too tempting to not reach for it whenever possible. I think Sacred Spring is going to make a welcome addition to my emergency Inner Islands stash.

KRITZKOM “Fuzziness” (Jollies)

“That synth crawled outta that hole and had a little peek around before it ran off toward yonder hills.” So says my ancient interlocutor at the gas station off whatever this rural exit this is as he points to Appalachian wilderness behind the dilapidated structure that served these parts as far back as when Eisenhower was president. Truman maybe. That this gray, wizened, coverall-wearing, grease-covered remnant of bygone days even knew what a synthesizer was a mystery to me, but I would save that question for later, maybe. Kritzkom was out here, I knew it.

This is how I ended up here: Fuzziness, a transmission from tape label Jollies, landed in my mailbox, and I immediately knew it originated from somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, even though it was a lo-fi electronic number crafted by Berlin-based French artist Marine Drouan. There was a vibe here that simply stretched across space, way outside of an urban context, calling for free roaming under nothing but trees and sky. And so I devoured Fuzziness, letting it cloud my head, my intentions, like a fog bank, like a scrambled signal from a bunker that held secrets only I was going to be let in on.

I got in the car and drove a few hours, guided simply by the subliminal pulses and minimal techno of Fuzziness, stopping where I did on a hunch. It was the right one, and as I left the man and walked to the back of the building, eyes scanning the scrub brush and tree copses and outcroppings of hills harshly protruding from the ground. A synth emerged from a hole and absconded to a field. What does that even mean? I began to walk, twenty yards, thirty, forty, finding nothing but the land. Then I heard it – it might have been in my head, it might have been in the sky, it might have been coming from directly in front of me: Fuzziness, in its natural habitat. Kritzkom was close. But as I began to step further out into that all-encompassing sound on the wind, my head rang with reverberating tone, and my vision became purple. I blacked out.

I came to next to my car, hands on the hood, breathing heavily, sweating. I could see the old gas station owner through the window of the building, eyeing me with a suspicious look. I nodded, but I was shaken – my legs tingled and my fingers sparked. I tasted metal. Whatever happened to me out there beyond the gas station, where no other human being had ever ventured, stuck with me, overcame me. It was Fuzziness, distilled, uncompromised, in the wild. It was exhilarating.

I chalked it up to unanswerable mystery. Fuzziness, indeed, in its pure form, conjured by Kritzkom, spends its days frolicking in the wilderness behind that old gas station. And while I never actually encountered the entity Kritzkom itself while I was out here, I didn’t really think I was going to in the first place. I just wanted to see what I could see, and the spirit of Kritzkom is enough for me to call this expedition a success.


DERE MOANS “A Dereliction” (Already Dead)


“This isn’t long enough, Tony!” I scream at absolutely friggin’ nobody, and it’s just as well – nobody would understand what I’m talking about, let alone me in general. I’ll give you a little background: Tony Lien, purveyor of Bad Cake Records, is Dere Moans, and every release he blesses us with is a plunderphonic masterpiece. No, he’s not taking whole Blink-182 songs or whole Spice Girls songs and repurposing them for our referential pleasure. Whatever the heck he’s sampling, it ain’t something that I recognize, and that’s all the better – that means I can enjoy A Dereliction without the intrusion of outside influence.
But it’s too short.
Fine, so it’s technically an EP or whatever, big deal. And I say these things to completely praise Tony’s abilities, because I haven’t met a Dere Moans release I haven’t immensely liked. There’s really nobody that can rip through source material and come up with wildly inventive concoctions quite like Tony Lien, and here he straddles the line between complete cut-up sonic terrorism and a static-y sound puzzle that’s missing only a few pieces of frequency before it blooms into weird euphony. Listening to A Dereliction makes me wonder how in the living crap there hasn’t been a Dere Moans release on Orange Milk yet. It’s like someone’s taken a literal scissors to music here and reassembled it. That’s sort of the Orange Milk way.
But this is on Already Dead. Already Dead is so friggin’ awesome.
Look, there’s no way I’m not going to bombard your Twitter feed with “#BuyDereMoans” posts, because I’m halfway in the nuthouse here and A Dereliction is making more sense than most of what I encounter on a daily basis. And that’s fine – it’s a cracked mirror of abstract sound manipulation that has to be heard to be believed, and believed to be understood, and understood to be embraced, and embraced to be beloved, and beloved to be uploaded to Soulseek or whatever is on the internet now. Just kidding, buy a tape – #BuyDereMoans.

UNCANNY DANDELIONS “Gravel Scavenger” (Orb Tapes)


I am a victim of mesmerism. Uncanny Dandelions (naturally) invade my senses; sometimes I inhale their seed pods by accident when I’m gearing up to blow them. Sometimes I absorb the sounds from their cassette tape into my ears. It’s a situation; in this one or any other, I’m fully zoned.
Uncanny Dandelions is K. Trujillo, who fits broken pieces together and glues or tapes them (or whatever) and plays them back to see what happens. Gravel Scavengers is an SOS on the wind, a false-color negative masquerading as a mixtape. Trujillo bends emotional response to their whims, luring in the unsuspecting, catching them in their uncanny, dandelion-y trap. Squirm all you want, it’s in your bloodstream.
Uncanny is right, nothing eases itself, mostly lemon-sour tendrils. You can eat dandelion salad with lemon poppyseed dressing anyway, so do the right thing. Take a big honkin’ bite and shiver with the overwhelming tang before it curdles into something tangier. Get low, all the way low, feel the pulse as it shudders. You can feel it pounding in your ears, your ear’s to the ground, you can feel it pounding from miles away.
Whatever you do, don’t break this spell.

SERRATER / BUTOH SONICS “Split” C80 (Orb Tapes)


Hearing Michael Potter do the next obvious thing in his repertoire – a noise/no wave sludge-coction under his “Serrater” guise – is music to my ears. No wait, actually, it’s more like damaging waves of tone and feedback to my ears, which causes the eardrums within them to vibrate uncontrollably and cause blood to leak and seep out and get everywhere. Two tracks he does on this split, TWO! “America the Grave” and “Shed Dead Flesh” are noise in intent and execution, but this isn’t a dude who’s just creating hellish feedback loops. He’s obviously got guitars and even drums in here, but sure, I guess he is also feeding everything back like crazy. He’s awesome at somehow corralling this craziness, sculpting these vicious frequencies, whether low or high, into sonic weapons. No, not music to my ears – more like missiles to them. I’m probably hearing the aftermath of that inside my head.
The Butoh Sonics collective recorded “Spinning Fiend Who Feeds Off Vertigo” live two years ago at Operation Noise Toaster 17 in Phoenix. It’s an electroacoustic/electronic nightmare, layered with traditional instruments and nontraditional, like guitar, but also propane tanks. Also someone is doing Butoh, the form of Japanese dance theater from which the quartet takes its name. “Spinning Fiend” sounds like antigravity crinkling space-time, causing tension in the proto-building blocks of existence. They do this for forty mesmerizing minutes, every one of them filled with feedback and icky loops, plucks and synth pings, desperate for equilibrium but never quite managing it. It’s dense and off kilter, and riveting when it gets itself under your skin. Which it does quickly.

GOOD WILLSMITH “HausLive 2: Good Willsmith at Sleeping Village 4/25/2019” (Hausu Mountain)


First things first: 4/25/2019, the date that this live show was recorded, was before the pandemic, so we don’t have to freak out about having 3,000 people packed into a crowded indoor venue – the only germs they spread that night are ones of peace and love, not COVID. Also, I’m not sure about that number. But what I do know is that Good Willsmith was on that night, maybe sensing that the end of immediate live music was near, maybe realizing that what the world is really going to need within a year and a half is a ripping live set to proffer hope to the hopeless in these dark times. Well, Good Willsmith, mission accomplished.
The trio of Max Allison, Natalie Chami, and Doug Kaplan has done the lysergic improvised groove thing for a while, and Max and Doug even live together and run Hausu Mountain together (not to mention make music as BBSitters Club and Pepper Mill Rondo), so I’m surprised they’re just not sick of each other. But they’re not, honest, and you can tell! The interplay is Grateful Dead-y, in that they’re just a family who gets it and each other, but the music is not Grateful Dead-y at all (leave that to BBSitters Club) – it’s got a sick psychedelic electronic element pulsing through the laid-back astro-drone, so by the time the awesomely titled “The Burning Orphanage Sidequest” melts itself down to the rivets, you should be off on some sort of cosmic trip.
And now you also have a souvenir of that trip. Maybe you were there at the original event, maybe you’re just coming to it now, but HausLive 2 is the perfect release to continue on this long, strange … ride the GW cats are on (following volume 1 by the magnificent Sunwatchers). So dub it and trade it like it’s hot, but don’t tell the band I told you to. I think they want you to buy it from them. It’s not like were getting stimulus checks every month or anything.