Monday, September 25, 2017

BEN ROBERTS “Unit Audio” C40 (Staaltape)




Plunderphonics never sounded so cared for, so labored over, as it does on British expat Ben Roberts’s UNIT AUDIO. The now-Madrid-dwelling Roberts has amassed a collection of cassette tapes that he discovered over the years, and the archive serves as the inspiration and the source material for his cassette on Staaltape, the Berlin label run by Rinus van Alebeek and focusing on sound art. Let’s just say that UNIT AUDIO is freaking cornucopia of found sound, pieced together for maximum weirdness and instant likability. It starts strong and stays strong, continuing on its path toward greatness minute by warped-audio minute. Ever thought you’d hear somebody talk about musique concrète that way?

Hyperbole aside, what Roberts crafts is surprisingly musical, and although tones tend toward the ambient spectrum, there are some rhythmic elements that appear at points. The pieces are stitched together so that the sounds both flow with each other and collide against themselves, sometimes at the same point, depending on the mood Roberts is trying to create. The result is never less than thrilling, as each new passage reveals surprising new directions and interesting new sources, all of which are fairly mysterious, especially if you’re able to turn off your mind as it tries to process each new sample. (Although, Spice Girls? I knew THAT one at least.) (I don’t know what that says about me.)

What does UNIT AUDIO say about Ben Roberts? It affords a peek into his imagination, surely, where the source material swirls until it coalesces into a sensible whole. Roberts invokes the idea of sehnsucht, meaning there’s a “yearning” or a “longing,” a sense that something is missing or imperfect and that something’s presence will restore the whole. UNIT AUDIO is restless, a time capsule, multiple snapshots of human life superimposed on one another in a confusing mass, the disorder, perhaps oxymoronically, satisfying in its turmoil. The whole is here. What’s missing is within us.

Staaltape

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 24, 2017

AK’CHAMEL, THE GIVER OF ILLNESS
“Death Chants” C42 (Already Dead)




Here, Ak’chamel has perfected the power of the dirge. Each one of these tracks is a funeral procession, dark, full of dread, mythical in its incantation, and magical in its execution. Don’t get me wrong, though – there are no gnomes or fairies or anything here, not even any good wizards or witches. Ak’chamel’s magic is the blackest of the black, exactly like the metal hat they try on for “The Tragedy of Birth,” a literal black metal excursion that sets the rest of the tape in stark relief against it. It’s a new direction for Ak’chamel (at least from what I’ve heard), and it suits them just fine, appearing as a poisoned oasis in the midst of a wilderness where every edge is serrated for maximum skin-shredding. But that wilderness where Ak’chamel dwells, the regular old unholy ground of terror and ancient malevolence, makes up the majority of DEATH CHANTS, and for that we are thankful. I didn’t even mention the word “cult” yet, but Ak’chamel’s fans – er, cult – (that was sort of backward, huh) – will have nothing to complain about. DEATH CHANTS is, probably pretty obviously, music for nocturnal chambers or forest clearings where rituals occur in secret. Acoustic instruments drone their primeval purpose, melodies absent in the service of pure tone, recorded in secret from the rear of midnight ceremonies. Each rite is a supplication to Ak’chamel, and Ak’chamel returns the sentiment in a pestilent overture of destruction. Listening to DEATH CHANTS, it’s impossible to expect your experience to end in anything other than a maelstrom of agony, but that’s what these cult creeps are all about, aren’t they? It’s weird, then, that they’re so incredibly poised to break out into the mainstream and engulf the Bible Belt with their weird and woolly beliefs. Watch out, Jesus!

Already Dead
Ak’chamel, the Giver of Illness

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 23, 2017

E + RO = 3 “The ILLusionist” C27 (Bonding Tapes)




“A trick is something a whore does for money.” —GOB Bluth

E. Ross III knows a little something about ILLusions, and I’m following the capitalization here because it’s the prompt in the title. The ILLusionist is a beat tape, pure and simple, a jazz-inflected instro-hip hop release that makes so much sense on Bonding Tapes, the experimental/hip hop label known for all kinds of far-out sampledelic and synthetic mayhem. But this conjurer of the dark arts, like, say, Saruman, is able to incant some really great spells and string together a lot of disparate samples for an excellent whole. (He is unlike Saruman, fortunately, in his distinct inability to create an army of orcs.) It reminds me, and this is topical because I just busted out this album last week, of DJ Wally’s spectacular The Stoned Ranger Rides Again, itself a glorified “beat tape” released back before the internet was for anything other than downloading files from Napster and, I guess, combing through catalog records in the college library. The ILLusionist is a total throwback in that regard, dropping brilliant spoken samples, slathered in reverb and delay, such as some amazing Richard Pryor standup work on “What It Is.” It’s perfect for chilling out late at night, a hangout tape smoothly produced seemingly from thin air, like an act of sheer magic. Somebody make a Hogwarts reference here like your life depends on it, because it probably does. Or doesn’t – E + RO = 3’s a benevolent wizard!

“…Or cocaine!” —GOB Bluth

Bonding Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, September 22, 2017

HEP!COLLECTIVE “Kitchen” C20 (Hylé Tapes)




Like all of you, as soon as I beheld Hep!Collective’s new Hylé release, I immediately began humming The Lemonheads’s “Kitchen,” because that’s not a song that’s easy to not hum once you think of it. But that’s an idiotic thing to do when you’re pulling a Hylé tape out of its mail packaging, no matter what the release is. Plus, KITCHEN, Hep!Collective’s KITCHEN, is as far from a Lemonhead release as I am from Paris right now. Or Italy. I mean, I don’t want to go overboard and say “Australia” or something, because that would be a bit too far, and besides, no one involved with the recording or releasing of this tape is from Australia. Let’s just say that KITCHEN is pretty far from “Kitchen” and get on with our lives.

But not before we take a listen to KITCHEN, of course, and hopefully enter into some meaningful discourse about it. Italian artist Lorenzo Peluffo has a couple Hep!Collective releases under his belt, and this is his first for the Paris-based label (and there’s the tie-in). Peluffo focuses quite closely on texture, and KITCHEN is no different than his other releases in that regard. The tag: ambient, of course, as sounds register as if they’re being broadcast from far away – or from your memory. The two sidelong tracks hover, there, where you can almost capture their essence, but before long they disappear, like a dream you had that doesn’t quite fully clarify. What kitchen? There you stand, in the room where everyone always congregates, as if trapped by the ghosts of their passage. Ray Lew makes it rain, and the drops whisper on the window. But you’re alone there, hovering along with the tracks, hovering along with the sounds of KITCHEN and the kitchen and Ray Lew and the Calle della Madonetta estate, communing with spirits, thinking in whispers. Is this how Hep!Collective views the world? Does Lorenzo Peluffo perceive everything as a future decaying image?

Regardless of how past and present come together for Peluffo in his mind, KITCHEN unfolds like an old photograph kept in a book, edges frayed, grains visible, imperfections embraced, just how the moment appears in our memory.

And no Lemonheads. Sorry Evan.

Hep!Collective
Hylé Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, September 21, 2017

VLK “Avril and Sean in Camden”
C57 (Strategic Tape Reserve)





Oh VLK, I’m so sorry. Look, it’s bad enough having to hoof around Camden in that traffic (Camden is a gross, gross industrial city across the river from Philly, where I spent a lot of time), but it’s even worse when you’re riding shotgun in your employer’s Camry for a summer, life sucked out of the conversation because what’s there to talk about with this jerk? Nothing. Nothing to talk about because there’s nothing in common. And we’re talking 2004, before even the unabashed ubiquity of smartphones (iPhone launched in 2007 – I was still rocking Brickbreaker on my Blackberry), so you couldn’t just retreat into handheld oblivion, could you? Or at least pack your device with music so you could tune out the external. Nope, once that conversation hit the skids, it was all conservative talk radio and Avril Lavigne, wasn’t it? Oh, you poor thing, VLK. Well, I’m not here to pity you, because you took your employer’s love of all things conservative and Avril Lavigne (well, specifically Let’s Go) and turned that sticky black psychic horror into something weirdly listenable. Yes sirree, this mixtape plunders the phonics (well, sonics, actually – that sort of didn’t work) of that source material and emerges on the other end with a funky, weird, and enjoyable monument to that horrible time in your life. And you know what, VLK? You’ve sort of proven that you can turn crap into gold, because I can think of no worse crap than conservative talking heads, and I can think of no worse music than Avril Lavigne. Strike that – there’s lots of worse music than Avril Lavigne, but I bet listening to it while trapped in a car during that shitty summer felt like the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay sound torture. Nevertheless, the mashup of these ideas translates amazingly into a cut-and-paste effort that serves as an outlet for your frustrations. Can you listen to this tape without cringing, or is it therapeutic? I hope it’s the latter. God, Camden sucks. Sean Hannity can eat a butt. Maybe one of the “butts” on “Contra” that has the six-year-old in me giggling forever. So now that I like this tape, does that mean I also like Avril Lavigne? Oh Christ, I hope not.

Strategic Tape Reserve

--Ryan Masteller



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ZOD1AC “THE ZOD1AC TAPES VOL. 1”
C30 (Bonding Tapes)




As chilled out as it gets, ZOD1AC drops a beat tape for the laid-back ages, a drifty mélange of gorgeous synth melody and sparse percussion. THE ZOD1AC TAPES VOL. 1 – all caps because if you don’t market it that way, you’ll probably end up gently pushing product in a weed haze, and you can’t make money from a weed haze – dropped obviously on Bonding Tapes, continues the label’s fascination with hip-hop and outer space synthesizer worship. These sixteen mostly short tracks, over half of which are between forty-one seconds and 1:46, prove ZOD1AC’s restlessness on one hand (lots of transitions!) and his steady navigation on the other (a cohesive whole!). I’m going to be honest about this – I’m not much of a beat tape/mixtape guy, but this is pretty far-out, trancey stuff, which hits the sweet spot for me every time. It’s easily replayable, and although there are a lot of short tracks, the quick movements work remarkably as part of the greater whole. Lots to love about this one – whether you’re under water or gliding over clouds, there’s always something lurking that’s the perfect accompaniment to what you’re doing. So pop open your wallet and buy one already! Isn’t it just puuurdy too? Look at that thing!

Bonding Tapes

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SOLO1 “Peninsula Strays” (Doom Trip Records)




Not unlike Leyland Kirby’s work, Solo1’s Peninsula Strays sounds like it’s taking place under water, a subaqueous song cycle that’s as level as it is engaging. Moving from samples to guitar to “various boxes” and back, all often within the same track, Andy Billington, of the YOU KAY, crafts woozy, languid soundscapes, sometimes gently rhythmic, as if Ant’lrd and Doom Trip alum Parallax ’48 collaborated on the experimental drone hit of the summer. And it is summer after all, and it’s really hot here where I live, so the cool waves of Peninsula Strays is a welcome distraction form the unending mercurial torture, each of the twelve tracks a refreshing balm. In fact, I just returned from vacation, and listening to Solo1 gives me the same feelings I had while stretched out on a raft in a pool. But don’t mistake Solo1 for a nostalgia-beach act or a mai tai-drunk relaxomundo purveyor of the tropical sort. Complete opposite. The walls of the backs of your eyelids shimmer in electric blue, nighttime light sources filtered through liquid, and you drift through a dream state to surreal landscapes that only you are able to understand. As reality bends, the music bends with it, bubbling and bursting till it reconstitutes itself as something a little different, not much, but enough to continue unfettered in a new direction, exclusive to your own imagination. That’s the fun of Peninsula Strays – no matter how you approach it, it works with you. It’s very cooperative that way. And who doesn’t like music that’s cooperative?

Solo1
Doom Trip Records

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, September 18, 2017

REAL YAWNY / WICA INTINA
“Discussing an Earful of Earth Nostalgia”
(Sticker Gitters Collective)




Earth nostalgia can go two ways: focus on the natural, organic elements – the people, the plants, etc. – or focus on the technological, meaning the progress that humanity has made in various areas. No matter what you’re focusing on, if you’ve got nostalgia for Earth, you’re no longer there. You’re gone – the planet is likely a desolate, uninhabitable wasteland in the rearview of your rocket ship, and the robots have staged a mutiny.

So what happens if your reflection occurs on a cassette tape, a piece of tech that firmly bridges the past and the future? Your head explodes, that’s what.

Nah. But let’s “discuss” this “earful of Earth nostalgia,” shall we? Real Yawny lands on the electronic spectrum, completely, hurling ten lo-fi electronic/techno tracks in our direction. Yeah, it sure sounds as if the Yawnmeister wants to join our new robot overlords by making music that would appeal to their innermost circuits, but there’s no way he can prevent his humanness from infiltrating the tunes. That’s a good thing, and once again, a gap is bridged – people using electronics to make electronic music to make people to, or something like that. Sure, increase the population, why not? We’re in space here, we need a colony. At any rate, Real Yawny’s groove sensors are processing on overdrive, and that combined with the tonal rough edges result in a nifty side A that’s easy to get lost in. I could live without the vocals on “Light Maps,” but that’s a minor quibble.

Wica Intina’s holed up in the back like Captain America in SNOWPIERCER, plotting, always plotting. He wants nothing to do with the technology, and in fact the retreats in the exact opposite direction, internalizing his humanness and expressing it through an acoustic guitar. His compositions are insular, recorded quickly to four-track (if that). We’re familiar with Wica, and we are unsurprised at this turn. What we do like is his choice of cover tunes: “Totally Confused” by Beck, which appeared on GOLDEN FEELINGS (which I have) and the “Beercan” single, and the resulting production is just as canned as the GF original (which is a good thing). Speaking of canned production, “Smothered in Hugs” by Guided By Voices is represented here, a BEE THOUSAND tune (also a record I’ve written about in the very distant past and I’m hesitant to link to). It sounds like a ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE outtake in Wica’s hands, exactly what he was going for (likely).

So here’s your soundtrack. The revolution against the robots to save what’s left of humanity begins now. Or if you just want to listen to a cool tape with two very different sides, you can do that too.
Wica Intina
Sticker Gitters Collective

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ALOCASIA GARDEN
“Colony” (Crow Versus Crow)




To colonize, one must claim ownership over a property. Alocasia Garden, aka Reece Thomas Green of Folkstone, UK, visualizes the machinations of the colonizer through proto-industrial sound, its arrival and assimilation of space and/or population a tense inevitability in the composer’s hands. What’s colonized? Who’s colonizing? I can’t get enormous interstellar vessels out of my head, massive hulks moving from planet to planet. I also can’t shake the idea of European colonization, a real, terrible actuality that has shaped and continues to shape our world today. Maybe the former is a sci-fi metaphor for the latter (well, it certainly is), but either way, Alocasia Garden’s treatment of its ideas is as unsettling as it is thrilling. Piercing metallic tones reveal the intentions of Green’s subjects, and most of it’s not good. Rumbles of heavy, thudding progress fill the atmosphere, and forward movement occurs in an inexorable tide of struggle and vanity. Consider song titles too – “Consumed by Struggle,” “Allegory of Vanity,” and ones I haven’t referenced, like “Verity” and “Purge,” all ideas pointing to the ends of eras and the beginnings of new, and not exactly welcome, ruling entities. Weighty material indeed! Fortunately, Green guides us through the album like an author, scenes appearing and stories progressing toward their finalities. It all makes me wonder what sort of grasp he has on the English language – could there be a novel in there somewhere? I ask myself that question all the time. Sadly, I don’t have much musical skill anymore to fall back on when the words don’t come. Good thing I know how to listen to tapes!


--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 16, 2017

PETRIDISCH “A Fixed Point” (I Heart Noise)




Boston “darkwave” artist Petridisch has the honor of releasing the first physical artifact on I Heart Noise, till now a blog and digital mixtape label intent on unearthing “peculiar sounds” and unleashing them upon the unwitting populace – sounds a little bit like yours truly, if you ask me. (Except for the label part – who’s got time for that?) Now there are physical things to consume in real space! A CD (ugh; edition of 10) and a tape (yay! Edition of 50), but you’ve already bought the tape (because it’s sold out). Petridisch, true to his vast discographical root structure (see link below), toils in an electronic landscape that’s part techno, part industrial, all mood, and these four songs are a perfect entry point into his psyche-delia. “The Unknown Rabbit” and “Operation Interlude” are my favorite tracks here, mainly because there’s an added dash of shoegaze that was always oh-so-present in my favorite netlabel releases from the early to mid-2000s (Laridae, represent!). Thick synths swell over electro clicks, overwhelming speakers in the best possible way. “In the Red” and “In the Black” feature vocal samples, and while they totally work within the genre and within these two tracks, I’ll take non-vocal tracks any day of the week. Still, “Red” and “Black” have that gothic element, the female voices drifting over the bleeps and blops like KMFDM background singers over a half-speed Orbital track. OK, OK, the space is a magic space. There, I said it, you happy? A FIXED POINT, perhaps THE reference point for all Petridisch music, is the perfecto place to start your collection of PD tunes and also IHN releases. Get in on the ground floor here, folks, and tell everybody I sent ya when these things fetch a grand on Discogs.



--Ryan Masteller

Friday, September 15, 2017

SHEEN MARINA “Travel Lightly
(Very Special Recordings)




TRAVEL LIGHTLY indeed – Sheen Marina is a lithe organism, not overly burdened with the pomp or bloat of rock-and-roll excess. Lean and mean, and not just because of the assonance, Sheen Marina shreds through TRAVEL LIGHTLY, the band’s new (and blue!) tape (whose j-card is also really arty, like a totally detailed van, all fully fold-overed and junk) on Very Special Recordings, a label that knows a thing or two about shifty, active art rock. As such, Sheen Marina fits in spectacularly, drawing comparisons to Deerhoof, Mr. Bungle, the Dismemberment Plan, and, probably, Shudder to Think in some Baltimore-area co-ops. (I know a Baltimorean who was really in to STT, so there.) Guitars are strangled, drums are pummeled – a sax is bleated at some point. But see, Sheen Marina is sneaky – they write these choruses that will have you totally singing along with them, these melodies that just wriggle themselves into your brain. But just when you think you’ve got the song pegged, Sheen Marina pulls the rug and goes in a totally different direction, kind of like “Swipe” takes a page from both “Desert Search for Techno Allah” and “Do the Standing Still.” I love it – it’s pretty much the only kind of indie rock that still does it for me these days, the kind that keeps me guessing because I can never figure out what’s coming next. And don’t you just want to be surprised by the music you’re listening to? Who wants “Evenflow” over and over, generation after generation? I don’t. That’s what makes bands like Sheen Marina special – they keep taking chances, and the fact that they’re making some of the most listenable music you can think of is just icing on the cake. A blue cake, with a weird face decorated onto it. Wait a sec, that cake looks just like my van – is TRAVEL LIGHTLY permeating every facet of my life? God, I hope so.

Sheen Marina
Very Special Recordings

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, September 14, 2017

EXT.TMP “Toggle God Mode” (Bedlam Tapes)




IF – and that’s a fully capital “IF” – you want your sound rendered in three-dimensional visual accompaniment, look no further than ext.tmp, the electronic artist masquerading as a computer file (probably one teeming with viruses). Bedlam Tapes, out of Germany, has somehow seen the need to unleash TOGGLE GOD MODE into the world, its synthetic TRON-esque landscapes pixelating before your very eyes as grids beget geometric forms, which take on size, contour, and texture before being imbued with life and set on constant cosmic gif-fery. You hear TOGGLE GOD MODE, and these things appear, as if the music itself was some sort of … Master Control Program? Regardless, IF fully becomes WHEN at this point, because once you enter this terrain, there is absolutely no returning from it, and do you want to? I mean, this video for “sidable_spectator” is like David Lynch on MS Paint after playing waaaay too many hours of MARBLE MADNESS on the NES. These visuals have to mean something, but what? We hover, we roll, we splash – but why? Our answers are not forthcoming from ext.tmp, but instead we are thrust ever further into the fantastic realm imagined only by the circuits of a computer. Kind of like a holodeck on the ENTERPRISE if the ENTERPRISE was fully assimilated by the Borg, but the Borg were all, like, tripping balls big time and decided to collectively major in graphic design. But there’s the paradox: we all know the Borg is a collective, they don’t go to college – they ALREADY know how to make this zany stuff! Still, ext.tmp remains, exists, creates, and we are powerless to resist against ext.tmp’s infinite electronic charms. Pulses and melodies earworm into your cerebral cortex and become part of your nervous system, engendering responses that you never knew you could perform, at speeds you never imagined your body could reach. And this is all before TOGGLE GOD MODE becomes the new normal – at first you’re merely at a stage of rapid and advanced change, and when you no longer sense the intricacies of ext.tmp’s alterations, once they’ve fully become part of you, that’s when you ascend. You’re probably asking, What do you mean ascend, to where? I dunno, man, I’m just telling you what I’ve seen with my own eyes. People change, then ascend. I imagine there’s some spherical Lynchian globule involved.

Bedlam Tapes
Rendering Portfolio

--Ryan Masteller


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

TIM PILCHER & MONICA LORD
“s/t” (Dismal Niche)




I am a man of constant sorrow. I’ve seen trouble all my day. Well, now that you mention it, I have not seen trouble all my day, and I’m not really in a state of constant sorrow. But you’ll have to excuse me that the old Soggy Bottom Boys song gets lodged in the ol’ thinker from time to time, especially when I’m faced with a full-on deluge of Americana in the form of rootsy folk from the Midwest. And to be fair, Tim Pilcher and Monica Lord do not recall the Soggy Bottom Boys (maybe a bit on “The Hermit”), but they ply the trade of a-pickin’ and a-bowin’ they’s instruments till the sweet heavenly angels come to rest on the roofs of the lucky homes from which their celestial emanations emerge. Pilcher with his acoustic guitar sends the prayers of the downtrodden aloft, notes gently sparkling off into the night sky like embers from a campfire. Lord draws the angels to earth and tethers them here with her plaintive cello, beseeching them with supplications for increased attention. This self-titled tape is pure nighttime meditativeness, beyond the back porch but never backwoods – the aw-shucks dreamer and romantic in me is fully sated after its too-brief encroachment into my consciousness. So what do I do now, now that I’ve melted into the background, into the shadows, become adrift on the night? Can I speak in a different language, from a different pulpit, with a different message? No more sorrow, no more trouble. I will not be run out of this town. I will be redeemed! Forgiven – but maybe not by the great state of Mississippi? Ah well. I guess I should never have knocked over that Piggly Wiggly in Yazoo City. But hey – at least I know what redemption SOUNDS like. Sounds like this tape.

Dismal Niche

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MONTE BURROWS “Skua” C20 (Falt)





Shit. ”Winter Winds,” side A of SKUA by Monte Burrows, aka Joe McKay, on France’s Falt, portends the advance of the White Walkers beyond the Wall, an event that the Night’s Watch is not equipped to stop in the throes of winter. The track is ten minutes of their advance. It’s terrifying, and we all know how that’s going to end. I’d offer spoilers, but I’m shaking with the dread fostered by these field recordings and processed through whatever computer programs Monte Burrows was able to get his hands on in Westeros.

OK, look, I’m not going to do that the whole time. So I watch GAME OF THRONES. So does everybody else. (And I read the books too!) And “Winter Winds” >/</= “Winds of Winter”? C’mon now.

I’m not going to do that the whole time because “False Beach” is also here, and it deserves some non-GOT attention, especially considering that (1) it takes place on a beach and (2) there aren’t too many beaches in GOT. Still, it’s a gray-sounding venture, a scratchy recording, more of a memory than an actual jaunt to the seaside. The sun doesn’t shine, the clouds menace, the wind is cold. It’s actually kind of like winter at the beach, and the wind … it’s the “Winds of Winter” again!

So I am actually going to do that the whole time, apparently. Sue me.

If we want to get technical, “False Beach” is probably what the Ironborn of Pike would listen to if they were into really tactile field-recorded tapes. They might not be as equally formidable a foe as the White Walkers, but you still probably don’t want to cross them.

I’ll show myself out.

(Joe McKay is probably like, “WTF dude.” I can only hope he’s a closet GOT fan.)

Monte Burrows
Falt

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, September 11, 2017

ENDLESS MELANCHOLY
“The Vacation” (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ)




Oh… THE VACATION is dedicated to the memory of Ray Bradbury. He was one of the authors who inspired me most when I was an adolescent – the reveries, the danger, the unabashed hope, I think, in the end.

Oh, Oleksiy Sakevych – how on earth did you capture the exact nature of Bradbury’s tone and mood and feeling and … endless melancholy of growing up and realizing that the dreams you had were foolish and unrealistic? But in Bradbury’s alternate universe, they were not only possible but probable – “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” – all evoke childhood, or at least the status quo (potentially of childhood), ending and responsibility stretching out before you like a black, viscous lake. Take that responsibility and shove it. Let’s go to Mars, or let’s indulge in magic.

THE VACATION is steeped in nostalgia, synthesizers and textured tones like old, scratchy postcards flitting across the consciousness and telling stories within their moments, true stories that reflect the best books you’ve read and gotten lost in and will always have as a part of you. “They had wakened one morning and the world was empty,” “Stillness mixed with stillness,” “‘Wouldn’t we be lonely?,’” “His voice faded,” “Sunflower wilderness,” “Earth that was now no more than a meadow” – the titles extend the narrative beyond the sound, beyond the memory, until “And he had walked her through the still and empty city streets” admits the ending is somber but far from over. That’s all we want here. That’s what Bradbury gave us. Kudos to Endless Melancholy for capturing that in sound.

Endless Melancholy
ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ

--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, September 10, 2017

ELECTRIC SOUND BATH & JESSE FLEMING
“Ataraxia Series No. 1: Heart and Insight Meditations” C61
(Crash Symbols)




Crash Symbols has unleashed upon us a new series of recordings, a maelstrom of cassette’d sounds that is bound to rend the very fabric of your being. The first entry in the series promises to shake you to your very core. Indeed, the Ataraxia Series, primed to blast through the cassette community with a vengeance … wait, it’s called the “Ataraxia Series”? I, uh… I think I might be headed down the wrong path here with this opening – I was under the impression that “Ataraxia” was something heavy, you know, with cool black metal fonts? Ataraxia. Yeah. But no, “ataraxia” is defined as “calmness untroubled by mental or emotional disquiet,” so basically the total opposite of what I was going for there. It happens – I am fallible.

Looks instead like I should have looked beyond the cover and realized that the series is actually called the Ataraxia Mediation Series, a “collection of guided and experimental meditation releases” that Crash Symbols is curating. Like those old tapes you find at Goodwill with the dated covers featuring inviting guides or smooth, stacked rocks or water drops or pan flutes – you know what I’m talking about – Ataraxia cassettes will serve as peaceful escorts through the inner workings of your being, acting as an escape from the everyday stresses while simultaneously serving as self-actualizers. Jesse Fleming, an artist from Los Angeles, and tone duo Electric Sound Bath combine their mutual interest in bettering oneself through relaxation techniques, with Fleming reading prepared meditative statements while ESB crafts the atmosphere. The result fills the spaces of your consciousness that have been overwhelmed by modern inconvenience and a fast-paced mentality, all while manipulating your outlook to guide – there’s that word yet again – you toward a sense of inner alignment. How is this not on the lovely Inner Islands label, which specializes in this kind of thing?

Anyway, Fleming’s words over the sound bath are exactly what you would expect from this kind of experiment, and I don’t know if I’ve heard the word “forgiveness” so many times in one sitting – forgiveness of others, forgiveness of self, etc. It’s refreshing in these turbulent times to consider that forgiveness is still an option. What does forgiveness look like again? Well, hey, I know what it sounds like – it sounds like Ataraxia Series No. 1, like coming to terms with yourself, like being a better person after hearing what it’s doing to the deepest parts of your being. It heals while it transforms, and you transcend while you hear, and time stretches out like a flat circle so that you encompass the forgiveness and the forgiving, living and understanding at the very same moment. You won’t even come out the other side an “enlightened jerk face” (ha, Jesse, good one), but a human being ready to interact with other human beings. Isn’t that the point anyway? You may even bond with someone over a good metal record – if you’re willing to forgive yourself first.

Crash Symbols

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, September 9, 2017

TARPIT “Walls and Windows” (All Gone)



Like the bathroom stalls beneath old Veterans Stadium before they blew that abomination right up, Tarpit’s “music” is coated in grime and other unmentionable substances. It is likely that this artist/group is from Philly as well, at least according to the scant pieces of information that the internet turns up. But since I’m not about to poke around the old dark web for any further bits and pieces, you get what you get from me, an honest opinion on a barely coherent industrial/noise album. That sounds like damning commentary, but I assure you, if you’re the type of person who can stomach whatever still crawls in the dark corners of abandoned SEPTA subway stations, you’re probably in for a treat with Tarpit. The clangs, the squirms, the grotesqueries, all serve the greater whole of displacement and disillusionment. Coherence? Who needs it! Get lost in the muck – like, literally get lost until you’re truly unable to find your way home. Become one of the sewer people who are almost certainly living under every major metropolitan area. Especially Philly! One day they will all rise up and reclaim the surface.

All Gone

--Ryan Masteller


Friday, September 8, 2017

LUNG CYCLES
“On Being Lumpy (2016 Edition)”
(Lily Tapes and Discs)




Gorgeous bedroom acoustic folk music, à la the lo-fi Midwestern indie scene in the late 1990s early 2000s. Originally released in 2011 on CDR, ON BEING LUMPY is the product of Ben Lovell, the man behind Lung Cycles, who decided that enough time had passed that he could revisit these songs without being horrified by them in some way (he says he was “frustrated and anxious” at the time of their recording, and if I were Ben, I may have just let the tapes collect dust in a shoebox under my bed – or, uh, in an unused folder on my desktop?). The songs live on their own, depict a specific time in one’s life, and speak to the fear inherent in the unknown. I get it – I went through that kind of period before, and Ben speaks to the me of that time, likely how ON BEING LUMPY acts as a snapshot of his own life. The music is split between instrumentals and vocal pieces, and regardless of which is doing the heavy lifting, there’s still an element that can be easily latched on to, an emotional point of reference that keeps the tape moored to an actual real world. It makes me wonder – how would I respond to a time capsule from the me of 2011 here in 2017? Would I understand where I was coming from? Would I be able to relate? I don’t know. Listening to this makes me sort of want to dig deeper into my own musical past, pull out some of the tracks I recorded with … oh god no – oh, I really WAS a Primus fan at one point! Time to take these tapes to the incinerator – sorry Ben, you and I may connect on some of the emotional checkpoints here, but I’m way too embarrassed to release any of this junk. Good on you for plugging along a listenable path in the first place!

Lung Cycles
Lily Tapes and Discs

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, September 7, 2017

DANE ROUSAY “blip” (self-released)




I wasn’t sure how “minimalist percussion” was going to translate from a concept to a reality, but once “blip” the album started zig-zagging through my headphones, I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to escape it. Dane Rousay isn’t content to wail away on a drum kit like a basement-bound Neil Peart wannabe – no way. At times, I’m not even sure he’s playing “drums” or percussion or something – I have every reason to believe he’s processing these sounds through some kind of computer program. But you and I know better. The whole point of “blip” is the inventiveness on display, the “magnification” – Rousay’s word – of minimal percussion until it becomes an overwhelming maximalist production. At times I feel like I’m listening to an electronic glitch producer, but the tones and the timbres discourage me from that line of reasoning rather quickly. I’m reminded of the time I was in a band in college and we instructed our drummer to play like Aphex Twin, although I realized later I should have said Autechre. Assuredly, “blip” is nothing like that. It was a weird digression that I just thought of.

The sound is incredible, and makes the idea of a fully “percussion” album less avant-garde-y and more accessible than it probably has any right to be. Because it exists on the nexus of acoustic instrumentation, rigorous composition, and virtuosic playing bordering, as I’ve said, on the unbelievable (it’s actually injected with way more humanness and feeling than any technological composition whose feeling is sheened away by processing), “blip” probably has ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and plowed a nonlinear path in a direction unforeseen by physicists. From tuned and hammered glass (?) to an actual kit, Rousay’s playing is considered and resourceful, and it’s clear that the ideas he’s got kicking around in his head are well worth the attention of those with even a passing interest in percussive arrangement. Then, “blip” is a triumph, something to return to time and again with questions like “How’d he come up with that?” nagging the backs of our amateur minds.

And goodness – the “blip” art is fantastic, a gorgeous job all around. Kudos to Grace Herndon. And it’s mastered by Marcus Maurice, whose More Eaze work I’ve profiled in the past. I’m pretty sure “blip” is the complete package.

Dane Rousay’s WEB SITE
Dane Rousay’s BAND CAMP

--Ryan Masteller