Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GALAXIE DELUXE “IV” C30 (OJC Recordings)

The question, “Are you Team Rigel Magellan or Team Ropal Jagnu” used to eat at us just like choosing either the Beatles or the Stones did in the 1960s. I never felt comfortable aligning myself to one band or the other – why couldn’t they just make music together and give everybody what they really wanted? But there was never the possibility that Paul would jam with Keith or Mick would rock out with John. It was a foolish dream that ended long before I was even born. Now, as we’re rolling through the late twenty-teens, I’m faced with the OJC Recordings version of that conundrum: Am I a Rigel Magellan or a Ropal Jagnu man? The question is all but tearing me apart inside. Fortunately for all of you afflicted in the same way that I am, I have good news – the mail has foretold of a cassette tape project where the problem is resolved in such a satisfying manner that you’ll say “Beatles who?” and “Rolling … Bears?” once you wrap your ears around this pretty little nugget. See, Rigel Magellan and Ropal Jagnu have made my dreams come true as Galaxie Deluxe, their own supergroup, thereby allowing me to forego any terrible choice that almost certainly would end in Solomonic baby-halving (which didn’t actually happen, so … chill). Huh? This is their FOURTH go-round as the GD quirkadelic lo-fi mavens, GD? That would explain the title, IV, and also the fact that I wasn’t really as worked up as I pretended to be above. Also, it’s hard to stay tense when the Galaxie Deluxe gang is so obviously having such a blast working together. Utilizing their trademark synthesizers, drum machines, and skewed take on melody (think the Haord crew as a potential contemporary match), Rigel and Ropal lurch through a nine-song repertoire recorded with the fidelity low and the atmosphere high. Their approach is sort of “Monster Mash” run through video games and dub, with obscured, bizarre vocals narrating the proceedings. The song “How’d They Get a Sound So Big?” is sort of the project’s overarching mystery, as they somehow build thick swaths of atmosphere from obviously chintzy equipment (or maybe it’s not, but the effect is right on). Still, hard not to have a good time with Galaxie Deluxe, some incense, and a blacklight. This is the exact tape I wish I had in college, and I’m still in a position to enjoy it. Now if I could only figure out this resurrection spell, I’d have Ringo back among us and playing with the remaining Stones right now. (Wait, Ringo’s not one of the dead ones? Oh boy…)

OJC Recordings

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Regeneration Blues vol. 1” (Orb Tapes)

If you’ve ever spent a rainy day inside admiring the sweet twang of your Dobro, thinking lovingly of your trusty blender, and struggling to find a way to combine your passions, furrow your brow in frustration no longer! Teuthis Galore presents Regeneration Blues vol. 1, a collection of two chopped and obliterated blues samples dragged to hell and left there. Regeneration Blues is just the latest release on Pennsylvania-based Orb Tapes by the ever-prolific Teuthis Galore, and is also the artist’s second feature on Cassette Gods.

Both tracks follow a similar formula: a lurching blues loop of indeterminate origin dives further and further into noisy, tape-manipulated insanity until it is only vaguely reminiscent of the lick that opened the song. All at once, near the end of each side’s ten-minute run time, the trip ends, the noise subsides, and the jittery sample briefly reemerges before disappearing altogether.

Certainly not for the faint of heart, Regeneration Blues vol. 1 is an interesting deconstruction of blues music akin to Steve Reich’s early work and Henry Flynt’s merging of “hillbilly” folk instrumentation with experimental tape fuckery. Robert Johnson’s inverted portrait appropriately graces the cover and serves as Teuthis Galore’s foreboding statement to all who dare to enter this Delta death hole.

Orb Tapes FB
Orb Tapes Bandcamp
Teuthis Galore Bandcamp

--Brandon Spaulding

Monday, December 11, 2017

C60 (Antiquated Future)

"Lady Hope" rounds out a trilogy of bleak, handcrafted releases by Seattle artist Tucker Theodore, the first of which was 2013's "To make the Sun Hurt" which was an acoustic album with some noise augmentations. Next was 2014"s "Kill and Dress," which was a little darker and a good bit noisier.

This album ends the story. It is the cassette that investigators discover jutting from the tape deck in a burned out car and send to forensics for testing. What is heard on the recording is the remains of a truly heartfelt expression, but where there was once a singer/songwriter, strumming a guitar slowly and singing about lost love or lost life, now the ravages of time and heartbreak have washed over his song, and have begun to even corrode the very tape that he recorded on, until an oxidized shell of brittle burnt metal, and the cinders of a well worn guitar are all that is found among the charred ashes.

I would like to know what the protagonist in the story is going through, but I do not believe we are meant to. Tucker Theodore has painted himself a shadowy figure, staring out at us in his muscle shirt, daring us to know him. We cannot. For at every opportunity, he is obscured further, until he is no longer there. That is what makes this hour-long dirge stirring, and yet indiscernible, moving, yet distant. "Lady Hope" is a beautifully sad love letter, crumpled and set alight in a rusted oil barrel full of bent nails.

Presented for you in a white cassette with black stamping. Includes a download card.

-- Gray Lee

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Acid Owl" C44
(Grabbing Clouds Records & Tapes)

Patrick R. Pärk (aka Kösmonauten) may very well Dream tangentially Tangerinian on the nightly, but his Life Education project finds him letting in a little room for 3 or so monkish Spacepersons to (spiritually) jam out an internal centering, eschewing the asteroid-wayward, cosmic narrative for a celebration of microcosmic breaths, in and out, of mind; the effect is a molasses-slow’d interpretation of ritualistic spacecult communion

Perfect for all times not including “work hours”, Acid Owl lays the groundwork for pulling the ground, and work, out of today, leaving, instead, a seaweed-swaying sense of time and connection to the Great Pulse, which, for me, has inspired increased productivity in my personal pursuits. Take all I say with a grain of salt, but I’m fairly sure that if you give this album in its entirety two loud plays, you’ll find yourself wanting to either Get Shit Done (artistically) or simply feel a little more calm, without necessarily feeling “dulled”. Check it out via the link below, with good headphones or bass-heavy speakers. ☺

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Friday, December 8, 2017

“Can’t Take the Country Out of the Boy”
(Friendship Tapes)

Free jazz in the spirit of lo-fi punk, with tape manipulations. Raw and clangorous. The liner notes suggest a sort of new age psychiatry vibe. In fact, the deluxe handmade packaging somewhat outshines the recordings, between the funny enigmatic liner notes and a hodge-podge of imagery that defies expectations. The strange photo of an assembled plate of food on the edge of a sink is a nice corollary to the music, because they both strike me as documents of raw living. I look at the photo and – through the haze of human experience that separates me from the artist – I see a moment in Andy Allen’s life, his creative process, his prepared meal. Maybe it was delicious, maybe it was gross, but it was definitely the real raw-dog deal. The excitement involved in seeing that red plate of food perched at the edge of the sink is a natural equivalent to making “music for prescribed proportions w/ flexible content” out of bleating woodwinds and fast-forwarding cassette machines. Testify!

-- Kevin Oliver

Thursday, December 7, 2017

MICHAEL POTTER “Garden Portal Almanac”
C37 (Already Dead)

Mine eyes have seen the glory. Interacting with Michael Potter online has clouded what I expect Michael Potter on tape to sound like. The musician, based in Athens, Georgia, enjoys a wide array of experimental cassette releases (hey, like me!), so I figured he was going to dive in the deep end of sonic chaos with some crazily modulated and processed noise release. Well, I was right about one thing – he’s in the deep end, paddling effortlessly around like an unholy hybrid of Matt Biondi and Mark Spitz, masters in this metaphor of their chosen profession, but the sonic chaos I expected out of Potter was of a completely different variety. Not the noisenik of my imagination, Potter instead tackles two of my greatest loves, prog and krautrock, excelling way beyond any reasonable expectation and making my fucking day right there and then.

I mean, he’s got a whole band with him, and they’re so cohesive, the interplay so organic that I couldn’t even write anything right away because I had to shield my eyes from GARDEN PORTAL ALMANAC, such was its splendor (that’s also a metaphor – I was listening to, not looking at, GARDEN PORTAL ALMANAC). You like hyperbole? I feel like I’m filled with it right now. That’s what happens when you get hyped by something like “What Makes You Happy,” its build, triumphant, galloping toward complete harmonic tension before guitar pyrotechnics explode into the night sky and Potter’s guitar face threatens to consume us all. And this is all in the first track alone. I can’t even believe there are five more of these things.

“Can One Make Two” will satisfy every kraut craving you will ever have (except the sauer kind, and who likes that garbage anyway?), its motorik rhythm racing to outpace every instrument chasing it. The bass keeps up, lithe, athletic, while guitar and synth color and texturize the landscape, bursting and blooming anew with each passing second. Jeff Tobias’s mercurial saxophone is more than just icing on this masterpiece, it adds an intensity that completes the track in a way that leaves me stupid with word neglect and remembering problems. Plow me over again, “Can One Make Two.” Double, triple rewind.

The middle passage is a bit more ruminative, led by “Garden Portal Lullaby,” a rich, shimmery acoustic track that of course ends on spaced-out laser melodies that would’ve made the Verve blush in 1995. And I’ve heard a bunch of versions of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” and “Sleepwalker” takes the cake. Dear David Lynch… Anyway, end on a high note with “Days Go Fast” and “Get Out,” each crushed by the power of the band, blistering supernova hot like a Trans Am/Pontiak hybrid, pistons firing effortlessly with sheer authority – and talk about your car bands! Dare we add Maserati to the mix? Totally wouldn’t be out of place.

I think it’s pretty clear what the next step is – buy one of these pups from Already Dead, like you haven’t already or something. Buy another one. Give it away. Give them all good homes. Make those good homes better ones.

Michael Potter
Already Dead

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

PAUL CARR “Big Carsey” / “I’m Not Fantasy Man” C5 (Build Music)

I’m so dumb! This is so great. Paul Carr talks things and says words and his guitar cabo boings against beats like they don’t even know or don’t want to. Why is David Bowie talking to me from beyond the grave? And the real question – is everyone with a British accent David Bowie? – haunts my experience of this here now section of timeline. The answer lies in my understanding of what even “is” is, and it’s not an easy question to answer. I’m seasick but grounded, like I’m eating ice cream off the pavement and everyone is ignoring me because they’ve seen it all already. I’m not fantasy man either! I don’t even know what that means, but the worst part of it is that it means something because I’m denying it with my dying breath. The pulse of “Big Carsey” is my heartbeat, but it makes me crazy, I’m freaking out man, like Garth in Wayne’s World, also of ice cream eating fame, or at least talking about ice cream flavors, where villains are flavored “pralines and dick,” but I can’t tell who’s against me here. My eyes are pried open and I’m forced to watch weird stuff with Paul Carr in the background. I’m probably gonna spew. If I’m gonna spew, I better spew into this. Paul Carr is a winner with a winning personality, remember that or face the deadly consequences.

Paul Carr
Build Music

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

(Skin Trade Recordings)

Atonal blackness envelops, night rife with existential danger. Caustic machinations manipulated for maximum terror haunt rather than emanate from stereo speakers, their psychic dread lasting long after the final tone is sounded. These cosmic nightmarescapes are augmented with horrifying vocalizations, communications from the very darkest pockets of existence, universes where decay and destruction mask the demonic inhabitants. The sounds resolve themselves in pulses of charred oblivion.

And that’s just the Actuary side! In somewhat of a reversal of what I’ve just described, Actuary has this message of gratitude on the inside of the j-card: “To those who struggle but get it done anyways.” Actuary gets it done, but the sound is the sound of struggle, difficult to hear and digest. But that’s the point. At any rate, “Possessing Power” is one of the coolest noise tracks I’ve heard in a while. It’s harsh but it’s surprisingly listenable as I recline in the jaws of an irate hellhound.

Seamstress does not let up on the unholy racket, plowing through the single track on side B, “Carbon Silhouette,” like their hair was on fire, or their gear, or the ground upon which they walk. Hallucinating the entire way through the side, Seamstress doles out harsh trip after harsh trip, magnifying the darkness inherent in the shadow of the silhouette cast. A nice counterpoint to Actuary, Seamstress plays music that’s the equivalent of a lava lamp filled with black liquid buoying black bubbles of a slightly different blackness. This whole thing’s a harrowing experience. It’s great to dig into.

Skin Trade Recordings

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, December 4, 2017

FUCHS & BECKETT “#fadbdd Vol. 1” C40 (Litho)

There’s no way to divorce the music from the story. A man named Martin Ermisch passed away at 91, leaving a collection of reel-to-reel tapes to Fuchs, his neighbor, in 2015. The tapes had belonged to Ermisch’s son, Bernd Jürgen, a musician and studio owner who had sadly predeceased Ermisch in the 1990s. Not willing to let such a treasure trove go to waste, Fuchs enlisted Beckett, of Fuchs & Beckett fame (get it?), to go through the tapes and see what they could do with them. Among their discoveries were tracks recorded at Jürgen’s studio, and also “recordings of family events, fieldrecordings[, and] radio broadcasts.” The duo then “destructively edited” the recordings, a term so descriptive that I’ve fallen in love with it, and rearranged and processed the results for this here tape.

That’s the story – let’s delve into this thing, shall we? The first thing that comes to mind is Leyland Kirby’s Caretaker work, the ghostly samples of an obscured past haunting the present, casting a long shadow over legacy and personality alike. One can’t help but wonder how these recordings affected Ermisch and Jürgen, and Fuchs & Beckett handle them (despite the destructive editing) with care, ensuring that the decomposition of the sounds were captured for maximum emotional response. In doing so, the memory of the two men is kept alive in a reverent way, and as the repurposed sounds trigger universal cues, they prove that the archive kept for years by two different people can be dispersed over a wider audience who can relate quite easily to it. Even the 19-minute ambient track “Hahallelujah” is enveloping and inviting, piped in as it seems from another dimension. This makes me wonder if Ermisch and Jürgen are peeking in on us from the great beyond, checking up on what Fuchs & Beckett got themselves into with their material. Fortunately for our late benefactors, they’ve got nothing to worry about. The sounds are in good hands.


--Ryan Masteller

Sunday, December 3, 2017

M A L I B L U E :( “failure” (Adhesive Sounds)

That’s a thick black cloud that’s encasing this release, a surprise given that m a l i b l u e :( usually traffics in somewhat brighter fare. This time, though, the vaporwave artist embraces the clustering darkness (forever) of “life under late capitalism,” a freakishly weird time to be alive for all of us. Not hard to see what direction m a l i b l u e :(‘s headed this time around, as a quick glance at the track titles will give you all the indication that you need: “disappointment,” “fear,” “i'm so sorry,” “no hope” … should I go on? This tape’s called FAILURE after all, as if any attempt at course correction is bound to end up miserably for those who try, and even more miserably for those who are just caught up in it. Gross. Gross! But fortunately for us listeners, tragedy and encroaching doom make for pretty great artistic statements, and FAILURE in that regard is a total triumph. Forget for a second the wars, the famine, the environmental catastrophes, the unchecked rise of big business, the social injustice – there’s some great music to be gleaned from it! … Wow, that was almost too cynical to type, and it’s left an awful taste in my mouth. Don’t think I’d reduce the importance of any of that for a second. Still, if something like FAILURE is going to get you off your keister and into any kind of position to help others, it has proved its worth and met its intentions. And it really is damn listenable, I wasn’t kidding about that – where the cynic in me sees only a hedonistic future of music in catastrophe and the stone-faced crusader sees it as a means to rise above, it’s really somewhere in the middle, and that’s where it has to be sometimes to be the most effective. And it’s great that artists like m a l i b l u e :( can deliver so effectively – FAILURE’s a plunderphonic masterwork, vaporwave for the internally conflicted, charting an ear candy course through pop, trip hop, experimental electronics, shoegaze, softcore, dub, etc., a living, breathing concoction from a genre that often loses the “living” and “breathing” in execution. In one fell swoop, m a l i b l u e :( makes up for all of that with FAILURE.

m a l i b l u e : (
Adhesive Sounds

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"On My Mind/Pumpkin" C6

Dude, there’s “lo-fi”, and there’s “six-fucking-feet-below-fi”; guess which camp LMA belongs to. And it’s almost a shame how goddamn terrible this two song “cassingle” is, in comparison to the full “demos” album that’s available on the bandcamp site. The quality of the (already EQ limited) mix translated to tape is just fucking awful. It’s all relative, right? I mean, the “demos versions” available online are so goddamn great, as well as all the equally gripping (maybe even more interesting?) vignettes and weirdo-omages going on that I feel kinda cheated that I didn’t just get the demos. LMA, if you ever go back in time, please send me the full DEMOS collection! Luckily, the I’m blissing out to the “One Bird Demos” instead and wanting more!

Shit! I forgot to review the tape, I was so busy complaining! Queso, Lifemusik Mit Andre is some serious bedroom lofi cheese-core jamz-kicker. He gots that non-stop 80’s backing karaoke drum tracks, nostalgic My First Casio melodies (intentionally. I’m fairly certain this was done on a decent modular synth) and unapologetically loose, gritty croonery (deep baritones and some buried falsetto), and grooving keyboard basslines that just don’t let up.

Be thankful you’ll never come across this cassingle (it’s not for sale, anyway), and be so thankful that you can hear it all on bandcamp. Strap on some headphones and grab a Capri-Sun!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Friday, December 1, 2017

“Concrete Colored Paint”
(Several Minor Promises)

While this review risks becoming white noise amid the unrelenting whirlwind of positive GeAr praise, it might behoove us to get down to the elemental nature of the mysterious California weirdos and remind ourselves what’s so great about them in the first place. The elemental nature. Because I can’t just say “GeAr = good” and move on, even though I’m tempted to do that what with the jaw agape and the drool puddling in front of me as “Concrete Colored Paint” plays on my stereo. Typing is hard in this state.

Item number 1: festering synthesizer and/or guitar work. You might think of the term “festering” and be immediately turned off, but German Army isn’t food and musical instruments don’t smell funny unless they’ve caught on fire somehow, so … get over it. No, the sound is molten, uneasy, slippery, hard to pin down when it’s bubbling like a lava flow one minute and pixilating in a hyperspace starburst the next.

Item number 2: rhythm in the bones. German Army has two settings, dub and tribal, and they use both to great effect, creating an industrialized crawl that pulses through the night and forms the backbone of their writhing tracks. While listening to “Zozobra” I realized that I have not nodded my head like that since Busta Rhymes dropped “Woo Ha!” like a million years ago. (“Zozobra” should not be confused with “Woo Ha!”)

Item number 3: dark, gripping soundscapes. Every moment is a harrowing one for German Army, doesn’t matter if it’s a film soundtrack moment like “Night Convict,” a tense nocturnal video game atmosphere like “Every Hole Dug,” or an ambient denouement like “Landowner.” Expect the tunes to be sharp and dangerous, sly creatures that penetrate your being and wriggle around inside your mind until you’re mad as Sam Neill in Event Horizon.

Did I just reference Event Horizon? Probably. All this to say, “Concrete Colored Paint” is a complete distillation of everything that makes German Army a great act, and while you’d think their intense release schedule might cause some dilution of the old creativity reservoir, you’d be wrong. “CCP” is one of the best GeAr releases in recent memory, and that’s saying something among all the quality tunage. From start to finish it sinks its long, needle-like claws in the base of your brain stem and manipulates your every function. It practically commands you to play it a second time once it ends. “Concrete Colored Paint” is just that persuasive, that compelling. It might even make you do things you don’t want to do, like build altars to weird gods and chanting all night to them in supplication.

Who said cult? They’re probably a cult. A doomsday cult, where the world ends as the result of a time disruption that winks it out of existence before it’s even formed. Too bad GeAr’s music’ll disappear with the rest of us.

German Army
Several Minor Promises

--Ryan Masteller