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Tabs Out | Look At These Tapes #12

Look At These Tapes #12
6.23.17 by Tabs Out Crew

look at these tapes

Look At These Tapes is a monthly roundup of our favorites in recent cassette artwork and packaging, along with short, stream-of-thought blurbs. Whatever pops into our heads when we look at/hold them. Selections by Jesse DeRosa, Mike Haley, and Scott Scholz.

 


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Tabs Out | Comfort Link – The Sedated Tones Of

Comfort Link – The Sedated Tones Of
6.22.17 by Ryan Masteller

comfort link

I don’t have a lot of time here, so I’ll get right to the point – my plane’s taking off in just over an hour, and I REALLY don’t want to sweat through a long TSA checkpoint line. I mean, if I’m really cutting it close, I might get all drenched in that nasty old stress sweat, the kind that stinks, you know? At least that’s what the deodorant commercials tell me. But here I am, rambling on, wasting my (and maybe your – who knows, you might have piano lessons or soccer practice or church group or something) time, not getting to the point even though I don’t have the luxury to do so. But there’s a reason why I’m chuckling to myself as I engage you here on these electronic pages. See, I’m not actually worried about the plane, if I’m being honest with you (and god knows, I’m always honest with you). I’m not worried about the lines or the inevitable luggage search (I have really weirdly shaped luggage). I’m not gonna sweat. Why, you ask? I’ve got a secret.

The reason that I’m all hopped up on zen right now is because of my old pal Comfort Link. No, it’s not because of “The Celestial Music Of Comfort Link,” although I completely understand why you’d think that. This time around we’ve got “The Sedated Tones Of Comfort Link,” a way different expression of minimal composition than that old tape – that was like three fiscal quarters ago. This one features ghostly organ and samples recorded onto decaying tape, giving it an otherworldly quality as it slowly emanates from your headphones and fills your body with its ectoplasmic sonic goo, dulling any sense of urgency you might have into a soft, fluffy internal hum. The A-side, “Sedate Tones for Tape and Organ,” drones consistently as you find yourself getting lost in it, details emerging from the stasis like ghosts of dreams that gently, ahem, comfort you before disappearing into the ether. The B-side, “Sedate Tones for Tape and Found Sound,” whispers like a scene from a faded black-and-white postcard from a time when things were simpler, when life was easier, and days were less rush-y to planes and nonsense like that. There’s a reason why I mentioned Basinski, Jeck, and Kirby in my previous review. Their spirits still linger over the Comfort Link sound. The recording is immaculate, projecting an aura fit for hushed cathedral meditation before petering out of existence at its finale. I can think of no better way to face the hurry-up-and-wait existence of modern life than with SEDATE TONES all up in my Walkman.

So in the time it took me to write this all to you (like, way longer than it took to read it, trust me), I missed my flight – but that’s OK. I feel like I’ve imparted some wisdom and pointed a few of you in the right direction, the direction you need to go, which is to the sPLeeNCoFFiN website. There you can purchase any number of sundry items to assist you in your travels, but please, make sure you pick up one of those five-dollar Comfort Link tapes – it’s like half the price of a bottle of water.

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Tabs Out | Nikmis – Widdendream

Nikmis – Widdendream
6.16.17 by Ryan Masteller

nikmis

Cripes, man, I wasn’t going to say this, but Nikmis might be the greatest thing that’s graced my eardrums in at least a fortnight, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve been spinning that new alt-J jawn “RELAXER” and that sheez is tighter than a trapeze act working without a safety net. But I’ve gotta be honest with you – the mysterious Nagoya, Japan, act responsible for “WIDDENDREAM” might just be the one to knock ol’ alt-J out of the rotation for good. And that’s AFTER I read the whole Santa hat diatribe, which kinda threw me off my game for a little bit, but here I am, back at it, enveloped in the glorious synthesizer melodies concocted – no, COMPOSED – like Nikmis was sitting at a harpsichord in freaking nineteenth-century Vienna. But he was NOT doing that, it only seems like he was, because “WIDDENDREAM” oozes classical and Romantic charm, and I bet Wendy Carlos and/or Morton Subotnick would be gleefully appreciative of its scope and execution. It’s like SWAN LAKE for the patch cord community.

(Haha – alt-J.)

Throughout the entire release, Nikmis warps his brilliant synth in baroque configurations like the Orange Milk house band a pint into “absinthe night” at the Akron (or Wherever, Ohio) compound. He makes one “feel the feels,” as it were, purposefully warping space and time to connect the past and the future, steeping his playing in nostalgia and retrofuturism, but Kubrickian retrofuturism, not the EPCOT Center kind. Life in this bubble is beautiful, and it’s a bubble I don’t want to leave. Everything outside of this bubble is affixed with adjectives like “bloodthirsty” and “malevolent” – and can’t I just stick around inside here for a while? Hey, I got an idea – that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. Forget stupid garbage music and forget alt-J and forget my (admittedly sometimes awesome) Sirius XM subscription in my car and forget modern life (it’s rubbish anyhow) – I’m going to hang out with Nikmis all by myself, foisting a constant reminder to my waking consciousness that it’s all been going downhill for a while. But damn it, everybody, Nikmis refuses that downhill trajectory. Nikmis rises the EFF UP.

By the way, Nikmis – and indeed “WIDDENDREAM” – is no stranger to these electronic pages. Check out episode #104 of this here podcast for a peek into his nifty little world. Then stop being stupid and buy a tape from Third Kind Records – there are still some left!

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Castle Bravo

New Batch – Castle Bravo
6.15.17 by Mike Haley

castle bravo

With each uncanny Castle Bravo cassette releases, the label has further cemented their slow-burn apocalypse manifesto. It’s a relatively young operation, but one with 20-some proclamations that are saturated in mystery and purpose, with a starkness of sound and imagery that branches out WIIIIDE. In short, Castle Bravo is one of the better experimental tape labels going right now, and if we’re exclusively talking about labels that lay out releases like oil slicks on burning hot interstates, they are probably the best thing going period. The latest batch out of CB’s 15th Street HQ in Lafayette, IN are all Doberman related titles. Doberman, a house-band of sorts, is how the label kicked things off, and have played a major role in the discography so far. If you are familiar with them, you should be pretty titillated at this point about this new batch.

Are you? Are you titillated? And we’re off.

 

To start things off, “Integral Formation,” a C40 from Gateway, is a offering of Doberman member JF (on synth, strings and springs) with horn accompaniment by TG (also of Doberman). It’s a menacing listen, with waves of horn providing an undeserved comfort, crucially baying out through open stained-glass windows, the glass rattling from the low-end, sleazy-motion electronics. Gateway use their instruments like archaic tools, etching gritty patterns of distorted thuds and bone-weary tones into clay. The duo steps right up to a line of unstable chaos, but manages to keep the dog on the leash, making for tracks that are hella jagged but still under control.

Who is Tim Gick? I’m not about to tell you, because I do not know. According to the Castle Bravo notes on Bandcamp, what we have here is another Doberman colleague, or at least one of ‘CRAZY’ Doberman. Of course, what marks the distinction between non-crazy and CRAZY Doberman is unknown, at least to me. I honestly don’t care though. This tape is fantastic, and possibly the most ‘cosmic’ sounding in the Castle Bravo catalog. Tim Gick launches out of basement on a home-made rocket with the intent to discharge a shameless amount fuss on his neighbors, while still maintaining the murky vibe I’m sure they are familiar with. Side A of “Soleil Noir” rattles off a persistent stream of sizzle and zap, as if someone filled a card shuffler with corrupted MP3s files and microwaved NASA recordings. While more relaxed, the patches of sound on side B are still not exactly relaxing. Indiscriminate bits attempt to bind themselves together, like bugs realizing that they can create  a colony, but it’s proven too difficult a task to hold the group together. Eventually some 3rd grader weaponizes a magnifying glass on a sunny day and everything is sent scrambling in horror.

Rounding things out is a C30 from Crazy Doberman called “Hell Is Within Us.” Well, the crew must really want that hell out of em, because this recording is basically an exorcism. From what I can gather, their damaged plan is to cast out some evil, unwanted spirits by creating bleaker ones. Think less 80’s Skateboarding skeletons with sunglasses, giving a bony thumbs up – more like an organic sludge that smells of burning rubber and has a steady pulse. The synths here are inflamed and, to be honest, very very rude. Like, totally impolite synthesizers, oozing all over your Easter clothes the day before Easter. Take that rude ooze and blur in some dire sax, wailing like it’s got a paper cut under it’s saxophone thumbnail. Ouch! I hesitate to use the word “thumbnail” in fear that it will make a kind reader think of a thumbnail, or “reduced-size versions of pictures or videos.” Nothing here is reduced in size. Crazy Doberman boils it, but it never boils down. It’s one of their skills. When Donald Trump is emperor of The Afterworld this is what listening to a jazz LP on your underground bunker’s crank-up record player will sound like. Get used to it. Bless it be.

Tapes were made in various edition sizes, and appear to all be sold out at source, except ONE COPY of the Tim Gick tape as I am typing. I hope it is gone now. Check for em on Discogs and stuff. You know the drill.

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Tabs Out | Robert Turman – Veiling Reflections

Robert Turman – Veiling Reflections
6.13.17 by Ryan Durfee

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Where to even begin?

Robert Turman is easily my favorite musician, and someone I would consider the most important living American artist. He deserves much more praise than he has received and it is a shame when we talk about paramount outsider musicians, his name is not one of the first mentioned. Robert’s albums sound just as fresh and as enervating now as they did when released in the 80’s. If you have never heard of Robert Turman or his various projects before, “Veiling Reflections” is a great introduction to his body of work.

Turman recorded “Veiling Reflections” for a RBMA event held in Zurich in late 2016. It is seeing release on tape through Präsens Editionen [CDr version from Turman’s own label, Actual Tapes]. The recording is meant to be an exploration through the realm of sleep, described as sleep/dream inducing hypnotica, so I have used it to drift off every night for the last three weeks. In sound it is closer to his work on “Flux” than other albums, but it’s a new and further exploration of a soundworld he created many years ago. You’ll hear one hour-long song. A gently loping loop which minutely evolves to incorporate soft pings of noise and softly whirling synths stretches for a dozen minutes until a guitar-based piece is introduced. An element that fades into the original loop as quickly as it appeared. If we’re using this as an analogy for sleep, this would be where you start to doze off, the warm waves of sound engulfing and lulling you into a deep repose. The song really starts to pick up speed at about thirty six minutes in when a swell of noise threatens to consume the entire piece, the environment becoming louder and a little messier, which makes me think of the oneironaut, eyes fluttering as they are pulled into the darkest depths to fight the chimera of the psyche. The song ends on a gentle note, bringing the dreamer back into the cold light of the anthropocene.

Grip the tape from Präsens Editionen, or a signed and numbered CDr edition direct from Turman.

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Field Hymns

New Batch – Field Hymns
6.8.17 by Ryan Masteller

fh-both

Take a moment – look up from scraping the crud out of the intake manifold of your 1975 Dodge Coronet, wipe your brow, and look out at the world framed by your garage. What do you see? What’s out there for you? Observing the blue sky beyond the frame can fill you with hope, and in that hope a promise of new life. But what if you glance just a few feet to your left and notice the boombox you’ve got sitting there? Those two shiny new tapes, just removed from their shrinkwrap, beckon. The new Field Hymns batch is just a “press play” away, and you’re powerless to stop yourself. With fumes from the engine in your nostrils, you click the button, and your outlook as you know it is forever altered. Peep the grease. Pure unadulterated street gnar is your grim future, hot rod city and calamity away. Or maybe road glory. It’s all there for the taking. Before you know it, you’re so disoriented that you’ve spent three hours detailing a remarkably precise image of “Macho Man” Randy Savage (#RIP #NeverForget) on the passenger door. It’s like you’d seen it somewhere before, perhaps in a dream.

Lips and Ribs’ “Males In Harmony” is the Fela Kuti/post-punk mashup everybody this side of Jay Winebrenner of Portland, Oregon, wanted, but only Jay Winebrenner of Portland, Oregon, was able to deliver. Long a member of “bands” (like 31 Knots and Blesst Chest), Winebrenner forges his own MIDI-suites with virtuosic aplomb, coming off at times like Giant Claw and Talking Heads wrestling for supremacy in the aftermath of an aqueduct drag race ending in a tie. And yeah, Winebrenner, ONE MAN, sounds like a freaking BAND in the process. Previously released by Winebrenner’s own lonesome, MALES IN HARMONY is done right by Field Hymns, their ever-stellar curatorial job on the physical artifact a violently arousing success, middle-fingered cursor clicking on all the nastiest websites, and you look stupid for even trying anything after listening, because what are you gonna do, top MALES IN HARMONY? I don’t think so, ratchet monkey, get in the backseat and be quiet while this plays.

Slim Fortune is an actual band, full of actual wackos (including Mr. Winebrenner) with actual CVs that list things like Mattress, Modest Mouse, Get Hustle, and Chromatics on them. If there’s a darkness on the edge of town, you better believe that Slim Fortune is either the cause or at the center of it. Evil dive bar blues for dirty-fingernailed blue-collar headcases, ready for beer and fights and more beer. A reflection of the life of the bat-wielding, brass-knuckle-wearing, smashed-glass-brandishing outlaw. Slim Fortune – sounds of the night. But that’s only one half of a split, ol’ Slim’s self-titled side, and Sciencevision is on the other with COLORSHIFTER, the Neil deGrasse Tyson to Slim Fortune’s Buckaroo Banzai. Yeah, it might be a little nerdier, a little more inward-looking, but Sciencevision’s, erm, vision is no less intoxicating, and it might even be a darker, weirder, and more, dare I say, shoegazey? Well, the end of it is, as “Life Song/When Everything Adds Up” pretends it’s Brad Laner before disappearing in a puff of tone. The rest is candy-colored fuzz, billowing through speakers like a crystallized manifestation of the color palette of Neptune’s atmosphere as glimpsed from Voyager 2. Try to wrap your mind around that, or expel it from your lungs.

Where’d you go there, car person? Done staring out your garage? Shake the effects, call it a day. Time to buy another couple copies of these sweet tapes. Get em both now, they come in batches of a million (give or take)!

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Tabs Out | Birchall / Smal / Webster – Drop Out

Birchall / Smal / Webster – Drop Out
7.5.17 by Ryan Masteller

birchall

Kids, you know me, you’re old pal Ryan. You know I always say, “Stay in school,” because it’s important. Education is the key to a fulfilling life. You won’t get anywhere without hard work and some good, old-fashioned book-learning. Keep your nose to that scholastic grindstone, and you’ll go far, yes siree.

Well, uh, heh, I might have been a little bit wrong about the 100% necessity of all that. So I guess maybe some of you can throw that advice out the window? I dunno – David Birchall (guitar), Rogier Smal (drums, mastering), and Colin Webster (saxomophone) make a compelling point that you may only need to practice your instruments really hard, then that sweet, sweet Astral Spirits dough will start rolling in. You want to go to music school, like that idiot in Whiplash? Sure, get a cymbal chucked at your head, you’ll NEVER be Bird! But you can be Sonny Sharrock. Easy as pie, as dropping out, as picking up a guitar (or a sax, or some drumsticks) and shredding like your life depends on it. Because it does! Your life absolutely depends on getting gigs in amazing trios, like the Birchall/Smal/Webster trio.

Like Sonny Sharrock mind-melding with Sonny Stitt on, what, fifteen hits of acid each? – and that’s before they invite Gene Krupa to the party – Birchall, Smal, and Webster are in total sync, and they have to be to create the utterly insane mind flagellation of, wait for it, “Drop Out,” two sides, twenty-two minutes of the most ferocious free jazz you’re likely to hear this side of Juilliard. There’s no way to describe it, other than, holy crap, did you hear that? Wow. Not only do the players follow each other through the most difficult terrain, but Drop Out shifts on a dime from one excursion to the next, coming off more as a suite of tangential pieces than monolithic sidelong events. Which is just fine by me – the more eye-popping the musical gymnastics, the better!

Now, about that dropping out of school… seriously, kids, don’t do that. It’s really important. But feel free to “Drop Out” as much as you want. This public service announcement was brought to you by the Betsy DeVos–led Department of Education. [Barely contain laughter… now.]

There are 150 copies of this sick little puppy available. Get your mitts on one today!

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Tabs Out | Adderall Canyonly / Ak’chamel – split

Adderall Canyonly / Ak’chamel – split
6.2.17 by Ryan Masteller

split

Dang, Adderall, why the long face? I mean, I guess things aren’t super rosy these days, not like they used to be anyway. But when you preface your promo material with “It’s a bit sad and angry maybe…actually it is. Fuck this shit,” maybe it’s time we had a chat. See, we’re so used to the interstellar blasts of synthesizer goodness you usually transmit our way from the inside of whatever quasar you happen to be inhabiting at any given time that anything other than the norm is met with a raised eyebrow. We certainly don’t begrudge your branching out and experimenting– my god man, do what you feel! – and SINNER GET THEE READY, your side of this split with Ak’chamel, is fourteen minutes of engaging and all-encompassing mood, but we do want to make sure you’re doing OK. The darkness that “Sinner Get Thee Ready” and “But If Not” wallow in is positively Godspeed-ian in its menacing intensity. Both are slow burns to ear-shredding blastoffs, but instead of cosmic awareness our result is the bleakness of oblivion. Heady stuff, there, Adderall, and if you decide you like how this shoe fits, we’ll be happy to see you wander around for a while in it.

Maybe in the wastes of Texas? In fact, Adderall, I think you’ve been hanging out with that bad seed Ak’chamel a little too much, haven’t you? I know you have – that’s why this split exists (DUH, internet, I am so smart, S-M-R-T!). Listen, I know it’s easy to fall under the spell of that cult, what with their ramshackle hymns to The Giver of Illness (or, erm, as the Ecstatic Brotherhood of Anima Mundi?), and the hypnotic acoustics of their two-part live performance on Rice’s KTRU station in Houston are peak desert nightmare fodder. In fact, I think I’m falling under their spell myself: sun’s clouding over, spirits tumbling, despair redlining – is there salvation at hand? Probably not, which is why paeans to dark deities exist, I guess – wicked mantras such as these. So in the end, Adderall, I don’t blame you. In fact, as this split has inspired me to do, I may join you in rending my clothes, putting ash on my head, and gnashing my teeth in anger and disgust for a while, perfectly normal actions considering the status quo.

Tandem Tapes is located in Jakarta, Indonesia, and, as the name of the label implies, it releases strictly splits from likeminded artists. Adderall Canyonly and Ak’chamel’s came in an edition of 25, but only few remain!

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Heavy Mess

New Batch – Heavy Mess
6.1.17 by Scott Scholz

heavy mes

Time has flown by this spring, and the latest batch from Heavy Mess has been a constant companion of mine, with a sound for every occasion. Last year’s debut releases from this label tended to be on the mellow side of the listening spectrum, but this latest trio of tapes gets more assertive while maintaining a fresh curatorial sensibility. And according to their Bandcamp page, Heavy Mess is a “discrete” cassette label, which I think means that they’ll ship these analog beauties to your house in an unmarked manila envelope–wait, that’s “discreet.” It means they’re a label of individual and distinct tastes, which even a cursory spin of these tapes will capably back up. Let’s dig in:

Ashan – Fulfilling the Promise Absolute

Inner Islands proprietor Sean Conrad works under several different project names, including Channelers and Orra, but no matter the band name on the cover, you can count on an energizing, rejuvenating experience. His Ashan project is is rapidly becoming my favorite, though, harnessing the considerable mass of heavy guitar work to bring some serious volume to meditative ends. Conrad essentially becomes a one-man band for Ashan, using drums, vocals, and synths along with guitars to create a pair of gentle giants. “Fulfilling the Promise Absolute” is a short album, but both of its 10-minute sides feel much longer than their running times reveal, like Godspeed compositions aimed at uplifting, Voordoms-era Boredoms ecstasy. Be sure to check out last year’s “Death is the New Life,” too, which is also still available from Heavy Mess.

Amulets – Still Lifes

Randall Taylor is a prolific jammer, having dropped over a dozen great tapes on a variety of labels in the last few years. His Amulets project uses a variety of sonic approaches, including tape loops, field recordings, guitars, and circuit-bending gadgetry to build melancholy vistas that always sound great left on repeat. Like “Fulfilling the Promise Absolute,” his “Still Lifes” for Heavy Mess is an EP-length affair that feels more substantial than its length. The pair of pieces here are somewhat minimal compared to some of the more layered Amulets recordings, and guitars dominate these mixes. And what beautiful guitars they are: clean tones are looped and reversed, turning into delicate pads that are eventually overtaken with overdrive. There is a certain delicate quality apparent in these pieces, highlighted by the distorted swells that overwhelm the mix toward the end of “A Library of Flowers,” but they walk a kind of compositional tightrope that finds inner strength from their own fragility.

Macho Blush – Moodshow

Somewhat removed from the more contemplative stylings of her peers in this Heavy Mess batch, there are no maps to safely navigate through the world of Gina Probst’s Macho Blush project. Some urban readers may not be familiar with the tradition of snipe hunting, but around my part of the rural Great Plains, your friends might drive you to a remote wooded area in the dead of night, hand you a large cloth sack, and explain how they’re going to flush the legendary snipe out of hiding with their car headlights, causing a gaggle of snipe to flee right into your outstretched sack. Then they drive back into town without you, and you’re left holding the bag, quite literally, with a long, dark walk ahead of you. You may feel like a snipe hunter during the first few confrontational minutes of “Moodshow,’ but by the end, your bag is overflowing with more fantastic creatures of the night than your friends could ever imagine, and you don’t have any pressing reason to leave the woods any more.

Macho Blush is often described as “outsider music,” and it does mirror the attributes folks might expect in outsider sounds. At times “Moodshow” is brutally low-fi, with recording levels pushed well beyond the red, and the vocal lines are bizarre and jarring, and the music lurches between styles and volume levels without warning. But the more time ones spends with this music, it’s clear that Probst is incredibly deliberate in her composition and performance, applying the weirdness of early Ralph Records and the savagery of no-wave bands with surgical precision. Percussion and delirious vocals dominate most of “Moodshow,” but occasional piano flourishes reveal a fine-tuned musical mind willing to use any tool at her disposal to lure us into a unique world of ritualized sound. One of the best albums you’re likely to hear this year.

All three tapes are still ready to meet your Paypal account. Head over to the Heavy Mess Bandcamp and get yourself messy.

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Tabs Out | CRZKNY – Groove 2

CRZKNY – Groove 2
5.30.17 by Ryan Masteller

crzkny

There’s no way to pronounce “CRZKNY,” and that’s probably okay, but if you’re interested in overworking your tongue, go ahead, give it a try – don’t say I didn’t warn you that you’ll end up with a doctor’s visit and a tongue splint for your troubles. You might end up with a doctor’s visit and a splint for another part of your body if you attempt to move along with the rhythms of “groove 2,” CRZKNY’s entry into the Wrocław-based Outlines label’s groove series, but that’s another story. Oh, no, wait, that’s the story, the one you’ll need to pay attention to right now because, haha, I goofed. Look, I’m no spring chicken, I injure myself badly enough to need a splint pretty much every time I get out of bed in the morning, so imagining myself jerking all around like a madman to CRZKNY’s interpretation of footwork is sort of exhausting. Comical, yes, but exhausting nonetheless. Fortunately, I can just sit right here in my chair, play “groove 2″ over the stereo, and enjoy it with a nice glass of bourbon before I fall asleep.

Because “groove 2,” an equal-sided C20, starts low and slow – although it purports to be a record by a DJ from Hiroshima fascinated by techno and footwork – the almost ambient build flecked with IDM, and I can nod my old-man nod and smile knowingly that I don’t have to stand up at all. The A-side, “groove 2.1,” passes the six-minute mark (out of almost ten) before the beat drops, the tones and samples introduced coming into focus as they coalesce around the composition like me around an early bird special buffet spread. CRZKNY packs the rest of this track and its accompanying b-side – “groove 2.2,” DUH – with head-snapping neck breaks and skittering percussive elements that will have you imagining insect life scurrying about in frantic patterns. Actually, I feel the urge to stand rising, rising … fading… RISING! I’m up! Ow, for cryin’ out loud. OK, I’ll sway a little bit. I’ve turned into my grandfather.

This gorgeous C20 – seriously, it was even featured on the most recent Look at These Tapes – was produced in an edition of 50. Smack it up, flip it, rub it down, and buy it.

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Tabs Out | Boron / Argon – Mirages

Boron / Argon – Mirages
5.23.17 by Ryan Masteller

boronargon

“Boron?! More like Boreon, right?” Thus was revoked this writer’s music-reviewing license as the authorities at the Central Office realized I had intentionally paraphrased a Billy Madison joke, replacing “chlorophyll/boreophyll” with “Boron/Boreon,” a stupid, ham-fisted attempt at jocularity that falls even flatter as I continue to type it into oblivion by explaining it. I am the Adam Sandler of music writers. Somebody pull the plug on this laptop.

As much as Billy Madison was a dimwitted tool for suggesting learning about something new was stupid, I, too, am an unmitigated disaster for reshaping Boron to Boreon, as Dan Nelson’s output under a litany of chemical signifiers – including Freon and, uh, Elron – is consistently engaging from one release to the next. Here, on his Tymbal Tapes debut, Nelson transitions from Boron to Argon like a nonmetal to a noble gas, on paper an impossibility (probably – my chemistry’s super rusty; there’s something about ions or isotopes in there, and going from atomic number 5 to 18 probably requires some kind of act-of-God molecular interference), but in pseudonymical terms, Nelson makes it look easy. “Mirages” is a non-split split between Nelson’s two aliases, an anomaly relegated to official tracklists and Jcards. The music itself flows as a cerebral whole.

As is his typical terrain, Nelson, navigates a synthesizer bank set permanently to “billowing,” hewing closer to those noble gases and hovering in the atmosphere until pressure causes them to condense and oscillate, agitating for a few moments before drifting apart once again on their way through the ether. Tones and moods change ever so subtly throughout, and “Mirages” as a zoomed-out whole takes on soft, pastel hues through the synesthetic processes recorded by your brain. Don’t be fooled by the b/w cover art or slate-gray tape (although they are both unapologetically gorgeous) – Boron/Argon is filled with color and texture, radiating outward to cover the earth with its sonic particulate. Think of it as helpful pollution, restorative vibes penetrating the cells of every living organism, not remotely like the lung-busting amounts of carbon dioxide continually pumped into your system. It’s like the opposite of living in Beijing. Probably.

Released May 5, 2017, right here on Tymbal Tapes, this lovely catalog item “features pro-dubbed chrome tape housed in metallic silver shells, and double-sided 3-panel j-cards printed in black ink on luxurious antique gray linen.” The edition of 75 will probably go quick.

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Tabs Out | Anders Brørby – Mulholland Drive, 1984

Anders Brørby – Mulholland Drive, 1984
5.22.17 by Ryan Durfee

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Released by the always excellent Hylé Tapes in a now sold out edition of 50 copies, Anders Brørby‘s “Mulholland Drive, 1984″ is a perfect album for the late spring, with it’s ominous tones bringing to mind mist enshrouded forests and decaying cities. The title of course is a David Lynch reference, something you can hear that in the DNA of the album, but what this cassette most brings to my mind is J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. I can picture the second track, “Black Room,” playing as the men touch down in the deep jungle, it’s watery tones mirroring the submerged landscape. Another choice cut is the six and a half minute “Persuasion of Existence.” Clattering accents reflect the unease felt by Dr. Kerans while trying to navigate the emotional malaise brought on by the humid jungle – And maybe a tinge of Tim Hecker.

One of the few missteps on an otherwise excellent album would be “Defeat.” While still a good song, it throws off the smooth flow of the album with the vocals. A flow Anders immediately brings back with the haunting synths of “Room With A Different View,” soothing as you begin to formulate a way to escape from the waterlogged city. In what will most likely end up as a personal favorite from this tape “A Sudden Sense Of Loss” incorporates some Angelo Badalamenti-esque horns to augment Anders’ crackling, seasick background sounds. Listeners are left on an unsettling note, wanting to hear his project unfurl. I for one can’t wait to see what Brørby does next.

Cop a digital version of “Mulholland Drive, 1984″ here, and scope the usual suspects for a analog version to pop up.

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Tabs Out | Lost Trail – What If This Was All A Twilight, Trembling On The Edge Of Darkness​?​

Lost Trail – What If This Was All A Twilight, Trembling On The Edge Of Darkness​?​
5.18.17 by Ryan Masteller

lost trail

Certainly craving the inexorable movement forward into an unending future, Lost Trail, the husband-and-wife duo of Zachary and Denny Corsa, recognize the instability of the razor wire we’re tip-toeing across as forces greater than our everyday points of control threaten to overturn existence as we know it. Heck, I’ve got 50/50 odds on this whole thing blowing up in our faces. The question is real, then, that the Corsas ask, What If This Was All A Twilight, Trembling On The Edge Of Darkness​?​ What if indeed? If it is, it’s the waiting that’s killing us, the suspense as we hover on the brink of making it or not. Over fifteen tracks spanning drone, noise, found sound, and percussion-less shoegaze, Lost Trail explores the ideas inherent in apocalyptic potential, from wall-of-sound destruction to post-human calm, teasing the nuances out of every nook and cranny of every pile of rubble in the wake of our passing on this planet. It doesn’t hurt that snippets of field-recorded dialogue pop up here and there, agitated voices rising above the din in supreme displeasure at their situation. Sort of like on those old Godspeed records. Blaise Finnegan was an intense dude.

So what’s the answer? Should somebody just push the button and end this grand cosmic experiment? Accelerate the next phase of evolution? Or obliterate us back into star stuff? I don’t know, man, but I’m sick and tired of nothing happening, and I’m sure the Corsas are too. In the face of a garbage existence for a large percentage of Earth’s population, an existence that doesn’t have to be, Lost Trail continue to hone their craft, mixing in some hope with the despair and hopefully angering those of us on the fence out of our stupor. Regardless, the ebb and flow of mood, the manipulation of beauty and despair within the sonic elements, and the masterful compilation of these tracks into a whole that moves expertly from one passage to the next set Lost Trail apart as one of the most emotional experimental drone units this side of the inevitable. Or not inevitable? Maybe there’s still good in us! I bet Lost Trail could feel it, if they wanted to.

This C61 is limited to 60 copies from Already Dead Tapes – and there are only 5 left at this moment! Get your stupid wallet out buy one already. If, of course, you haven’t mutated from the nuclear fallout. You probably wouldn’t need a wallet at that point anyway. Just, maybe, some clean drinking water.

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Tabs Out | Look At These Tapes #11

Look At These Tapes #11
5.17.16 by Tabs Out Crew

look at these tapes

Look At These Tapes is a monthly roundup of our favorites in recent cassette artwork and packaging, along with short, stream-of-thought blurbs. Whatever pops into our heads when we look at/hold them. Selections by Jesse DeRosa, Mike Haley, and Scott Scholz.

 


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Tabs Out | Pyramidal – Come Home

Pyramidal – Come Home
5.4.17 by Ryan Durfee

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I have spent a week or two listening to “Come Home” three or four times a day, but I still feel as if I don’t have the right words to praise it. I’ve thrown about comparisons to Bonobo and Boards of Canada, and while they do seem apt, it’s only because of Pyramidal‘s penchant to draw from the deep wellspring of late 2000’s downbeat electronica. Still, that doesn’t go far enough for what may be my favorite tape from the always on point Already Dead. There are also definite nods to hip hop (I wanna say trip hop, but is that even okay in 2k17?), warm, lush, and rounded synths, snaps that are perfectly dusty, and bass that hits just right.

This cassette was released back in November of 2016, but came to me in February, just in time for the constant deluge of rain that Cascadia is famous for. The weather provided plenty of time to sit around my apartment taking it’s sounds in, windows open, a soft patter outside, while smoking a pre roll. As a matter of fact, that may be the best time to list to this tape. “Come Home” is an album to be heard to from front-to-back, as each song propels the next forward. The album starts out on a park bench, with a field recording of a siren wailing and feet crunching on pavement. Voices chatter in the background, giving way to dark, drafty chords swathed in reverb. The second song, Life And Upbringing with it’s lovely sampled harp, lends the feeling of sitting in a brightly lit corner of a room with sun shining and dust motes floating around while Love Should Be Easy, is full of beautiful night tones; Walking under streetlights, enshrouded in a dark sky’s drizzle. My Old Cassette, the most straight forward nod to late 2000’s hip hop, doesn’t sound out of place against those tunes or older Brainfeeder releases. “Come Home” covers much ground, rounding things out with sumptuous synth swells (and what I -think- is marimba?).

This C46 is fantastic and available in an edition of 60 copies from Already Dead.

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Tabs Out | Juice Machine – Sparkling Water

Juice Machine – Sparkling Water
5.2.17 by Mike Haley

juice machine

A Google search for “Juice Machine, Sparkling Water” will mostly bring up Soda Stream and for-the-home, luxury juice making device related links. But if you keep digging deeper and deeper, all the way into the subbasement of Google (where they keep the really weird shit), you may finally happen upon a freshly squeezed C30 from the Portland duo Juice Machine called “Sparkling Water.”

“Sparkling Water” is the second release from LA-based label Steady Hand Records, it’s sounds extremely detached from refreshing sips of a carbonated Mango-Tango. On this recording the Juice Machiners – Heather Chessman and Roger Smith – anxiously fidget, pushing out primal electronic squeal and clanging metals, almost making noise in contention with each other. As if one member is playing Checkers and the other Guess Who (on an official noise table no doubt), the pair’s improvisations tumble together into a frustrated, low rent jumble. The battle for gnarled-psychedelic space is all in good fun, their ammo of twisting knobs is friendly fire after all, no matter how damaged the sounds become. And they get pretty damaged. Sonic stammers bounce all over this damn cassette, throwing themselves at low end galloping clunks and general nonsense. Noise!

If you hear this tape through the speakers of a beverage serving mall kiosk, run. Either towards or away – your call. In the meantime, head on over to Steady Hand and buy a copy.

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Rotifer

New Batch – Rotifer
4.26.17 by Mike Haley

rotifer

Ding! Two orders of Rotifer up and ready for ingestion. The 99th and milestone 100th release from the label utilize contrasting zones and maneuvers to tantalize that state-of-the-art brain of yours, but both get the job done in their own special ways.

Handling burnished beats and borrowed sounds from the worlds of hip hop and soul is VV005, a Nevada City, CA resident with their first physical release “Lagrano Ruins.” The 42 minute debut is a collection of marginally modified samples, shuffled together into blurry, beat-based compositions. The cover image of juggler handling torches and blades (and a shark?) couldn’t be a more detached comparison to the mellow vibes held within. “Lagrano Ruins” is a total relaxer.

Back for a fifth round on the label is Estonia’s Ratkiller, the left field electronics project of Mihkel Kleis, full of ticks, caffeinated quirks, and squirmy, oddball movements. Ratkiller has a spirited way of bobbing around the audio color wheel, making pinning them down into a set category a difficult task. The sounds are consistently animated and interested though, that is for sure.

Both tapes are editions of 40 and available from Rotifer Cassettes in a silky smooth batch deal!

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Tabs Out | Cabo Boing – Blob On A Grid

Cabo Boing – Blob On A Grid
4.25.17 by Mike Haley

cabo

It’s understandable to wonder, perhaps at length, what alternate plane of existence “Blob On A Grid” leaked from. Surely it wasn’t created in this one. Yet it was, that is precisely Haord Records‘ bag after all. From the totally bugged-out assortment on their “Haord’s Bunchla” compilation to the sugary peculiarity of Macula DogJimmy Sanchez & His Crystal Balls, Jake Tobin, and others, Haord have been turning over rocks in caves and climbing to the top of the tallest truffula trees in search of audio extraordinariness. Their latest disclosure is a dozen bounca-whirl songs from Cabo Boing.

If Mark Mothersbaugh had the gumption he would have made “Blob On A Grid” years ago, and it would have soundtracked many a Pee Wee’s Playhouse episodes. Not a single second of it’s eccentric no-wavery antics wouldn’t cozy right up on Chairry’s fluffy cushion. That is fact, not opinion, and in no way open for debate. In reality it was made by Brian Esser of the synth duo Yip-Yip. If we are being honest with each other, and I think we should, I like it much better that way. Splashy imagination is smudged wall-to-wall, no way cowering in the corner, playing coy, only poking out every now and then. It is on full display – nay – on overload. These tunes are dayglo and chafed from perpetual movement. As each track ends, sometimes in under a minute’s time, quick contortions take place so the next can unload it’s enthusiastic energy. Unabashed friskiness scampers into perplexing modes, all pitched-vocals and jagged electronics jerking in unison, backlit by colorful, dynamic textures ready to tweak at a finger’s snap. Get happy.

The visual presentation is a foolproof manifestation of the audio, one that I mentioned here.  I shan’t bore you any longer with details. You should be buying a copy of this now!

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Tabs Out | Stephen Molyneux – Wings and Circles

Stephen Molyneux – Wings and Circles
4.24.17 by Kat Harding

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Stephen Molyneux, from Denver, put out a tape in February on No Kings that is a relaxing foray through folky improvisation. “Wings and Circles,” with beautiful radar and map views printed in orange and blue on cream paper, is a work of art both inside and out. A map of the night sky graces the inside of the art work, with the Stuart Friebert quote “My body wants the place where the wings and circles are.”

“Wings and Circles” hums awake with tones from an electric organ. The tape was recorded in a basement, which usually brings dark connotations, but this is a warm and welcoming place. Dulcimer, melodica, pan pipes, banjo, lap steel, and percussion all make appearances in the music. It’s engulfing and relaxing, like a warm summer day, or a thick blanket in the winter. The tones echo and vibrate through the space, with clinking bells punctuating the song randomly, like they’re blowing in a gentle breeze. The track is divided by lengths of silence, but it doesn’t feel like we’re switching songs. It feels like we’re taking a breath before continuing the same track, just a different verse. The gentle purring of the organ carries us through the track and it’s more than 16 minute length is perfect to lull you into a trance.

Side B starts off with sharp banjo and lap steel, already louder than side A, but still relaxed. This is a front-porch pickin’ side, with an adept player experimenting with a familiar instrument. The clear chords disintegrate into humming and echoing, like an amp buzzing after the last verse. At about six minutes in, the organ picks up in full effect, giving serious church procession vibes. While we contemplate our sins, the organ continues, with clanking bells twinkling through. With the organ as the backbone of the song, the track meanders along, adding new sounds layered on top. Both sides add to give you more than thirty minutes of soft organ music to unwind to. Prime listening spots include hammocks, beach towels, couches, beds, or any other place to get a moment’s rest.

Get a copy of the C32, an edition of 100 copies, on Molyneux’s Bandcamp page.

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