Tabs Out | New Batch – Astral Spirits

New Batch – Astral Spirits
8.21.18 by Ryan Masteller

As you should be aware at this point, if an Astral Spirits batch shows up in your mailbox, you stop what you’re doing, no matter what it is, and turn your full attention toward that new batch. (In my case it was helping my father-in-law carry a heavy bookshelf – he was pretty pissed when I dropped my end and ran toward the approaching mail truck.) Somehow, the Austin tape (and, cough, record) label has made it all the way to batch number 17, as if it were old enough to drive around its friends now or something in its 1976 T-top Pontiac Firebird. Monofonus Press obviously gets shotgun. Is that Holodeck in the back seat? Doesn’t matter. Seventeen’s a good number for an honest jazz label these days.

Did I say jazz? I uh – you know it’s jazz. Don’t look at me like that, like you were expecting something different. This is only the most far-out, forward thinking jazz, and you KNOW it’s in your best interests to wipe that smirk off your face. What, you think this is something tragic, like jazz funk? No sir, not even a little bit. You need to tune in right now in order to have your mind blown. It might be so intense that you end up losing your sight, like so many jazz musicians as they get older.

Sorry for the video links – I’ve been on a Mighty Boosh kick. I’unno.

Drummer Andrew Barker’s back fresh off his “Polyhedron” tape with Daniel Carter, this time fronting – well, lending his surname to – the Barker Trio. He’s joined on tenor and soprano saxophones by Michael Foster and on bass by Tim Dahl, and when they’re not laying waste to whatever practice space they inhabit or whatever recording studio they enter, pushing the limits of chaos within improvisation, they’re riding a groove, feeding off each other as they try to maintain the tenuous mind-meld they’ve achieved. And maybe that mind-meld isn’t so tenuous after all – I mean, they rip through almost seventeen minutes of the title track of “Avert Your I” without even pretending to care about their health or well-being. I mean, seriously guys, do a little warming up first! Some lunges, jumping jacks, a few pushups or something. And that’s the norm. Even in the more cavernous sections of this tape, like “Spacial Needs” [sic] where everybody pulls back, and those electronics mentioned in the liner notes come into play, there’s a level of mischievous abandon, like they’re building a structure out of glass bells, but they know they’re going to knock it over any second. And then they knock it over. And it’s awesome.

Signe Dahlgreen doesn’t need a drummer or a bassist, though – that’s right, she doesn’t need ANYBODY. Which is sort of surprising, because this is the first solo release (in conjunction with Insula Music) by the Swedish saxophonist, and she just steps out into the middle of the spotlight shining down from my imagination on the imaginary stage that I imagine she’s standing on in front of all the imaginary bigwigs of all the jazz record labels from time immemorial. I mean, bravo, Signe Dahlgreen, bravo – that’s impressive stuff right there. It takes chutzpah to step out on your own, cojones, sheer strength of will. And then to control your instrument with such precision, to guide it through intense exercises, rhythms, drones, patterns, and virtuosic nimbleness, holding back at times, careening at others – I think we’ve got a winner here. Now, the only question is, what the heck is a “Kunki Snuk”?

Speaking of winners, speaking of maybe one of the most surprising and excellent recorded pieces of music I have come upon this year, speaking of brash musicians getting brasher by the second, speaking of this cauldron of bubbling friendship and free jammage, speaking of the diabolical takeover of my afternoon by a bunch of hairy psych freaks – wait a second, there’s no need for name-calling. There IS a need to involve yourself almost immediately and certainly fully with “Ronda,” a collaborative effort between Chicago free-rockers Mako Sica and “legendary percussionist” Hamid Drake (and also a joint release with Feeding Tube Records). Over two separate recording sessions, the Fab Four (patent pending) hit a groove together, which is not super surprising considering some of these tracks are expansions upon Mako Sica tunes, although others were formed from the primordial goo of improvisation. Like all the best freeform psych rock, the pieces that comprise “Ronda” stretch out seemingly forever, nailing vibe after vibe as they shift and sway in the clutches of master handlers.

Charles Barabé may seem like an interesting addition to the Astral Spirits roster, and you would be right on the money with that assessment. I had some variation of the following thoughts once I saw his tape among this batch: Would this even work here? Will the Astral Spirits audience understand? The electronic artist doesn’t scream “jazz!” or “improv!” like many others among the ranks, but let’s see where this goes… I was not alone, as the bigwigs at Astral Spirits pretty much went through the exact same cognitive exercise when Barabé approached them to do a release. (See, we’re peas in a pod!) But one listen to “De la fragilité” had them (and me) not really worrying about anything anymore – they just happened to be in the possession of a damn fine cassette tape. The six “Mouvements” that make up “De la fragilité,” while being distinct from each other in certain ways, flow into one another with absolute intention, the delicate electronics and musique concrète manifesting into palpable mood. As viewed through the lens of modern classical performance, they fit right in with the most forward-thinking releases on the Astral Spirits catalog. Who knew, but Charles Barabé has found a surprising new home for his music!

The Barker Trio and Signe Dahlgreen tapes come in editions of 150, and Barabé and “Ronda” are in editions of 175. As usual, the house design stuns. Never deviate from it!

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Tabs Out | Giant Dwarf – Kicking Bones

Giant Dwarf – Kicking Bones
8.20.18 by Ryan Masteller

For local baseball action, I’m forced to suckle at the nasty teat of the Miami Marlins (ugh), as their AA affiliate in Jacksonville, the Jumbo Shrimp, is the only team within reasonable driving distance. It’s not an inspiring hometown nine – I mostly scour the opposing lineup for top prospects or rehabbing major leaguers, but even then I’m looking at squads from, like, the Cubs or Braves organizations, and the only thing worse than the Marlins is the Mets and the Braves. In fact, the whole NL East can suck a big fat lemon. Except for my precious Phillies.

You’re probably like, shut up about baseball already, nobody cares, we listen to podcasts and tapes and secretly hope that one of them contains some kind of lost Can/Miles Davis mashup. Well, I’ve got a bridge that spans both those things, your complaint about my baseball digression and your hope for that unlikely collaboration! That’s right, check out Giant Dwarf, its name an oxymoron that mindlessly parallels my mention of the Jumbo Shrimp, a connection so slim that I won’t even talk about it anymore. (Poor Scampi lowers his head, turns around, and closes the door behind him on the way out.) This Giant Dwarf is an experimental head’s dream collaboration, as it pits Very Special Recordings artist and trombonist Rick Parker (whose 2016 tape “Free World Music” with Li Daiguo was a standout) against Brooklyn drummer Jeremy Carstedt and Austria-based guitarist Martin Philadelphy (with whom I’m sure I’d instantly get along with that last name). The result is a Can-meets-Miles Davis fusion fest, and that’s not just because Can and Miles are dropkicked into the promo text!

Although that’s certainly part of it, and it’s the main reason I couldn’t wait to jam this into a tape player and hit Record. I mean Play! I almost really fucked up this tape just there. Whew. Back to it, the interplay between these three warped minds is phenomenal, as vibe shifts from laid-back world-building to dynamic shredding and back, each swirling around the others like a miniature tornado that forms a big normal tornado upon convergence. Parker’s trombone, slathered with effects at times, works magic when paired with Philadelphy’s guitar, and with Carstedt’s drumming as the backbone, Giant Dwarf truly lives up to its name. I mean the Giant part, obviously – the scope is huge, the sonics massive, and Parker plays synth too, like he’s got more than two hands or something.

These excellent tapes are available from Very Special Recordings, but who knows for how long???

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Tabs Out | Episode #125


Uton - Sax On, Sax Off (Eiderdown)
Meme Vivaldi - 420 Deluxe (Ingrown Records)
Attenuated - Ideomotor (Space Slave)
Tyler Damon and Dave Rempis - Full Yum (Park70)
Jadelain - Unravel (Atlantic Rhythms)
Meng Qi - Sidrolz (Obsolete Staircase)
Legion Of Mary - Live April 12, 1975 Scranton PA (no label)
Marlo Eggplant - split w/ Arvo Zylo (No Part Of It)
Phil Maguire - Fower/Fowk (Dinzu Artefacts)
Christian Mirande - Property Line/Plunge Pool (Unifactor)
Snubnose Frankenstein - Rappin' Ass Nigga (Lil Fat Tapes)
QBLA - So Far (Bonding Tapes)
Presidiomodelo - split w/ Machinefabreik (Tandem)
La Forêt rouge - Le Maquillage de tou le monde coule (Cuchabata)
Somnoroase Păsărele - auto[1] (OTA)


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Tabs Out | New Batch – Inner Islands

New Batch – Inner Islands
8.17.18 by Ryan Masteller

Hear the song that wrote itself. The one that emerged organically, fully formed from the oxygen in the depths of a human lung, from the carbon exhalations gobbled up by plants on their continuing path of photosynthesis. It is all around and in the air and the water, in the matter that comprises our flesh and our blood and our bone. Hear the song that wrote itself, life on the wind, in the currents of the ocean, in the core of the sun.

The song that wrote itself has a name: “Dream Warriors.”

Just kidding! Had you going there. But it’s not a joke when it comes to Inner Islands, the Oakland label run by Sean Conrad, who believes in natural healing through sound and discovering the center of the self within artistic practice. So you’d be dang right if you expect this to be meditative stuff, New Age all the way, lovely gossamer threads of twinkling sound that slowly drift over the mind and cocoon it against the outside world as it seeks to discover the, ahem, “inner islands” of identity.

Ashan is Conrad himself, and “Far Drift Afield” will do exactly what its title promises, escort your spirit to a faraway place and allow you to embark on “an unguided tour of imagined landscapes” where songs write themselves, sound spontaneously emerges as if it were created from nothing. It’s a beautiful idea, and my imagined landscapes are probably pretty similar to yours, all sunshine and fluffy clouds, endless fields, cool breezes, trickling streams. Unless your idea of serenity is the center of a volcano. If that’s the case, I don’t know how to help you. Your copy of “Far Drift Afield” would melt in there.

Not to be outdone in the inner-landscape-conjuring game, Kenji Kihara of Horiuchi, Japan, drops “Scenes of Scapes,” which is less of a title and more a modus operandi of Inner Islands itself. Kihara follows Conrad in whipping up amazing places in my mind where I can find peace. The serenity of summer, both the beginning and the end of it, the depth of an afternoon sky, sunbeams warming the flower-covered meadows, the Milky Way visible in an unpolluted night sky, the glow of life within myself. Kihara hears the same song that Conrad does and interlocks with it in dense and heavy harmony. Feel the life force flowing through “Scenes of Scapes.”

Both tapes come in editions of 100, and both have absolutely ace j-card art, created by Sean Conrad himself. Gorgeous stuff. These tapes are worth getting just to look at them.

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Tabs Out | Andrea Pensado – As Within So Without

Andrea Pensado – As Within So Without
8.16.18 by Ryan Masteller

Andrea Pensado chops some junk all up. She’s not like the normal cut-and-paste producers, mind you – Pensado’s style is all tension and little release, no easy way out of this. Static and voice are surgically scalpeled together, then apart, then together, then FUCKING IN THE RED, then jabbed repeatedly in your eye sockets till you get one of those sharp headaches in your frontal lobe. I mean, not LITERALLY stabbed by a scalpel in your eye sockets. Where would the fun be in that? You’d lose your vision after listening to this tape, and plus, Pensado would have to put a warning label on j-card, and she’d have to recall all the tapes to do that, and that’s just too much of a hassle. The jabbing is metaphorical.

Trust me, I’ve just listened to “As Within So Without,” and I can still see.

Andrea Pensado chops some junk all up, but she uses the fragments as architectural building blocks. She creates distinct sonic sculptures with all those dangerously sharp slivers, as terrifying as they are fascinating, barely recognizable as human creations. The seethe, they vibrate with conflict, they stretch until they’re bound to snap, like cables holding a bridge in place until an alien spacecraft blasts the shit out of a load-bearing column. Then, almost in slow motion, the bridge collapses upon itself, and the sound is simply fascinating. Such is “As Within So Without.” So, the architecture is crafted to be destroyed, ever replayable through the magic of rewinding, never less than dangerously volatile in the presence of human ears.

Look but don’t touch “As Within So Without” at FTAM Productions’s Bandcamp page. Or, uh, I mean, look and then buy. Finger wounds be damned.

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Tabs Out | Sangam – Departure

Sangam – Departure
8.15.18 by Ryan Masteller

UK drone and minimal electronic artist Sangam lays it on thick with “Departure,” an “Arcane Environment of Pure Emotion [sic],” the caps sic’d because they’re unnecessary in a normal setting and are only used because they’re in service of the arcane environment of pure emotion. For emphasis. Emphasized, because if you look Sangam’s way, if you even glance in Sangam’s direction, you’re caught, hooked, enthralled by his psychic glare and incapable of extraction until he decides to turn his attention elsewhere … or the tape ends. And oh – “Departure” ends. Does it EVER end.

I mean, I think it does, but I’m not sure – it could go on forever, or it could just be doing its auto-reverse thingy while I’m caught up in its trance. This trance of thick, vaporous mood, total imminent dusk at all times, total perpetual dusk thereafter, and mostly dusky dusk dusk when it’s dusky dusk dusk out. See? I can’t even be coherent anymore. I’ve got Sangam on the brain. But my silliness only serves to contrast starkly the dense beauty “Departure” has in store for you, it’s crackling passages and violet wavelengths. It’s a mesmerizer, ready for a deep dive if your mind is ready. Is it ready?

Then there it is, the ending, the plasmic star-core reaction of a finale by way of far-off twinkling galactic lights … which is basically the vibe of the whole tape, so should we call it even-keeled? We sure could. Plus I can’t tell if that was the ending anyway, what with the auto-reverse dealy I mentioned above.

“Depature” comes in a cassette edition of 75 from Aescape Sounds. If you haven’t already taken seriously every single recommendation I’ve ever given, you should start now, and then punish yourself for not listening to me in the first place.

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Tabs Out | Shanna Sordahl – Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus

Shanna Sordahl – Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus
8.7.18 by Ryan Masteller

I got no jokes for you on this one. I’m spent, wrung out, the world has encroached and flattened my mind to an endless plateau where my only recourse is to let the environment overwhelm me. Time to give up any attempt to impose myself on this thing – it is washing over me, and I am unable to withstand the tide.

Shanna Sordahl’s “Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus” is that rare cassette that’s left me speechless – although I guess that’s a little disingenuous because I’ve got at least five hundred words in me tonight. The Bay Area artist utilizes cello, synths, SuperCollider, and voice to concoct a four-dimensional zone of being, a pocket universe in which she dwells and from which she flickers her flashlight out through the opening to it, beckoning anybody inside who can see the flickers. Like the moon rising but taking up 75 percent of the visible sky in doing so, “Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus” will suck the breath from your body, but in a slow, deliberate, and weirdly unterrifying way.

The cello is stretched, manipulated, accompanied, and augmented, always with an ear toward intense discipline, and certainly with the intention of total mood control. Time stands still as that moon hovers enormous on the horizon, the wind filling your ears as your eyes and mouth gape open. Indeed, according to Sordahl, “past, present, and future coexist – memory doesn’t move in one direction.” I’m pretty sure “Radiate” began at a singular point and, ahem, “radiated” backward and forward in time, rippling and affecting the continuum with its subtle power. At least that’s how I like to imagine it working from its pocket universe.

Well, what do you know – not even CLOSE to five hundred words. Sometimes you don’t need to mouth off.

Check out the enchanting “Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus” from Full Spectrum, edition of 100.

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Tabs Out | Bending Spirit / Quicksails – split

Bending Spirit / Quicksails – split
8.6.18 by Ryan Masteller

I feel like I’ve been writing this stuff for, like, ever, but it turns out I’ve never actually hunkered down with a Bending Spirit or Quicksails release and given it the attention that generated some written text. I mean, I’m not unfamiliar with either of these artists – Bending Spirit is Jayson Gerycz, Tristan Kasten-Krause, and John Elliott, and I’m practically a Unifactor expert, meaning I’ve pretty much covered everything Gerycz releases through that label. Which he runs. From Cleveland. And Quicksails is Ben Billington, and if you’ve heard that Billington / Shippy / Wyche tape on Astral Spirits, you know what I’m talking about. Plus all the other Quicksails stuff, but again, I haven’t actually written about it.

That all changes today.

Today I’m in for a true tidal wave of psychedelic bleepage, courtesy first of Bending Spirit, whose hodgepodge of field recordings and processing of those field recordings, among other things like double bass and whatever RPG fantasy weapons ARP Odyssey and Therevox are (I’m guessing agility or speed boosts) (just kidding, I know they’re not fake weapons, GAWD), makes my head wobble all around until I don’t know if it’s on front or back. Or maybe I just keep standing in the middle of this intersection looking around – the intersection of “W 65th and Colgate,” also the name of a Bending Spirit composition (on this tape, believe it or not). When I search online, “W 65th and Colgate” comes directly up on this map point in Cleveland, and if you go to street view and look around, you’ll see New Beginning Ministries, and the Flash Auto Wash, and St. Coleman Church, and some other building that’s not registering – looks like a house, but it has a public parking lot. There’s also some utility maintenance maybe. Anyway, Bending Spirit will unstick you from your map points and your timelines and your other reference frames and squirt you like a space blob into waking stasis.

Quicksails has nothing for me to plot on a map or a chart, so I’m lost in space from the get-go. Billington’s side, the “Bel Air Suite,” is split up into five movements – not “songs,” Mom! – and if you’ve ever heard water boiling but applied that concept to instrumentation, then you’ll know exactly what “Bel Air Suite” sounds like, and you can go home and go back to bed. (Not if you’re at work, though, you should probably finish out the day.) As we’ve come to expect, Quicksails juxtaposes sound upon sound throughout the side, each section a raucous layering of delight and whimsy that just cannot remain still, a pressure cooker bursting with kinetic energy released in fragments over about twenty minutes. That’s just how much juice is in this thing. Enough juice to addle your brain till you’re hooked on it – unlimited juice.

Head on over to Solid Melts and bring one of these precious darlings home with you. To live in your house. With you.

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Tabs Out | Papa Manzano – Ritualism

Papa Manzano – Ritualism
8.1.18 by Ryan Masteller

Hey, now that we have to boycott Papa John’s pizza (and let’s face it, you totally knew that ol’ Johnny himself mainlined racism from a solid gold needle while he munched Totino’s pizza rolls on the toilet, essentially giving the middle finger not only to self-respecting human beings but to his customers as well [I mean, just look at the guy]), we’re sort of in the market for a replacement. We as the cross-section of lovers of authentic Italian food and consumers of weird and hairy cassette tapes require an approved outlet for at least one of those things, and preferably with “Papa” in the title. Well, friends, readers of this site, listeners of this podcast, I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?

The bad news? Sure. Papa Manzano isn’t a restauranteur.

The good news? Pizza Hut delivers!

While we chow down on a satisfying pie from our new corporate sponsor, let’s check in on what Papa Manzano’s up to, shall we? We’ve got two halves of this Venn diagram to overlap, after all. Although not in the food business whatsoever, Papa Manzano mixes together some classic complimentary ingredients in a special recipe designed for nourishing us through our everyday lives. But instead of dough, sauce, cheese, and any other topping you can imagine, Manzano uses synthesizers and samplers to cook up a simmering platter of intensely seasoned grooves, glitches, grumbles, and galaxy bursts. Like a chef who’s accidentally dumped a cupful of metal shavings into a lovely marinara and served it anyway, Papa Manzano drops the components of his recipe on the floor and gets them wickedly gritty before blasting them through a nearby speaker. They spatter the wall with their weird viscera. What’s the industrial synthesizer music version of a pizza topping? Sausage? Yeah, sausage. You should audio-eat this sound sausage. I dare you.

“Ritualism” comes in an edition of 25 copies, so grab one! Like Pizza Hut, Bad Cake Records will deliver right to your door.

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Tabs Out | Sunset Diver – Seagulls

Sunset Diver – Seagulls
7.31.18 by Ryan Masteller

Movies are so important. By now you’ve probably noticed I quote them way too often when I’m writing around here, drawing from others the humor or insight I can’t seem to coax from myself. It’s just so much easier sometimes to riffle through my mind’s catalog of movie quotes to make a point than to conjure an original thought. Although, when you think about it, to have such a vast catalog at your brain’s fingertips is in fact pretty impressive. Maybe there’s actually something that I’ve learned from all the movies I’ve consumed that I can apply to legitimate real-world situations. I’d like to think that’s true – otherwise, I’m wasting a ton of gray matter on stuff that doesn’t mean anything. Let’s assume I’m actually a vast library of practical knowledge and leave it at that.

Maybe Sunset Diver is also a vast library of practical knowledge. At least Devin Johnson, the man behind the moniker, would probably be keen on us referring to him in that way, because he and I seem to share the common trait of having a steel trap of a mind when it comes to film information. And he puts that ability to good use on “Seagulls,” his super-fab tape on KMAN 92.5 Tapes. “Seagulls” is a plunderphonic wonderland, drawing beyond the music itself from around forty films – there’s even a handy list accompanying the tape of what’s been pilfered. Among the luminaries are Welles, Fellini, Truffaut, Tarkovsky, Huston, Wenders, Antonioni, Kubrick, Roeg, Resnais, Bergman, and Nicholas Ray – they’re all here!

(And to circle back to my inherent inability to write something new and original, I’ve already made this Simpsons reference, and not even that long ago. I feel like I’m ripping off myself sometimes.)

Woozy beats and moody atmospheres prop up the samples, casting “Seagulls” as a drifting noir more interested in allowing the human condition to spread out and react to its surroundings than plotting a course of action for a set of characters. And that’s what makes “Seagulls” so compelling – like the filmmakers it samples, it’s fully interested in character and tone, a combination that compels repeat listens in order to suss out your own feelings about the work. Not only that, but the film samples are not obvious at all – they don’t come out and wallop you on the noggin with the clarity of their source. They’re woven deep within the material, accoutrements to a greater and fascinating whole.

“Seagulls” is limited to 50 from KMAN 92.5 Tapes, so grab one and then hit up the Criterion sale at your nearest Borders! … My bad, Borders isn’t around anymore. I guess I can’t rely on my memory for everything…

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