Tabs Out | Dura – Mercury

Dura – Mercury

1.21.21 by Matty McPherson

My currently favored hobby is gazing at the moon as a cool breeze slowly encroaches from the coast. You gotta be patient though, waiting for it to come at you. Thus, I recommend acquiring a zero-gravity reclining chair. As far as I know, dusk, dawn, or as close to midnight as you can are preferred; the stillest, most reflective apexes of the day. Of course, it would not hurt to have a quiet, reflective ambient tape in hand either.

Soundtracking these apexes has been Dura’s Mercury. The man behind the project, Mattson Ogg, has been building a steady array of blissed out ambient, in between helping Luke Stewart with recording a couple of his exceptional improvs released on Astral Spirits and Atlantic Rhythms. Maybe you caught him on a 2019 Garden Portal tape or even earlier on Matthew Sage’s Patient Sounds in 2014. Perhaps you are me and you’ve finally decided to just embrace the unknown with Mercury–the first release on the DC-based Atlantic Rhythms this year. 

Atlantic Rhythms has been adamant about documenting “deep contemporary” music. Releases include free noise, jazz, and komische; all build slow and steady over their respective run times. Even with a “jazz” tag in its Bandcamp page, Mercury leans closer to “american primitivism.” No worries though; it still gracefully parallels those genres’ senses of space and improv. 

Previous releases under the Dura moniker have dabbled in shorter (read: nine minutes instead of eighteen) songwriting, Ogg’s return to longform enshrines that type of deep laid back music for waiting. He’s got natural depth for creating silky nocturnal stillness; the kind that happens at those dusk, dawn, or midnight hours I’ve become so fond of. On “‘I’m Perfect in an Empty Room’”, it practically sounds akin to being under a lone roadside light in the mist. The sound stretched out to infinity for over 15 minutes recalls how Windy and Carl take minor moments and stretch them for ages.

But this is no gazey worship! Even with the guitar/delay pedal combo to enact these kinds of zones, side B of Mercury belongs to a vivid deep listening exercise. As “Interior/Exterior/’God Stays Up All Night’” unfurls, so do a number of echoes. Yet, Ogg chooses not to follow them and instead focus on a delicate strum of his guitar. It’s a gorgeous layering, creating the feeling of being alone together, as the tape hiss feels like a light wind coming off from the cosmic shore.

Dura’s releases have been known to go quite fast-something I imagine will happen two-fold with it being on Atlantic Rhythms. So, snag a copy before the Dura-Heads take ‘em all!

Edition of 100 from the Atlantic Rhythms Bandcamp

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Tabs Out | Staffers – In the Pigeonhole

Staffers – In the Pigeonhole

1.19.21 by Matty McPherson

I’ll admit I have a nasty habit of leaving the punk tapes on my racks. And I apologize! Because there are a lot of little strange nuggets passing through, in those black and white cases. Staffers’ In the Pigeonhole is one such that kinda fell through the crevices throughout the last three months. It’s a shame because for 26 rambunctious minutes, Staffers treat punk like it is a rowdy night at the local high school bar where they just restored the mechanical bull.

Now you might think it a little too hyperbolic or sketchy. No, not at all! DC-implant Ryan McKeever has a knack for the “loud post-punk pop” sound synonymous with Parkay Quarts. His history opening for like minded fellows Bodega, Lithics, and Media Jeweler suggest a kinship for taking the wry sound and squeezing out pop ditties and shanties. And his lyrics are equally brimming hazed dejections on presiding in this perpetual hell world. Yet, nine tracks, it never feels like it’s rushing, just brimming with natural flourishes and one-ups.

For In the Pigeonhole, McKeever is aided by like- minded pedal steelers, violinists, and saxophonists. Staffers have a cathartic kind of feel to their tunes. His sing-speak maintains this shambolic nature that pushes the sound further into folksy bar rock. Aided by partner in crime, Anna McClellan, their harmonies go above yelling into the void, begging you to join in the moment on “Though I Could Do It”. Other times, it is found through Colin Duckworth’s pedal steel action that introduces a country twang as clean as a keg pour with a two-finger head (for the ipa heads at home). 

On the standout last track, “Just Another Tuesday”, both the harmonies and twang meet in unison for a sublime “last call” this side of the Moss Cantina. Yeah, another Tuesday has been wasted, along with another year. But, that’s just the cycle of how things go. If anything, Staffers seem to know that, and their nice cut of post-punk pop to reflect keeps things warm as the nights stay chilled.

Edition of 200 available here and here

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Tabs Out | Rhucle – Royal Blue

Rhucle – Royal Blue

1.15.21 by Mike Haley

No one knows what the history is, probably some sort of trade deal or maybe the world threw em a bone, but for whatever reason Australia gets to enter the new year first. The first crack at it! That means they were the first to get the hell out of 2020! Lucky them. That also means that Sydney-based Oxtail Recordings had a head start on 2021 releases! Lucky us.

Oxtail used that inside knowledge of time wisely and fully prepped their 2021 lead off, “Royal Blue” by label bud Rhucle. By my count this is Yuta Kudo’s 4th cassette with them. Having a jump on things must have meant no one needed to rush. So they didn’t. Each limbering moment from “Royal Blue” is the antithesis of haste, sounds flowing with the velocity of a Brita pitcher filling up (If you don’t have experience with a Brita filter just know that they are comically slow). I can’t help to wonder if that Brita analogy was Psyop’d directly into my brain, what with all of the sounds of gently flowing water spilling their way through sizzle and sputter and ambience digesting itself. If, while listening to this, you don’t feel like you’re standing on thin ice, or maybe stained glass, then start the tape over. Turn it up a little bit, and try to get there. If you can’t do it then you quite possibly may not be ready for something so chill. Go do some hot yoga and revisit the situation.

I know I got there. Good on you, Rhucle. You have radicalized another regular human into a brainwashed Soldier of the Ambient.

All nine tracks are very short, especially for washed out sounds like these, but are cohesive as hell and make for a cloudy trip. Leave your body without ever leaving your house, that’s what I always say. C40, edition of 100, from Oxtail.

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Tabs Out | Hali Palombo – Cylinder Loops

Hali Palombo – Cylinder Loops

1.14.21 by Matty McPherson

Last year, Nate Cross, the labelbossman behind Astral Spirits, pivoted Astral Editions into the cassette game. In an email interview last spring, he told me he was hoping Astral Editions would become a home for outsider and fringe tunes not strictly relegated to jazz. The inaugural tape Voice Games, a collaboration between Ka Baird and x was practically a game of telephone gone towards its most phonetic and surrealist. A novel split from the typical wheelhouse of Astral Spirits, that implied a greater freedom in Astral Edition’s sonic trajectory.

Hali Palombo’s Cylinder Loops is the first release of 2021 on Astral Editions and upon first glance it may look like a minor one: 12 loops clocking in at 18 minutes. Yet, I’ve been sitting with the loops for a month now and it might be the next keystone release for defining the label’s sound. 

Palombo’s 2019 and 2020 works have been tinkering with shortwave radio ghosts and fragments; Cherry Ripe practically summons dispatches from the bomb shelters of the atomic era. Sometimes mournful or monolithic, yet with an undercurrent of warmth and bittersweetness to this era. On Cylinder Loops, Palombo takes a dozen fragments (courtesy of UCSB’s Cylinder Archive), highlighting the ghosts in those auditory fragments. Palombo’s loops will be quite familiar should you have a sweet tooth for Lelyand Kirby and Ghost Box (there lies a hauntology tag at the bottom of its bandcamp page).

The cylinder loops have a wicked sense of space they conjure up. Demented carnivals (Loop 8), funeral liturgy (Loop 4), or flickering nitrate print (Loop 3) all provide images of a pre-WWI society on the fringe of a modernity it will soon be crushed under. Palombo then bends that sense of temporality; often pushing the sounds of these loops towards dispatches from futures akin to the dream worlds of Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet (Loop 6/9). The entire affair is precise, not a moment wasted. As a result, it lends itself both to trips across the midwest as much as a rainy morning lost in a foggy haze. You’ll best want to pick this one up before it fades away.

First pressing of 200 with artwork by Tiny Little Hammers available here

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Tabs Out | Serrater – s/t

Serrater – s/t

1.13.21 by Ryan Masteller

I can’t friggin’ believe it!

Can you?

I can’t!

Serrater is a noise tape from none other than Michael Potter, who has made his fair share of “pretty guitar music” over the years by himself and in the Electric Nature and what have you. He runs the NULLZ0NE and Garden Portal tape labels, and he’s a fixture in the Athens, Georgia, underground scene. To say his music has been played around these parts* would probably be an understatement – it’s more accurate to say that his music has OFTEN been played around these parts. And that doesn’t even include the releases by other artists on his labels. Then we’re getting into more obsessive territory.

Can you believe Michael Potter’s made a noise tape? I can’t. And it’s a good one, and its presentation is striking. It’s not noise in the nuclear-blast-to-the-face-for-two-hours sense, but it’s still in the this-power-plant-is-outputting-some-serious-ampage one, a constant ripple of electromagnetic intensity. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “soft noise wall,” but Potter himself has dropped the “dark ambient noise wall” hint for me to pick up on, and by “hint” I mean obvious categorical descriptor. I’m going to use it, because being in the presence of “Serrater” is like being in the presence of negative space, dark energy pulling you closer to its jagged knife’s edge. By the way, there’s lots of knife imagery on display here with this tape. It’s cool. It’s TOUGH.

It reminds me of a 1980s hard-R action movie poster. There’s even an “R” rating given to it on the inside of the j-card! This thing read my mind … So it’s not for kids, and that should come as no surprise. The rippling frequencies feel like liquid matter made sound that engulf you and leave you on the other end feeling … serrated? Certainly scoured, like I’ve been hollowed out, my innards replaced with black radioactive goop. I want to say the experience was difficult and painful, but … I liked it? Yeah, I sure did. I liked it.

Can you believe it?

This tape is already sold out from the source, Already Dead, and it just came out on December 11! But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find it. I know you’re a resourceful bunch.

*By “these parts” I mean my house, not the Tabs Out offices, although he’s probably been played there more than a few times as well. 

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Tabs Out | R.E.E.L. – Music for Psychedelic Duelling

R.E.E.L. – Music for Psychedelic Duelling

1.12.21 by Ryan Masteller

It’s a warzone, it really is. A wasteland. A bloodbath. R.E.E.L. – or Rapid Eye Electronics Limited – has been around for a while, so they’ve seen some really intense things, experienced firsthand the absolute carnage of the UK Psychedelic Duelling Wars of 1979–89. It was here, in the trenches, where they pitted their minds against the minds of other masters and fought for unbridled supremacy. Armed with $1.00 acid (just a guess – see j-card) and a vast amount of sound samples, they went toe to toe (or head to head) with other duelists in telekinetic battles to determine ultimate supremacy over their foes. That they’ve survived at all is a massive accomplishment – I’m feeling scathed just listening to this thing.

So “Music for Psychedelic Duelling” is both soundtrack to and arsenal in the titular struggle. It acts as a mind enhancer, to get yourself in the right headspace, to use as a battle tactic against your foes, to trip you out completely if you’re doing none of those things. What starts as warped kosmische ratchets down to seasick outer-space dub, and you can feel the third eye opening right in the middle of your forehead. (It’s not literally there – don’t be alarmed.) That eye sees all, perceives your opponent, targets their weaknesses. Then it unleashes a barrage of tribal techno that DARES anyone who goes against you to keep up with it. And that’s when you realize that “Music for Psychedelic Duelling” is two thirty-minute workouts – you can keep your foe going for a whole hour before having to figure out what to do next!

On the “Repose” side (side A is “Prayer”), the duelists pull back, allowing the synthetic atmosphere to fill the space while they recharge. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a stupor! You’ll lose the duel, and possibly become a total casualty of the war. As a rhythm slowly emerges to undergird your psychic renewal, the energy intensifies around you, until it’s ready to be unleashed in the direction of your opponent. I think this is what happens in Dragonball Z, maybe Mortal Kombat, but mentally. Once you win – you’ll obviously win – you can walk away from the conflict confident in your psychic warfare abilities. You’ll have to master this skill at some point – the twenty-first century depends on it. 

Edition of 50 from Zona Watusa – comes with A5 poster and a Zona Watusa sticker. All that cool stuff!

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Tabs Out | Tim Stine Trio – Fresh Demons

Tim Stine Trio – Fresh Demons

1.11.21 by Matty McPherson

My heart snapped in two when Mr. Stine of the Tim Stine Trio threw up a final copy of their 2016  Astral Spirits debut, BEFORE I could make it over to the Bandcamp. Rats! Back in late spring, the trio’s sophomore effort for Astral Spirits, Fresh Demons, appeared in a bundle along with big money players like Crazy Doberman and Otomo Yoshihide & Chris Pitsiokos. Assuredly stiff competition. Yet, Fresh Demons was unusually subtle as it was lucid; one of the rare times I could put an Astral Spirits release on and not be banished to the tool shed!

That Fresh Demons is having serendipitous repress gave me good reason to revisit the endeavors of their January 2018 studio session. The tape has a bit of a “wine drunk at the party” quality few in the AS can stand toe-to-toe with.  Perhaps you think it a fancy way of saying that the tape skirts those free noise elements that AS prides themself on. And yeah. Fresh Demons may forego noise, still packing an atmospheric tension-to the point I’ll listen listen though and literally burst out screaming, “Son of a dunn! Are they auditioning for a Spielberg reboot of The Third Man?!” 

Anton Hatwich on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums strike up the set for Mr. Stine up; their sound evokes bombed out WW2 city held in allied hands. One where all the good trades happen at an underground bazaar. Tim Stine then, is our brave detective with one modus operandus (a free-arm acoustic strum) and one objective (to root out those fresh demons! Stine’s style is fleet footed, always tumbling off of Hatwich and Rosaly’s drum n’ bass (no, not that one-the jazzy kind) that teeters on rubble collapsing, like on “VVVValley”

The downtempo tuning and airy mic’ing often sounds like Stine is caught in a real boiler of a chase. Just when you think he’ll give into a huge grandiose freakout, Stine cuts with a little sleight of hand. Finesse over sonic detour work in Fresh Demons’ favor, leaving behind 8 smooth tracks. When that focus aims for its most precise, it can arrive at a claustrophobic degree. Album closer, “FADS”, is practically the trio meeting in unison for an unnerving stranglehold on an unexpecting suspect.

So, if the criterion channel is still out of your budget and your library won’t let you peruse the noir section (“because you’re not a county resident”), I’d suggest set cracking open the vintage port, popping Fresh Demons in the hifi, and set up a fancy party for one.

Second pressing of 75 on RED cassette shells. Make yourself happy!

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Tabs Out | Bob Bucko Jr. – You Deserve a Name

Bob Bucko Jr. – You Deserve a Name

1.8.21 by Ryan Masteller

The lone sax pierces the night like it’s in a Shane Black action noir, and “You Deserve a Name” kicks off just right. It’s gotta be this way, because over the next hour of this 2xC32 cassette release (housed in a clamshell case), Bob Bucko Jr. rakes the muck, gums the shoes, honks the horn, and presses buttons on various devices and keyboards, thereby ensuring – ensuring! – that tension is ratcheted and threads of storyline are tugged and followed to their logical conclusions. All of this while perfecting the dialogue between his instruments. Cheeky AND efficient!

“Stay busy or die trying,” quoth BBJr. on the back of the clamshell, and truer words have not been recently spoken. Becoming somewhat of a mantra for 2020, this sentiment is a rallying cry for the quarantined, and in April 2020, when this beast was recorded, we were all a little stir crazy. But never fear, Bucko set the table with a spread that included effects pedals, samplers, a child’s toy xylophone, a bunch of other stuff, and then set about trying to make sense of this whole mess with the tools he had at his disposal. Even several months down the road, 2020 has remained a mystery, although one with distinct characteristics; you could probably call it a mystery with big, hairy, stinky, stupid, obvious questions that are easily answered but remain obscured because we’re all a bunch of big, fat, hairy, stupid apes. Thank god for BBJr.’s nuance to all that.

Thank god for his restraint too – we need some of that up in here, what with all our stumbling and shouting and dribbling liquids from our mouths and heads. “You Deserve a Name” is an exquisitely slow burn, with BBJr. teasing out atmosphere and tones that hover in conscious reach like there’s always a gradual realization of something good just around the bend of the next minute. And while it’s all spectacular and often sublime, I’m still a sucker for those lonesome sax salutes. But as a fragment of a wilder, woollier whole, they’re even more interesting, their juxtaposition among the more experimental sonic flourishes like pieces to a puzzle finally fitting together – even if improperly. There are rhythmic disturbances, inconclusive oscillations – everything points toward deepening ambiguity, even when it totally shouldn’t. This is what you do! Here is where you go! BBJr.’s having none of that – he’s just trying to make sense of everything and get through to the other side, with as little scathing as possible upon his poor body and psyche. 

“You Deserve a Name” expresses all that quite nicely.

Available in an edition of 50 from Bucko’s own Personal Archives.

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Tabs Out | Ergo Phizmiz – Elmyr

Ergo Phizmiz – Elmyr

1.7.21 by Ryan Masteller

Yet again, for the second or third time [Ed.: It’s way more than that], Strategic Tape Reserve drops a release that takes our concept of a musical form and upends it so we can’t even recognize how we relate to it, or even who we are. This is not a bad thing – on the contrary, I don’t think there’s a label that’s challenged my conceptions of genre and style the way STR has over the past couple years. The Cologne-based label just keeps knocking high concept after high concept out of the park, well over the center field wall and into the thoroughfare that passes the stadium on its way to the beltway, and from there out into suburbia and probably your home. Of course this metaphor only works if what is knocked out of the park is a tape, and where it lands is directly in your car stereo. Let’s go with that for now.

Here it’s Ergo Phizmiz’s turn – yeah, that’s his name, and he’s apparently insanely prolific – and “Elmyr” features a classic STR Photoshop job of the most innocuous-looking bearded, bespectacled, and be-fedora’d nerd standing seven stories tall in the middle of an apartment complex swimming pool, keyboard in hand, grinning like he’s your dad at a Halloween party. The whole vibe is Eastern European market bootleg, and it really looks the part. It does NOT, in any way, suggest what the music is going to be like, but once you hear the music itself, it also isn’t crazy at all. Phizmiz obviously loves music, loves pop music, loves electronic music, and it’s clear before anything even happens that the Spice Girls and Vengaboys are going to play at least a spiritual role. They do more than that, but before they do (and while they do it), “Elmyr” becomes the living embodiment of imaginary Beck funk demos. Now THIS should not be a surprise – the j-card, after all, is emblazoned with subtitles and other bursts, like “Super Pop Music (Non-Stop)” and “16 Tracks / Don’t Be Lax.” 

Dude’s having fun. NOT making fun.

Wobbly discofied hip-hop workouts run smack into pop album cutting-room-floor detritus, as Rick James somehow coexists in the same shared universe with Geri Halliwell (who is sampled! And deified?) and Thomas Dolby. I guess they all (sort of) exist in our current universe, but this is a different universe. So while this disco/hop/experi/pop tidal wave (75 minutes of music counts as a tidal wave) rushes over your mind, Phizmiz injects the whole thing with ACTUAL Spice Girls tunes, basically doing “Wannabe” in its entirety in “Music for Wannabes” and reprising the concept in “The Tea Is Silent.” He’s clearly fascinated with them (gosh, I was too back in the day – I, the indie rock poster boy, had a poster of them on my wall, and it was only sort of ironic), and it bizarrely works. I was not as invested in Vengaboys (read: not at all), so I had to research what songs they did. Turns out their dance pop hits “We Like to Party” and “We’re Going to Ibiza” (I stopped my research there) show up in “The Overhead Lines (Going to Ibiza)” and “Venga Airways Gets Back to Work Post Pandemic,” the latter of which is amazingly tense as it closes out the tape. 

I can’t pick a favorite here. 

What I can do is get you moving – “Elmyr” only exists in an edition of 40, so do yourself a favor and get the LAST ONE listed on the Bandcamp page! You don’t want to have to wait to troll Discogs, do you?

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Tabs Out | Lotto – Hours After

Lotto – Hours After

1.6.21 by Ryan Masteller

“Hours After” becomes “After Hours” almost right away, the late-night smoky jazz club vibe of “Lis” kicking this thing off right, pointing it in a Badalamenti direction. The trio’s game: Mike Majkowski (bass), Łukascz Rychlicki (guitar, bass), and Paweł Szpura (drums) are dark jazz/post rock mavens, huffing equally from vials of Tortoise and Böhren. By the time “Moth” becomes its own symbol of danger (like in Silence of the Lambs! Creepy …), we’re being thrashed around a makeshift Roadhouse by a distorted mass of pulsing wickedness. Somebody get Dean Hurley on the horn.

“Hours After” is the perfect accompaniment for a night of sin and debauchery. Its neon signage flickers in street puddles left behind by intermittent storms. Discarded cigarette butts line the street surrounding it. Majkowski’s bass alternately rumbles and slinks, while Rychlicki’s guitar sprinkles sour beauty among the rhythm and churn like it wants to meet up in the stall for a quickie. (Don’t go in the stall!) All is anchored by Szpura’s interlocking rhythms or brushed musings, whatever the situation calls for. Did you take a bad hallucinogenic? Are you coming down from a bad hallucinogenic? Either way, Lotto’s got you covered.

Four tracks split evenly between aggression and restraint. A combo at the top of their game. “Hours After” represents the intensity and sublimity of a perfectly paced noir excursion. And chalk another one up for Endless Happiness – the Warsaw label is on a hot streak! 

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