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Tabs Out | Top 200 Tapes of 2018

Top 200 Tapes of 2018
12.17.18 by Tabs Out Crew

“Winter is going to come.”

We’re all familiar with that iconic line from Game of Thrones, when Frank Throne warns all of the princesses, dragons, and Merlins that it is going to be cold soon. A warning from old Frank was needed because reliably with that coldness comes death – Death, and best of lists. Which is worse? No one knows. But Tabs Out is not special (maybe a little special?) so once again here is our completely not ridiculous, categorically decisive, and oddly erotic(?) TOP 200 TAPES OF 2018!!!!!1!!

We took the thousands (literally thousands) of friggin tapes you maniacs sent in over past year and ground them into a fine powder. We then snorted that powder to the dome in the basement of National Audio Company and visualized the list below. The list is not up for debate. It’s actually correct… Like, VERY correct.

Please be careful with it!

 

#1 V/A – Centennial (NNA)

It almost feels like cheating, calling NNA’s monster anniversary smash ‘Centennial’ the best tape of the year. I mean, how can you even stand spool-to-spool with this thing? It really is a Dream Team vs Argentina situation, but would also be cassette malpractice to not give it the top slot. I’m not risking my license over this. Need more information? We did a bonus episode on this one, folks.

#2 Krümel – Gravewave (Discrete Spectrum)
#3 M Sage – Astrolabe (Noumenal Loom)
#4 Bonnie Baxter – Ask Me How Satan Started (Hausu Mountain)
#5 Seth Graham – Gasp (Orange Milk)
#6 V/A – Fire-Toolz Interbeing Remix Vol. 1 (Suite 309)
#7 JPEGMAFIA – Veteran (Deathbomb Arc)
#8 Kupkă – Altered States (Very Deep Records)
#9 Modal Zork – Oba Gooba of Gort Nork (Bumpy)
#10 Matmos – On the Radio at Southend-on-Sea (Timesuck)
#11 Sharon Gel – Delicious Fish (Fractal Meat)
#12 V/A – These Carbon​-​Composite Poles Are Made For Walkin’ (Strategic Tape Reserve)
#13 Yves Malone – The Most Of What You Need Is All You’ll Ever Have (Third Kind Records)
#14 Brett Naucke – The Back Of The Garden (Unifactor)
#15 Quicksails – The Bright (Hausu Mountain)
#16 Itch Princess – Everyone’s A Doctor (Truly Bald)
#17 Marta SmiLga – Lunar Maria, Vol. 1 (Crash Symbols)
#18 poopdood – Dumpsterave (OJC)
#19 Mårble – Diego (Not Not Fun)
#20 Grant Evans – Ephemerals (Park 70)

Evans has produced two sidelong tracks, each a fifteen-minute slab of roiling, tactile noise. “Grave” recalls digging in the night, nefarious work, unholy activity – or maybe just dirty work, without the whole wicked connotation. Who’s to say? [read more]
#21 Crazy Bread – Vocoder Divorce (Astral Spirits)
#22 Budokan Boys – That’s How You Become a Clown (Tymbal Tapes)
#23 Oestergaards – Rötterna (Tape Lamour)
#24 Lee Noble – Ashenden (Muzan Editions)
#25 Adderall Canyonly – The Limits of All Known Ice (Lighten Up Sounds)
#26 German Army – Kowloon Walled City (Null Zone)

creepy, otherworldly electronics, anime rhythms, eerie ambience, and industrial shudders mark this paean to a weird, unnatural place. [read more]
#27 Gateway – The Dawn of the Civil Savage (Castle Bravo)
#28 Max Eilbacher ‎- Electronic Tape Music (self released)
#29 Charles Barabé – De La Fragilité (Astral Spirits)
#30 Soaplands – s/t (No Rent)
#31 Mike Dilloway – May Bale Paws (Alien Passengers)
#32 Fletcher Pratt – Dub Sessions Vol. 4 (Crash Symbols)
#33 MSHR – Phased Trance Constructions (Unifactor)
#34 Nick Hoffman – Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators) (Pilgrim Talk)

One thing I am NOT crappin’ you negative about is this new “Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators),” which is also something you can play your kids to promote healthy brain growth. Or your adults. Anybody, really [read more]
#35 Bending Spirits / Quicksails – split (Solid Melts)
#36 Arian Shafiee – Beauty Tuning (Hausu Mountain)
#37 Terlu – Big Bingo (Not Not Fun)
#38 Somnoroase Păsărele – auro[1] (OTA)
#39 Plastic Weather – s/t (self released)
#40 Meng Qi – Sidrolz (Obsolete Staircases)
#41 Cube – Wet Housing (Anathema Archive)
#42 Uton – Sax On, Sax Off (Eiderdown)
#43 Jardín – Butaca (Freaks)
#44 M Geddes Gengras – Hawaiki Tape (Umor Rex)
#45 Motion Sickness of Time Travel – The Circuit (Adversary)
#46 Giovanni Lami – Hysteresis V (Null Zone)
#47 EQ Why – Life of the Why (Third Kind Records)
#48 Mukqs – Slug Nut (Unifactor)
#49 Bridle – Forward Motion Plus Volume One (Hurt Collection)
#50 Tiger Village – The Argument (Patient Sounds)
#51 Mary Ocher – Faust Studio Sessions and Other Recordings (Related Records)
#52 Aether Jag – The Universal Veil (Hot Releases)
#53 Tadzio – The Complaint (Blight)
#54 Joe & Joe – s/t (Oxen)
#55 Machete USA & Song – s/t (Permanent Nostalgia)
#56 Lifestyle Pornography – Community Control (Hideous Seed)
#57 Southfacing / Ali Wade – split (Frequency Domain)
#58 OverScan – The Marriage of Violence and Desire (Muzan Editions)
#59 African Ghost Valley / Richard Frances – split (Elestial Sound)
#60 Shedding – Plod and Play Vol.2 (Obsolete Staircases)

An errant gravy of small to tall, softly hewed, and slightly rusty bells that make magic *pops* and deeeeep doooooown *plooooooms* with crypto precision. [read more]
#61 Gunther Valentine – Maine Redactions (Anathema Archive)
#62 Nick Hoffman – Salamander (Notice Recordings)
#63 Toon – Cudighi (Cudighi)
#64 Former Selves – Forgiveness Circles (Patient Sounds)
#65 More Eaze – a l4ngu4g3 (Tymbal Tapes)

“a l4ngu4g3” really focuses on words and their meaning, how repetition and alteration change one’s perspective on connotation. Well, at least the sound of words emanating from a human mouth. [read more]
#66 Matthew D. Gantt – Isomorphs (Oxtail)
#67 pal+ – Kinetic Dreams (OTA)
#68 Miho Hatori & Dave Harrington – Mondialite (Commend)
#69 Varsity Voltz – Academic Probation (self released)
#70 Alpha Mound – Dvahla (Tape Lamour)
#71 Carey – The Great Southeastern Dissatisfaction (Null Zone)
#72 Dere Moans – Future Deli (Bad Cake)
#73 Mahesa Almeida – A LT O/P A N (Hasana Editions)
#74 Proven Recordings – Dubs Vol. 1 (self released)
#75 Foolish Belief – Luck (Crippled Sounds)
#76 Nikmis – #17 (Third Kind Records)
#77 Andy Loebs – About Me (Terry Tapes)
#78 Shadows – Bruce Spills the Pills (Polar Envy)
#79 Dinosaur On Fire – Populous Romantique (Ghost Diamond)
#80 Bedroom – Moons (Fluere)
#81 Bill Nace / Twig Harper / John Olson– Live at No Response (No Response)
#82 Long Distance Poison – Knock Magh (Hausu Mountain)
#83 Farwarmth – Immeasurable Heaven (ACR)
#84 Rayphaze – Wobbler (((Cave)) Recordings)
#85 Cool Person – Good-Person (Permanent Nostalgia)
#86 Julian Abraham ‘Togar’ – Acoustic Analog Digitally Composed (Hasana Editions)
#87 Cavatus – The Celestial Extasis (self released)
#88 böhm – Transients (OTA)
#89 Bridges of Königsberg – Mendacity (4 GRE)
#90 Bromp Treb / Fritz Welch – split (Timesuck)
#91 Grant Evans – Vessel (Null Zone)
#92 memorygarden – district (Constellation Tatsu)
#93 Niedowierzanie – Lumière (Lighten Up Sounds)
#94 Riar Rizaldi – I Only Have Visions For You (Hasana Editions)
#95 V/A – Till Bertil Enstoring Vol.1 (Tape Lamour)
#96 Cartoon Forest – s/t (White Reeves Productions)

Dilloway devotees know this zone well — A haunting series of celiac cycles closing in on you. The feeling of wearing a bug’s shell. Cartoon Forest ooze right into those degenerative duties. [read more]
#97 Muyassar Kurdi & Nicholas Jozwiak – Intersections & Variations (Astral Spirits)
#98 August Traeger – The Harbinger (FTAM)
#99 The Fathers – Sound Advice (Tusco Embassy)
#100 Marsha Fisher – Doll Tape (Gay Hippie Vampire)
#101 Persona Black – Through the Black Sky (Ephem Aural)
#102 ML Wah – Big Air (Flower Room)
#103 Mukqs – 起き上がり(Doom Trip)
#104 Cinchel – A Sad Study in Temporal Dissonance (Patient Sounds)
#105 tape000 – chasing windows (OTA)
#106 Suko Pyramid and moduS ponY – Echolalia (Strategic Tape Reserve)
#107 Teuthis Galore – I Smell Voices (Lurker Bias)
#108 Individual Distortion / Bossbattle – split (Tandem)
#109 Seth Chrisman & Nathan McLaughlin – Earth Tones… Metal Show (Full Spectrum)
#110 Hakobune – Parhelion (Constellation Tatsu)
#111 Kyle Landstra – Within / Without (Muzan Editions)
#112 V/A – Compilation 001 (Norelco Mori Limited)
#113 Headlights – The Radio Plays (Unifactor)
#114 QBLA – So Far (Bonding)
#115 RXM Reality – Panic Cycle (Hausu Mountain)
#116 Man Made Hill – Fingertip (Pleasence)
#117 Sam Goldberg – Unto Others (Boudoir)
#118 Talc – Eye Idols (Impermanent)
#119 Ross Khmil – Suburban Lights (Hellscape Recordings)
#120 Energy ☆ – Energy ☆ (Galtta)

To call the music of duo Camilla Padgitt-Coles and Bryce Hackford effortless would be an utter understatement. Each tilde-y wave undulates frictionlessly out toward infinity, and would continue toward it if time constraints and the shortage of Chrome tape stock didn’t put a damper on the party. [read more]
#121 Kohl – Imposed Ethics (Umor Rex)
#122 Toasted Focus – Concrete Bleach (Baked Tapes)
#123 The Triangle Man – Majick (Bad Cake)
#124 Truth Decay – s/t (Castle Bravo)
#125 Sturqen / vÄäristymä – split (Nervu)
#126 Crazy Doberman – 2038 (Obsolete Staircases)
#127 Grant Evans – Ergot Dogs (Adversary)
#128 Emerging Industries of Wuppertal – Traditions from a… (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Emerging Industries of Wuppertal imagines a bleak future whose denizens study the cracks of human folly. There they assemble historical frameworks that they somehow beam back through time to EIOW so that EIOW can write these future events into sonic structures. [read more]
#129 Matthew Atkins – Porous Inner Montage (Minimal Resource Manipulation)
#130 Beast Flower Coiffeuse / Mossy Throats – split (Moon Myst Music)
#131 Dante Augustus Scarlatti – Dimensional Synthesis (Auris Apothecary)
#132 Nicholas Langley – Entropy Soundtracks & Ambients Volume 2 (Third Kind)
#133 Wet Garden – Deep in Earth (Null Zone)
#134 Space-Saver – Save Yrself (HIC)
#135 Sparkling Wide Pressure – Find a Frame (Park 70)
#136 Dotson – De/termination (Already Dead)

Everybody drives in LA, nobody walks, but Dotson’s rhythms skip like compact discs flung across macadam ponds. They jiggle and jut, lurch and bend, all while crisping in the digital fryer. [read more]
#137 Sunmoonstar / Euglossine – split (Moss Archive)
#138 Nature Camp – Dry Food Wet Food ($ucces$)
#139 Shedding – Wave to the Wind (Obsolete Staircases)
#140 Yama-No-Kami – Kakusareta (OTA)
#141 Christian Mirande – Property Line/Plunge Pool (Unifactor)
#142 Dere Moans – Brain Mountain Disciples (Orb Tapes)

Dere Moans whips together a crackling slurry of disparate source material into two sidelong slabs of constantly shifting sonic collage, at times smearing the atmosphere with gross digital brushstrokes while at others pinging breakneck impulses through the ionosphere. [read more]
#143 Noxroy – Protomontage (Kolo)
#144 MAbH – cinjusti (Tymbal Tapes)
#145 Yuto Ohashi – Juvenile – Insubtantial, Re-Present (Cudighi)
#146 Estlerot – Ciseaux (Herhalen)
#147 J. Soliday – Synth Tidings Vol.1 (Baked Tapes)
#148 R.M. Gellin – The Cutest Boy In Town (OJC)
#149 Beast Nest – A History of Sexual Violence (self released)
#150 2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji – Church Emoji (Gay Hippie Vampire)
#151 Erik Levander – Couesnon (Katuktu Collective)
#152 Tender Crust – The Earth’s Axis and Hare (Oxtail Recordings)
#153 Fischerle – Ptylotics (Spring Break Tapes!)
#154 Night Cleaner – Even (Geographic North)
#155 Grave Blankets – s/t (Flag Day)
#156 Ratkiller – Unapologetea​/​Forged Panoply (Cudighi)
#157 Perfect Jack – Gold Chain (OJC)
#158 Substrates – Lethean (self released)
#159 Tiger Village – Tact (Orange Milk)
#160 Peter Kris – Error Into the Sun (Never Anything)
#161 Tereshkova – Addendum: Raindbows (Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere.)
#162 Rambutan – Swerve Throgh Time (Null Zone)
#163 Unsustainable Social Condition – Pleasure Seaking Pacifist (Phage)
#164 Bus Gas / Amulets – split (Spring Break Tapes)

The music on this “companion release” (a great way to describe a split that uses two tapes instead of splitting sides on one) would certainly make two fine independent releases, but Spring Break Tapes knows a good thing when they hear one, and there is an undeniable synergy found in bringing Bus Gas and Amulets together within one double-tall Norelco case. [read more]
#165 Mod Exist – Caught in the Noise (Uncle Bob’s Records)
#166 Eave – s/t (Astral Spirits)
#167 Larry Wish – How More Can You Need? (Field Hymns)
#168 Félicia & Christina – Folded Galaxy (Commend)
#169 Pepper Mill Rondo – E.D.M. (Hausu Mountain)
#170 Saint Hewitt – Oblivescence (self released)
#171 Forest Management – Rotating Angle (Unifactor)
#172 Royallen – Found Tape (Permanent Nostalgia)
#173 Günter Schlienz – Liederbuch (Muzan Editions)

The tracks on “Liederbuch” follow Schlienz’s penchant for unobtrusive and dreamlike, cloud cushions of synthesizer melodies and hushed vocals piled together on the Milky Way, just ready for all the constellations to materialize into their actual forms and recline on the ethereal plane.  [read more]
#174 presidiomodelo / Machinefabriek – split (Tandem)
#175 Marlo Eggplant / Arvo Zylo – split (NO PART OF IT)
#176 Cryptonym – Automated Predation (Castle Bravo)
#177 Vierzig Skizzen – Travels in Public (Lily Tapes and Discs)
#178 CDX – All Night (Suite 309)
#179 I Am Just A Pupil – The White Album (Crash Symbols)
#180 James Fella + Steve Jansen / Tom Tom Thrasher – split (That’s Cool)
#181 The Tuesday Night Machines – Hawaiian Yurt Music (Strategic Tape Reserve)
#182 The Marx Trukker – Ease of the Bough (Magnetic Purely)
#183 Bary Center / Yorihisa Taura / Nicholas Langley / Chemiefaserwerk – Puzzle Time (Third Kind Records)
#184 Attenuated – Ideomotor (Space Slave)
#185 HCMJ – 의미 (Ghost Diamond)
#186 Meme Vivaldi – 420 Deluxe (Ingrown)
#187 Aviary – s/t (self released)
#188 Marcia Custer – Stacey’s Spacey (Unifactor)
#189 Sun.TV – Hyper Portal Terrorism (Shadowtrash Tape Group)
#190 Storyteller – The Stubborn Organic Emblem of… (AD AAD AT)
#191 Bob Bellerue – All In (Anarchymoon)
#192 Bary Center – Betrayal (Always Human)
#193 Sugar Pills Bone – Slack Babbath Plays Peep Durple (Orb)
#194 Celer + Forest Management – Landmarks (Constellation Tatsu)
#195 Wilted Woman – Trapezoid Tappers (Plastic Bags)
#196 Pajjama – Womb (Orange Milk)

 “Womb” is a technical beast, a massive hybrid of band interplay and digital fuckery that shifts as often as… I’m drawing a blank on something that shifts a lot. [read more]
#197 Clear Fluids – Music of the Spheres (Lighten Up Sounds)
#198 Dominic Coppola – Honeymoon Phase (Unifactor)
#199 Christopher Witley – Hecca Autre (Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere.)
#200 Mechanical Facade / Ratkiller – split (Cavern Brew)
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Tabs Out | Catching Up with Antiquated Future

Catching Up with Antiquated Future
12.13.18 by Ryan Masteller

PDX-based lo-fi tape label Antiquated Future has been around the block, let’s not kid ourselves. Initially begun in Olympia, Washington, around the turn of the century (if you consider 2008 the turn of the century, which I do – druid calendar, you know), AF has made quite the name for itself with not only its music releases but also its books, zines, and other assorted cool stuff you can find by digging around in their website a little bit. It’s like rummaging through a cool antique shop, but without the musty smell (which is either a good or a bad thing depending on whether you like the smell of antique shops).

But besides the fact that I’m a highly in-demand superstar editor and writer (ahem, here’s my card, email me, AF, ahem), we’re here for Antiquated Future’s music, specifically their two most recent cassette releases, Reighnbeau’s “Slight EP” and Tucker Theodore’s “LSG.” (And to prove my superstar-ness, I’ll tell you that “Reighnbeau” is not spelled correctly; it’s actually “Rainbow,” but of course that’s already taken, so.) Both tapes feature established vets: Bryce Hample’s Reighnbeau project adds Colleen Johnson (Flying Circles, Silver Shadows) and Madeline Johnston (the excellent Midwife [with Tucker Theodore – a link!], Sister Grotto), two singers who will, when combined, give promo proofreaders nightmares forever. Then there’s the prolific Mr. Theodore, known for his experimental guitar explorations. Looks like November was a good release month for Antiquated Future!

 

Reighnbeau – Slight EP
Slight, nothing; Reighnbeau’s a dense configuration, an opaque cloud of electrofolk goodness that shifts its shape from moment to moment. Hample’s production is top notch – the doors of my expectations have completely been blown of their hinges. I admit, I approached this tape with Midwife in my head, and while the head-down gauzy shoegaze thing is fantastic, this is straight digital candy, sugar rushes of electronics and pop flourishes that remain stuck to your ear canals long after the songs end. And the vocals – oh, the vocals. They’re gorgeous. Johnson and Johnston do a lot of heavy lifting in the melody department, their angelic presence hovering over the songs and elevating them to sheer euphoria. Dare I continue to listen long after the EP has begun to repeat? I dare – bellyache from ingesting too much of a good thing be damned.

 

Tucker Theodore – LSG
Theodore, who as I’ve noted also performs in Midwife with Madeline Johnston, is simply a guitar GENIUS (like that’s a surprise to anyone). Here on “LSG” he stretches out over ten “movements,” packed tightly together on each side of the tape, “Movements 1–6” on the A and “7–10” on the flip. He recorded everything by himself in his studio called “Inanambulancerecordings,” which has “now relocated to a hayloft in a barn in New Hampshire,” in case you’re wondering what to plug into your Google Maps. So consider that rural reclusiveness when you approach LSG, which meanders from solo guitar passages to, ahem, “full band” freakouts with relative ease, the feedback mixing with the half-speed acoustic Fahey-isms and ambient backmasking and effects-laden drifts. Packed away in that environment, Theodore was able to experiment as he pleased, and the result is a sheer post-rock cornucopia (if I may, considering Thanksgiving isn’t far in our rearview), scrabbling around every stylistic corner that designation has come to represent.

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Tabs Out | Keroaän – Pulsars in Rhombus Form

Keroaän – Pulsars in Rhombus Form
12.13.18 by Ryan Masteller

Magic! It’s when something mysteriously happens that we can’t pinpoint with our human brains, something so out of the ordinary that we ascribe to its occurrence a sense of awe and trepidation. Like when someone seemingly at random chooses our card out of a shuffled deck, or when someone teleports a rabbit into a hat with their mind, or when millions of emails disappear into the ether. Or maybe there’s no human element at all – maybe something just gets conjured out of thin air.

Take Keroaän, then, the project name used to release sound recordings of “Pulsars in Rhombus Form,” a processing and playback program developed by Ian M Fraser and Reed Evan Rosenberg. But rather than do any work, I’m going to simply wave my wand above these computer keys and POOF – a description I didn’t write appears!:

“Pulsars in Rhombus Form is a real-time generative music agent with two major components: a listener and a player.

“The listener takes as input and audio stream from the album Planisphærium by sci-fi technical death metal band Wormed (ES). It identifies kick and snare drum strikes as well as vocal phrasing and communicates its findings to the player in order to trigger gestural events and compositional shifts.

“The player consists of an 8-voice Max/MSP implementation of pulsar synthesis (Roads). It’s parameters are controlled by various chaotic maps and stochastic methods.

“The program performs with no human intervention whatsoever.”

Hey, wait a minute – that sounds more like SCIENCE than magic! Still, we get the “conjuring out of thin air” thing I alluded to above, but that whole backstory makes it all way less mysterious. Regardless, this thing is definitely fascinating – certainly as fascinating as sawing a lady in half or escaping from a locked safe perched atop a skyscraper. The cassette’s eight tracks sound NOTHING like Wormed (seriously, like not at all), instead taking on certain aspects of the band’s manic technicality and spitting it back out in some sort of rhythmic tornado. The sounds are like data blots spattered across a digital canvas, as if Autechre simply threw up their hands and let their harshest gear take over before transmitting the results via radio waves out into the solar system.

“Pulsars in Rhombus Form” comes in an edition of 50 from Minneapolis’s Nada Records. Summon your wallet from the next room and prepare to purchase without the use of phone or cable wires!

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Tabs Out | Dachshund – s/t

Dachshund – s/t
12.11.18 by Ryan Masteller

It’s nice to see Fall Break Records staging a comeback with this release – they haven’t dropped anything on their own since Future Ape Tapes’ “1093” back in September 2016. This self-titled tape by Dachshund is a real treat too, because it combines two things that get the Tab Outers all worked up, that get everybody all sniffy and glaze-eyed like they found the catnip stash: live improv and #jass fusion. Taylor Josey over at Fall Break totally gets it when he likens “Dachshund” to “Coltrane-inspired spiritual jazz, meditative ECM, and German koshmiche [sic] music.” I read that and find myself bogarting the catnip with very little intention of sharing. This is all up my alley, and I’m keeping it all for myself.

This’ll probably get me slapped with some unfortunate labels, such as “rude” and “precious” and “unworkwithable.” But I’ll risk it, and maybe to soften the tension I’ll give you a little taste of what you can expect from these Dachshund cats. The duo of Peter Webb on sax and synth and John Gregg on drums take the mind-meld game to the next level. Two performances, one on each side, recorded over a year apart, one in Atlanta and one in Athens (both in Georgia, meh), showcase Dachshund’s ability to ride off on a vibe into the long hours of the late evening. Using a synthesizer drone for balance, sax and drums flit about each other before galloping off in all directions, only to coalesce periodically to merge with each other. Kind of like if you were lost in the wilderness with a buddy and two horses and you kept going in opposite directions to see if you could find anything, always with the caveat that you’d meet back at a precise location to take stock of the situation.

Also – spoiler alert – some dude in the audience supposedly says “I’m crying!” at the end, but I missed it. Stick around for that, it’s probably hilarious.

Let’s all take a little time to remind ourselves why we’re here, and fete Fall Break Records upon their return. Let’s also buy Dachshund tapes. “Only 30 copies. Get em soon!”

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Tabs Out | Space Age Pressure Pad #5: Already Dead Tape Club and what I’ve been listening to

Space Age Pressure Pad #5: Already Dead Tape Club and what I’ve been listening to
12.10.18 by Scott Scholz

Greetings, dear readers! It’s been a hot minute since the last SAPP installment, and I’ve just finished a whirlwind of organizing and computer upgrading with hopes that I’ll be able to do more writing in the coming weeks and months. A big part of organizing was figuring out how to comprehensively address tapes, which have been gradually accumulating into their own drawers and piles all over my house. They’re all comfortably nestled together in my studio now, in an innovative organizational scheme that I like to call “Scottological order.” Tapes present some different challenges than vinyl and CDs, in my experience: because tape labels and their clever curation are such a fundamental element of the cassette underground, it makes sense to do most primary sorting by label, and secondarily parse by chronology/catalog numbers rather than alphabetical order. But then there are always exceptions, particular artists whose bodies of work necessitate keeping them together regardless of label. And of course there are the odd-sized releases and compilations that present their own organizational challenges.

In the case of making my own space more functional, I found that I had to split three broad categories of material into their own separate shelving system due to the sheer volume of material. German Army and their many many many side projects required their own split-off storage space, and even the simple act of placing them together reminded me what a huge impact that artist has had on my own thinking about music and culture in the last five years or so. And two prolific labels necessitated their own more spacious housing, too: Constellation Tatsu and Already Dead Tapes.

A mere 12 hours after I finished putting the last Already Dead releases into their new digs, the label announced a fascinating new “Tape Club” concept for 2019, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for my thinking about the scope and depth of their work. I was just musing to myself about what an unusual, singular label Already Dead is–they’re far more prolific each year than the typical label, and their curatorial impulses are much broader.

The idea of the Already Dead Tape Club is pretty straightforward: you make one payment up front, and you’ll get copies of every tape release they do in 2019 shipped straight to your door. You can read all about it and sign up right here.

For any other label, I would honestly be pretty skeptical about this concept. But I think Already Dead is the perfect tape label to pull this off: the combination of broad genre representation in the AD catalog, from avant-pop to jazz to rock/punk/hardcore to experimental to hip-hop and many points in between (all excellent specimens of their respective approaches), and the unusual volume of tapes they release each year, means that you’re going to go on a lot of adventures if you sign up for this club. And you’re probably going to learn about some new-to-you artists that you’ll want to keep following, and that’s just about the best thing about tape labels, if you ask me.

It’s that time of year where folks who write and think about music start forming “best of the year” lists in their heads, and just as an example of how killer Already Dead is, there are six AD releases from 2018 on my shortlist for the best of the best. They are:

 

Fuck Lungs – Honeysuckle
The second outing for this Curt Oren/Joe Hess sax/drums duo, “Honeysuckle” is a very different experience than their free-jazz blowout debut. These pieces still carry a certain free-improv informality, but this round digs deep into sound exploration. I’m not sure if everything is live with some loops or if there are some overdubs (I’m thinking overdubs?), but these jams have as much vertical density as horizontal at times. Take “Now Is Not the Time,” for example, which starts off in a sonic space between Sun Ra and the latest Bjork album, coalescing into some digitally-manipulated sound exploration, from tribal outer spaces to trippy innerspace in under four minutes. Album closer “You Live Alone” is spacious and anthemic, and you’d swear Oren’s horns are turning into synth pads. But if you were into the fire music freakouts of the debut, don’t fear–there are jams like “Honeysucker” and “Lunar Tunes” waiting to rip your face off.

The Myriad Ones – The Hardest Part
Sometimes the wide range of artists featured on Already Dead come together in new collaborations, and this one is absolutely fascinating. Prolific maestro Bob Bucko Jr. comes together with guitar ripper Storm Ross, along with a cast of other AD alums, and the results are fascinating. Many of the tunes are uptempo rock numbers, a bit more aggressive than BBJr’s recent song-oriented works, and Ross fires off some epic guitar runs and tuneful riffs. But sometimes the more drone- and pedal point-oriented approach of BBJr takes over, and we get to hear Ross take on more relaxed-tempo vibes than usual. I don’t listen to a lot of “rawk” these days, but I find “The Hardest Part” quite easy to put on, with some nods to classic rock and roll forms and tones, but with a forward-thinking and free approach. And that redemptive post rock-flavored album closer, “Samsara,” ohmigaga.

Schneider/Complainer – s/t
AD regulars Complainer, another excellent duo project featuring Mabel Suen and Joe Hess on horns/drums, took on a long-distance collaboration with Jörg Schneider of Jealousy Mountain Duo and Nicoffeine, and the results are near perfection. Schneider, one of my favorite drummers in the world, suffered a major setback a couple of years ago, with hand injuries that have prevented him from playing regularly and touring. As luck and perseverance would have it, though, Jörg can still play, as long as he limits his time behind the kit. As a long-time international road warrior, he’s met and played with great musicians all over the world in rock and jazz scenes, and he’s met his new circumstances with the brilliant idea of doing studio collaborations with folks from all over the place. These pieces were made by bouncing tracks between St. Lous and Hückelhoven, Germany, but you’d never guess they weren’t knocked out in the same room. Killer ideas and great playing all around. And by the way, I would be remiss not to note that Jörg is starting to rack up a number of these kinds of collaborations, which he’s making available digitally and on vinyl here if you’re excited to hear more.

Curt Oren – For Sam, Forever Ago
Mr. Oren is probably best known for his bari sax prowess, having solo circular-breathed his way around the country many times in the last decade. But this solo album, dedicated to his recently-departed dog Sam, is a compositional and emotional tour de force, full of surprises and deeply-felt playing (a lot like having a dog!). Tender lyricism, rich orchestration, and great contrasts between small and ginormous aural spaces make this album feel like a real travelogue, conceptually lingering at those moments in life that spark complex memories of joy and pain intertwined. It’s not an upbeat-sounding album overall, flirting with a spectrum of melancholy flavors, yet somehow I always come away from it feeling rejuvenated and ready to make some complex memories of my own.

Comfort Food – Falling Up a Down Escalator
As I’ve mentioned here before, Chicago’s Comfort Food lays down a fascinating groove- and loop-based form of jazz that reminds me of the heady times in the mid-90s when you could be playful and serious and danceable and still be “jazz.” In addition to the RIYL references of Joey Baron and Sex Mob I made regarding their last outing, I’d add Critters Buggin to the list this time–grooves skitter and fragment, basses run through weird harmonizers, and strange synthetic drones cut in and out of the mix in a way I can’t remember hearing since the weirdest moments in the CB discography. But there were twice as many people in that band–Comfort Food is especially notable, I think, in feeling just as wild and unrestrained, while obviously having to do a lot more up-front compositional planning to make these arrangements possible with two people. But don’t listen because it’s a technical marvel–listen because it’s marvelously fun to chase this pair down some of the weirdest alleys that ever rocked a freaky beat.

Dotson – De/termination
Ryan already did a nice ‘lil writeup of this banger last month, but to expand on that for a moment: I’ve been following Dotson’s work closely since his first self-released tape, and his musical journey never ceases to surprise and impress me. On “De/termination,” I’m most struck by the relentless rhythms, which featured on tracks like “Compulsion” off his previous tape “Indifference,” but have grown faster, harder, and more prominent. And I love it. Some of Dotson’s earlier works spoke to me in terms of juxtaposing textural materials over relatively longer spans of time, while this tape hits with uncompromising immediacy. In “these troubled times,” as it were, the evolution feels right: these pieces have lots of subtlety to offer, but they come out swinging and pull you inside first.

 

So what might next year bring in the Tape Club format? There’s a tentative list at the bottom of their signup page, but the only way to find out for sure is to take the plunge and sign up.

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Tabs Out | Jax Deluca – Organs in the Wind

Jax Deluca – Organs in the Wind
12.10.18 by Ryan Masteller

What’s that??! Is that … a gh-gh-gh-ghost? There’s definitely a spirit present in this room, as I can’t quite make it out in any sort of physical way. It manifests itself as if it’s a trick of the light, like my mind’s playing tricks on me, and I can’t quite screw my face up or squint my eyes properly to get the full focus of it. I may need help – someone summon a Mystery Machine and a stoned semi-talking dog so we can do this properly. I’ll ring the Harlem Globetrotters too to see if they’re available.

Oh, wait … no, no, it’s nothing to be alarmed at. It’s just this new Jax Deluca tape on ACR doing all that mental damage to me. I mean, it’s barely there – Deluca’s spectral whispering voice, gentle piano, and ambient textures float like mist in a midnight forest. No wonder I got all spooked over here, it’s the kind of thing that’s actually, well, spooky. Except when it’s so not spooky that it’s actually kind of soothing, more like a lullaby? And Deluca shoots more for gentleness and ethereality than despondence or even nostalgia? This is really as reflective as it gets – Deluca even says so herself: “These recordings are supposed to be listened [to] at a low volume in a dark space. A quiet cavern.”

So for sixty-one minutes Jax Deluca invades our headphone space with “Organs in the Wind,” hinting at things just outside our perception that are larger than us, that render us to seeming insignificance. Let the light, the spirit flow through body and bloodstream and guide you to greater understanding. “Organs” will definitely leave you in serene awe, especially if you devote your full attention to it.

And I feel like I have to beg forgiveness for making a Scooby-Doo reference while reviewing a serious tape. Sigh.

Edition of 100 available from ACR! Or, uh, 19 now. Sorry, I’m late to this.

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Tabs Out | Episode #136

20181208_225848

Chainfight - 1992 (Dead Gods)
Pajjama - Womb (Orange Milk)
Metoronori メトロノリ - メトロノリ works '14​-​'18 ペール (Orange Milk)
Bromp Treb - split w/ Fritz Welch (Timesuck)
Coteries - Consumption (Dead Gods)
Personal Bandana - [sic] (self released)
The Tuesday Night Machines - Hawaiian Yurt Music (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Missing Foundation - World in Chains (Baked Tapes)
Scant - Shivers (Dead Gods)
evolv - Formlessness (Flag Day Recordings)
Andy Loebs - About Me (Terry Tapes)
Grant Evans - Ephemerals (Park 70)
Sniveling - Devaluation (Dead Gods)
ullnevano x illien rosewell - Confidence is Everything III (Already Dead Tapes)
Marc Aubele - Sport (Ingrown Records)
Teuthis Galore - I Smell Voices (Lurker Bias)

  

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Park 70

New Batch – Park 70
12.6.18 by Ryan Masteller

You might recognize Park 70 from their releases’ physical aesthetics alone: the Knoxville-based label drops everything enclosed in a lovely letterpressed O-card that includes a heavy card stock insert containing a replication of the outer cover art and additional information. The tapes themselves are clean and unadorned. Park 70 tapes are the very definition of minimal beauty.

I’m writing this at the tail end of November (you’ll read this months, maybe years later, I’m sure), so the time is still right to note that the Knoxvillains (haha, as opposed to Knoxvillians) have quietly slipped a new batch of their trademark wares into the world. You’ll not be surprised, then, that their sonic aesthetics also remain consistent, heavy on the serious long-form drone/noise/ambient and light on the jokey banter that you come to expect from us around here. I’m … sorry to disappoint you.

 

Sparkling Wide Pressure – Find a Frame
Another Tennessean, Frank Baugh has done his Sparkling Wide Pressure thing from the confines of Murfreesboro (where my brother lives, cool!) for quite a while now. “Find a Frame” continues his exploratory psychedelic ambient path, mixing snippets of found sound into a proto-vaporwave sludge that sounds like equal parts deconstructed noise and shamanistic desert jams. Meticulous and dynamic, sincere and weird, Baugh riffles through his inspirations and comes out the other end completely on his own terms. He even deigns to allow his own voice to be heard at times, giving “Find a Frame” a particularly personal feel. But there’s so much going on, and so much changes from track to track, that repeat listens are a must to pin everything down

 

Calineczka – The City Behind the Fence
Alicante, Spain–based artist Calineczka here presents “two miniatures on analog modular synthesizer” collected under the title “The City Behind the Fence” and dedicated to National Security Complex Y-12. Let’s … um … dig into all that a little bit, because there’s more going on here than the insistent drone Calineczka’s transmitting to us. First, these are not miniatures – each side presents a single 28.5-minute monolith of unfiltered tone. Second, the Y-12 National Security Complex is a “United States Department of Energy national Nuclear Security Administration facility located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” True, “The City Behind the Fence,” which is likely in reference to the facility, feels like it’s penetrating you at a subatomic level, so there’s probably some nuclear fission happening that you may not be aware of as you listen. Third – are there magnets in nuclear physics? This sounds like really powerful magnets if you think about it. If your head was made of metal, “The City Behind the Fence” would pull it apart.

 

Grant Evans – Ephemerals
What is it with these guys? Grant Evans is also prolific, with a generous back catalog that you can sift through after you read this and listen to “Ephemerals.” There’s so much music between these artists, it’s just unbelievable. On “Ephemerals,” Evans, like Calineczka, has produced two sidelong tracks, each a fifteen-minute slab of roiling, tactile noise. “Grave” recalls digging in the night, nefarious work, unholy activity – or maybe just dirty work, without the whole wicked connotation. Who’s to say? Who are we to judge? I judge “A Green Lampshade Beside the Door,” because that color just doesn’t go with the rest of the décor. Green lampshade! Not in MY house. The more you stare at it, the more you listen to its namesake cassette track, the more it begins to make sense, though. It wavers, emanating its greenness from within, seemingly dosing you with its lampshadey vibrations. Not in MY house, lampshade! Not in… my… house… I love you lampshade.

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Tabs Out | Paula Matthusen and Olivia Valentine – Between Systems and Grounds

Paula Matthusen and Olivia Valentine – Between Systems and Grounds
12.5.18 by Ryan Masteller

My mom used to sew a lot when we were kids; she had an electric machine, and with all the holes me and my two brothers put in our blue jeans over the years, that sucker got a massive workout. I can hear its mechanical buzzing now as its needle rapidly runs thread over patches and reapplies zippers and pockets and belt loops or whatever we happened to rip off our wardrobe. One thing I can tell you – it had a kind of irritating noise, certainly nothing that you could peer further into for any sort of deep intellectual resonance.

My mom didn’t do any lacework – I mean, she had three (championship-caliber) athletic sons to deal with, she wasn’t dabbling in anything frilly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just, you know, where’s the time? Lacework is the foundation, though, on this new tape by Paula Matthusen and Olivia Valentine – yeah, I said lacework is the foundation of an audiotape! You’re looking at me funny, kind of like my mom used to do when I’d bring her a shirt with a sleeve off. But Matthusen and Valentine begin with the place and action of Valentine’s work and extrapolate from there, with Matthusen recording the sounds of the lacework and the setting and providing accompaniment – or filtration, or whatever – via electronic means. Basically, this involves capturing the audio of both act and environment and turning it into a kind of mad scientist art project.

Totally simplifying, there, sorry. There’s way more at work here, including intense documentation as well as capturing real-time sound or manipulating recorded sound within self-imposed time-compressed strictures. For example, here is track 1’s title, which includes date, time, place, and sound sources: “I 07_12_16, 4_00 pm, Rabun Gap, GA (real-time [insects, summer breeze, bobbins, feedback]).” (By the way, kudos for the correct use of those nested brackets.) All of the elements listed in a track’s title are part of the recording, part of its history, and part of the activity of its creation. So, like, insects, summer breeze, bobbins, and feedback are all mixed together in both a mastering program and your imagination, where they sound nothing like what the words represent or even what your imagination is likely cooking up. Which is great. And still, the result washes over you in a type of ambience, an evolved product that stands alone beyond its components.

If only my mom could do THAT.

“Between Systems and Grounds” is available from Carrier Records. Please note that the presentation is friggin GORGEOUS (see image above).

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Tabs Out | Channelers – Entrance to the Next

Channelers – Entrance to the Next
12.3.18 by Ryan Masteller

It’s not always a good idea to walk through unknown doors.

No, Laura Palmer, don’t go through the door in the picture on your wall that Mrs. Tremond gave you in “Fire Walk with Me”!

Well, we all know how that turned out. That was probably a door best left alone.

The door on the cover of Channelers’ excellent new tape-release-equivalent-of-a-blazing-peace-pipe is much more inviting, much less scary, and certainly infinitely more colorful. It’s a door you WANT to go through. The other side of the doorway is blue, and there’s a glowing golden orb hovering to meet you. What’s scary about a hovering glowing golden orb?

Nothing.

Sean Conrad’s been doing his Channelers thing (and his Ashan thing, and his Orra thing, and probably other things) for quite some time now, releasing most of his wares through his own Inner Islands imprint. He’s absolutely perfected the art of meditative sonic companionship, popping release after release out into the world like his tape deck is giving birth heavenly cherubs. His music is perfect for several things, among them “grounding,” “finding center,” “celebrating the natural world,” and “working with the incorporeal.” What that all means, basically, is that he provides soundtracks for finding yourself within your own head and your own heart. These are benevolent intentions.

Unlike anything that happens in “Fire Walk with Me,” pretty much.

Still, “Entrance to the Next” continues his tradition, with music that is “thoroughly embedded in the practice and process of improvisation.” Conrad speaks of “surrender” and letting the mind and physical manipulation of whatever instrument he’s playing become one, creating secret pathways to peace and contentment that you can unlock with a Channelers tape. It’s a pretty simple process really – you pop the tape into a cassette player, press the play button, and then zone out for its duration, or even longer if you want to just let the thing repeat for a while.

Beautiful pastoral landscape soundtrackery for transitional mental states? Yes please!

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