Tabs Out | Bath Consolidated – Narryer Gneiss Terrane

Bath Consolidated – Narryer Gneiss Terrane

4.23.19 by Ryan Masteller

IF we begin with a Cloister of Trials – and we do – then we’re touching glyphs and shit in a certain order to get at that sweet, sweet magical weaponry. But the power is continuous – it pulses through ancient conduits, ramping up in intensity long after the ordeal is complete. Before long, it is a blinding white light and overwhelming static, enveloping your mind and making you wonder if you were ready to wield whatever power you’ve now uncovered. The answer is probably no … but maybe yes? There’s an undercurrent of reliability that you can latch onto, something that’s still there once the concentration of stimuli mercifully recedes. If you let that elemental energy into your mind, you’ll have all the necessary grounding you need to navigate “Narryer Gneiss Terrane.”

That’s all “Medulla (Cloister of Trials),” the opening bombardment of a track from Bath Consolidated’s new Orange Milk tape, and it’s a doozy, an extended feeling I imagine Tidus felt the first time he summoned a freaking aeon in “Final Fantasy X.” But once the magick is in him/us/them/Bath Consolidated, he/we/they/Bath Consolidated rises/rise/rise/rises to the occasion and allows the power to simmer, to flow through the body, to react to and reach each chakra in a holistic and ever-strengthening whirlwind of perpetual force. But it’s a terrifying ordeal, one that shoves the power wielder out into a visibility that’s incredibly uncomfortable and unexpected.

There’s anger in there too.

It’s not crazy that Noelle Johnson, the human being–turned–mage behind Bath Consolidated, has adopted the stance of superimposing the millennial identity over ancient texts – the Bible, “Inferno” – opting to subject that identity to the ravages inherent in those texts. What happens? That’s what Johnson’s asking, and that’s what we’re discovering. In Philip K. Dick’s “Valis,” the “Black Iron Prison” is what you’d discover if you superimposed the past over the present over the future, ultimately understanding that “everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it.”

[*Shakes head*] Millennials. They have to figure EVERYTHING out for themselves. They’ll learn this truth soon enough.

(Just kidding.)

But I get why there’s all that “Final Fantasy” imagery. The protagonists in those games are all pent-up, roiling balls of id, angry to the point of bursting, needing guidance (or something) to unlock their potential. “Narryer Gneiss Terrane” illustrates that journey toward understanding … “gneissly.”

I’ll show myself out.

“Narryer Gneiss Terrane” is an absolute stunner, an electronic/noise/death-sample hybrid that fills your mind and your heart like you’d expect it to. Out May 3 on Orange Milk.

| Comments Off on Tabs Out | Bath Consolidated – Narryer Gneiss Terrane

Tabs Out | Bridges of Königsberg – Considered Parallel to Borders (Or Dividers)

Bridges of Königsberg – Considered Parallel to Borders (Or Dividers)

4.19.19 by Ryan Masteller

Look, I get WHY Leonhard Euler tried to figure out a way to walk through the city of Königsberg and cross its seven bridges once and only once. Everybody loves a good mind puzzle, including yours truly (genius-level mind puzzles only please). And it’s not every day that one of those mind puzzles results in a new form of mathematics, like Euler’s did with graph theory, while also “prefigur[ing] the idea of topology,” all the way back in 1736. That’s pretty impressive. I feel like “writing music reviews about cassette tapes in 2019” doesn’t really have the same cache as what Euler accomplished and when he accomplished it. Although you’re probably lucky I ended up a writer, or else “Mathestellarmatics” would almost certainly be part of Common Core, or at least constitute the majority of what Betsy DeVos’s kids learn in that boarding school of theirs.

Math is cool, I guess but “broken techno” and “harsh noise vibes” is cooler, especially when it’s blasting from a tape deck. And that’s what Bridges of Königsberg specializes in, and thank god for that, because I’ve been wandering back and forth across these bridges all damn day, trying to solve this problem, and I just need to stop and get my head back in the game here. Christopher Burns, David Collins, and Peter J. Woods channel the spirit of Leonhard Euler, that 1736 drive amid rudimentary means, and chart the crap out of six really long tracks, scribbling around borders and half-assedly erasing dividers mistakenly penciled in really hard before they realized they were in the wrong place. Rhythms often completely disintegrate instead of holding steady, bombarded from all sides by metallic fragments and digital shrapnel. Sometimes these tones and textures threaten to coalesce into understandable figures, but chaos inevitably sets in – and isn’t that more fun and exciting anyway? Let’s see what kind of beautiful mess entropy has in store for us.

“Considered Parallel to Borders (Or Dividers)” is a lengthy study that demands attention. Everything shifts, everything changes – like, always. Still, anybody who gets away with a track titled “Clutching the Moral High Ground” is OK in my book. It’s funny and sad at the same time, like the clown you’re currently kicking at the mall, and it lasts for thirteen minutes with a sarcastic earnestness fit for the ears of the most hardened cynic. At least I think it’s sarcastic. Even if it’s not, you’ll still probably like it. It’s abrasive yet charming. Just like Betsy DeVos.


Flag Day Recordings made 100 of these. Don’t make them regret a run of that size! (Meaning: buy one.)

| Comments Off on Tabs Out | Bridges of Königsberg – Considered Parallel to Borders (Or Dividers)

Tabs Out | Tape Label or Weed Strain?

Tape Label or Weed Strain?

4.20.19 by Mike Haley

It’s 4/20, baby! The day Jerry Garcia invented the joint (I think?). To celebrate we have our 5th annual TAPE LABEL or WEED STRAIN quiz! All ya gotta do is decide if the names presented before you belong to cassette labels or weed strains. Duh. Go!

Let’s get rolling…

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Tape Label or Weed Strain?

Tabs Out | Chester Hawkins – Metabolism Quartet [for Witold Lutosławski] / Nocturne for Poppy

Chester Hawkins – Metabolism Quartet [for Witold Lutosławski] / Nocturne for Poppy

4.18.19 by Ryan Masteller

Imagine I told you I was gonna slice up your string quartet. What would you do about it? Would you be scared? Would you call the police? Imagine me chuckling at your misunderstanding and dismay. “No, no, not literally, like with a knife. With a tape editing machine!” The relief you’d feel would be palpable. I can feel it even now, and it’s theoretical.

Chester Hawkins performed “improvised autopsies” of Lutosławski’s string quartet work: “‘The Metabolism Quartet’ is a mixture of two live performances in Washington DC: one recorded in isolation at Intangible Arts’ studio (4th September 2018) and one in public at Rhizome community arts space (8th September 2018).” He hooked up “three granular synth engines and one tape-edit/concrète emulator” and went to town on the Polish composer. The result is a fascinating mashup of classical and electroacoustic manipulation, which ends up pretty firmly in modern classical territory by the end of everything. Witold Lutosławski is probably beaming down from his perch on a heavenly cloud, having traded in his electric guitar for an angel harp.

Did I say electric guitar? I meant, uh, all the other non-rock instruments he almost certainly played.

Hawkins adds guitar, though. Live lapsteel. Plus he’s added field recordings. I’m not familiar with Lutosławski’s work, but Hawkins is doing some pretty good work here. He may – and this is complete conjecture – be … improving it? (Friend of Tabs Out Scott Scholz is probably rolling over in his grave as he reads this, even though he’s alive.) Because “Metabolism Quartet” is awesome, a friskily tense revue that manipulates the original quartet’s material till it’s a menacing slab of vibrating steel, a gothic reinterpretation that ratchets up the suspense and fills your mind with panic. It’s a 30-minute wander through a haunted house, where a disembodied ensemble soundtracks your every move. That’s an unnerving proposition.

Oh shoot, and there’s another side to this tape? “Nocturne for Poppy”? Well, I’ll be getting right down to that thing in just a sec. Just remember: if anybody asks, like the cops or whatever, I had nothing to do with any string quartets that have, eh, gone missing, or, um, anything like that. Seriously. I’ve been at home all week.

Edition of 50 available from Zeromoon and Intangible Arts.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Chester Hawkins – Metabolism Quartet [for Witold Lutosławski] / Nocturne for Poppy

Tabs Out | Skyminds – s/t

Skyminds – s/t

4.16.19 by Ryan Masteller

This is truly the only response one can have when listening to Skyminds’ self-titled tape on Auasca:


But what do you expect from a Michael Henning/Sean Conrad joint … or should I say a Selaroda/Channelers (etc.) joint?

(Uh huh. Now you get it.)

I am always ready for the synthesizers with these two, the ones that sound like that “mind blown” gif up there looks: supernovas cascading energy outward but also occurring within your mind. But you can never be sure what else these cats are getting up to, what other avenues they’re sauntering down and testing. Happily, with their new self-titled tape, they’re feeling extra frisky, pulling out all kinds of acoustic instruments and adding them to their homespun trippy-ness for passages of mega-Floyd-y goodness. The shift from synth drone to psych folk and back makes for nice changes of pace throughout the album, and just begs – BEGS – for repeat listens to tease everything out.

Conrad is the proprietor of Inner Islands, the most consistently peaced-out new age tape label out there, one that focuses on the spiritual and mental journey and what that sounds like. Henning as Selaroda has released music on Inner Islands. Skyminds thus is a powerful narcotic, with Conrad’s powers complementing Henning’s, and vice versa. The compositions deliver on the duo’s zones-for-days ways, calming the mind and guiding the soul, acting as a sort of vision quest through misty pastel atmospheres and desert-wilderness vastness. Night sky’s huge out here, man – turn your attention to it.

Skyminds is available from Auasca in an edition of 100, pro-dubbed, on blue cassettes.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Skyminds – s/t

Tabs Out | Autophonia – nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Autophonia – nolite te bastardes carborundorum

4.15.19 by Ryan Masteller

When drones (the musical ones, not the remote-controlled helicopters) come to you, they often come as they are: serene, scenic, deferential, polite, gentle, constant, rich. You don’t have to guess with a drone. You don’t fool around with sound sources or intent – you just let that drone wash over you and release the feelings that it’s supposed to release. A good drone moves effortlessly, without any friction tugging at its progress.

I once believed these things fully, but I’m not sure I do anymore.

Autophonia’s drones are incredibly complex, acoustically derived, and emotionally resonant. The trio, “consisting of Jennifer Slezak (mandolin and violin), Jen Powers (hammer dulcimer), and Stephanie Dean (accordion),” improvised these five tracks – improvised them! – as if the sounds had been living within their bodies all their lives. The moment these three performers entered the studio together, the sounds, like spirits, exited their bodies through their instruments, only to be captured by the recording engineer through the dark magic of the studio switchboard. From there they were transferred to cassette tape, from which audio emanates that almost assuredly assumes corporeal form as soon as the encoded material traverses the tape head. Surely the music hear lives and breathes in some capacity long after the moment it’s heard.

These are no mere drones – they shift perceptibly at the players’ command, taking on shapes and textures that fit more comfortably into the nooks and crannies between post-rock bombasts. But the absence of the one doesn’t define the other – the gentle ruminations of “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” defines itself, “a document of a live performance” – an organic unfolding – “not a studio creation.” And although “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” does indeed translate to the very post-rocky “do not let the bastards grind you down,” it holds on to that hopeful sentiment that there’s a space beyond the drudgery and violence for solace and rest. Now THAT I believe – and once you hear how Slezak, Powers, and Dean deftly and discreetly join forces before repurposing a seeming delicateness into real emotional power, you’ll believe it too.

Available now from Scioto Records.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Autophonia – nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Tabs Out | Episode #141

Thee Reps - Minimal Surface (Gold Bolus)
Elizabeth Joan Kelly - Departure 2019 (self released)
Jonathan James Carr - Lose Your Composer (Moss Archive)
Nikmis - split w/ Synth Sisters (Muzan Editions)
TIMT Ft. Haruki Ishida - Bless Vol.2 comp (Inner Oceans)
Nymano - Bless Vol.2 comp (Inner Oceans)
Oatmello - Soft Landing (Inner Ocean)
Dead Tenants - II (Already Dead)
Dos Monos - Dos City (Deathbomb Arc)
dtub- - Midi-Drum Compositions-4 (self released)
Grave Dust - Pale Hand (Children Of The Abyss)
R. Stevie Moore - There Here (Banana Tapes)
Eartheater - Doom Mix Vol.III comp (Doom Trip)
Swan Meat - Doom Mix Vol.III comp (Doom Trip)

| Comments Off on Tabs Out | Episode #141

Tabs Out | Arrowounds – Book of Endangered Species

Arrowounds – Book of Endangered Species

4.12.19 by Ryan Masteller

Recycling is good. It’s good for Earth. It’s good for the environment. It makes you feel good doing it, because it makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. Histamine Tapes is a paragon of the waste-not/want-not philosophy, regularly repurposing old tapes for their new releases. For Arrowounds’ “Book of Endangered Species,” the label home-dubbed some reclaimed 90-minute cassettes, mine in particular being an old Maxell XL II-S, totally taking me back to middle and high school, when I made tapes of as much of my friends’ record collections as possible to listen to on the bus or in my car.

Taking me nowhere, though, is the sticker on the B-side, which reads “cont. Michelle Shocked + K.D. Lang Shadowland.” Now there’s two artists I never found myself drawn to.

I am much more drawn to what Ryan Chamberlain’s Arrowounds project’s got going for it. On “Book of Endangered Species” he aligns with another powerful Ryan – me – in pointing a bony, gnarled, accusatory finger at “pollution, greed, neglect, and a denial of science by those in power” as the culprits of “the continuing destruction of our natural world.” I am drawn to the homespun charm of these seven ambient, electronic tracks, their lo-fi atmospheres at once charming yet challenging. They operate in stark contrast to sounds of titanic industry or rampant capitalism, which I imagine sound something like a mix between computer bleeps and wet farts. But the natural world beckons with static and flow, with water, wind, and air, with harmony among its constituent parts. Chamberlain offers us the sonic equivalent of that, the alternative to techno-future oblivion.

Each copy of this edition of 30 is different. Only five left!

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Arrowounds – Book of Endangered Species

Tabs Out | New Batch – Distant Bloom

New Batch – Distant Bloom

4.11.19 by Ryan Masteller

There is a place out in the Midwest where the glistening sun shimmers over a sleepwalking populace. With heads drooped, the people go about their business, their dreams floating to the surface of their everyday lives and disappearing at the first sign of notice. They shake their heads to clear the cobwebs and regain some focus on a forgotten memory or longing, then they return to whatever it was they happened to be doing. It is a place where true life is held hostage by a constant scrabbling toward modern survival.

The place is St. Louis, although it could be anyplace.

Distant Bloom emerges fully formed from the American soil, merging earthly heartache with heavenly beauty. On only their third and fourth releases, the label triples and quadruples down on the life-affirming elements lurking beneath the surface, infiltrating the malaise and ennui and other philosophical-sounding serious words that afflict the modern US of A. Prepare your ears to be cupped gently by the drifting inspiration, and gear up for an onrushing of the feel-goodery that until now has only hinted at its existence from the periphery. We turn first to a baseball diamond carved in the middle of a cornfield.


“Is this heaven?” you ask, maybe just little sheepishly, knowing the obvious response. “No, it’s Iowa,” Kevin Costner responds, and you know right away that he’s lying because we’ve already determined that it’s St. Louis, which is in Missouri. Still, it’s a fair question and an equally fair rejoinder, but that’s only because it’s been spoken countless times in our modern folklore. But Azaleas, ahem, dream of fields; they don’t haunt a SPECIFIC field or have anything to do with Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to suggest that they haunt anything – they just kind of grow, bloom (a pattern here), and exist, flowers of sound beautifying and nourishing the immediate space that Azaleas find themselves in. “Dream of Fields” is one piece split over two sides, an eyes-shut meditation of pastoral beauty and vibrant inner landscapes. The trio of Alice Andres-Wade, Kyle Wade, and Kat Andres taps a radiant new age vein, pollenating minds with effervescent soundscapes and promoting new and healthy mental growth. Plus, $1 of every tape benefits The Spot, a youth center in St. Louis.


If “Dream of Fields” is not heaven, then what are we to make of Bret Schneider’s “Constellations”? They certainly sound like they dot the night sky, twinkling in ever-present locations on the star map as our universe continues to expand outward at an incomprehensible rate. You really ought to stop and think about how physics works here, because it’ll simply blow your mind at how difficult it is for the human mind to pin down interstellar movement and relativity. Talk about shaking you out of your stupor! You’ll spend the rest of the day trying to figure out the meaning of it all. Maybe the rest of your life. Schneider’s cool with that – he’s here to help, after all, with “Constellations,” a glorious starburst of quietly overwhelming synthesizer oscillations that sparkle and reverberate just for you – that’s right, just you with your telescope and the chunky Walkman and an unobstructed view of the night sky. “Constellations” is the perfect soundtrack. It’s like you’re in a planetarium, but it’s not a planetarium, it’s the real thing, and all of time and space comes rushing at you as you let every memory and every dream and every particle of matter take over your body all at once. Did I say overwhelming already? I did? I meant it. And here, too, $1 of every cassette purchased goes to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Both tapes come in an edition of 50 from Distant Bloom. Have at it!

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | New Batch – Distant Bloom

Tabs Out | Data – Invisible Witnesses

Data – Invisible Witnesses

4.10.19 by Ryan Masteller

Nina and Gabe take your data very seriously. They’ll never reveal it to anyone, or sell it to companies who want to exploit it for marketing purposes. They protect it with uncrackable coding, and they’ll go after anyone – HARD – who even thinks about trying to hack it. It is through the efforts of people like Nina and Gabe that we should all be able to sleep at night. (That is, unless you experience uncontrollable nightmares when you sleep, then you’ll probably want to stay awake with a flashlight in hand.)

Nina and Gabe also make music as Data, a new wave/post punk (thanks Discogs!) duo based out of Philadelphia (thanks MapQuest!). Atop skronky guitar, spare percussion, and keyboards, Nina and Gabe blend their unique voices in spellbinding canticles, somehow sounding as if Eleanor Friedberger had gotten together with Mark Mothersbaugh while practicing a minimalism and utility (and sassiness!) found in the oeuvres of such artists as Violent Femmes.

But from Philly, so there’s skateboards and sludge and cat-sized rodents and scary monsters (I solemnly swear that I will never not make a Gritty reference when referring to Philly again). Data embodies the underdogness of the city, scrappily chipping away at the music scene until it turns its blue-collar attention to the two kooks in weird sunglasses slinging cassette tapes everywhere. And also from preventing hackers from getting all up in your business (another reference I will never hesitate to employ).

Plus, “Invisible Witnesses” is a heck of a lot of fun. Get it from Single Girl, Married Girl, then let’s go hide somewhere at Independence Hall and scare tour groups.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Data – Invisible Witnesses