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Tabs Out | Modal Zork – Klog Borp

Modal Zork – Klog Borp

5.6.20 by Tony Lien

Modal Zork is the sole moniker of Jojo Nanez – weirdo synth extraordinaire. His work, if you are so far unfamiliar, is highly-defined and concept driven – his various releases documenting alien worlds and their colorful denizens through the expert utilization of hardware synths and effect-drenched vocals. And I don’t just mean that in a metaphorical sense; the punchy, aggressive stabs that Nanez teases out of his keyboards often enough sound more like unnameable, otherworldly instruments altogether (something I think synth designers/manufacturers wish more of their customers would attempt to accomplish) – while his nearly indiscernible vocals emulate zany, extra-terrestrial lifeforms hell-bent on spreading the stories of their people via hyperactive rhythms/sound waves. 

“Klug Borp” is Nanez’s latest interstellar excursion – available on tape via Texas label Pecan Crazy. Compared to his previous releases, the composition is next-level (I wrote this particular sentence when I was listening to the song “Zweep”). The track lengths range from thirty seconds to three minutes as per usual, but the overall production work/presentation is fully realized – artful layering, thoughtful dynamics, wide ranges of emotion (see “Plasmx_XRF”) abound. The album even wraps up with a Muppets cover (digital only) – a conclusion that no one would ever expect yet one that acts as a perfect representation of where Nanez comes from aesthetically and nostalgically (his music, to me, is an innocently-twisted ode to childhood sprinkled with a seasoned, fine-tuned sense of what makes left-field experimentation accessible to the limited masses who are willing to take the plunge). 

When are The Residents going to reach out and ask him to fake his own death and join the squad? Who knows. Regardless, I’d say he’s well on his way to earning his place in the higher echelons of the outsider canon – where only the most passionate and persistent thrive both by releasing music prolifically and wearing their wheel bearings out multiple times a year due to excessive travel. 

Yes, for a good while now he has been on what seems to be an endless tour (he cares deeply for live performance – check out his rad stage setup/getup here). When all of this quarantine business went down, he ended up in San Marcos, Texas – where he will remain until the coast is clear enough to move on. You can support him during these strange times by purchasing his work on his personal Bandcamp if you feel so inclined.

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Tabs Out | Dylan Henner – A Dingo Crossing a Stream

Dylan Henner – A Dingo Crossing a Stream

5.1.20 by Ryan Masteller

Let me stop you right there, OK? Right at “I visited Australia for my day-job as a photographer’s assistant.” Already you’ve stoked the pangs of jealousy in the heart of this wanderlust-struck music aficionado, one who’s never been to Australia and who may never get there. There’s a lengthy flight to the other side of the world that I’d have to deal with, and also it’s probably pretty expensive. I know one, maaaybe three people in Australia (and I may be confusing one’s domicile with New Zealand). And who knows if there will even be an airline industry in a few months. (Oh right, the bailout!)

(Fun fact: my parents were applying for jobs in Australia before I was born, so it’s possible I could have grown up in the outback, by crikey.)

So, Dylan, I guess we’ll have to experience Australia vicariously through your Inner Islands tape “A Dingo Crossing a Stream,” the title a warning for anyone with small children to keep them close at all times. But no, let’s remove all of our humanness from “Dingo,” shall we? Let’s just let the Dingo be, let it lap at the water, let it saunter into the bush. That’s what an Inner Islands release would condition us to do: observe, document, reflect. Allow time to pass. Allow nature to take its course. With that in mind, Dylan, we’ll have to thank you for perpetuating the style, stringing together pools of rippling synthesizer that perfectly synchronize with the time lapse of “A Pool Deeply Gouged Out by Water” or “A River Drying Out,” long-form actions that stretch across generations.

And with so many stretches of space in Australia, it’s easy to superimpose these sounds and imaginings on the place itself. By the time we’re ready to “Take a Feather from the Old Pelican,” the sidelong closer, we’ve been indoctrinated into the geography and ready to go on walkabout. Stuck as I am in the United States, my walkabout must of necessity be a spiritual one. But hey, I need all the exercise I can get! Too bad it won’t be on site Down Under. But thanks, Dylan, for recording your impressions of the place for us. Now, the Dreamtime awaits!

Edition of 100 from Inner Islands.

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Tabs Out | Morast – Drawing Figures into Negative Space

Morast – Drawing Figures into Negative Space

4.28.20 by Ryan Masteller

Hey, you guys doing OK?

I’m doing OK. I realize that “doing OK” is super relative and that maybe a lot of you are readjusting your definition of what “doing OK” is, and maybe some (a lot?) of you are finding that sliding scale to be a bit more intense than you feel you can deal with. I’m hoping that you have support from friends or family. I hope you have a crap ton of music whiled away for times such as this, where you’re holed up and bored, and where your tape player beckons you at every moment to feed its gaping maw. I hope that music can get you through this. It’s not food or rent or medicine, but hopefully it’s that spiritual stimulus that keeps you on the path to the other side of this thing.

But really, I’m doing OK – no need to worry about me, anyhow.

Two points: 1) this is my first quarantine post, and hopefully it’s the only one I acknowledge, because that would get OLD; 2) this is my first post since I “cried retirement” but just didn’t write for a few weeks. I wouldn’t call me “back” quite yet, at least not at THAT pace.

So, let’s see, what have I been listening to since I can’t get out of the house and go anywhere… oh, here it is, Morast! Yep, Morast’s “Drawing Figures into Negative Space.” I’m not sure what the real antidote is for antisocial blues, but it might just be this Morast tape – well, it’s the antidote for even trying to walk out the door, as in, gosh, I feel so cooped up, maybe I should check out the spring outdoors NOPE Morast is dragging me back into a broken electronic claustrophobia that’s as comforting as a chain-mail duvet made out of circuits and gears and electrodes. Meaning NOT COMFORTING AT ALL. 

But somehow fitting in “Quarantinaville,” which I’ve come to nickname this end of the house where I can listen to experimental tapes – the other end is where the NORMIES (read: my family) spend their time judging me. “Drawing Figures” plays like that moment in a postapocalyptic film when you’re hunkered down in the tense quietude of your shelter, then a mob of out-of-luck/chances/time survivors descends ready to wipe out anybody who’s left because, you know, can’t accommodate everybody in this new paradigm. 1980s Kurt Russell is among them. They miss me though, and I’m down to “Drink from Your Own Liquids Until You Suffocate” on the stereo, which is definitely not helping the mindset.

Or is it?

It is. It’s assisting in the preparation of my defensive position, and I’ll be damned if I’m not the last holdout in this hellstorm of inactivity and mind-wandering-ness. This noise-blasted rhythmic call to retreat into oneself is indeed the perfect antidote for feeling even remotely the necessity for connection. You just headphone this sucker like a mainline injection through ear canals. Nobody will bother you.

Well, you’ll have to interact with your family at SOME point, I guess. (Actually, embrace your family quite closely, if you can.)

Available from Baba Vanga in PRAGUE.

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Tabs Out | Stuart Chalmers and Taming Power – Blue Thirty-Two

Stuart Chalmers and Taming Power – Blue Thirty-Two

4.21.20 by Ryan Masteller

If we ever find ourselves cloistered in a monastery atop a mountain where our only activities would revolve around self-betterment through meditation and repetitious and mundane daily tasks, then we have found the perfect aural counterpart here in Stuart Chalmers and Taming Power (aka Astrid Haugland)’s release on Blue Tapes, “Blue Thirty-Two.” Utilizing electric guitar, tape fx, and an Indian instrument called a “swarmandal” (essentially a zither), Chalmers and Haugland play and loop their way into our hearts and minds with magnificent ragas that billow in reverence and approval to our routine. They become part of the meditative existence, a subject of it, and an accompaniment slightly removed, all at once. Some might call that a neat trick; I call it the ability to get on the same level with and commune among the existential searchers.

That’s how we begin, anyway: a lonely guitar is joined presently by the swarmandal, the effect like church bells chiming across the hills and valleys. This type of playing bookends the tape, and we breathe it like the players do. The swarmandal is bowed on the final track, which only serves to heighten its ethereality, although both instruments are effected and looped until they become visible rays of the rising sun over the tops of distant mountains. The part of the tape sandwiched by these two compositions is called “Tape Recorders and FX” on the Bandcamp page (no tracklist – or artist, release, or label info – appears on the tape or artwork itself), and is a series of transmissions warped and bleeped and picked up as radio signals by broken receivers. Consider, then, that the monastery’s a front for a Bond-villain-esque world-domination scheme and the center of “Blue Thirty-Two” is a glimpse under the ground into a secret lair. Could happen, why not? Monks are notoriously tight-lipped.

So whether you’re meditating the traditional way or relaxing while parsing the signal to snow ratio of a hidden FM band, you’ll have willing partners in Stuart Chalmers and Astrid Haugland. They can show you the ropes, too, if you need some pointers.

The artifact itself is gorgeous too – full cassette shell printing housed in a printed O-card. Just look at it up there!

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Tabs Out | Episode #155

In celebration of weed's birthday...

Grasshopper - split w/ Opponents (Baked Tapes)
Telecult Powers & Bob Bellerue - Baked in the Kitchen (Baked Tapes)
Mid-Air - Tape Loops (100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company)
Hair Police - Beyond Leech Pit (Fuck It Tapes)
Breathing Flowers - Magical Order of the Seven Sacred Planets (Sonic Meditations)
Danny Scott Lane - Memory Record (Moon Glyph)
MISIU / Aros E-V - Plant (Cudighi)
Du$t - Human Virus (Shadowtrash Tape Group)

plus a couple of callers take the Tape Label or Weed Strain quiz

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Tabs Out | Tanner Menard – San Francisco: An Audiophony in Four Movements

Tanner Menard – San Francisco: An Audiophony in Four Movements

4.17.20 by Ryan Masteller

Oh, you’re going to like this one. This one is for the nerds, the high-concept lunatics who won’t settle for anything less than full immersion into a subject or practice. Tanner Menard’s cooked up a real winner here with “San Francisco: An Audiophony in Four Movements,” a suite of material for and about (and by?) San Francisco, obviously. Menard solicited their friends Ping Chu and Chris Horgan to capture field recordings and performances in various places around the city’s metropolitan area, and then utilized those recordings, along with a thirty-foot-long piano (with “various experimental tunings by Nick Gish”), to craft the music on this “Audiophony.” A thirty-foot-long piano! That’s like, what, the length of a football* field?

* Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Humans used to play it in the before times.

To suggest that “San Francisco” sounds like a dream of the city would be an understatement – it sounds like a dream of anywhere, with its gently keyed melodies brushing up against and mingling with the ambient sounds of the city itself and its inhabitants. But it’s definitely a love letter to the Pacific coast locale, a wistful paean hovering above the city as if in protection as the sea laps the shore and the faces and bodies mingle in time lapse till everything and everyone is a mass of sentience and blurred motion. The fog rarely lifts, and that’s OK – the fog is part of the San Francisco experience.

Menard effortlessly blends the field recordings with the piano passages, resulting in sheer aural magic that blankets everything in a haze of wonder. If this is how someone perceives San Francisco, then I’m all in for my first trip out there. Of course, I could never live there (too expensive, 49ers, Giants), but I certainly wouldn’t mind a visit. Maybe I could even check out a Tanner Menard installation or two? This is probably hard to recreate live, I’d imagine.

Edition of 100 cassettes housed in a printed O-card on Full Spectrum under the Editions Littlefield series, whose “works … deal with a sense of place.” Obviously! 

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Tabs Out | Bonus Episode: Self Isolation with Ryan Masteller

Mike is joined by Ryan Masteller (from a safe distance) for a self isolation themed episode with tapes from Alone, Pink Desert, Yves Malone, Gay Cum Daddies, German Army, Germs, Colored Mushrooms and the Medicine Rocks, and a couple of phone calls.

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Tabs Out | my.head – Catharsis

my.head – Catharsis

4.14.20 by Ryan Masteller

Our tour of Display continues with my.head, a Marseille, France, producer and musician whose moniker looks like the title of a computer virus if you ask me. For example, if you found a flash drive on the street with a file in it called my.head.exe, would you run the file? If you are anything like the poor dupes Elliot Alderson hacks in “Mr. Robot,” you would. But since you’re a self-respecting experimental music fan, you know better. Honestly, how many Wolf Eyes CDs have you discovered contain only malware once you load them into your computer? That’s right, all of them. How many have you run? All of them, of course. So you’ve learned your lesson.

I have great news, though: my.head is not a computer virus, and the music that you will be hearing from your speakers that originates within the spools of this tape will overtake you in a different way. Call it a life hack, then, like those self-betterment strategies popular media/culture foist upon you, which are almost all sponsored by big corporations. Display is not a big corporation – Display is a tape label. Display releases tapes like my.head’s “Catharsis” because they really are invested in your personal self-betterment. Why do you think all their tapes are so good?

That trend continues with my.head, who plies the dark ambient waters of the emotional deep like labelmate Sangam, or frequent Sangam collaborator Diamondstein, or maybe Burial on his less propulsive EPs. Clocking in at over forty minutes, my.head slathers each heavy minute with cinematic synthesizer, a symbolic soundtrack to those symbolic waves of emotion breaking on the symbolic rocky shore of your mind. The coastline is deserted, desolate; you are the only one there. This might be the plot of “The Lighthouse,” but I haven’t seen that yet (fingers crossed it’ll be soon!) – if it is, I apologize that my.head wasn’t tapped to score it. I obviously wasn’t notified in time.

“Catharsis” is the sound of processing great existential turmoil. Voices appear and flee, pulses race and recede, and skies darken and clear. In the end you crash through that barrier of tension to the releases of catharsis. … Make that “Catharsis.” Hey, that’s pretty appropriately titled, now that I think of it! Virus or not.

This is a fun one: “Transparent Grey/Smoke Cassette; Hand Marble Swirled; Printed Sticker Label; Printed J-Card; Clear Case; Labeled Black Bag; Sticker Included.” Only 40, available from Display!

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Tabs Out | Concrete Colored Paint – Through a Lens

Concrete Colored Paint – Through a Lens

4.8.20 by Tony Lien

Orb Tapes has been experiencing exponential growth in variety and scope since its founding in 2015. With releases that span from experimental metal to lost recordings of legendary Sun Ra, it’s obvious that with each venture into new sonic territory the label remains true to a deep-rooted appreciation of sound as more than just a creative commodity.

Though not their latest release, “Through a Lens” by Concrete Colored Paint (Peter Kris) is a prime example of a tape that speaks to this sentiment. Before I delve into specifics though, I’ll leave a gentle reminder here to please wear some headphones while you listen to this tape. I know I say this basically every time I write one of these things, but it really can’t ever be stressed enough when it comes to albums like this one.  

According to the Bandcamp page, Concrete Colored Paint is a travel project – and the collected field recordings are used to “form an audio memory”. Built around an eclectic selection of these sounds (most of them originating from Taiwan), “Through a Lens” unfolds like an abstract audio-only documentary – with a near-continuous layer of ambient playfulness that interacts with the natural sounds in such a way that it almost seems like a separate soundtrack itself. 

With eyes closed, the imagination is surely stoked as these audio memories paint worlds within the listener’s skull. While some of the field recordings are more expected (forest sounds, the crunching of boots in dry grass, etc.) when considering the genre as a whole, others are rather mysterious (see “Death Comes Hardest”) and act almost as a sort of Rorschach test for the ears. Everyone will likely imagine something quite different. 

As the album progresses, the tracks take an unexpected turn. “Farther North” was recorded in what seems to be a crowded restaurant, the clanking of cups and drone of strangers having spirited conversations causing a claustrophobic feeling (in context with the rest of the album, at least – maybe I’m just really that anti-social). “Broken Eye Contact” – my favorite track – depicts the performance of street musicians; however, it seems the mic was somehow placed in a cup here and there, or at least obscured by Kris’s continuous change of position while recording. Whatever the truth behind his process may be, the results remind me of why field recording projects can be almost as surprising and intriguing as a real world experience. 

“Through a Lens” is, despite its underlying spirit of adventure, meditative and subtle – a soothing ode to the natural world and the magic of voluntary displacement. It’s a pleasure to immerse oneself in – especially in times of global hysteria and government-sanctioned quarantine. 

That being said, independent labels/artists need more assistance now than ever. A good portion of them rely on fan support not just for the healthy continuation of their projects, but also for their own personal livelihood. Head over to Orb Tapes and purchase this tape (and any of the others still available) if you have the means to.

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Tabs Out | Episode #154

Talked to Z from Doom Trip Records and played some tapes

Sonae - Music for People Who Shave Their Heads (Bit-Phalanx)
Opiate - Objects for an Ideal Home (20th Anniversary Edition) (Bit-Phalanx)
Michael Fakesch - Marion (20th Anniversary Edition) (Bit-Phalanx)
Dog Lady Island - Dolor Aria (Alien Passengers)
Wetbackmanny - Cutest Spic Alive (Deathbomb Arc)
Mukqs - Any % (Doom Trip)
V/A - Doom Trip Vol. III (Doom Trip)

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