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Tabs Out | Catching Up with Hotham Sound

Catching Up with Hotham Sound
10.24.18 by Ryan Masteller

If you’re unfamiliar with Hotham (pronounced “hoth-um,” not “hot ham”) Sound, you might as well go jump right in it, as it’s a “sidewater of the Jervis Inlet” in British Columbia – although it might not be the most hospitable place to swim seeing that it’s a “testing ground for military submarines and sonar technology.” Plus, it’s probably abominably cold most of the year, so bundling up in a thermal wetsuit before submersion is almost certainly a recommended precaution.

Instead, may I suggest “diving in” (metaphorically) to the catalog of Hotham Sound? I can see your confusion. See, Hotham Sound is also the name of an experimental tape label run out of Vancouver, which just happens to be in British Columbia as well, and the label not so subtly lifted its name from the geographic feature. On closer inspection, the connection isn’t so unusual – Hotham Sound (the label) could after all represent an audio “testing ground” for … well, not military submarines. Maybe sonar.

Before we stumble all over ourselves trying to connect the importance of Hotham Sound to Hotham Sound, let’s just see what Hotham Sound is interested in, shall we? We can cull this information directly from the label’s handy internet website, where the copy/paste feature of my computer’s keyboard really gets a chance to shine: “lo-fi electronics, tape loops, musique concrete, vertical listening, analog synths, digital synths, plunderphonics, geophonics, rhythm boxes, drum computers, field recordings, bent circuits, contact mics, lock grooves, echo jams, pedal trains, thumb pianos, oblique strategies, aleatoric workflows, modular freakouts, musicians, non-musicians.”

Sounds like a lot of cool words, some of which happen to come out of the mouths of Tabs Out Podcast participants at times! You guys are in for a real treat, let me tell you. Let’s explore together, like divers uncovering the remains of military experiments at the bottom of deep inlets.

 

Mount Maxwell – Blue Highways series
Jamie Tolagson, aka Mount Maxwell, runs Hotham Sound, and his “Blue Highways” series is as close to a mission statement of the label as you’re going to get. I mean, volume 1, track 1 is called “Hotham Sound” for crying out loud! Make the connection, people. Utilizing a variety of synthesizers, Tolagson submerges us along the passage of the BC Ferries fleet as it served the Gulf Island archipelago communities in the Strait of Georgia in the 1970s. Using a concept I like to call “imagination,” Tolagson crafts narratives of oceanic swells and wild territories, of inlets and beaches, of hope and regret. In these delicate but vast compositions you can hear the waves, taste the salt air, feel the texture of driftwood. Well done, Jamie Tolagson – you’ve defined the Hotham Sound Way for all of us. How does it filter into the rest of the releases? (Spoiler alert: I do not answer this question.)

 

KR75 – Ondular
Like some of our pals at Hausu Mountain or Astral Spirits, KR75, the double-Kristen tandem of Roos and Rattay (seriously, both spell “Kristen” the same way – what are the odds of that?), record everything IN A SINGLE TAKE, improv-style. “Ondular” finds the Kristens in a shimmery, pulsating mood as they wrangle their gear to spit out some of the most lovely and languid electronic music you’re bound to hear this side of Warp Records. Each lengthy side is a vast trip through ethereal and nocturnal landscapes, like liquid electricity through subterranean switches and transformers. “”November 25, 2016” was a magical date for glistening bioluminescence. “February 14, 2017” was an anti–Valentine’s Day of unforgettable lament. “Ondular” captures some fantastic and stylized mood pieces—and did I mention all of it was recorded IN A SINGLE TAKE?

 

Ross Birdwise – Nine Variations
I’ve written about Ross Birdwise before, once here, another time here. The Vancouver experimentalist has released music on various labels such as Orange Milk and Collapsed Structures, but here he stays pretty close to home for “Nine Variations.” The source material for this cassette was composed in 2001 when Ross and artist Nathan Medema formed the duo “if then do” (lowercase, hence the quote marks for readability), and it’s from these recordings that Birdwise cobbles together “Nine Variations.” Here again Birdwise displays an advanced ear for the abstract, making it seem easy to simply rip music apart and recombine it in fascinating and engaging ways. If he were a civic engineer, he could rip down the old town courthouse and use the pieces to recreate it in an amazing, insightful, and meaningful way. It might not be safe to use as a courthouse still, or even walk in for the briefest of moments, but it’d look really cool before the township condemns the thing and authorities arrest Birdwise for doing all that without a permit. … This relates to his music somehow, I promise.

 

Dimir Standard – Abramelin
“Dimir Standard (AKA Vancouver synthesist Jesse Creed) draws from a deep well of occult theology for his first Hotham Sound release; a series of intensely textural works meant to accompany the final stages of the Abramelin ceremony in ritual magic. If performed correctly, the infamous 18-month-long ceremony binds the combined powers of the twelve Kings and Dukes of Hell to the practitioner’s will.” Uh, shhhhhhhhhhit. I just listened to this whole thing. Does that mean I’m in some sort of spiritual trouble? Is it worse if I kind of love it? Does that make me more susceptible to demonic possession? Morbid synthesizers smear the unholy nighttime rite with ominous mood. Stream “Abramelin” in  it’s entirety here if you think you can hack it, if you think you’re powerful enough to withstand becoming overwhelmed. Be forewarned: this is how horror movies start.

 

ALECSI – “033186”
Alexi Baris, aka Alecsi, has the distinction of releasing the most recent Hotham tape, the label’s tenth. As you might expect from the tape’s cover – featuring broccoli trees adorned with cherries – the synthwork within is a series of pastoral burbles as things blossom, greenhouse style, and life maintains in a series of introspective and relaxing mood pieces. The promo copy references “geodesic space gardens” from a movie called “Silent Running” that I haven’t seen, but I’m told by the internet it’s about a spaceman who has a garden and robot helpers. The spaceman revolts (against an authority of some kind) when he is asked to destroy the garden. Moral of the story: don’t destroy gardens! Listen to “033186” instead, and feel the roots, the branches, the leaves, the fruits growing and ripening all around you.

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Tabs Out | Timm Mason – Escape Artist

Timm Mason – Escape Artist
10.23.18 by Ryan Masteller

In space, no one can hear you scream

…is like such nonsense, am I right? I mean, you belt a lungful of bloodcurdling panic into your helmet mic and watch everybody back at their posts in the ship jump out of their seats. I guess if the saying intended that sound doesn’t carry in a vacuum, that’s one thing; but if that’s the case, then you couldn’t scream anyway, because if you found yourself in a situation in which you could scream directly into the vacuum of space, you’d also be simultaneously freezing and imploding, rendering any scream DOA. We’re still in some kind of paradoxical territory.

We’re not here to talk about screaming in space, though.

We’re here to talk about listening to Timm Mason drone. Because in space, no matter what the circumstance, you can always hear Timm Mason drone.

That’s the hypothesis anyway, one I’m not willing to test out yet. But Timm Mason, one half of TJ MAX (one of my favorite department stores), creates tones that almost literally sound like what I would imagine I could hear in outer space. He helps us out here with the (stunning, amazing, lovely) transparent Jcard on which an astronaut hovers mid-spacewalk in an eternal ode to celestial travel. Seriously, that image up there doesn’t do it justice. It is a groin-grabbingly transcendent package.

That imagery captures the solitude of floating alone in an infinite universe, as well as the humility one feels at realizing how big said infinite universe is. The sound within is the perfect accompaniment, constant synth drones that envelop you like a warm spacesuit and drift you off to safety. It almost seems as if Mason’s made the two lengthy transmissions that take up each side of the tape from raw starstuff itself, the primordial building block of all universal matter. We humans are also starstuff, as is all living (and nonliving) matter. We hum in galactic frequencies. In space we drone forever.

“Escape Artist” is available in an edition of 60 from Masters Chemical Society.

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Lighten Up Sounds

New Batch – Lighten Up Sounds
10.19.18 by Ryan Masteller

It’s that time of year again, when carved pumpkins start popping up outside of everybody’s house and decorative witches and ghosts and gravestones adorn suburban lawns. We’ve been drinking nothing but pumpkin beer for two weeks (yum!), and pretty much all pastries and caffeine-related drinks around here include pumpkin as featured ingredient. It’ll get old soon, but we’ll revel in it now.

That’s the fun stuff, the safe stuff. Scary, but nice, as it were. There aren’t any killer clowns or satanic cults on anybody’s radar, and nobody’s watching Italian or Japanese horror movies. Not here, not in Anytown, USA, where we have economy-sized bags of candy lining our shelves already, just waiting for eager little trick-or-treaters and, let’s face it, our own selves, because who’s gonna eat all the leftover candy? Us, that’s who.

Lighten Up Sounds has us covered for the moment trick-or-treat ends. The three tapes in this batch are perfect mood pieces for these late autumn days when the sun sets earlier and earlier and the witching hour comes sooner and sooner.

 

LA TREDICESIMA LUNA – Oltre L’ultima Onda Del Mare
But first – a bit of ocean magic. That’s what Italian artist Matteo Brusa has in store for us with his unnaturally gorgeous “Oltre L’ultima Onda Del Mare” [“Beyond the Last Wave of the Sea,” according to Google Translate). It’s an inspiring cycle of drive and focus: the protagonist sets sail in search of something internal, a sense of purpose, maybe, or peace, but with the notion that the passage would lead to destruction. “The wind swelled the sails and our wishes, but deep within ourselves we knew we would never come back.” What happened out there? What transpired upon the waters that pointed toward a watery grave? We may never know. But we do know this: every moment of “Oltre L’ultima Onda Del Mare” is a cinematic delight, richly inhabited by tragic characters and elements. Who says the sea can’t be spooky?

 

WINTERBLOOD – Foresta Incantata
The woods at night are no place for anybody to be. Wicked things lurk out there in the dark, things that will devour or destroy you, or worse. For Italian project Winterblood (aka Stefano Senesi), the idea of an enchanted forest – “Foresta Incantata” – is flipped from the concept I grew up with, the whimsy replaced by horrific danger, the kind of danger that creeps up on you or slowly reveals itself after you’ve embraced a false sense of safety. Winterblood’s ceremonial synthesizer runs are the chilly calm before the dark magick takes hold, the ancient spiritual practices opening gateways to unforeseen menace. This is what I was talking about when I mentioned satanic cults above – “Foresta Incantata” is the misleadingly tranquil soundtrack to pagan ritual.

 

TIMOTHY FIFE – Hoichi the Earless
Poor Hoichi couldn’t even hear his own themes. Earless, you know. He missed out, because Timothy Fife knocked his soundtrack out of the park. His alternate soundtrack, anyway – “Hoichi the Earless” was named after and alternately scores Hoichi’s section of the Japanese horror anthology “Kwaidan.” I’ve never seen “Kwaidan” – I’m more of a “Hocus Pocus” kind of guy – so I am fully divorced from the visuals. But the sounds – oh the sounds. If this is Timothy Fife’s idea of film scoring, let’s give him a few more opportunities to work with, shall we? Mood switches on a dime, at times tense, at times tranquil, at times abrasive, at times ethereal, and Fife is there to guide it to a satisfying conclusion. Armed with a synthesizer that pulls from Carpenter as well as Cluster, Fife constructs this ten-part homage to Hoichi with a brilliant nocturnal flare. This is your new soundtrack for sitting around eating candy while you wait for those trick-or-treaters.

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Tabs Out | He Arrived By Helicopter – The Shiny Hostel

He Arrived By Helicopter – The Shiny Hostel
10.18.18 by Ryan Masteller

Christian Gibbs has arrived. By helicopter? That’s for us to determine.

Christian Gibbs has undoubtedly arrived, and whether he drops down onto the deck of an aircraft carrier by whirlybird and proudly stands in front of a cheering throng while a “Mission Accomplished” banner flaps in the breeze behind him is unimportant. The fact is that his work here is done – it doesn’t matter how we celebrate it. … Or, actually it does, since this is the Tabs Out website, anyway – we are required by the site’s bylaws to celebrate any accomplishment with a cassette release.

Christian Gibbs has released such a cassette, one that celebrates the recording of his many musics over the course of a period of time that undoubtedly required much hard work. It is encouraging then that I can report with a glad heart that the “much hard work” was energy well expended: “The Shiny Hostel” is a triumph – that’s MORE than an accomplishment – of arranging, songwriting, and recording prowess that results in one of the most listenable “band”-based releases I’ve heard in quite some time. No, I will NOT elaborate on how long of a time.

Alternating between instrumental tracks and those with vocals, Gibbs takes the chance of annoying me (and only me) by singing words, because you all should know by now that a bad lyric or a unpalatable singing voice (again, only to me) can ruin the crap out of a record. He does NOT annoy me in any way. Did you see the “Mission Accomplished” banner? You don’t get one of those if you can’t sing. Anyway, the instrumentals are intensely inventive and endlessly entertaining, building, pulling back, swelling, all of them filled to the brim with melodic detail. That spills over into the songs with all the words, where Gibbs shifts from an angelic falsetto to a crooning baritone – this is what late-period Frank Black should’ve sounded like.

Now I can fantasize that Christian Gibbs is late-period Frank Black. Maybe I can get a refund on those “Dog in the Sand” concert tickets, too?

So Christian Gibbs has indeed arrived, BY HELICOPTER, ready to charm us sky high. You can buy one of these cassettes from Very Special Recordings, or you can buy one of the lovely green LPs… Gggrrrkkk! [*is choked by official Tabs Out bouncer for mentioning a format other than cassette*]

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Tabs Out | Nick Hoffman – Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators)

Nick Hoffman – Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators)
10.17.18 by Ryan Masteller

If you have kids, you’re probably familiar with Baby Einstein’s “Lullabye Classics,” a compilation by the Baby Einstein Music Box Orchestra designed to get your youngsters to sleep properly (as well as to promote healthy brain growth). I still have a copy of that thing, even though my son’s way too old for it. He’s more into the Astral Spirits catalog right now, just like his old man. He’s also seven.

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, can enjoy the classical strains of Bach or Scarlatti or Handel as programmed and arranged by Pilgrim Talk label head Nick Hoffman and performed by, wait for it, electronic oscillators. See? Not a ridiculous and annoying harpsicord played by a wig-wearing buffoon in sight!

I’m really kidding about all that, you know, because I’m a worldly man, a man of particular tastes, a dabbler in culture, a bon vivant. So it is that the strains of Hoffman’s oscillators perk up my mental faculties, and I find myself exclaiming to strangers I meet in the library and on college campuses and in fancy hotel lobbies that “Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators)” is just the most DELICIOUS cassette recording. Then I order a brandy wherever I am, and I am stupendously ignored.

Don’t YOU ignore “Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators),” available from Pilgrim Talk in an edition of 80 copies!

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Tabs Out | Les Cousins Dangereux – Enema of the State

Les Cousins Dangereux – Enema of the State
10.15.18 by Ryan Masteller

It was inevitable that I was gonna have to write about this. It just seems … appropriate in some way.

(Poop jokes. Always poop jokes.)

Blink’s “Enema” came out when I was in college, so I thought it was all right then. I mean, I didn’t listen to it very much. I had friends who liked it a lot better. I guess it’s catchy, but man, I do NOT look back fondly at it. It is a relic, an example of music from my past that I find embarrassing. I will never willingly return to it.

Gosh, this writeup isn’t looking to kindly on our hero, Tim Thornton, is it?

Tim originally dropped this album-length cover version of “Enema of the State” as Les Cousins Dangereux back in 2011 through his Suite 309 label. The original format was something called a “CDR,” but he’s now issued it on cassette with an extra track (a cover of Weezer’s “No One Else” that was planned for a follow-up release that never materialized). But let’s set the record straight: Tim’s “Enema” is waaaay more ingestible than Blink’s “Enema,” and that’s even before you realize it’s an aural supplement and not a suppository.

Tim buries the dumbassery of Blink tunes like “Dumpweed” and “Dysentery Gary” (to name but two classics) under alien video-game soundtracks, dashing headlong with bleeps and bloops instead of guitars. (Also, Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus do not appear in any way, shape, or form, and that’s a plus for me.) “Enema+” is like chiptune gone wild, sort of, mainly because it reminds me of that one chiptune artist who released a bunch of new wave covers around the same time (but I forget who it was). With it, though, I can pretend that I’m the hero of some arcade side-scroller who has to destroy the Blink boys at the end of the tape in order to restore order to the universe, freeing the melodies of the album from their constraints of stupidity.

Which Tim has sort of already done.

Anyway, whether you love the original “Enema of the State” or hate its guts to hell, the Les Cousins Dangereux version is simply better. Buy one, won’t you, from Suite-309? Edition of 50.

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Tabs Out | Episode #133

133

Dimitar Dodovski - Paleopop (Become Eternal)
Ebauche - Formic Syntax (Cosmic Winnetou)
Bedroom - Moons (Fluere)
Emerging Industries of Wuppertal - Traditions from a Vestigial Intranet (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Fitness Instruktör - These Carbon​-​Composite Poles Are Made For Walkin' (Strategic Tape Reserve)
The Tuesday Night Machines - These Carbon​-​Composite Poles Are Made For Walkin' (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Proven Recordings - Dubs Vol. 1 (self released)
Nick Hoffman - Baroque Classics (For Electronic Oscillators) (Pilgrim Talk)
Smith Comma John - Watch A Man Die Trilogy (self released)
Jarvis Probes - Something About Hands (Wolves Productions)
Jardín - Butaca (Freaks)
Life Education - Psychic Yeoman (Null Zone)
German Army - Kowloon Walled City (Null Zone)

  

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Tabs Out | Space Age Pressure Pad #4: The Ataraxia meditation series on Crash Symbols

Space Age Pressure Pad #4: The Ataraxia meditation series on Crash Symbols
10.12.18 by Scott Scholz

During the first round of “cassette culture” in the late 70s and 80s, all kinds of less-commercial music that the big labels didn’t want to touch blossomed on tape. From noise/improv experiments, to homegrown weirdo songwriting, to new age musical mood stabilizers, artists and audiences did their own thing in the absence of outside pressure, and found each other through the mail. These DIY and DIO (“do-it-ourselves,” my preferred way of looking at it) scenes are often discussed in terms of the punk rock ethos, and that’s certainly true, but I think it’s also fair to say that the new age movement was even more punk than punk when it came to taking control of their own destiny. From these scenes, we were gifted with the beginnings of the mellow synth zoners, east/west sacred fusions, and serene field recording scenes we still enjoy today.

One area of the “cassette revival” that hasn’t reached back so much to the OG scenes, though, relates to meditation tapes. One can get on eBay to find the vestigial remains of guided meditation jams, often issued in series form on tape and later CD, that straddled a line between spiritual practices, self-help, and new-at-the-time tech ideas like subliminal encoding, but there hasn’t been a ton of action lately tapping into that stream. Enter Ataraxia, a new series from Crash Symbols!

The Ataraxia series was launched last year with “Heart and Insight Meditations” by Jesse Fleming, accompanied by the music of Electric Sound Bath. Fleming’s delivery, a gentle West coast seaside patois, is dressed in a bit of reverb, and combined with the subtle dynamic shifts of Electric Sound Bath, sounds especially good to me cranked through a nice pair of speakers. Lay down, close your eyes, and you can easily slip into an imaginary group setting and ride some peaceful waves with this very live-sounding recording. Or you can slump back a little in your favorite chair and vibe on the video Electric Sound Bath produced to accompany the A-side of this recording:

It’s no accident that this collaboration takes on such a fresh, extemporaneous kind of live feel: Electric Sound Bath and Fleming collaborated on a regular “Sunday Sit” mindfulness series at the 356 Mission Gallery in LA (RIP), and the music featured here was captured from the first two of those sessions in 2015. For those of us who live in places that generally don’t have a lot of sessions like this, this tape is a great way to feel connected to the contemporary mindfulness scene.

This year, Ataraxia Series #2 has arrived, featuring Chuck Pereda and Natalia Szendro as your meditation guides, with some deep synth zoneouts by Pulse Emitter as support. I found this one to be more effective as a headphone kind of jam–the voice recordings here are clean, dry, and present on this tape, and feel like they’re going right into your brain if you go the Walkman route. Daryl Groetsch/Pulse Emitter makes the perfect accompaniment here, with a beautiful, memorable thematic idea that’s quite soothing yet invigorating during the Introduction section, becomes more subdued and tender during the main Meditation, and returns gently to the theme at the Comedown.

Mexico City DJ Chuck Pereda proves to be a very astute practitioner of the Yoga Nidra Meditation practice, delivering a very thoughtful English-language abridgement of a traditional Yoga Nidra script, and then translating the whole thing into Spanish for side B. Very awesome to think of how many more folks might find this tape useful from the bilingual approach alone! Pereda opens and closes the tape, with Natalia Szendro taking over the main guided meditation section in the center. It all sounds beautifully polished and utterly present and like the sort of thing you’d have to pay a month’s rent to experience at some fancy retreat. But you can still snag your very own copy of this one over at the Crash Symbols Bandcamp page.

I’m very excited about the future prospects for this series, and wondered what the Crash Symbols folks might have in store, so I fired off some questions to their HQ in West Virginia to find out. As expected, lots of interesting plans are afoot, and I learned about a couple of new-to-me labels worth checking out along the lines of contemporary aural meditations, too. Read on, friends, as Dwight Pavlovich spills the beans–and who doesn’t love beans?

It looks like you’re planning to nest the Ataraxia series within the broader Crash Symbols catalog, as opposed to splitting it off as a discrete sublabel. How do you see the series in relation to the more stylistically-dispersed discography of Crash Symbols?

Dwight, Crash Symbols: I don’t instinctively see a separate identity adding value for us or listeners. We do have specific intentions for the series within the catalog, but they overlap with our larger goals generally – I guess that’s why it seemed sensible to handle somewhat together. We’re trying to put out tapes and records that are fun, interesting, or engaging in different ways, and I think our take on guided meditation feels worth exploring alongside other sounds.

Having said that, I do think the overlap will make more and more sense as the series fleshes out.

I find the name of the series itself fascinating, as it points toward a kind of meditative experience that is more active than passive. Is there a particular school of philosophy or a specific meditative practice you’re drawing from as initial guidance?

No, but I’m glad that’s how you read it! We hope the name communicates that direction. Calmness, serenity, etc, that’s all fine, but it’s the element of balance between inner and outer spaces. If you just google around a bit I think the most satisfying short definition you’ll find is “robust equanimity.” Going back to your last question a bit, we like the idea of active renewal, and we see music and guided meditation as similarly connected to the sort of interior practices that build a rigorous awareness of context and self.

Are you planning to focus the series on guided meditations or will some installments be instrumental?

We will probably have some instrumental releases, and at least give more options for how to listen to each new installment. I think there are lots of labels that do ambient music extremely well, that live up to a genuine range of the associations and expectations listeners might have for that dimension, but not much I would compare to what we’re imagining.

We have had some pleasant surprises though. This year Matt and Ash’s wonderful Flower Room imprint has been doing some great stuff in a related vein. We’re just finishing up prep for a release with Matt, but we’re also hoping that we can all collaborate within the series before too long.

Thinking of the work of Electric Sound Bath on the first tape in the series, is there a bit of kinship with the Deep Listening concepts of Pauline Oliveros? I’ve long thought that portions of her catalog walk a very interesting line between high-focus listening and a more meditative experience, though still on the lucid side of things, which again makes me think of the state of Ataraxia. And of course I’m wondering if there’s any considerations along these lines related to subsequent releases as well…

Absolutely, and at this stage at least I imagine an instrumental experience would build on that premise of deep listening.

Folks like Fleming that do a lot of mindfulness work across multiple media platforms make me wonder about the nature of the Ataraxia series in terms of your own “vibe” around it: is it intended to feel like a bit of a “throwback” to the meditation tapes of the 80s that were quite common, a new thing, a bit of both, up to the listener…?

I think we connect our nostalgia for the “vibe” with our optimism around the practice. We’re not really aiming for a throwback, so much as a continuation, by connecting as responsibly as we can with what we can – in short, a bit of both!

There can be a fine line though. A lot of new age material has traditionally worked in a palette that’s meant to be accessible and encouraging, so occasionally it seems weird to see how labels or designers perhaps unconsciously enforce more dogmatic aspects of traditional practice.

Along the same lines, might there be any multi/intermedia projects in the future of the project, like including video images, incense or aromatherapy resources, etc, bundled with tapes?

Absolutely! Brian from Electric Sound Bath did some simple visualizations for volume one, but we are excited to think about more when the time comes. Soap Library is a groovy label that’s done some cool stuff in that vein.

Any future Ataraxia releases you can talk about yet?

We have a sort of multimedia stage meditation developing with our friend Jon Bernson in San Francisco. The final form may evolve, but we’re excited to see where he takes it.

We also have at least four more conventional pairings of musicians and readers.

This may differ on subsequent releases, of course, but is there a general plan to have one full meditation per side of tape, or should listeners plan to listen to both sides in relatively quick succession?

Right, generally we’re planning to have two sides of distinct content – whether it’s two meditations or one meditation in two languages. That may change case by case, but the goal is to give listeners something substantial with each release.

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Tabs Out | Stephen Molyneux – A Jaguar Mask

Stephen Molyneux – A Jaguar Mask
10.11.18 by Ryan Masteller

Northern Floridians: There’s only one thing that comes to your mind when you think of “jaguar mask,” right? Something like this, or this, or maybe even whatever the hell this is. Maybe this. Certainly this. But we’re a different breed, you and I, and when it comes to music, the words “A Jaguar Mask” conjure up only one thing: fight songs.

But we’d be wrong – dead wrong – in our assumptions in this instance, because what we’re dealing with here has nothing to do with football or northern Florida or anything remotely approaching a rhythm to stomp around to. No, here we mean Stephen Molyneux’s “A Jaguar Mask,” a cassette release on No Kings Record Cadre that features a “driftwood jaguar mask carving by Brian Flores, Hopkins, Belize, March 24, 2012.” It doesn’t look much like what I linked to in the previous paragraph, but the carving itself, especially presented in the filtered photograph above and displayed on the stunning risograph Jcard, is a sight to behold. It is after this piece that Molyneux titled his tape.

And there probably aren’t a lot of “outsider folk” artists who get compared to something like the Jaguars’ D-Line, and I certainly won’t be the first – I’ll even make it a point to say that “A Jaguar Mask” sounds nothing like an all-percussion ensemble. No, the Colorado-via-Tennessee Molyneux is much more nuanced, much less bombastic in his performance. In fact, we can refer to the cover again to inform our expectations about Molyneux’s music, because, as they saying goes, you can ALWAYS judge something by its outward appearance, books, cassette tapes, or otherwise.

So the hazy textures of Molyneux’s treated guitar and various keyboards are as timeless and familiar as the driftwood photo, grounding in the immediacy of one’s reactions to them yet ethereal as they float on the edges of memory. And while the shelving category is quite obviously “ambient,” snatches of melody sneak in through and infiltrate the foreground, laying the groundwork for the emotional reactions you’re sure to have. It’s quite simply gorgeous stuff.

The cross-section of the Venn diagram with “Jacksonville Jaguars fans” on one side and “Stephen Molyneux fans” on the other is very, very thin, I imagine. It may only be yours truly in the middle, come to think of it. But hey, somebody’s gotta occupy that unique space – might as well be me.

Grab a handful of these lovely cassettes and hand em out as party favors at your 2019 Super Bowl party, an event that will, of course, feature the Jacksonville Jaguars. Edition of 75.

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Tabs Out | The Tender Band – One Small Step

The Tender Band – One Small Step
10.10.18 by Ryan Masteller

Oh yeah, synthesizer performance art about the Apollo 11 moon landing will go over well.

Sorry, that read a little sarcastic, didn’t it? I meant to be much more enthusiastic. Let’s try it again.

Oh yeah! Synthesizer performance art about the Apollo 11 moon landing? That’ll go over WELL!

If you’ve ever listened to music that Tabs Out recommends; if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written and figured out I’m a real sci-fi nut; if you’re even remotely interested in space exploration (I did NOT say Space Force), then you’re in luck with The Tender Band. The duo, New Yorkers Gavin Price and John Gasper, are “curious explorers navigating the mysterious and aromatic worlds of improvisation and collaboration,” and as such are perfect foils to capture the awe and wonder of mankind’s first journey to another celestial body. Their synthesizer trickery perfectly captures what I imagine NASA sounded like in 1969, bleeps and bloops and lights and transmissions from the astronauts themselves.

All this is seamlessly woven together with a stage performance put on by St. Fortune. Gavin Price himself is the director! Is there anything he can’t do?

(Wait – what do they mean by “aromatic worlds”? That seems – weird.)

As the path to discovery leads the performers to find something “that will change the course of alternate history forever” (moon people? A giant monolith? George Méliès?), we are perfectly capable of being changed simply by this cassette tape, since not everybody lives in New York and can simply hail a cab or a bus or a rover and pop off to Poughkeepsie. It’s a gorgeous piece of work, and fascinating from start to finish. As a companion artifact to the reimagining of the greatest soundstage stunt Stanley Kubrick ever pulled, it more than capably holds its own.

Ah … ha ha.

I uh …

Eeeh shh.

… Was I supposed to say that about Kubrick? You know, implying that the moon landing was staged, if you get my meaning? Anybody else in the know about that?

As I wait here for the authorities, I’ll point you in the direction of Dead Definition, which has these sparkly cassette tapes for sale! Edition of 60.

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