Tabs Out | Ryan Wade Ruehlen – Nervous/Splintered/Circular/Breath

Ryan Wade Ruehlen – Nervous/Splintered/Circular/Breath

10.6.20 by Ryan Masteller

We’re all in the same boat. Everybody’s been stuck inside the house during this unprecedented time of isolation, so we get it – we understand each other. We’re all still in our pajamas; our hair is way longer than it should be, and don’t get me started on the beards. Oh, the beards! If your face is anything like my face, then you wake up daily going toe to toe with a follicular nightmare that barely registers as anything other than a crumb-filled bath mat. You could wipe your feet on my face.

Ryan Wade Ruehlen is one of the lucky ones, because he got outside – he made it, like he was busting out of jail and hopping the first train to anywhere other than here. Of course he had his saxophone and laptop and effects pedals and whatever else he’s using all tucked away in his hobo bindle – surely he wasn’t planning on artistically expressing his frustrations with our current situation without his primary tools. He also probably needed to bring a generator or some kind of apparatus that provides electricity – the desert doesn’t have any outlets.

Yeah, he did this from the Sonoran Desert and Tucson, Arizona. Got his sax and his gear all out in the middle of nowhere. Then he cooked up some serious pieces for what he’s calling the Decentralized Sonic Quarantine Network (DSQN), livestreaming the whole thing, then taking the audio from the stream and presenting it to us here. The cool thing is that it’s an ongoing project! But the tape in my hand is a finite object, so I guess I get what I get. Which, thankfully, is a lot! The four pieces are all damn long, ranging from almost nine minutes to over twenty-four. And there’s a LOT to chew on – Ruehlen starts with saxophone, utilizing circular breathing techniques, and adds on his electronic and loopy accoutrements. The result is sort of noise, sort of electroacoustic, sort of jazz, sort of modern classical, all experimental excellence.

Somebody’s gotta keep us sane throughout this pandemic. Might as well be Ryan Wade Ruehlen! The tape is available directly from the artist under the imprint Desert Spell Recordings, which I imagine is his own thing.

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Tabs Out | Bill Orcutt – Warszawa

Bill Orcutt – Warszawa

10.1.20 by Ryan Masteller

Bill Orcutt played about forty minutes away from my house not that long ago (pre-COVID), but I missed it. Actually, I didn’t so much miss it as I just didn’t go, considering that the show was going to end just past my bedtime at like ten o’clock or so, and then I would have had to drive that forty minutes back home. So really, because it’s my own fault and all, you really shouldn’t feel too bad for me. Not that that’s what I was going for with all this, but still, there it is. 

I guess in the end this is a terrible story considering I’m spending all this time telling you what I didn’t do. I could lie and make something up, I guess, but you’d see right through it. So I’ll just have to live vicariously through this tape, then, “Warszawa” on Endless Happiness. The two sides contain two live Orcutt pieces, just the man and an electric guitar, onstage at the Avant Art Festival, Spatif, Warsaw, in 2019. And if “Warszawa” is any indication of what I missed when Orcutt passed through my neck of the woods, then I blew it big time. This is some straight up fairy magic we’re dealing with right here. 

Orcutt lays the groundwork for his playing with some lovely pastoral improvisation (think William Tyler but wilder, more windswept), then lets it rip. You know how it goes: Orcutt lulls you into thinking you’re just going to lay on your back and watch clouds wisp across a clear blue sky all day, but he intersperses these sublime moments with arpeggiated jags and surprise twists and turns, then lets you lay back down and try to do it all over again. Each side is sixteen minutes long. He does this for thirty-two full minutes! It’s heavenly, and it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

Truly one of the modern guitar masters, Orcutt has another winner here with “Warszawa” – 50 with a blue shell (sold out!), 50 with a gray shell (not sold out!). And yeah, I’ll catch him next time around (vaccine permitting!).

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Tabs Out | Nocktern – NoStalgia

Nocktern – NoStalgia

9.30.20 by Ryan Masteller

Of course something called “Nocktern” could only happen at night, because despite its spelling, Nocktern is pronounced exactly like you would pronounce “nocturne,” a composition about or inspired by the night. And you’d be doubly right to head down this easy path on the way to psychiatrically explore Nocktern, as “NoStalgia,” the single, twenty-two minute track that appears on both sides of the tape, debuted at something called “Amek Bummer Nights 2019,” which … sounds pretty awesome. Honestly, if you’re familiar with Amek and its solid stable of artists the label releases, then you would be really keyed up for a performative series called “Amek Bummer Nights” – imagine all the deep, unsettling drone and ambient and synthesizer music you could hear in person!

I won’t get into what that experience probably would be like – you can imagine the beards and the hoodies and the cluttered effects tables – but you can hear it already, can’t you? It’s in your head, the low rumble of static or subtle feedback, the pops and clicks if disruptive percussive elements, the plaintive melodies begrudgingly wrangled from various devices, some with keys. The wildly arpeggiated sci-fi electronics strobing from this base. Wait, what? No, I wasn’t thinking about that either, but here, as I’m listening to “NoStalgia” and getting settled in for my own virtual bummer night I’m hit with that awesome retro vibe, and it’s an incredibly welcome diversion. 

See, if this thing is called “NoStalgia” – that capped “S,” suggesting “No Stalgia,” an absence of “Stalgia” (what the heck is “Stalgia”?) – then it’s not going to allow us to tap into the experiences we’ve already had, it’s not going play by our rules. It’s going to break from mopey ambient, and it’s going to make us enjoy what it’s sending our way. Because even though, yes, this still would qualify for perfect “Bummer Nights” entertainment, it’s got a hook that will demand attention rather than let you sink into a lonely malaise. And there’s even a third part! The sci-fi synth drops out in favor of solo piano, which itself whips itself up into an electric loop before gradually tapering off and slinking back into the darkness, reminding you that you are, indeed, part of a “nockternal” experience. 

See what I did there?

Fifty copies of this one available, grab it from Amek!

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Tabs Out | Keith Fullerton Whitman – L7 (BGM)

Keith Fullerton Whitman – L7 (BGM)

9.28.20 by Matty McPherson

My dad told me that Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Playthroughs sounded like spa music. I did not have the heart to tell him that it was actually the sounds of processed sine tones, as Mr. Whitman lays out a thorough section of his site labeled the Playthroughs series. The rift between us should have grown stronger, but Playthroughs is undeniably calming, bubbling with the pleasures that only hot springs can offer.

Whitman, the ambient genre’s no. 1 “trust the process” guy for nearly two decades running, has continued to carve paths far beyond playthroughs. Although, he has occasionally returned to the series for live performance, uploading variants to his Bandcamp across the decade. Perhaps the easiest (and cheapest) CD to find (if at all) was Lisbon, which provided a performance akin to transcendence. The sounds of the system reaching noise levels that articulated that of a machine greater than all of us, just out of our reach. Simply put, it was an exceptional display of technology and curation being pulled out to dazzling results.

I dubbed my own tape of Lisbon (Type I Maxell, b/w TJO’s Where Shines New Light) off of a Sony Boombox that is chronically fatigued and will die after playing a CD for more than 90 minutes. That tape’s pitch is a tad bit higher, which is a source of shame that casts a long shadow over my day, especially in the wake of hearing Whitman’s wonderful sounding Hi-Fi Res reissues of his Bandcamp catalog. If you’re out of the loop here’s the scoop: Whitman took to an after-hours project that expanded into self-dubbing, curated tape reissues of a whole bundle of material from across the last decade. Limited runs of ten different tapes, of exceptional fidelity, with passionate graphic design by yours truly.

There’s a lot of ground covered. From the “generative, self-fautomating Hybird Analogue-Digital Modular Synthesizer patch that applies principles of Werner Heisenberg’s research on “Turbulent Flows into a series of sub-dividable motor-rhythm arcs that freely wander across the internal sound-fields of the sculpture” that comprises the whole C46 Epithets cassette’s run time, the musique concrete of “Contemporary Drumming” (which features no drum circles, sadly), the series has contained everything I love about Keith: insane practical dedication to fully formed compositions that move at the pace of a human brain, for human consumption. That each tape acts as its own snapshot of a decade well spent, rivaling what has been found across Whitman’s label releases.

Whether or not he is formally done after ten, as well as if there are any more copies left to go around are still questions that remain unanswered. Yet, if Keith is done with the series, then L7 (BGM) is a helluva reissue to go out on. The 2011 recording is a late-stage recording of the Playthoughs series in a “post-Lisbon context”, transfiguring that piece itself for an “interactive digital environment” (video game). Thus, while it has the same guitar based starting point as Playthroughs and Lisbon, “L7 (Final Mix)” its emphasis is widely different from its two ancillaries, emphasizing fuzzy synth and reverent granular synthesis that give the piece a sublime feeling.

While Lisbon’s non-guitar mixes could be rapturously loud, “L7 (Final Mix)” radiates a shimmer (“chiming, phased square-wave tonal-centers”, I’m informed) that pleasantly crackles in the ears. It eventually gives way those wonderful layers of granular synthesis that soar to the heavens. Sewn through the 21-minute piece are an incredible amount of sound effects generated via the Playthroughs system. Hidden, yes, but ever gently nudging Whitman towards the idea of being more than an active listener, but viewer (or protagonist) via this system. Not that this seems to be the piece’s focus per se, but Keith’s addition of a rough mix and the SFX offered on the tape’s b-side help to prime the brain to dig deeper for those sounds and only further offer weight to the prowess of his meticulous studies. For what is merely processed sine tones still offers an immense amount of tension relief and possibility-it’s great to have that on a tape dubbed right!

Edition of 48, dubbed (warm) to tape from the original 24/96 masters in batches of 4 via a Recordex Soundmaster IV, as they should be.

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Tabs Out | Genetics and Windsurfing – Recording Session of Waveform Poems

Genetics and Windsurfing – Recording Session of Waveform Poems

9.25.20 by Tony Lien

Genetics and Windsurfing – moniker of Polish experimental musician Daniel Jasniewski – is often one of the projects I tend to reference when I converse with people who have yet to delve into the geological layers of Orange Milk’s continuously diverse and forward-thinking catalogue. As it goes with any of their releases, verbal and/or written descriptions can never skim the surface when it comes to relating the listening experience to another person. Jasniewski’s music is THE prime example in a sea of prime examples. 

In his latest work, “Recording Session of Waveform Poems”, Jasniewski continues on with his idiosyncratic vision of experimental electronic exploration. Stuttering, shimmering blocks of digital noise pan back and forth in your headphones in a jagged, kaleidoscopic fashion. You’d think this would imply that the mangled computer sounds conjure that specific sort of synthetic Internet sound you’ve come to expect from OM – which, it does – but Jansniewski effortlessly reaches beyond this trope in a way that makes me believe Richard Brautigan’s hybrid techno-future forest dream where nature and computers exist in harmony together is actually possible and not just some rad freak-beat poem. 

The bombardment of sound is near constant – only occasionally broken up by brief intrusions of field recordings or silence – but it is by no means overwhelming. Jasniewski, I think, is trying his best to keep us interested. In this, there is a great wisdom in his music; he is well aware of the fickleness of our collective attention spans, and the ever-evolving flow of glitches is his response to the problem (yes, this can really be a problem for artists of all mediums). It’s almost as if he’s attempting to create a hybrid language that circumnavigates the mess of our mangled psyches; if you listen hard and long enough, you’ll swear that you’re beginning to understand what he’s trying to say. 

As of writing this, there are still plenty of copies available on the OM site. I’d say catch a wave while the wind is still blowing and pick up a tape before they fade into legend like all of the others. 

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Tabs Out | Mid-Air! – Catch Me If You Can

Mid-Air! – Catch Me If You Can

9.24.20 by Ryan Masteller

Horn makes jazz! But so does sampler?? 


To paraphrase my friend Ferris, life sometimes can come at you a little too quickly for you to be able to grasp what’s going on, even when it’s right in front of you. So when our favorite sampledelic maestro Mid-Air! dropped the alternate soundtrack to the Leo DiCarpian smash hit “Catch Me If You Can,” I didn’t know what to expect. First, I expected it to be an alternate soundtrack to that excellent award-winning film, and that proved to be a mistaken assumption. Second, I expected all the jazz on this tape to be made by a horn, and maybe a piano and some drums. I was only half right on that one!

Mid-Air! does make some jazz on “Catch Me If You Can,” but if you thought that one-person outfit was going to play all of your favorite instruments all alone, you’d be mistaken. In fact, you’d be so mistaken as to make me think you were high on something. Maybe glue. Alternatively, Mid-Air! does what Mid-Air! does best: sample the crap out of some cool sources. In fact, the idea for “Catch Me If You Can” is that it’s “meant to sound like an expert group of musicians, unaltered, without frills.” So Mid-Air! plunders some phonics from all sorts of super jazz records and strings them together in this 23-minute EP. He doesn’t do the boring jazz ones at all – everything here is groovy and awesome, like you were some swinging sixties guy and this was your background music. Smoky lounges, bourbon drinks, cool mustaches – it’s all here.

So I guess you CAN teach an old dog like me new tricks, especially when it comes to listening to music!

Mid-Air! succeeds incredibly in this rewarding experience, even though that whole “unaltered, without frills” is a bald-faced lie (I can hear the sample seams in some of these, and sometimes the music changes speed and pitch! Oh, that’s intentional? Well, carry on…). Still, this is one of those tapes that I’ll be coming back to again and again whenever I want a hyper-stylized representation of the intended era. Also, I’ve just smashed a bunch of my jazz records since I won’t need them anymore – 23 minutes of this on repeat is how it’ll have to be!

Cool, sparkly texturized O-wrap cover, no case from Mid-Air’s 100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company! Streaming link for one track from Soundcloud!

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Tabs Out | Jeff Brown – Forgive The Trespass

Jeff Brown – Forgive The Trespass

9.23.20 by Tony Lien

Jeff Brown – not only one of Seattle’s ambient heroes, but also a thoughtful music journalist – is back with a free-floating electric 12-string excursion that certainly shimmers and expands with the best of the genre. 

As it often goes with longform ambient pieces, I’m reticent to fully surrender myself to whatever state the given artist hopes to put me in. I typically require a bit of coaxing, being that ambient music requires a sort of passive yet deep attention investment. Thankfully, Brown is a convincing fellow when he has a guitar in his hands and some pedals at his feet. 

Forgive The Trespass” (out now on UK label Rusted Tone Recordings) is almost conversational – its wordless narrative slowly unfolding like that of a tree ent’s account of a past tragedy. In this sense, Brown’s story – told with gentle, reverb-drenched swells – seems to denote an extended moment of self-acceptance and forgiveness. A meditation within a secular space of spirituality.  

Even more so, I feel that he intends for this space to be open to the public. A place for anyone weary of heart or mind to step into and whisper their private mantras. 

As of writing this, there are five copies remaining on the Rusted Tone Bandcamp. I advise purchasing a tape and letting Jeff know that you are by no means offended by his trespassing.

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Tabs Out | Episode #160

A Paramount, A Love Supreme - Crisis Meditations (Larry/Zegema Beach)
Mil Kdu Des - GXH (Ingrown)
Escape to Holy Witch Mountain (Ephem Aural)
Jacken Elswyth - split w/ Ryan Eyers (Betwixt & Between)
No Option - Make It Count (Northern Unrest)
Sunk Heaven - Apex Plumet (No Rent)
Tiger Village - Live on Pizza Night (self released)
Stalchild - s/t (Delayed Gratification)
Coach Campa- If You've Got The Hammer (Already Dead)
Nandele Maguni - Plafonddeinst (Already Dead)
Kay Odyssey - Knockout (Pecan Crazy)

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Tabs Out | Reid Karris – Cynical Nihilist

Reid Karris – Cynical Nihilist

9.22.20 by Ryan Masteller

We all know how exhausting being a nihilist is. But add cynicism on top of that? You’re likely to fall into a coma! Then you’d have to at least believe in the paramedics or you’d be dead before you knew it. Although with all this COVID, going to a hospital might not be the greatest thing in the world either, so there’s that.

Who knows what’s going through Reid Karris’s mind or what he believes in, but he sure isn’t exhausted or lazy or comatose. In fact, “Cynical Nihilist” is a restless percussive adventure, not content to float in a pool or drown in a bottle of liquor. Karris uses guitar, skatchboxes, and other rhythmic objects to trigger an entire tape’s worth of freeform energy, the one-man jazz/noise virtuoso coming off like a human electroacoustic performance. It is like a room filled with objects and a metal floor was somehow electrified, and the current manipulated so that everything moves and shakes and shudders against each other while Karris records it from behind a two-way mirror. You don’t want any of those objects or instruments seeing what’s going on back there.

While “Schadenfreude” and “Phantasmagoria” each play out their fifteen minutes of kinesis (program repeats on each side!), you have to wonder what other kind of Big Lebowski references we can fit into this review. How about “Nice marmot”? Sometimes Karris’s recordings mimic the restless thrashing of an animal in a bathtub. Or “Wouldn’t hold out much hope for the tape deck though”? I have a feeling that if you left this tape in too long, it would totally mess up your tape deck with all its moving around. Or maybe “I like your style, dude”? I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory, actually.

Only three left of the original run of 20! Please contact Tribe Tapes and bug them until they give you one.

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Tabs Out | Edwin Perry Manchester – A Hidden Doorway to the Past / Your Fears Are Real

Edwin Perry Manchester – A Hidden Doorway to the Past / Your Fears Are Real

9.21.20 by Ryan Masteller

Of the many moods of Edwin Perry Manchester, these are two of them. “A Hidden Doorway to the Past,” released in October 2019 on Black Ring Rituals, and “Your Fears Are Real,” a relatively fresh batch of sweet “tunes” that popped into existence in June on TapeGoblin, swing open that titular door of the first to expose the mind of one wacky home skillet. As Manchester sets up his electronics table, surely he’s constantly dreaming of the day he can set it all on fire, all while it’s plugged in and feeding back or whatever, the sound of the inferno forever imprinted in the spools of a cassette tape.

Until that day, though, he’ll have to make a “virtual” inferno with the sounds his gear makes. “A Hidden Doorway to the Past” is the harsher of the two, a putrid wail of nasty signal broadcast directly from the butt of a farting quasar. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as track 2 of this thing is called “Frank Silva,” a tribute to the late actor who portrayed the stringy-haired BOB on “Twin Peaks.” If you think of “A Hidden Doorway” in relation to the Black Lodge denizens and BOB acolytes the Woodsmen, then imagine their “Gotta light?” inquiry blown into sonic molecules and repackaged as cassette-based artistic statement. The growly white-hot static and radio melt will surely blast open some doors with that intensity.

I would’ve loved to consider “Your Fears Are Real” as the friendlier, more-ready-to-chill manifestation of Manchester’s personality, but hey – you don’t call something “Your Fears Are Real” without getting to the heart of whatever matter you happen to be pursuing. And if you’re getting to the heart of “fears,” then maybe it’s only up to the brave and the well-prepared to dig in and really sink some teeth into this thing. Still, the obvious synthesizer material includes tendrils and wisps of playfulness that come off as less dour than “A Hidden Doorway,” but it’s still an uncompromisingly in-your-face set. Also, it ends on a track called “The Pain Goes On and On,” so there’s that. Not really playful at all, actually.

Two copies left (of an edition of 25) of “A Hidden Doorway,” nine left (of an edition of who knows) of “Your Fears Are Real.” You should probably stop waiting?

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