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Tabs Out | Space Age Pressure Pad #1: The Iowa Cassette Caucuses

Space Age Pressure Pad #1: The Iowa Cassette Caucuses
3.17.18 by Scott Scholz

Welcome to the first edition of Space Age Pressure Pad! I’m your host, Scott Scholz, and I hope to bring you this free-form column on a weekly-ish basis. Expect a mix of reviews (both new jams and tapes from the last few years that deserve more attention), interviews, newsy bits, retrogrouchy recommendations, and who knows what else? The Tabs Out crew has given me a virtually unlimited budget (thanks again!), so perhaps we’ll include some audio and video elements in the proceedings when it makes sense.

Our first voyage together, dear readers, begins in Iowa. As a Nebraska native, I’ve long looked up to my neighbor-to-the-East as a sort of older sibling, culturally speaking: we have largely the same climate and agricultural leanings, but there are more big-ish cities in Iowa, and a few more outlets for avant-weirdo aural adventures. And it feels like Iowa is sometimes ahead of the curve, at least as Midwestern/Plains states go. They’re the presidential election tastemakers, for example, holding the earliest caucuses for both major political parties, and that has to count for something. And did you know the first computer was developed in Iowa? Because it was.

On the cassette front, the legendary mostly-tape label Night People was first launched in Iowa City, and there are a number of great labels based there now, including 5cm Recordings, Centipede Farm, and Sassbologna Records. This week, both my mailbox and my inbox have been burning up with great new releases from Iowa labels, and you’re not gonna want to miss out on these:

 


The always-reliable Field Hymns is set to drop their next batch on my favorite holiday, April Fools day, but no fooling: these are three of the most fun tapes you’re likely to hear all year. As always, these tapes feature visionary art by Tiny Little Hammers, and they’re sexy pro-dubbed affairs that look as good as they sound.

Proceeding in catalog number order, Oxykitten makes his return to the cassette world after some time off for good behavior (his last pair of tapes dropped in early 2016 on Rotifer). The solo project of San Diego expatriate Justin Case, Oxy has recently settled into the Toronto area and has begun spinning synth-fueled soundscapes again. As one might expect from Oxykitten, “Gleeking the Cube” is a playful affair that splits the difference between a speculative sexploitation soundtrack and vintage video game audio. But having listened to this music for many hours over the last year (full disclosure: I did the mastering for this music), there is also a more serious kosmische undercurrent to this album. The Oxy tapes on Rotifer had a certain gravitas, too, but “Gleeking” displays a new level of compositional ambition and confidence, sliding toward the cinematic analog heaviness of labelmate Yves Malone.

Next, Larry Wish turns in his weirdest album yet, “How More Can You Need?” It must be said up front that your tape deck is fine–this music, which Larry (Adam Wervan) performs live as a sort of pantomime, fussing with cables and lights, intentionally drifts out of tune in a manner that made me worry that my belts or idler wheel were slipping. But it’s part of the gig. Musically, this is a somewhat different affair than the more prog-affected Larry Wish jams on Orange Milk, and it’s entirely instrumental. But once you adjust to the occasional LFO pitch drift, the music is intricate and very satisfying as it outlines a sort of abstract narrative, highlighting human creativity and mechanical fallibility. An aural Dada manifesto for the Post-Information Age.

As a huge fan of the “Males in Harmony” tape last year, I was especially excited to hear the sophomore Lips & Ribs album in this batch. Full of complex but funky MIDI melodramas, this solo project of multimedia maniac artist Jay Winebrenner was recorded some years back, but has now been safely cassette-ified for the public by Field Hymns. The pieces on “Battle in Nagoya” are generally a little shorter than the Lips & Ribs debut, but every bit as intense and fun. High-velocity sections like the title track and “Ending in Amiens” are redolent of old video game music, and there are surreal moments I especially dig, like the synthetic Morricone western vibes of “Woman is Here.” Overall, “Battle in Nagoya” has an especially visual kind of flair, and every riff practically causes an off-kilter low budget film scene to materialize somewhere in front of your speakers. It’s no wonder that Winebrenner is responsible for his own share of seriously wild videos like this.

 


Bob Bucko Jr is a man of diverse tastes, just the sort of fellow we love to hang with around the Pressure Pad, and his Personal Archives label reflects his wide-ranging appreciation for all kinds of music. The latest batch of tapes on Personal Archives will only set you back a Hamilton (unlike, you know, Hamilton), and here’s what you’ll be cranking:

Matthew As More gets some well-deserved reissue treatment, this tape having first appeared in CD format on its creator Matt Dake’s label Nova Labs. “Apocalypse Never” is a great collection of tunes whose low- and mid-fi recordings reveal a sophisticated musical mind. There are some rock/pop anthems here, but the weird song forms and complicated riffs often remind me of the heyday of the Chicago Touch & Go scene, too. My favorite moment here is near the center of the album, where “Shroom Dust (edit)” somehow manages to bridge a heretofore prohibitive gap between Big Black and Apple Venus-era XTC. Recommended.

I missed out the Saxquatch & Bridge Band debut on Already Dead last year, but upon hearing their new “Apogee” jams in the Personal Archives batch, I’ll be keeping my eyes on these folks from now on. Here you’ll find the Bridge Band, a tight power trio that specializes in jazz- and soul-infused blues, with Saxquatch (Jarad Selner) at center stage, playing saxes and occasionally taking on some vocals. Three out of four of these musicians share the same last name, and indeed this band has that kind of subconsciously-tight interplay one would expect from a family band that’s been jamming for years. It’s a little more stylistically straightforward than my usual listening, but it’s heartfelt, beautifully performed, and the recordings really pop. Tasty.

Rounding (or I guess triangulating?) out this batch, Wilmoth Axel has turned in another excellent album for Personal Archives. Their previous albums have spent some time in my decks, often reminding me of a more acid/psych lo-fi take on instrumental post-everything music like the Fucking Champs. This time, “Resonation” digs further into the psychedelic garage vibes, and the trio has expanded to a quartet, with very effective vocals by Donna Kay Yarborough. This is a clearer recording than some of their previous PA efforts, and the subtler details of their work are easier to hear with a little more “fi.” As one might expect, the inclusion of vocals here has somewhat tempered the songwriting for “Resonation,” focusing some of the group’s wildest moments into more structured, balanced forms, but it all comes together like they were meant to be a quartet all along.

 


There is a familiar, cared-for look you can expect with tapes on Warm Gospel: label proprietor Trey Reis makes gorgeous collages that adorn many j-card covers, dubs small runs by hand, and uses a real typewriter to prepare his labels and track listings. This month, he brings us five new tapes from the heartland and a bit of the globe:

Igondeau, a haunting quartet from Belarus, starts us off with “Stefania am Rande der Nacht,” a sprawling beat-driven piece in five movements that manages to be propulsive and a little frightening at times. The piece is dedicated to a 90s Swiss film, “Stefanie’s Geschenk,” and though I’m not familiar with the movie, I’d safely wager that it’s an intense, dark affair to have inspired this music. Although dancefloor-worthy beats assert themselves throughout the majority of the album, my focus is mostly drawn to the synth-dominant music throughout, which veers from ambient, textural ideas to early industrial gear-grinding.

I’m not previously familiar with the work of Goatfoam, but if “*toHeatedWomb*to” is an indication, they are mad scientists developing new ways to combine 60s psychedelia and the more experimental edges of early 90s shoegaze. These tunes have an overall calming effect, and the melodies of tunes like “Hermit in a Happy Place” or “Hidden Gems” have a way of resurfacing in your head just when you need them later.

Nicholas Naioti’s work is new to me, too, but his “Watery Grave” is a great C40 of solace and reflection. On the surface, perhaps, it’s simply great ambient music, gentle waves of sound gradually drifting into one another, anchored by percussion that tries not to draw too much attention to itself. However, you’ll soon find this music reaching from the background into the foreground, as the melodies prove to be too insistent, the guitars too plaintive, and the arrangements too clever.

Stewardesses turns in a weird EDM audio travelogue of sorts with “Bliss is This.” This tape could almost be a document of a dance club set, save for surprising juxtapositions and unusual transitions that frequently turn listening attention toward the inner textures of the music: the subtle body within “body music,” if you will. At times I’m reminded of the ecstatic pinnacles of electronic bliss in the music of Dugout Canoe, while other passages seem to reach back toward that weird period when industrial bands started to coalesce around pop forms. Bliss is this, indeed.

Finally, Huxley Maxwell turns in the most purely ambient set of this batch in “Across the Cartoon Smoke.” With little reliance on percussion other than a few small sections on side A, this pair of pieces unfold patiently, with gentle fades between major sections and delicate blending of elements that could be jarring in different hands (is that didgeridoo sneaking in underneath soulful piano toward the end of side A, for example?) I especially dug the opening section of “Lavender,” the B-side piece, as what sounds like koto and locomotive samples press into one another to unexpectedly melancholy effect, eventually dissolving into some subtle watery textures. World music for the otherworldly.

Here’s hoping you’ll find something to dig in this year’s later winter crops of Iowa!

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Tabs Out | Sonic Syrup one

Sonic Syrup one
3.14.18 by Casey G

Sonic Syrup is an audio-column that explores recent offerings from the cassette underground with thoughts from Casey G.

The first edition of Sonic Syrup features:

Ancient Ocean – Neró: A Collection of Works 2010-2016 (Field Hymns)
Sturqen / vÄäristymä – Atonia (Nervu)
Mod Exists – Caught in the Noise (Uncle Bob’s Records)
Greg Belson – The Colour of Desire (Origin Peoples)

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Tabs Out | Nick Hoffman – Salamander

Nick Hoffman – Salamander
3.13.18 by Ryan Masteller

I live in Florida, so it’s almost a constant daily occurrence to find insects swarming around my ears. You’ll have to forgive me then if, when I strap on my headphones and press play on Nick Hoffman’s “Salamander” cassette, I start flailing my arms about me as if I was being attacked from all sides by tiny biting menaces. I mean, I do have delicious blood, so I don’t blame them. But this sound, it doesn’t come from the beating of tiny wings, but rather Nick Hoffman’s “Salamander” itself. What the hell?…

The A-side, or “head,” of this “Salamander,” another creature we have in abundance here, was “synthesized using custom generative software” – so the buzzing finds its source in the bowels of a computer! Still, this digital spring issues sounds that feel alive, organic, imbued with strange patterns and textures. On the “tail” side, Hoffman switches over to “electric fan motors and metallic objects,” still crackling with unusual life and flitting just as mischievously as the “synthesized” compositions on side A. I sit engrossed, headphones affixed, an amateur sound entomologist, or herpetologist – what am I focusing on again? – studying my subject to reveal its mysteries.

Which somehow relate to Kepler’s great icosahedron, lovingly gracing the pearlescent stock cover. I have no idea how. Do bugs swarm in a great icosahedral configuration? Do salamanders have polyhedron markings on their skin? Nature is full of mysteries. I encourage you to dig into this one from Notice Recordings, pro duped on chrome plus tape stock, edition of 100.

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Tabs Out | Episode #121

121

Engelika and Others - Music From Films of Music (Excavation Series)
Chino Beano - Two Dollar Khaki (self released)
Stickboy - s/t (self released)
Glass Frog - Together compilation (Oxtail)
Primadonahue - Loosh (Stucco Discs)
Mike Dilloway - Hay Bale Paws (Alien Passengers)
Rose - Transference (Constellation Tatsu)
The Dirty Sample - Tuesday Nights On Cardero ‎(Hand'Solo)
Crash Silverback & Max Muthaphukin' Stax - Candy & Coombs (Hand'Solo)
Black Vomit - Tape Demo (Post-Materialization Music)
Crazy Doberman - Milwuakee / Spot Tavern Summer 2017 (self released)
böhm - Transients (OTA)
ML Wah - Big Air (Flower Room)
Giovanni Lami - Hysteresis V (Null Zone)
Hasufel - Forlorn (El Tule)

  

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Ascetic House

New Batch – Ascetic House
3.9.18 by Mike Haley

Seeing a new batch drop from the drastically prolific Ascetic House is like being served a subpoena. It’s all a bit overwhelming, with a ton of information that needs to be digested and acted upon within a constricting deadline. The A.H. label, which could better be characterized as an artistic cult centered within a larger cult, discharge their tapes (or ‘materials’) in bulk. Their 2018 materials come from 15 frost bitten freaks with unhealthy obsessions and damaged auras. They employ knotted samples, icy synthesizers, and paranoid vocals to muster up high grade nihilistic magic, pulling listeners into their snafu. Individually they are…

UBK – Victoria
Titan Arch – Spiritual Entertainer
Roper Rider – Motion Profile
Rabit – Supreme
PLYXY – Gloryland
Lower Tar – self-titled
King Vision Ultra – Pain of Mind
Kali Malone – Organ Dirges
Jon Edifice – How Much is Your Life Worth
House of Kenzo – Bonfires of Urbanity
Free the Land – Global Ecophony: Audio Transmission from the Exhibition
City – Only Borders
Celular Free – Soft Grunge
Andrew Flores – Sesto San Giovanni
4 – Rows

A loaded up grouping of all 15 was available, but sold out in the 20 hours since announced. They can still be purchased separately from Ascetic House.

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Tabs Out | Dere Moans – Doom Royale

Dere Moans – Doom Royale
3.9.18 by Ryan Masteller

I’m going to be honest with you guys – if I wanted a “blistering torrent of early 2000s nü-metal/death metal samples juxtaposed with 80s/90s pop,” I could’ve just stuck my head in an industrial-sized blender. Because I actually don’t want it. Never did. I could get the exact same effect, probably, from doing the blender thing. Sure, I had nü-metal streak, I went to public high school, but man, that is one segment (now purged) of my record collection that I never want to go back to.

Still, Dere Moans… you intrigue me, you whippersnapper, you. What does the answer to the question (more an exclamation) “You only listen to ONE heavy metal song at a time?” sound like? (By the way, thanks for that great perspective, Houdini Mansions, I wish I’da thunk it.) I have no idea, and as terrible an idea as finding out might be … let’s frickin’ find out! The Minnesota producer, fortunately, doesn’t follow the lead of a project like Splice Girls, where the samples are really obvious and the result aligns more with pastiche (and I enjoyed “Spliceworld,” don’t get me wrong). Nope, on “Doom Royale,” I can’t pinpoint a single song. This realization – that I wasn’t THAT deep into the macho nü-metal quagmire – ends up doing more for my sense of self-worth than I had any right to expect from Dere Moans so… bravo, sir?

The repurposed metal samples clang and bash against the insides of speakers like electrons with roid rage, revving their motors and spinning their wheels in the sand until smoke begins to pour out of the engine block. And just to throw another metaphorical log into the stew, the snippets glitch out like Max Headroom in paroxysms of wordless Tourette’s. You guys remember Max Headroom? God, I’m old. But I had you at “glitch” and “wordless Tourette’s,” didn’t I?

So what DOES it sound like? Noise? …Sort of. Industrial? …Maybe. “Digital hardcore”? …Um. Nü-metal? …Oh, guys, this is so hard. It’s certainly nothing if not a brain scrambler. Give it a spin and buy a copy if you like it. Only 20 available from Bad Cake Records

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Tabs Out | Germ Class – Dimensions of Value

Germ Class – Dimensions of Value
3.7.18 by Ryan Masteller

I had a Spirograph as a kid. There was something inherently mesmerizing about the repetitive swirling of the cog within the wheel (were they called cogs and wheels?), and I had one of those pens where you could click down a bunch of different colors, so, like, nine-year-old me could easily work himself into a psychedelic spirally heaven. And now I’m holding in my hand “Dimensions of Value” by Germ Class, and each cassette (edition of 50) comes with a unique hand-Spirographed cover by Fernando Brito. I don’t know about you, but the now-none-of-your-business-year-old me has a pretty deep itch, a hankering, an overwhelming twinge of muscle memory to meet up with that nine-year-old kid I used to be and Spirograph the hell out of my mom’s notebook paper.

Fifty unique covers! This is OTA, aka Ostres Amigos, after all, a lovely tape label out of Portugal imprinting their releases with a totally singular aesthetic, a great idea to separate themselves in the tape game. I’ve got a few of their cassettes, and each one is a work of art. Germ Class is no different, and “Dimensions of Value” is the perfect sonic accompaniment to the artwork. A German Army offshoot featuring Peter Kris, Germ Class also features Stephanie Chan of Dunes on vocals and “NH” on “Programming” – look man, I could wander the internet all day, but it just says “NH_Programming,” and I already did the other two. Like Dirty Beaches with a drum machine and a Cocteau Twins fetish, Germ Class pops dark, slinky noir tunes in the microwave with some electro beats and hits the 30 second button. Sparks flash, imprinting themselves on your corneas, and the resulting visual disturbance looks not unlike Spirograph shapes flashing across your field of vision. Hope the damage isn’t permanent.

So I have some bad news – although “Dimensions of Value” came out in November, it’s already gone from the label. But! There’s one available from this guy on Discogs, just don’t fight too hard over it. Or you could always download the record and tape it, then make your own cover. That might be fun to do, actually, on a rainy afternoon.

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Tabs Out | Passive Status – Papier

Passive Status – Papier
3.6.18 by Ryan Masteller

This is what I get: halfway into Passive Status’s “Papier” I’m hallucinating the alien vessel from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” the one trying to communicate with humpback whales. The Polish dark ambient artist has strung me along to this point, dragging me through various tactile environments by my ears until I’m suggestible enough for him to implant visions in my listening experience. Seeing weird crap through sound. Violent bouts of synesthesia.

So it’s an adventure, then. I can handle adventure. Even if it’s not going to lead me to faraway space stations or back in time to save the human race. Hey, I’m still along for Passive Status’s wild ride. That’s just how I like it these days. …And previous days, too, actually. I admit, I was always a thrill seeker.

The nine tracks on “Papier” establish miniature worlds within themselves, each one a specific oddity to which you must reorient before immersion. They don’t last too long, none much over five minutes, so you’re constantly shifting your balance, needing to ground yourself before you get too lost in the mix. But that’s the fun part isn’t it? Go on, then – get yourself lost! Don’t worry about preparing for what’s around the next dark corner, what’s hiding in the next dark shadow. Be surprised, and, sure, a little freaked out maybe. Weird stuff’s happening – OK – but it’s the ride that’s important! Don’t waste time worrying about things you have no control over, like Klingons or Ferengi.

I’m still hallucinating, aren’t I…

Edition of 50 on the Plaża Zachodnia label, ships straight outta Kolobrzeg.

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Tabs Out | Odd Person / Cool Person – Odd World, Cool World split

Odd Person / Cool Person – Odd World, Cool World split
3.4.18 by Mike Haley

So which is better to be: A cool person or an odd person? The internet suggests that being a cool person is being someone like Brad Pitt. On it’s face that appears to check out, because Brad Pitt was in the movie Cool World. But that movie was sort of odd. A search for the world’s oddest people brings up folks that can puff their eyeballs out or fit a remarkable amount of golf balls in their mouth. But those talents sound pretty cool to me. Cool can also refer to temperature. Is the coolest person just always a bit chilly? No, that would be odd. Odd also describes a number that leaves a remainder of one when divided by two. An example of that would be 69, which is practically the coolest number.

Turns out it’s not a competition. To prove that once and for all Odd Person and Cool Person teamed up for this here split on the Permanent Nostalgia label where the pair get odd in cool ways. On the Odd Person side August Traeger gets a stew going, his crock pot modded to rapidly change temperatures. The meal bubbling inside is a tangy sitar soup, found and fragmented, seasoned up with recalled Mrs. Dash mystery powders. Traeger’s “pure data + field recordings” snag as they simmer, all stringy like a bad piece of celery, resulting in abscessed loops. The Cool Person side see’s a temperature change with “Yamaha synth-jazz” served up in a virtual walk-in freezer. Contended, sharp notes tumble out like ice cubes, often melting into puddles of glistening sounds. Hot/cold. Odd/cool. Win/win.

66 copies (NOT an odd number) are available now.

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Tabs Out | Tatras – Yerevan

Tatras – Yerevan
3.2.18 by Ryan Masteller

“Ararat” begins “Yerevan” by Tatras with fifteen minutes of creaking timbers, like those of a large wooden vessel on an endless empty sea. Not unlike those, in fact, of the ark, the ship God directed Noah to build to weather the totally real and not fake at all biblical flood. In the ark’s hold dwelt two of every animal, male and female, so that Noah and his menagerie could populate the earth again after the floodwaters receded. I bet those animals were getting totally freaky cooped up in there. Aww, yeah.

Ararat is the mountain in present-day Turkey where the ark supposedly and finally ran aground, thus tying my narrative nicely together. For years scholars have speculated on the whereabouts of the ark, even going so far as to provide photographic evidence, like this, or this, or this surprising and astonishing and absolutely true image. In this one you can actually see Noah’s head after he and God decided to move the ark elsewhere for safe keeping.

Tatras is a little more serious than I am, imagining that ancient sea, the tension of one superstitious man not knowing whether he’ll survive the ordeal. “Ararat” is gripping in its stasis, its gently rocking ambience a reminder of upheaval and destruction.

And there are other tracks too, mountain-y ones even: “Vardenis” is named after a town near the Vardenis mountain range, located close to the Armenian capital of Yerevan, which … hey, that’s the name of the album! “Gndasar” is also named after an Armenian mountain, Gndasar Lerrnagagat’, and Tatras, the very name of this project, was itself inspired by the range separating Slovakia from Poland.

“Chatin” is, what, Chatin Sarachi I guess? He was an Albanian painter.

So there you have it – some history, some geography, some intense cassette-based sound art. You never know what you’re in for at the old Tabs Out Podcast website.

Tatras crafts compositions like cloud formations among all these Eastern European and North Asian mountains, mysterious to us awestruck and faraway westerners. Listening to “Yerevan” is like traveling to the far reaches of the world in your mind. The tape itself features beautiful artwork and comes with a thick cardstock o-wrap. Edition of 25 from Knoxville’s Park 70, its only release on a sparse Bandcamp page.

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