Tabs Out | New Batch – Never Anything Records

New Batch – Never Anything Records

2.5.20 by Ryan Masteller

OK, so Never Anything rules, right? We’ve got that? Good.

This batch from November 2019 is as diverse as it gets. Revel in the absolute disparate-yet-kindred spirits and their work curated by the Seattle-based experimental label. Love the aesthetic, love the sound.


It’s almost impossible to breathe while listening to “Sad Ko,” Alina Petrova and Kira Weinstein’s modern classical masterpiece. Melancholy piano meets grieving violin, among other things, rooted in the depths of Soviet winter, cloaked in tragedy, flavored with tears of bitterness. The enormous weight of conscious existence bears down its full mass upon Petrova and Weinstein’s outlook, yet the dour impression makes for vastly compelling emotional turmoil. Line that up against the fact that all the track titles are quirky little text emojis and there’s a fascinating story to follow! I think there’s a throughline anyway – still, the shocked face of track three is appropriate as electronic rhythms and textures are introduced near the end of its nine-minute runtime, as is a wordless vocal reminiscent of the song in that Doctor Who Christmas special with Michael Gambon and the atmosphere fish. “Sad Ko” takes on a slightly different tenor from that point on, allowing for more electronic elements and a vocal insertion here and there. But the cycle never veers from itself, filled as it is with deep longing and tragic wonder. As such, “Sad Ko” clamps its talons around your heart and squeezes, eliciting the most dreadful yet cathartic empathy.


The Uaxactun project takes its name from “an ancient sacred space of Maya civilization” in Guatemala, which was abandoned hundreds of years ago. Tapping into the idea of the ghosts or “spirits” or whatever that still inhabit these spaces, Uaxactun creates channels of current to prove that these spaces are still enlivened. “Unwithered Memories,” indeed, casts a clear-eyed view of the past and serves as a soundtrack for a séance of sorts, its tense and spooky electronics bringing to bear the full force of shamanic meditation upon the veil separating the world beyond from ours. At least that’s what I think the ancient Uaxactuns were doing, but maybe they were just trying to be quiet as they hunted. Regardless, Uaxactun carefully plots a path with one foot in the corporeal world and the other in the ethereal one, balancing the sounds with the sources and enlightenment with obscurity. Through deliberate and measured sonic textures, Uaxactun tackles ambience with a harshness that points to some side-glancing at noise. But don’t get me wrong, this is all tension, no release.


It’s good to have friends. Claire Rousay has a few, which shouldn’t be surprising. It’s hard to find a Rousay tape that hasn’t sold out fairly quickly, and this one’s no exception. Also without exception is Rousay’s utter fascination with percussion – as an experimental drummer/percussionist, Rousay has found no shortage of exploratory avenues to investigate. Here, Rousay crafts poly- and anti-rhythmic odes to a few of those aforementioned friends, such as Theo, Erik, Meaghan, and Alex on side A, and Marcus (“More Eaze” Maurice?!?), Michaela, Samantha, and Jen on side B. I’m sort of jealous – no one’s ever made a song called “Ryan” after me, but maybe that’s because I’m a cumudgeony old hermit. The tracks stretch, between fifteen and seventeen minutes a side, and each shifts and adjusts throughout from deliberate and possibly randomized hits to rapid-fire, attention-grabbing passages. In all, it’s fascinating to hear Rousay at work, and “Friends” does nothing to suggest that it shouldn’t be sold out like all the rest.


I was sitting here for like ten minutes doing other things when I realized I felt like I was trapped in the inside of an enormous ice crystal, like a glacier had formed around me while I wasn’t paying attention and sunlight was trying to get through to me in prism form. That’s what Bret Schneider’s “Watchfire” did to me, pinging and jangling around inside all that frigid H2O, bouncing off atoms as it tried to free me from my icy encasement. Schneider’s been around – and I’ve written about his excellent releases – and “Watchfire” simply adds to an already impressive body of work. The idea of a watchfire is to assist someone who is on guard duty or to use as a signal, like Gondor did in “Lord of the Rings” to get Rohan’s attention. (Frickin’ Denethor.) The idea of “Watchfire,” the tape version, is to get my attention in my frozen prison and weaken its integrity with motion and energy, maybe fire, maybe melting enough that I can get my arms free and start working it with my fists. “Watchfire” is pure motion, pure energy, so it’s probably going to help me. Schneider’s like a human generator with all that synth action, pinging and oscillating until the atoms crack and the molecular structure breaks down. I’m trying to catch my breath here, folks, but it’s really hard to do with all these “great tapes.”

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