Tabs Out | New Batch – Next Age

New Batch – Next Age

2.6.20 by Ryan Masteller

Ask yourself a serious damn question once in a while, because the jokes are getting old. For now, though, chuck this one at the old mental wall: What does black milk sound like? If you even start to crack a grin at that, I’m gonna have to turn this car around right now, and we’re going back home, and you’ll have ruined ANOTHER Cassette Store Day with that attitude. I spend a lot of time coming up with these questions, these theses to base intelligent research around, and for them to be laughed off as if they mean nothing is an affront to my intelligence. So: we done?

Good. Now – what indeed does black milk sound like? I only ask because these lovely cassette Jcards from NextAge are printed on nice, thick cardstock, and to say that there’s an aesthetic connection between them would be an understatement. All three are dark as a black steer’s tuckus on a moonless prairie night, if I may paraphrase a smarter man than me. All are emblazoned with a thick sans serif font. All feature three mysterious letters. The sounds contained within drip viscously like liquid from a toppled glass off a dining table. So, first thing I thought of was, “black milk!” Second thing I thought of was, “What does that sound like?” Then you started jerking me around with your attitude. Let’s just get through these holidays, and then you can go back to college and pretend you were never here.


If that looks like a not-quite-complete Bandcamp download code, you’re not alone. Most of the track titles go along those lines as well, but “TTM” actually stands for “Thru the Meadows,” which I guess this tape enacts. But the meadows it goes through are the “Annihilation” kind, where the sunlight is weird, and molecules are weird, and everything sort of hybridizes upon the breeze. Yeah, the sunlight is like a lens flare that gets more and more intense, until you’re in the middle of the light and you realize it’s actually an eclipse with a mega-dark center. And as you make your way closer and closer to that center, it becomes clear that what’s blocking the light is a hovering black ball of plasma that ripples and reacts, its surface constantly changing patterns. It’s the black milk, of course (I’ll never drop that metaphor!), and Ocqa is its keeper and the vessel of its formation. The black milk is formed from distant memories and half-realized dreams, and the closer you get to it, the more its weird warmth seems like the most inviting thing in the world. Ocqa is like the Pied Piper but with synthesizers, bringing you ever closer to the orb, until you’re forced to stick your head inside it to get the full effect of its soft, enveloping emanations. Sure, “TTM” is a transformation experience, and once it’s run its course, it will leave you a grinning idiot wreck with dark, rancid drool cascading through the gaps in your teeth.

God, “TTM” is so good. 

Did I say “good”? I misspelled “goo.” But that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome (which it is).


Speaking of goo, the gleaming, constantly shifting black orb that is Jadapod’s “ART” pulsates in rhythm to the producer’s stimulus, its surface rippling constantly as if it’s alive and breathing in a sort of hiccupy pattern. How can anything live that way? How can lungs hold up over the long term? We’re assuming this thing is alive of course, because you’re in the center of it, not observing it from the outside (ha! Fooled you), encased completely as you slowly merge with those pulses. Jadapod breaks down your atoms, and you become part of “ART.” Maybe your last conscious thought before attaining oneness with “ART” is, “Oh, there weren’t any lungs in here after all. How does this move?” That’s the trick, the dark art that Jadapod applies, and you simply have to let yourself go in the face of it and accept it for what it is and what it’s doing. In fact, I’m not even sure Jadapod has complete control over “ART” – “ART” seems to have attained its own sentience and left Jadapod behind, or maybe consumed Jadapod as well. Is there anybody else in here? We’ll have to do some snooping. Until then, let’s just sit back and enjoy “ART” as it continues to grow in size while consuming every listening entity in its vicinity. A black milk blob processing everything it comes in contact with.


Dam Voyage is also playing around with that dangerous black milk orb, and “DUB” gets straight to the point with its hissing drips of static on “Jamaica Underground,” doing its very best to get its inspiration out of the way on both the album title and the name of track 1. Thunderclouds roll in on “Jamaica Underground,” but that’s only a trick of the surroundings as the they reveal themselves as deep, pulsing fog. The real “DUB” starts with the almost fourteen-minute “Station,” a dank rhythmic monolith that would probably serve as a blueprint for anyone trying to get into this modern dub game. From there it alternates between the ambience of the synthesizers and crackle and the slow plod of me, the Affected Man, across gray sand on a gray day while a chilled surf washes slowly toward me. The black milk orb hovers in the sky above all of this, imposing its will upon the environment, all while Dam Voyage pokes at it with remarkable gentleness and dexterity, just to see it move and react. The songs here are long; they encase you in themselves. There’s not a moment I wouldn’t want back within that encasing. 

Well except for the ones on this ridiculous Cassette Store Day. I can’t believe we still have all these traditions to mark such a divisive occasion.

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