New Batch – Castle Bravo
6.15.17 by Mike Haley
With each uncanny Castle Bravo cassette releases, the label has further cemented their slow-burn apocalypse manifesto. It’s a relatively young operation, but one with 20-some proclamations that are saturated in mystery and purpose, with a starkness of sound and imagery that branches out WIIIIDE. In short, Castle Bravo is one of the better experimental tape labels going right now, and if we’re exclusively talking about labels that lay out releases like oil slicks on burning hot interstates, they are probably the best thing going period. The latest batch out of CB’s 15th Street HQ in Lafayette, IN are all Doberman related titles. Doberman, a house-band of sorts, is how the label kicked things off, and have played a major role in the discography so far. If you are familiar with them, you should be pretty titillated at this point about this new batch.
Are you? Are you titillated? And we’re off.
To start things off, “Integral Formation,” a C40 from Gateway, is a offering of Doberman member JF (on synth, strings and springs) with horn accompaniment by TG (also of Doberman). It’s a menacing listen, with waves of horn providing an undeserved comfort, crucially baying out through open stained-glass windows, the glass rattling from the low-end, sleazy-motion electronics. Gateway use their instruments like archaic tools, etching gritty patterns of distorted thuds and bone-weary tones into clay. The duo steps right up to a line of unstable chaos, but manages to keep the dog on the leash, making for tracks that are hella jagged but still under control.
Who is Tim Gick? I’m not about to tell you, because I do not know. According to the Castle Bravo notes on Bandcamp, what we have here is another Doberman colleague, or at least one of ‘CRAZY’ Doberman. Of course, what marks the distinction between non-crazy and CRAZY Doberman is unknown, at least to me. I honestly don’t care though. This tape is fantastic, and possibly the most ‘cosmic’ sounding in the Castle Bravo catalog. Tim Gick launches out of basement on a home-made rocket with the intent to discharge a shameless amount fuss on his neighbors, while still maintaining the murky vibe I’m sure they are familiar with. Side A of “Soleil Noir” rattles off a persistent stream of sizzle and zap, as if someone filled a card shuffler with corrupted MP3s files and microwaved NASA recordings. While more relaxed, the patches of sound on side B are still not exactly relaxing. Indiscriminate bits attempt to bind themselves together, like bugs realizing that they can create a colony, but it’s proven too difficult a task to hold the group together. Eventually some 3rd grader weaponizes a magnifying glass on a sunny day and everything is sent scrambling in horror.
Rounding things out is a C30 from Crazy Doberman called “Hell Is Within Us.” Well, the crew must really want that hell out of em, because this recording is basically an exorcism. From what I can gather, their damaged plan is to cast out some evil, unwanted spirits by creating bleaker ones. Think less 80’s Skateboarding skeletons with sunglasses, giving a bony thumbs up – more like an organic sludge that smells of burning rubber and has a steady pulse. The synths here are inflamed and, to be honest, very very rude. Like, totally impolite synthesizers, oozing all over your Easter clothes the day before Easter. Take that rude ooze and blur in some dire sax, wailing like it’s got a paper cut under it’s saxophone thumbnail. Ouch! I hesitate to use the word “thumbnail” in fear that it will make a kind reader think of a thumbnail, or “reduced-size versions of pictures or videos.” Nothing here is reduced in size. Crazy Doberman boils it, but it never boils down. It’s one of their skills. When Donald Trump is emperor of The Afterworld this is what listening to a jazz LP on your underground bunker’s crank-up record player will sound like. Get used to it. Bless it be.
Tapes were made in various edition sizes, and appear to all be sold out at source, except ONE COPY of the Tim Gick tape as I am typing. I hope it is gone now. Check for em on Discogs and stuff. You know the drill.