Tabs Out | Full Spectrum Roundup

Full Spectrum Roundup

5.25.21 by Matty McPherson

Full Spectrum is an outstanding label. 
Anyone who thinks otherwise has gravy for brains.”

– Mike Haley, founder and CEO of Tabs Out

Last winter Full Spectrum Records entered into a hot streak of monthly cassette wonders. Andrew Weathers’ omnivorous, yet nurturing ear has provided a space for dispatches that go beyond normal transmission zones. This indeed makes it effectively impossible to have gravy for brains if you listen to just mere milliseconds of their releases! But what is the secret to this anti-gravy brain science at the Littlefield, Texas laboratory? I put three to the Nak’ to find out.

claire rousay and more eaze / Wind Tide – split

In summer 2020, local legends claire rousay and more eaze (mari maurice) decided to register a “chaotic neutral” Bandcamp label known as “New Computer Girls Ltd” on Bandcamp dot com. By November 2020, they brokered a deal that finally brought emo-ambient into “pink cassette shells and etched Norelco cases” across the nation. On Full Spectrum’s first split since FS 005 in 2k9, rousay and more eaze’s “she’s literally fine” find the two meeting Weathers and Gretchen Korsmo’s Wind Tide as true kindred parallels. Starting backwards, the latter’s “Room Tone Piece” is a crackly kind of room experiment. The idea of making noise around the studio is always going to provide its own deductive kinds of wonders, but the two’s choice “dulcet tones of bubble wrap, claves, tape noise, dropped glass beads…” is cavernous. It recalled the time I saw a street art exhibition that included a piece of a trash can shaking without end, lost within its own rhythm. A blessing for the studio.

The TikTok subgenre (likely of another subgenre) that claire and more eaze’s piece take their name from is beyond me (it’s a top seed TikTok subgenre though). Thus, I turned to a 2019 concert (you can find it on YouTube), which presented a sketch of where their collaborative heads were at the time. And on one level, it does continue their impeccable work as kindred collaborators crafting particular glistening sounds — each little water bubble or electronic click is applied. “she’s literally fine” is noticeably lighter than the full volume of that concert. However, on a full sound system, the delicacy of their musique concrète is like receiving a live, buzzing invitation. When it uncurls to reveal an ambient autotune nugget, the piece feels prophetic of the directions both have been traversed on their own records released this spring. That the piece still continues for a final third, with a most patient breath and footstep mutter, imparts its own light afterglow.

Mira Martin-Gray – Stick Control for the Air Drummer

Mira Martin-Gray’s Stick Control for the Air Drummer is her first release in two years, having moved away from performance as the result of chronic pain ailments. If the cover’s homage to George Lawrence Stone’s drummer bible, “Stick Control for the Snare Drummer” is any indication, then this is indeed a drumming tape. Of only the highest conceptual and cybernetic order though! Taking patterns from Stone’s book, Martin-Gray deduces out percussive deconstructions. As written on the Bandcamp:

“She began by copying a few of her favorite exercises to MIDI and used these sequences to trigger a series of tuned 808 samples, which were then beamed directly at a lone snare drum. A preparation would be made to the snare wires themselves – either a small steel ball, a pinback button or a pair of earrings – which would exert just enough pressure to allow sympathetic resonance…”.

With a brass stomp and a clear, rustling drone produced from within these minimal strings, Martin-Gray reimagines the role and process of a drummer. This process is far from the rickety pitter-patter that it drops immediately into; letting yourself be entrenched and moved to its rhythm is crucial. Wonderfully, the objects chosen to function as snare wires exert tonal sounds not too far removed from a novel strand of industrial drone pop, humming in a perpetual ebb and flow. Even when operating in the latter half of the cassette as “Combination in 3/8″ that emphasize cackling, chirpy feedback, Martin-Gray’s sounds are full-bodied and nocturnal, a unique revelry that renews the purpose and potential of drumming. And do not sleep on the liner notes–important pieces of geographical, personal, and object context.

Lucy Liyou – Practice

Like the other tapes mentioned, Practice is an insistent, full album listen This is the lone 2021 release I’ve opted to cover here. Information on Liyou may be limited (and they have described themselves as quite new), there is no doubt that they have a vision and idea of storytelling that is missing on Full Spectrum. Also, they have recently finalized another non-tape piece of work that continues to talk about Asian American experiences in a hybrid, confrontational format.

Most tapes on the label do not adhere to a story or script, but for Liyou, Korean folk opera and the concept of “Han” became frameworks for a most personal tape. Practice was written as “Liyou’s mother was required to wait in Korean quarantine before they could be released to care for the family’s ailing grandmother,” although its tale is much more internalized, and the way it is delivered feels akin to interacting with a Commodore 64 text adventure. It may require a couple listens to ingrain every quip or moment; kudos to the tape booklet that reproduces the dialogue in a stylistic manner that mediates where sound cannot.

While Liyou has trained with piano, the emphasis in Practice sees more synth zones and further refinement with text-to-speech savant Microsoft Mary. Liyou finds ample space and brevity to pitchfuck the latter, going beyond just a vessel for themselves into their whole family–even becoming a PA system with a little reverb. For Liyou, it becomes a welcome element that allows the family tape audio drama to function between two modes: relaxing piano/synth instrumentals that function like aperitifs and text-to-speech industrial clashes that literally terraform memories.

Without completely understanding why, Practice reminds me of Japan’s Ghosts. It was a pop ballad that reckoned with the suddenness of the past coming back, “wilder than before”, emphasizing radiophonic synths over percussion. Stripped of artifice (on an album that oozed and reveled within it), it noted patient, suggestive storytelling. With suggestive dialogue and its page-turner pacing, Liyou ‘s Practice invokes itself a a hyperrealist, spiritual successor.  Pushed against these instrumentals, the stakes of Practice’s world feel much larger than the words on this 100 tape run or home-recording can quite imply.

Nothing else quite sounds like a sledgehammer to every notion of storytelling this year.

Taken as a snapshot of the state of Full Spectrum’s output, and I keep coming back to the singularity of each of these tapes. From aesthetics to regionality; in approaches to percussion or emphasis on detail and emotion. Indeed, Full Spectrum is still a vital hub for a corner of unclassifiable, unfuckwithable magic. And even if represses are once in blue moon, at least I take solace in knowing that Andrew Weathers’ has a 100 minute musique concrète piece lined up. All Tauruses really do have an open ear, I can attest.

UPCOMING FULL SPECTRUM CATALOG NUMBERS OF TAPE IMPORTANCE!

  • FS099 – Gretchen Korsmo – Tote Bag (Tote Bag)
  • FS100 – Tender Crust – FS100 (Digital)
  • FS103 – Felidae – PONIIA (Cassette)
  • FS104 – Andrew Weathers – Catalogs (Cassette)

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