Tabs Out | Invertebrates – Demo

Invertebrates – Demo

10.3.22 by Matty McPherson

If my brother is sending me a punk tape and I really haven’t a proper clue of what Im to do with it, I let it sizzle. I’d dub this an act of tender love and affection, but the truth is I should of had six minutes sooner! if you have six minutes, you should just do the right thing and take every tape as a study break from real work–enough to study those differences between the shades of hardcore punk; this is real scholarly activity that puts you on the level of Zorn! Such was the case with my excursion listening to Invertebrates, a Richmond, VA based punk quartet that my brother happened to make posters for and somehow knew to save me a tape. Thanks brother, I dearly appreciated this.

Anyways, with limited promotion, Raleigh, NC-based label Sorry State Records and Invertebrates seemed to quickly and quietly sell out of two runs of tapes for this demo. Exactly what was the fuss? Well Chubb, Merm, Jerry, and Minx–some of which are members of Public Aid and “NC punk legends WRIGGLE”–hashed out a bonafide burst of hardcore, pristine ’82 vintage energy; any SST tape hound who thinks “Spot-handshake deal” production is the pinnacle of guitar music will find joy in these 4 cuts. They screen printed the tapes, with slight deviations between the covers. It’s a power move that genuinely indicates “this ain’t no crapshoot, but a quality product that is one of a kind and yours to cherish.”

Over the course of nearly six minutes, the quartet hit the ground with mad-capper energy, power chords, and an unwieldy good time. It’s not so much that this does extend quite well to the pits of Gonerfest or the pages of Maximum Rock n’ Roll, but that these little energy burst is primed and directed with finesse. Clearly, these 4 tracks are explosive, but its a precise “carpet-bomb” type of explosion they burst out. Even while all the cuts are kept to the red (with vocals delivered over a collect call line from hell), there’s a significant push-and-pull melody that keeps a zany, unkempt swagger; the kind that ebbs and flows enough to tell that even if the guitar is slashing and going “AWOOGA,” its the drums who run the tempo and dictate the direction. Such is in particular on Shit Pit’s devious breakdown and shotgun rush blast beats that practically kick the tempo up high enough to force the guitar solo to speed up.

Demo sold out at all sources, although it remains name your price, with all proceeds going to the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project. Chip in, won’t you?

Tabs Out | Yes Selma – Dulce en Rune

Yes Selma – Dulce en Rune

9.21.22 by Matty McPherson

Chad Beattie’s Yes Selma project is self-described as “the musical vehicle of expression.” Recorded near the start of the year, the multi-instrumentalist creates his own, jubilant one-man orchestras. It’s a joyous ruckus that layers and loops these swap meet sorts of worlds; beautiful treasures hidden amongst the junkers. It’s music that feels as out of time as Dead Can Dance or the folk traditions Power/Rollins and other collaborators nestle into.

An opening field recording is practically a red herring, masking what is a wicked round of hammered dulcimer or glockenspiel driven music. It has that feeling that can summon fall festivities–like Heron’s increasingly radiant instrumentation (and synthesizer usage), or go deep into reminiscents of gothic cathedrals and graveyards, like on Crow. There, the clank of a ritualistic percussive and salon piano eat the world whole. One Red Bird twinkles whilst an alto sax solo from what sounds of an underground cave throws in a rustic quality to the recently designated ambient jazz buzz. But even this song’s spirit is not wallpaper, but horse! Side A closes with Dix Creek Blues, featuring a lovely, fluid performance from the only other musician on this tape, one Creek.

Side A’s amalgamation of ideas does give way to the utter beauty and simplicity of Side B. Snow is Falling is Asheville is simply that, a delicate dance of the hammered dulcimer and twinkling glockenspiel that fulfills a pastoral fantasy. A motorik, droned impulse channels through the piece that puts it in line as a spiritual cousin to Bulbis’ masterful paeans to lockdown. However, Beattie truly comes into their own with Blue Ridge. Here, the hammered dulcimer’s tuning gives it an imagined regionality to its sound as a few key keys of a piano are repeated as if to invoke a stately presence. It rattles with a regenerative spirit, the energy of a blessed fall harvest being celebrated with dance and bountiful feast. Needless to say, I hadn’t anticipated such an otherworldly yet plainspoken affair to find its way into my walkman. But as it goes.

Dulce en Rune is available in the ever-useful cassette format. Layout by David Van designs. Chrome tape is forever. Limited Edition

Tabs Out | John O’Neill – Cine/Hollywood Tow

John O’Neill – Cine/Hollywood Tow

9.19.22 by Matty McPherson

Earlier this year the Tabs Out East Coast CEO went ahead and premiered a novel invention for noise practitioners. A simple paper sheet, designating set time lengths and genre variation, that should help the scene with schedule organization and variations. At the local noise coffee shop where I frequent, all the trendy noiseniks have been hailing the invention as a boon, the thing that will start an earnest dialogue about what the perfect set length is. We all want this. Admit it, you do too.

I suppose though that there will always be artists that can subvert the need for such paper sheets by sheer talent. The ones who internally understand that when their piece is done, well it is done and no sheet will designate otherwise. John O’Neill is one such fella with a finger on the pulse there. The LA-based artist has remained uncollected for quite a while, that is until Hot Releases finally made a cold call and copitulated to a perfect “no fat or lean” C28 back in January. Cine / Hollywood Tow is 3 whip-smart variations on a theme: “meditative yet solitarily vibing” more or less. Exactly how it is to be achieved comes through the three live performances that make it clear there is no singular manner to the endeavor.

Side A is completely dominated by “Backyard at Zoey & Craig’s 5/27/21”, which finds O’Neill quickly digging into towards stateless, “open-zone” ambient. There’s nary an undercurrent of brooding anger or simmering rage gestating within the just-shy of 15 minutes performance. Ponderous, brisk synth fog, mousy electronic squeals, and small haptics drone into a Pacific Northwest night walk; low to the ground, deep in the soil–chilled and billed. Even a crow that makes a brilliant stage debut; enough that made me turn my back to check if the garage was open. As the piece draws up, a strange sudden quivering pulse comes through, as it to foreshadow the b-side.

Two tracks here on side-b are wisely cut new adventures down in LA. The UCLA-recorded experiment, 69.000.1 startles at first with the change up in palette. O’Neill still finds comfort in abrasive droning textures and sine wave low frequency oscillation. At piercing volumes, it takes me back to anti-gravity rides at the county fair as much as those dreaded “room of mirrors.” Soon though, we’re inside a wild chainsaw demolition derby in Los Angeles with Station to Station (AM Band). Bouts of generator noise, radio hellscape noise, and evil robot blacksmith” field recording noise all intermingle into a playful final boss form. Yet as time moves, a pulsing drum beat moves to the forefront as the noise drone decays. It’s a fusion that provides the industrial strength backbone and excitement. His noise bashes become more smart bomb-oriented. They honk and wail, even sputtering like a Squidward robot trying to fire off lasers or an arcade machine that wants to offer free change. It never bores over its 11 minute run-time; perfect length from what all the noiseniks are saying at the coffee shop.

It was only released 8 days into this year; sadly sold out for a long time but perhaps not a long time?

Tabs Out | Moon Bros – Le Jaz Mystique

Moon Bros – Le Jaz Mystique

9.9.22 by Matty McPherson

It’s LATE summer. The time where the cupeth overflows with crisp golden lagers and the sounds of garden splendor. Sounds quaint but it’s also my own personal hell. Have you ever had a day where you just got feck all happening so you commit the cardinal sin of a wake n’ bake instead of doing Real Tasks? Good times! Usually when this happens I at least try to make a day of it. Fancy movie from the silent era of the silver screen? That with any instrumental tape as a personal soundtrack untangles the weed haze into a personalized cinematic experience. A soundtracked bus ride is also equally as compelling an experience and I’m less likely to grow weary. 

Anyways, I was just thinking the other day about the Tim Stine Trio’s Fresh Demons–man what a jazz tape! I could use something like that, those tumbly guitars and all the bells and whistles. Well fortunately, in between nabbing headshots for his (unconfirmed) role in the U2 biopic, Ryley Walker’s Husky Pants Records is once again stumping for tapes. Moon Bros’ Le Jazz Mystique is the latest release for the label, bringing recent Colorado immigrant, Fred Schneider and his solo 12 string guitar project back to Chicago. The need for this was unknown.

Unlike previous releases that have utilized pedals as pathways to psychedelia, Schneider goes for no-frills guitar maverick majesty. The move to a staunchly realist aesthetic pushes the tape towards a new mode of psychedelia. One practically capturing the feeling of an Italian post-war nitrate classic. However, even with the opener Jitterbug I, you can sense that there’s a great sense of romanticism and a lackadaisical nature to the space. The ebbs and flows of these pieces have tightly wound rhythms in their structure. It renders brief pivots or sly chord shifts into a mental image like a title card! Meanwhile, the following long winding setpieces function as unmoving, grainy one-takes (track titles themselves suggest the take number more than anything) of the mental action. It’s not a dance in the rubble, but a celebration of gracious planes and ample outdoor vistas. 

The simple pleasure of the tape leads to a miraculous one-two closer. The rootin-tootin Honeysuckle Rose III strums with the finesse of oil on canvas, quickly changing from a deep shade of pained, bitter blue into a rustic countryside medley of orange and reds. Don’t Be That Way II meanwhile imagines a soundtrack for a square dance reuniting a familial celebration. It’s airy, evanescent playing keeping an eye-winking energy afoot. Worthy of a glass of the juiciest Syrah and finest silent sunday feature, Le Jaz Mystique tumbles and weaves with a one-track minded exuberance. A dream in heaven for a hound such as myself. 

Edition of 100 tapes dubbed in real time to hi bias cassettes. “it sounds perfect. in hand, ships immediately” from Husky Pants Records

Tabs Out | Irarrázabal / Baldwin – Grips

Irarrázabal / Baldwin – Grips

9.7.22 by Matty McPherson

At 1:34 on my dream day, I walk into the local world class wine & beer market. I make a mad dash for the 50% off table. It’s flush! Just with all my enemies, unfortunately: hazy ipas 4 months past their shelf life and coalescing into a flight risk; saisons that have less personality than the Michelin man; “grape ales” with brett added to turn any party into a “pour one out and cry session;” a cassette from Tripticks Tapes entitled Grips. Wait, how’d that tape get there? Why the feck is Amanda Irarrázabal’s and Nat Baldwin’s double bass improvisation, recorded in August of 2021 and released as a C27, doing on the beer table? This tape just HAS to be straight edge, it just doesn’t have that energy in it!

Naturally, I take it to the register with my “class A enemy” beers. I use my rewards membership, because I like earning points just in case I wanna splurge for an $8 triple IPA that will fail me (they never cease to!). The man sees me purchasing these all. “Buddy,” he graciously tells me with the power of 1000 bodybuliders, “this tape changed my life. It taught me how to drink these beers.” I’m incredulous. I don’t understand how this gentleman and scholar could learn to drink and contemplate the most brazen of beer from the most elliptical and sardonic of double-double bass recordings. I stare into his lone monocle-drenched eye. “Tell me gentleman scholar, how so?”

The gentleman scholar at the counter proceeds to express, in the most beautiful of diction and concise of syntax, his knowledge. Knowledge of how Baldwin and Irarrázabal, whomst had never met in the flesh before meeting on that cramped stage, would spend 27 minutes with unkempt, yet unwavering grins (under their masks) on their faces and a casual wardrobe. Knowledge of how their exploits, over the composition hereby known as Grips, was as spiffy and fleet as a pilsner, but with the droning, recondite pleasures of brett yeast. “You see, when Baldwin and Irarrázabal joust, the clash is akin to synesthesia; it’s a novel flavor you sorta taste and have to hoard for yourself. Their joust is unnerved in its quips and stretches, even as it steadies and stills itself, it can’t help but jolt or twitch. All the while, they still find ways to bring in percussive elements of the bass akin to a coinstar pump n’ dump or boozy triple; drone worthy of the low level listening experience tang of a sour; why even the acoustics are that of a rustic palette akin to the farmhouse ale!” It all sounded too good to be true as I was tapping my credit card and dropping an extra dollar for lotto.

“Gentleman Scholar, this sounds too good to be true!” I bemoaned. “Like, these two Irarrázabal and Baldwin chaps and all these darn noises they’r-” “Highly technical sounds!” the Gentleman Scholar corrected me. “Right, these highly technical sounds, how can they be in service to improving the flavor of a Brett ale?” I gandered. Perhaps I seemed to near-sighted as the clerk responded. “It’s in the vividness. The way these instruments, believed to be so blunt and ‘black and white’ in their approach, can achieve a thriller level funk and uncanny esoteric dividends for the bass! It’s about the process and the excitement of a new amalgamation; when it brightens up the synapses of your mind that’s just the cherry on top” I pondered the fluorescent yellow cassette, peering into its soul, imagining the sounds I’d soon come to hear.

The clerk was no scoundrel. As the dream day turned into a dream night with the beers, Baldwin and Irarrázabal sashayed and moseyed through a variety of acrobatic sleights. With only 27 minutes, their plucky style of jazz stays precocious. Their movements are steady leaps of faith, an implicit trust carrying the weightlessness of the effort along. It made me a better listener as much as a beer aesthetic ponderer. I suppose that happens sometimes to the best of us.

Tabs Out | Dania – Voz

Dania – Voz

8.19.22 by Matty McPherson

Today, Geographic North is celebrating an important catalog number milestone by welcoming Dania Shihab into the exclusive club of discrete zone weavers. Yes, the masses will proclaim that GN is being “pro-mogul” with yet another label runner (M. Sage, Brian Foote, Felicia Atkinson, even Jefre-Cantu Ledesma) joining for an esteemed cut. Rather though, I implore that we should cherish each release and newcomer as another crevice into their evolving tapestry; the sense of place and memory in GN releases has become a recurring label focus. Their latest, Dania’s Voz is an ode to that spirit. Over its 23 minutes Shihab unspools a nimble execution of ambient loops, vocal exploration, and “process trusting” modular synthesis, whose brevity marks inspired moments of radiance and hermitage.

Dania, aka the titular wife of Shawn Reynaldo’s superb MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO sub-section of the essential First Floor newsletter, has been a Dublab DJ, COVID frontline doctor, and also a label mogul. Her work in Barcelona with Paralaxe Editions could be described as minimalist, unhurried, and homespun. The choice to work with Geographic North is a moment of “game recognizing game” considering how Paralaxe Editions employs their own high-end aesthetic design and analog machine imprinting into their tapes. The label’s own releases though only offer a partial framework into Dania’s own interests in environmental music. Previous editions of her Dublab program had further honed in on these realms, while her (tumultuous) work perhaps envisioned such tones as treatments for various ailments.

Last year’s tapes in GN’s Sketches for Winter series had their own aquatic-tinged auras, while Dania’s Voz often tiptoes the “quite ancient but also rather futuristic” dichotomy with finesse. Its 23 minutes have the world building of a humongous RPG, as winged instrumentals convey snowpack melting in forests, desert sunrises on sand dunes, and incandescent realms of worship. Yes, there’s a dream pop tag in the bandcamp descriptor, although “ambient music but for gamers who do this shit alone” is more apt. It is a tape that presents Dania’s measured talent as a solo sound architect; these are personal spaces that reveal their own personal solitudes. These are lonely or pained kinds mind you. Just solaces encountered in one’s travels.

I Lied’s introduction to the tape is basal; an affair centered around misted vocal loops that harmonize and further each other as the piece swells to a plateau. The echoes all serving as a reminder that this is of her own accord. When Alpeh picks up though, there are now drones taking a key focus in the palette, beginning a steady stretch to reverent lengths. Dania’s sound palette brings in flutes and keys as her vaporous vocal mantras flow, itself creating a piece of music falling between post-Windham Hill and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Fire Dash’s hypnotic deep breathing loops invoked Cemetery of Splendor’s otherworldly, eerie colored circulatory systems. As a trio of tracks stand, it actively is pushing one of our their own assumptions of general time, even as they only barely crack 10 minutes and all differ in the approach taken.

At the center of the tape stands Whale Song, a close ancillary to an ambient pop epic. Dania hums small harmonic whirlwinds, her synths percolate between tones, and inklings of field recording ambience procure a grandiose scale, even within its own isolation. The swirls of An Individual stand as just that, one individual modulating their voice into the symphony that plays within a forerunner elevator, eliciting a sublime reaction. The Other Thing Is offers the greatest, if not still a subtle, shift in Dania’s sound world. Piano keys are emphasized as life recordings of plaza life strut around the edges; a relaxed, if not dissociated moment amongst a crowd that suddenly–well it just suddenly dissipates as these moment are known to. Finally, that leaves us at our denouement, Anomaly. It’s a considerate bookend to I Lied, doubling down on the same voice looping and ambient synth textures. Although, its noticeable springier and less misty; not as lonesome as it stood twenty minutes prior.

Within Voz‘s 23 minutes, there’s a genuine sense that Dania could have tinkered with the length of any of these pieces however she sought to. Still, by preserving a brevity within these recordings, the whole affect over 23 minutes is spellbinding; you could have told me it was double and I’d have believed you. It’s a testament to the simplicity of this guarded sonic approach, that these 7 tracks all fit like perfect puzzle pieces, imparting uncanny affects of emotional resonance.

Edition of 200 Tapes available at the Geographic North Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Prom – EP

Prom – EP

8.18.22 by Matty McPherson

Is there a sludge energy (sludgenergy?) in the air? Back in April at the Wednesday gig, the local bar had two alternate local bands. The house cup went with flying colors to Prom’s simple “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; also don’t overdub it too” approach to sludge and fuzz. Timeless atmospherics that can translate to a lo-fi excursion. Their C16 isn’t focused on epic though. 4 tracks of equal riff-driven proportion, two to each side.

It’s a tenacious spot for the quartet. A 7″ would not quite have spotlit the quartet’s lockstep basement jamming. Side A’s Mars & Fauna are not exactly a two part epic, but their intrinsic flow into each other helps set a sense of expectations. Mars’ lurches while Fauna rains down a crashing kick drum and cymbal refrain. Passion and technique meeting through the hiss and leaving a restless sense as the tape jumps over.

Max’s feedback laden riff, driven by a boomed out drum beat–in monitor mix mode. It gives an uncanny sense the sound is machine driven, as sludge guitars ponder a desolate waste. Then the two enter a LOUD blast and fury–eclipsing the mix into crisp territories. Ruiner is the biggest noise rocker–the sole track to feature vocals of an individual hashing and lashing out gurgling grievances and blood shot frustration. A prevalent sense of dread washes the first half, until it pivots into classic doom metal crests and waves. In the final minute, there’s another pivot into SST-style hardcore, as if it really can rise about the narrator’s woes; of course a return into Prom’s fuzzsludge just is too good too pass up for that final chorus and outro.

The band stuck around and sold tapes from their merch table for $5 a piece. They only pressed 50 and their sparse Bandcamp suggests it is currently sold out. San Diego music of this caliber is few and far between. It’s akin to panhandlings for diamonds in the rough without a map, so I’d be mighty fascinated if they make another pressing for online buyers.

Tabs Out | Music en Berlin – Animal

Music en Berlin – Animal

8.12.22 by Matty McPherson

As an uncultured American swine, I had a simple desire. I wanted to understand “the music in Berlin.” However, when I whispered this into the monkey’s paw I bought off etsy, the paw reached into my pocket. It pulled out Music en Berlin’s Animal, an Orb tapes release from last year that I must’ve seemed to sleep on. Perhaps I was being too zealous, making oversights on tapes literally right under my nose!

When he’s not striking up the visuals for Daft Alliance, Nathan Berlinguette has started publishing his “new musics” under this Music en Berlin moniker. He’s been at the wild n’ crazy ass world of “end time” music for over 25 years, dating back to 5/5/2000s prophetic guitar wails. Different collaborations of all sorts of sounds have appeared in its wake, while Berlinguette’ has shared the stage with numerous names and line-ups (Ms. Pharmakon anyone?). This newfangled solo endeavor is more dream-like and unfiltered. Animal’s single-sided run time emphasizes a seven part story, with these seven tracks acting as an imagined soundtrack for his pulp slasher sonics.

It feels apt, considering that these pieces have a sense of foreboding crevices and boogeymen-esque movement. It may take a moment to find its way towards those sounds, with Scenes 1 & 2 practically opening en media res with hemorrhaging generator feedback–itself a burgeoning star making ample yet welcome appearances throughout the tape. Yet, by Scenes 3 & 4, the noise atmospherics are leveraged for dubbed-out surveillance type beats. These tracks lurch and roll, an unending uneasy paranoia. Scene 4, in particular, weaponizes that feeling of being hunted down on a submarine in lockdown when you’re the last alive. After Scene 5’s brief detente though, Nathan closes with Scene 6’s evanescent illbient, a sudden spurt of claustrophobic tension that (naturally) allows one last revving of the generator noise out for great propulsion. You’ll be deep in a comfort coma after it all concludes with the brief popcorn clatter of Scene 7’s popcorn handshake miasma.

For a single-sided adventure, it’s never so gritted it feels unapproachable. A nifty addition to the Orb Tapes tapestry.

Professionally dubbed in real-time green shells tapes, with 2-sided white pad print. Limited to 75 copies available at the Orb Tapes Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Rrill Bell – False Flag Rapture

Rrill Bell – False Flag Rapture

8.10.22 by Matty McPherson

Tabs Out Rule 34 states that you always have to keep your ears open for a James Plotkin cassette mastering job. The guy is like novelist James Patterson–in that both can’t not stop their respective jobs (perhaps at risk of plummeting the world into peril with their demises). Anyways, it’s a good rule that always keep me from filing just any tape away, such as Rrill Bell’s False Flag Rapture. That’s the work of American expatriate/German-based musician Jim Campbell. Campbell had sorta spent a period of six year (2015-2021) trawling the mental-hertz of witnessing a sudden dormant memory spurning to life. False Flag Rapture is an interrogation of this memory–his Slovenian grandmother singing a hymn in Slovak dialect impromptly after 50+ years.

Tabs Out Rule 35 states that “if it’s electro-acoustic its probably for big dweebs.” Fortunately, False Flag Rapture is anti-dweeb electro-acoustic. In fact, it’s more musique-concrete/dream art type shenanigans, restless without tepidness. Campbell’s MO to traverse this memory, and itself the nature of his own collective family memories, is personalized into this C42; a longform split into two sides. It’s a warranted approach, because Campbell’s music is endearingly inscrutable. He refuses to distinctly spell out the memory or his own memories from within the family tree. The tape and extrapolation of this memory is the product of studying and applying various 20th century approaches to sounds into hybrid forms. The textures of his drones and sounds strike images of analog, oral-driven pasts. Places barely connected by technology and almost moving backwards in time. Less rust belt, more “rusted and dusted” belt.

It hardly comes as a surprise that this music then often slinks or twirl like a dust devil. It opens like an analogue bubblebath, complete with morse-code bleeps and quivering haptics. It sounds of an omnibus presence seeking a shape it cannot quite shake out. As it furthers through its cycle, Campbell is able to start to tease out different elements in the mix, bringing to life a situated, personalized journey to this memory. By the ten minute mark, the piece has shifted towards a low drone, emanating textures that recall radio cabinets and dust bowl power-lines. It sounds powerless though, as it moves through radiator hum textures and blisteringly empty streets, ending as a belltower strikes back and forth. If we’re to understand this memory, we must be keen to these elements and that world they occupy.

When Part 2 enters, it’s almost Pram-ian in the way looping wind chimes create a near-nautical state of hyperawareness; they sound of the majesty one finds when in perfect range of 3 tornado sirens going off at once. To follow, Campbell does provide the a recording of the lead-up to the recording of his grandmother many odd years back. It is as if all the traversing of this music concrete was to lead to this memory. Yet, he backs it out to let Alex Morsey’s tuba and Felix Fritsche’s wind instruments block the memory, with a sense of somberness. The recording does finally emerge, plain and understated, unmanipulated for maximum impact. It quickly returns to the pre-conscious dream state that has defined so much of this long form. That stretch of the final ten minutes really might just be my favorite though. A colossal low end drone, the product of various manipulations to a tuba, mends up chiming bells, and haptics that sounds of vaporous fireflies; it flows in lockstep, safeguarding the memory for another go around on the hi-fi.

Edition of 100 42-minute lime green cassettes (with full-color six-panel Jcard in clear Norelco case, plus full-color outer Ocard featuring collage art) available at the Rrill Bell/Elevator Bath Bandcamp page.

Tabs Out | Amirtha Kidambi & Luke Stewart – Zenith/Nadir

Amirtha Kidambi & Luke Stewart – Zenith/Nadir

8.5.22 by Matty McPherson

Just what incubates such tenacious sounds? Is it amps and pedals amongst other equipment? Location that brings such disparate voices togetheres? Our pained times that incites it all? I’ve recently had a recurring daydream of Drone festivals. One as a liturgical mending that extrapolate feelings outside the present moments, as much as they document the situation they find themselves in. Amirtha Kidambi and Luke Stewart would both be there together in that daydream. Both have strenuous, muscular range in their approaches to sound conduction. Kidambi’s voice and electronic effects grant it an elasticity; a painted echo of the past or a panopticonic prelude to the future. Stewart’s bass and amplifier feedback prowess has often led to states of post-zen bliss and punk’d noise experiments. They’re both industrious thinkers. Although I can’t comprehend a time I’ve heard either of them as hellacious and studious as on Zenith/Nadir, their open-book drone improvisation for Tripticks Tapes.

Zenith/Nadir has been simmering and stewing since an August 2020 meeting between two at Pioneer Works. “A time where despair and possibility were inextricable,” the Bandcamp summary contextualizes. For the two esteemed improvisers, show-bookers, and ontological new music scribes, it’s a chance to take their complementary approaches in search of blistering territories unknown. Their seven seances are harrowing, improvisations on the brink of being swallowed by the earth whole or thrown to the stratosphere. Both sides favor aversive, yet not opposing or diametric approaches.

The transient opener “Circulation” is practically degrading en media res as Kidambi applies ample effects to her voice. One layer of her voice stands as a mantra-esque drone, while another is jolted and modulated into an epigraph of tumultuous walkie-talkie noise. Meanwhile, Stewart’s engineering and approach to feedback steadies the two dissonant sounds; through cracky tonal static until it finally reaches a low hanging orbit of clarity. “Premonition” is toying with similar effects, although with Stewart’s bass more noticeably beefing out the low-end. “Postmonition” concludes this trio, seeing Kidambi’s voice so beyond-process that it has shapeshifted into a horn instrument crescendoing and bellowing into a bonafide WAIL of a thousand suns. Side A’s closer, the eleven minute “Exaltation,” scales down the noise for more emphasis on the two’s distinct instruments. Kidambi is able to lull us into the industrial lullaby. Even still, the duo continually shift the dimensions of the recording with just a few quivers of Kidambi’s voice or the occasional strum of an upright bass. You can’t quite tell whether this was recorded at Pioneer Works, in a destitute cavern, or at some Port Authority blacksite.

Side B relays the focus into thousand-yard stare acoustic duets, amounting newfangled folk nadirs from the two’s traditions. “Relics,” “Medium,” and “Telepathy” are closer in kinship to ka baird’s Voice Games than an Orb Tapes release. Yet, for Kidambi and Stewart, there is nothing inquisitively gamey about this (even as these tracks are wildly fun). In all three of them, the duo try to keep pace with each other’s freewheeling sleights. I love about a third of the way through “Medium” how Kidambi mends her voice into a machination so suddenly that Stewart is having to drop restraint and move with whimsy, in lieu of brevity. Instead of relying on feedback or suddenness, the closer “Telepathy” sees the duo opt to slow their manner of operation. They draw out notes within their respective instruments. The sonic space is smaller, as if to let the acoustics of this space breathe. There’s a somber aura of near-silence to the piece. It stretches and contortions, a reflection on the zeniths it found itself tangled within just half an hour before. 

Edition of 100 tapes in clear transparent shell with white hubs, pro dubbed and printed available at the Tripticks Tapes Bandcamp