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.
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 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.
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
Orange Milk has reengaged with the idea of releasing three tapes at once in a month. Just not quite as a bundle. A summer trilogy? Or, three short stories microtargeting the three types of Orange Milk Music Enthusiasts (lappy 486 users, lint lickers, and sour beer drinkers)? I needed to confirm for myself to see where they all landed. So, I spent summer session (a couple of the west coast-adjacent variants of Oberon) with the latest in Orange Milk sonic advancements. To say I pondered what’s going on out in the midwest would be a bit of a fib; these releases grab and tug the heartstrings.
goo age – Open Zone
At the start of the year, Keith Rankin casually dropped a new genre term “GOO CORE.” It was intended to describe an outpouring of noise music that was bubbly/playful like pop, but “without the structure.” Naturally Mr. P of TMT immediately started replying with Orange Milk artists and friends abound; it is literally a string of music TMT championed for a decade. Even Keith did as well. It all sorta felt like the classic “spiderman pointing at spiderman” image come to life. Take this blog post as a 7 month late reply to the tweet, as I’m sitting with goo age’s GOO CORE opus Open Zone–perhaps the release that kicked that conversation off to begin with.
Adrian Wright’s (aka goo age) honed in on these zones between 2019 and 2021, after a smattering of Bandcamp self-releases. goo age performed in basements and houses of Tabs Out certified favorites like Marsha Fisher. In the blurb for Open Zone, Keith recommended having a hi-fi stereo or big brain headphone for the 12 tracks on the tape. Indeed, they are variably open ended ambient adventures that emphasize precise synthetic textures. As singular tracks go, they’re often amalgamations of elements that intend to incite shocks as much as soothe. ASMR-indebted quips n’ chirps, percussive conundrums, “sine-wave bass” and synths, amongst occasional wind instruments; all operate in a humongous space where any moment of silence is less a moment of clarity and more foreshadowing sudden shifts in pace. When you hear a track in real time, the effect of tracking the elements is akin to constructivism. Two elements that should not match clearly creating an exponential sum of part, no matter how subtle. Sometimes it is almost-ambient pop (qnpLUB) or dance (froglside (refraction))–tracks that have an inscrutable movement slipping from your fingers. Other times it is just capturing the hyperrealism of our modern era (how far we’ve scrolled), letting texture that the wheel over structure.
The result is that goo age’s Open Zone abstractions become uniquely immaculate mood music. Yet, it ain’t anything like wallpaper even if it functions as its own insular world. There is an earnest sense of deep engagement being asked of the listener; a track like “shakuhatchling” lets its synths evaporate to seep in various textures. The further you let goo age take over, the more you’ll come away with the same sense some bro would’ve given their ECM or Windham Hill cassettes in the 80s. In fact, this really is just another absolute bonkers inversion of those labels. Don’t enclose this zone. Keep it open.
Andy Loebs – Flexuous Vertex
Andy Loebsheads have been clamoring for a bonafide tape release from the Philadelphia maverick for over four years. That’s how long it has been since we learned just a crevice about Loebs on Terry Tapes’ About Me. Loebs overflowing bounty of available music could be abstracted to two oversimplified words, “cute midi.” Keith Rankin would insist on classifying Flexuous Vertex in three hype-sticker-worthy words, “quintessential OM style.” Neither label is mutually exclusive. Flexuous Vertex‘s C34 is practically a cocktail of Orange Milk magic–Loebs’d out and re-Leobs’ed. It’s a wickedly ecstatic release built on nailing seamless genre pivots into a quirked out white boy funk. It makes the whole listen akin to super sized bouncy castle. Please just take your shoes off before stepping in.
So as such, expect Flexuous Vertex to discombobulate and reshape on command whenever it so pleases. Second track, “In Praise of Unlearning,” isn’t just on the nose–it’s a MO to the entire direction of this cassette. Within four minutes, Loebs casts off a litany of IDEAS; big midi band jazz, “progressive” goo core, commando-lunged out footwork, and hell, quirked drum n’ bass. And nothing about it feels heavy handed or a miscalculated set of casio samples. The ideas just simply flow succinctly, enough that you can quickly forget that you’ve warped 3 tracks down the line. “Touch Configuration” takes all the elements of Castlevania Symphony of the Night map and squishes it into one omnibus room, complete with nu-metal guitar thrashing and lashing!
It can seem dizzying. Still, Loebs’ tracks are meticulously mapped out. “Humidity Vertex”‘s sense of movement, guided by a rollicking drum n’ bass rhythm and ambient synth pulses, seamlessly conveying the plotting needed to succeeded at a dexterous rail shooter. “Living Under a Rock”‘s blithely midi-pop briefly stumbles into an ambient secret zone before a giving way to a “wub-wub” boss battle complete with a Weather Report style jazz beat ’em up. Quite frankly, Loebs; Flexuous Vertex is flush with sounds that make you gush. Zones that cease to repeat the same effect more than once, arriving with novel sonic design.
Bloodz Boi, claire rousay, More Eaze – a crying poem
The recent round of Mari and claire’s releases have been exercises in concision as much as world building. Both are pop omnivores looking for the precise sound to leverage their consistent shifts and expeditions. This time around it comes in the form of a voice from halfway across the world. a crying poem, a collaborative engagement with Bloodz Boi (featured on their last Orange Milk tape), honestly carries 0% fat. The lean C15 of 6 cuts finds the three in a bittersweet lockstep; acoustic and ambient pop for the dusk smoke break, the late night slepless woe era, and even the back of open-air markets in all their compounded loneliness.
For claire and Mari, their instrumentation continues to develop their signature room tone ambience with a greater emphasis on post-slowcore acoustics (and measured amounts of autotune). Lethargic guitar strumming paired with ambient synths/strings feel like a sister unit to the rooms of rousay’s tape with Patrick Shiroishi from last year. It is the kind of space where Bloodz Boi’z poems can amply chews the scenery. His endearing delivery is enough to quickly find yourself mumbling in sync to and swelling up in heartbreak with (even if you don’t know the lyrics). It marks BB the perfect lead vocal across the EP–this is really a release that emphasizes his vocal delivery above Claire and Mari’s. It’s openly telegraphed on opener, 忧伤的贡多拉 – Sad Gondola, where BB takes center stage as claire’s spazzy bright autotune and Mari’s reserved dronetune function as a greek chorus. They’re more there to counter and deftly expand the harmonic range of the track for Bloodz Boi to throw down poetry.
It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees in the subtly of the this release. claire and mari’s soundscapes feel decisively more ethereal than usual; a mist that sort of cocoons and surrounds Bloozd Boi. When this approach to instrumentation & Bloodz Boi’z delivery hit their peak, the result is a cut like 打火机 – The Lighter, the pinnacle of the tape. Incredible smooth synth blasts practically reimagine Blue Nile’s “Lets Go Out Tonight”; the former’s stoicism rendered obsolete as woozy synths and delicate guitar strums turn it into a 2 AM fucked up anthem. 阴天 – Overcast, the only track to cross the three minute mark, brings in strings that can practically swell a grinch’s heart. Another fascinating development this month in emo-ambient.
Needless to say, all three cassettes are available at their respective album pages under the Orange Milk Bandcamp.
Do yourself a favor and find yourself the time to put yourself in a room–virtual, imagined, or real–with M. Geddes Gengras. It’s a known fact that Ged’s a voracious zoner, but he also carries a PhD in “talking and dub fun facts.” I had a chance to sit down with Ged where a story of a life lived and seeped in scene histories, label ascendancy, modular synthesizers, and DUUUUBBBBB all interconnect. Ged’s probably told this one dozens of times. It’s a known fact that it is a story worth thousands of words and well worth a listen. Nevertheless, I could not have been more thankful.
Ged’s been with Hausu Mountain for the last few years, an institution that’s seen him albums release at a slower, more time-relaxed pace. That does not mean ideas are not spur of the moment, rapid-fire permutations, as Times Makes Nothing Happen made abundantly clear. It was Geddes’ hardest rapid-fire GAMER music put to ferric tape in a hot second; a strong slab of IDEA-core music. Yet, there’s always room for a hard pivot back. Expressed, I Noticed Silence is a series of six strangely beautiful and isolated zones that do not reset his work at the label. I am the Last of That Green and Warm Hued-World, alongside Ishi (on Leaving Records) may have been a world apart so long ago, but they’re still starting points to this string of bliss. Yet, what Expressed, I Noticed Silence makes a big leap in is how Geddes has been tinkering with the “zone as an expedition.” There’s a greater sense of domestic life and companionship embellished within.
Really, that’s just a fancy way for me to say there’s a special guest strumming and thrumming throughout these wildly quirky bliss arenas: Cyrus Gengras, of Kevin Morby’s backing band. The Brothers Gengras are in lockstep here. For both brothers, there’s a sense of playfulness within this approach (and not just because the track titles are rather funny). It’s easy to imagine both the brothers in a canoe: Ged navigating us downstream, through a thick fog, with his Moog Sub-Phatty and Waldorf Microwave XT acting as radar and sonar, as Cyrus strums a cocooned chord, reverb’d out and keeping the pace gentle. If you know your 2003 shoegaze (a landmark year for digital guitar integration into electronics), then you’re going to quite enjoy your time with the chaps. Together, they’ll follow a zone out to where it lands.
“Discovered Endstate Always” is a precise, practical opener that really lets them sink their teeth into their respective strengths. Together, the two create a near-ambient house chill out, where synth waves and samples act as otherworldly choruses of birdsong and ethereal voices. This is to say, these zones have the immediacy of a lush paradise as much as the chill out room. “The Harmony and Also I Became Square Movements” is another poignant examination of this process, featuring Geddes’ percussive amalgamations of banshee beats stoned out, bobbing and weaving over its six minutes. Finally, closer “Deadly, Holy, Rough” brilliantly traverses three different zones in one track. With reverent synthesizers, we might as well be starting in Dracula’s castle, yet the duo quickly find themselves in a valley at dusk, with synthesizer twinkles radiating the energy of fireflies. But by the last two minutes, whatever dusk’d energy we thought we had settles into a deep breathing rhythm. The bass drone sounds of two hearts beating, as if we’ve been in a sensory deprivation status all along.
Limited edition C38 orange cassette with black imprints. 2-sided 3-panel JCard with artwork from HausMo Max available at the Hausu Mountain Bandcamp Page
About a month ago I headed up to Pasadena for a Floating showcase. I’ve deeply enjoyed these events–although you must understand that I can rarely afford to go up in this economy due to gas/lack of transportation. Each one is a luxury to revel in.
Anyways, one of the preludes was a breathing exercise. And as someone that has tried desperately to find the proper q-zone for flawless breathing (and who claims to have “entered a sober trance state listening to the KLF’s Chill Out”), this was revelatory. Deep, thoughtful listening is intrinsically tied to deep, thoughtful breathing; it’s not a practice to be taken lightly and when performed perfectly it elicits compounding second-level effects. Take a breath from your stomach and let in more air through your diaphragm and out; repeat ad infinitely.
If you’re in the market for a listening companion to better instill this in you, then Atlantic Rhythms has you covered. The DC stalwart’s omnibus sounds have been known to teeter between the ambient (Dura) and the post-hardcore (the EXCEPTIONAL reissue of blacks myths is still available!). It’s always a good time, but now with Shoeb Ahmad’s Breather Loops, we’re taking things to the trance-level.
Shoeb Ahmad has been crafting sounds for over fifteen years. She’s got a knack for drone and misty soundscapes, but a punk ethos and quality is intrinsic to her work. Breather Loops is her music at its most didactic. Ahmad had developed these loops out of a lockdown necessity; meditative sleights that offered an open hand to anyone that’d listen. When Ahmad was given a grant, she started taking from her surroundings, crafting simple-10 second videos that could function as infinite loops.
It’s why I’ve likely looped these cuts repeatedly in various contexts; it’s an aggressively varied set of sounds that encompasses a range of sounds between fringe jazz, neo-classical slowcore, and illbient; an inadvertent soundtrack for the lulls and downtime one finds between a frothy pint or a bowl of hash and just need to zip out of existence. The zones Ahmad surmounts are not innately focused on movement; she was aiming for the “ambient as wallpaper” aesthetic. Things often move on the periphery, like within the zitters and zippers of opener 2.7 or the fourth-world music building of 2.3. At most, maybe 2.9 (or 2.1) can soundtrack a giant golden sun rising in the east. Big deep breath ditties here, aching over the hi-fi.
Though, Side B often features loops that operate as almost-ambient pop. 2.6’s synth and drum edge the energy of a run through a bombed New Mombasa in Halo 3: ODST, as a simple mantra is repeates. 2.5’s down deep with a sine tone and synth harmonies, just bellowing for a deep listen as it loops an impeccable tone around and around. 2.4 is practically the intro to Pearl Jam’s Ten, just spaced out. Closer 2.10’s loop brings out guitar and dubbed out drums, for a somber, sobering close to complete our breathing exercise, leaving us equipped for the task at hand.
Limited edition cassette available at the Atlantic Rhythms bandcamp page
Out in Orlando, FL, Body Shop’s punk flurry is a sight to behold. You’ll have to bypass a few different Body Shops out in the Bandcamp barrens to find their angular, never-out-of-style artisan style punk that debuted on last year’s FL3SH WORLD. That’s a tickler of a punk EP, itself the byproduct of pandemic hiatuses and a need to push out ideas into the wild. This year though, the band’s partnered with Miami, FL based Crass Lips, itself a local DIY institution that’s quickly mainlined continental connections and booking prowess around the country. Both Body Shop and Crass Lips are a keen fit.
Hissy Hits LIve at Pulp Arts is a raw-throw down of a live in-studio. Six nitty n’ gritty tracks that pretty much run the gamut from any dance-keen rhythm sound from ‘78-’84. Heavy on the dub bass, edging bits of the Police’s Zenyatta era pop prowess, with vocalist Kat’s sing-a-long lyricism itself imparts quite a performance. Times like this when I hear releases this strong I have to wonder if punk is all mathematics and not passion and performance.
Perhaps a combo of both? While it didn’t appear on FL3SH WORLD, the grooved out bliss of Searchers is practically my answer to that quandary. For a whopping seven minutes, Body Shop lay down dub rhythms as Kat saunters through the scene, wailing with gusto. Even with those rhythms holding us to the floor, its not hard for Kat to quickly burst for the ceiling or cause a bash of whiplash when their sound hits the red. Endlessly addictive, easy to latch on to. No matter why Crass Lips was thrilled to run a quick batch of tapes available at their Bandcamp.
Ramp Local, the label/PR workhorse of Jake Saunders, has been steadily cranking out titles for over seven years. You check that back catalog – Stice, Godcaster, Lily (Konigsberg) & Horn Horse, Palberta (also lily konigsberg)… there’s a clear pattern here of “whimsically batshit and dead-eyed, but not fussy” pop that finds you, more than you find it. As a result, every now and again you expect to find yourself with a strange set of mavericky nuggets that you can’t quite detach yourself from, nor know how to exactly pin down for folks. You worry if you go to stump for this kind of stuff, you might be booed out of the indie night or have tomatoes thrown at you.
Of course, that’s not the case with Tomato Flower. They’re a Baltimore start-up that spent about 18 or so months writing and testing each other’s wits with what they could pull together. They rather casually dropped a sub-13 minute digital EP, Gold Arc, back in early February. It’s the kind of release that requires both a minimal amount of words to describe and yet insists on an essay-level treatise of why THIS sound is so goddamn potent. If you know your early Slumberland, your decade-old Captured Tracks rarities, you like to go “Sam Prekop mode,” or have been tuned to the working of the Paisley Shirt label, then you likely will resonate with Tomato Flower’s second-mover level pop ditties. Their spunky and quippy style of playing emphasizes rhythms first, then builds illustrious sound design that rewards endless listens. And none of the songs on Gold Arc passed the three minute mark; itself the truest indicator of a band with immense pop wit. It practically radiated bioluminescence.
So, it’s with a light heart that Gold Arc is being collected with Tomato Flower’s next, equally rewarding EP followup, Construction, here on August 5th as Gold Arc / Construction. Note the artwork, a combination of both digital EPs artwork. Whereas Gold Arc was the “utopic,” free-thinking EP, Construction is being touted as a more earthly batch of songs, tethered to the daily grind and endless shockwaves that rupture from its wake. Just from the tropicalia-inflected opener, Bug, you garner a sense that the humidity is way-up and a storm lies ahead. Construction’s other ditties are slower and more ponderous, although sudden whiplash from sonic epiphanies practically threaten to burst at any moment. And yes, three of the tracks now either flirt or outright bomp past the three minute mark! 😮
One such case is Construction, our title track! There’s a sense of legitimate whimsy that evokes Omni’s nervy pace-changes–we literally jump into chorus without much of a warning! Yet, Tomato Flower is denser, flooding the sound with synths in the vein of a trip to Super Mario Sunshine and Austyn Wohlers’ earnest lyricism of day-to-day bygones and adventures. Meanwhile, Fancy (nearly hitting five minutes), is the closest Tomato Flower has come to channeling latter day slowcore. By that I mean it is a spaced-out lounge track on a wavelength between Crumb and Horse Jumper of Love, a suggestive track that suggests symptomatic undercurrents in indie writ large.
In the EPs most gobstopping moments, Tomato Flower channels a realm of Stereolab-core that hasn’t been completely given its proper due. I’m specifically alluding to tracks Blue and Aparecida. The former’s polyrhythmic strut n’ step puts it in line with present day indie, but when the song hits its halfway point, it suddenly turns into an ambient synth lullaby–its a technique Cibo Matto pulled off brilliantly on their longforms back in the day, but Tomato Flower update with precocious wit. The latter’s only running with enough gas in the tank to last 100 seconds, and each one counts. The tropicalia-tinged track practically unleashes a new synth whoop, chord change, or cymbal wink with every second.
Needless to say, Construction’s compilation and track pacing are a varnished introductory report of where Tomato Flower is at. Perhaps though, the truest knowledge of where their minds are at will be garnered when out on the road with Animal Collective this summer. Goodness what a time to be alive!
Edition of 500 available from the Ramp Local Bandcamp Page
Sound as Language has been slowly hashing out its aesthetic and general ethos for the last two years. Ki Oni (arguably the A-list bad boy of ambient), brin (the A-list bad boy graphic designer of ambient), euglossine (the library music enthusiast of ambient), and Matthew Ryals (the bad boy modular synth enthusiast) are on one end, exploring eye-wnking ambient zones where not all is as it seems. Flight Mode and Tar Of are on the other, obliterating everything in sight with fiery fury and noise pop explosions. Truly, we haven’t seen an “ambient label that rlly likes emo” like this in the history of tape labels. Also, their tapes have o-card outer sleeves. It’s quite nice.
The label also is anything but regionally focused. Will might be steering the ship somewhere out of NC, but his knack for curating a roster filled with the crevices of the continental United States is worthy of commendation. Recently, I’ve been chilling with the work of Murfreesboro, TN’s Night Sky Body (fka Sparkling Wide Pressure, AKA Frank Baugh). Baugh’s got a hefty CV with works extending from Hooker Vision to Lillerne and Never Anything. His new EP for Sound as Language, pain/air, is a continued meditation of his songwriting practice; ” Dream imagery, automatic writing, and psychological landscapes” are the guiding MO for pain/air’s six tracks.
For a C30, it’s considerately fluid and dense. This approach to songwriting is a mend of electronics (including sampling) with shimmering guitars and somber piano, sort of just seeing what might come of it. Sometimes it is real dream music. Other times, it’s gothic nightmares. Neither are handled without an acknowledgement of the other though, giving the tape a situated balance and the aura of a journey. In the tapes most wide-eyed moments, like opener Clouds Form, the sounds come in with a crystal clarity, automatically endearing and gracious. Side A’s other two tracks, Lawrence and Undo Fragments, let the automatic mumble writing seep in, casually becoming a meditation to one’s self; an exercise in the subconscious. Yet, Undo Fragments’ sampling of heavier bass textures doesn’t quite function in the constructivist manner it seems to be edging for.
Side B though, is able to better mend these textures together into a cohesive suite. Braugh’s automatic writing is more sinister on Picture a Garden There, itself benefitting from the brooding synths and shaken strings/percussive textures. Together, there’s a real sense of uncertainty and desperation; like you’ve just fallen into a gothic rabbit hole. Between’s unshaken piano and low end practically keep that journey on its toes. You’re not sure where you’ll end up but fortunately, it’ll be at Relief. Just like Clouds Form, Relief is a bright track on the tape. Morphing between precious piano and wicked feedback, it lands comfortably on an astral plane, slowly whisking away.
Edition of 100 carmine red ink on frosted ice cassette with Ocard outer sleeve, available at the Sound as Language Bandcamp.