Tabs Out | M. Geddes Gengras – Expressed, I Noticed Silence

M. Geddes Gengras – Expressed, I Noticed Silence

7.29.22 by Matty McPherson

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

Tabs Out | Shoeb Ahmad – Breather Loops

Shoeb Ahmad – Breather Loops

7.28.22 by Matty McPherson

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

Tabs Out | Body Shop – Hissy Hits Live at Pulp Arts

Body Shop – Hissy Hits Live at Pulp Arts

7.12.22 by Matty McPherson

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.

Tabs Out | Tomato Flower – Gold Arc / Construction

Tomato Flower – Gold Arc / Construction

7.7.22 by Matty McPherson

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

Tabs Out | Night Sky Body – Pain/Air

Night Sky Body – Pain/Air

6.27.22 by Matty McPherson

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.

Tabs Out | Uli Federwisch & Chip Perkins – Visiting Places (Learning by Listening Vol. 5)

Uli Federwisch & Chip Perkins – Visiting Places (Learning by Listening Vol. 5)

6.24.22 by Matty McPherson

They (aka PUBLIC LIBRARIES) like to advertise that you can go to a library and “jumpstart your future” by watching a bunch of Great Courses about pirates, facists, and uhhh… integrated calculus. I mean I guess that’s good enough to like get a GED or a diploma from Crazy Go Nuts University, but I just don’t feel like that truly does justice for what today’s feeble-eyed audiences are in need of. They should be learning with their ears, LISTENING to important lessons and concepts! Some people might just say “isn’t that a podcast?” But not Strategic Tape Reserve! Even if libraries think cassettes are outdated (or too scary to file under the Dewey Decimal System), the STR has been innovating in learning arenas where results had been practically stagnate. “Learning by Listening is an educational, instructive cassette series designed to bring the information of the world into your home, and your brain,”. It’s a simple approach that has led to DOZENS of degrees (these tape runs are few, because the value of these degrees are akin to liquid gold), tens of armchair critical thoughts/forum posts, and at least 8 tape releases to date.

Now, I’ve been out the STR loop for a while (Eamon, you really outdid yourself with Bellectronic!). Yet, as a clerk with Dewey Decimal number knowledge, I felt that I could help analyze Vol. 5 Visiting Places and provide insights for future knowledge enthusiasts. A Dewey Decimal Classification of 910, for “geography and travel” is a sufficient starting place for this tape release. It’s the work of Uli Federwisch, the Secretary-General of the Prüm-Eupen Partnership For Success and has visited many places both inside of Germany and abroad.” Hmm, maybe its a 914.3 situation–ya know for the German/Belgium area? Wait a sec–it says here “Chip Perkins has submitted demo reels to several well-respected voice talent agencies and expects to hear back from them soon”. Last time I checked we were filing voice talent demo reals somewhere in the 790s. Goodness! Is this even catalogable?! Okay maybe we should focus on the listening at hand–Federwisch really likes to play with the synthesizer. And when I got those Autechre cds from the library, they were filed under 786.74 for “synthesizers, electronic music.” Technically, Visiting Places fits that description, but you and I both saw that bench on the cover, we know this is an experience of real human travels.

Visitng Places’ is the designated length of a super-sized Rick Steves Europe episode. Now, I watch a lot of Rick Steves on weekends. It used to be Bob Ross, but my folks saw the documentary on his life and are appalled by the cottage industry based on his likeness. Rick Steves is a pretty good compromise because it fulfills their dreams of going to Europe and my fascination with his “blunt as fuck” (bro loves his doobies!) nicecore aesthetic. A sizeable chunk of Perkins’ informative monologues struck me as warped inversions of Rick Steves’ charming historical tidbits of European history and culture. In the hands of Perkins, they become brilliant distillations of STR’s lore and fever-dream Europe that us Americans so rarely have any real understanding of. Also they are paired with Federwisch’s uncanny knack for pulling out synth textures and bonkers sounds that emphatically parallel the journey Perkins pulls us down. It can be funky or ethereal; blissful or deranged. It’s really all about how you learn by listening.

Visiting Places is undeniably an execution of the “weird and eerie” aesthetic, outside of our perceptions. Our journey will start at a bench on the Belgium/German border, playing a flute. No, we don’t know how we got here. We just must traverse and figure what is real and imagined. We’ll encounter adult-sized tricycles, with decorative cladding and displaying scenes from popular movies. To describe its limitations and otherworldly-ness (it sits on a track between the two countries’ borders) would fail you, dear reader. We’ll visit a model train museum where budget cuts have truly put things on the fritz. We’ll move like a tightrope walker. We’ll lay down and count back from 8 and come to a wind park, truly considering how wind turbines could become giant fans! We’ll ponder the results of referendums that destroyed all maps of the local village. The village residents though, they speak in a language that is “profoundly beautiful”. All the while, Federwisch will continue to take every quip or turn of phrase and turn it into an apt sound.

As I read of future civil wars and think of fractured borders, this tape produces its own solace. Federwisch & Perkins achieve a radiant energy that begets questions to answers that aren’t even acknowledged within this tape, allowing a listener to truly ponder the places they visit. But let’s not dwell on that. Just merely tap in for five minutes, and before you’ll realize it you’ve been been on a journey of your own for the past 40.

Professionally dubbed C40 audio cassette. Edition of fifty something from Strategic Tape Reserve’s Bandcamp Page.

Tabs Out | Concrete Colored Paint – This Valley of Segmentation

Concrete Colored Paint – This Valley of Segmentation

6.20.22 by Matty McPherson

I regret that when I was in Knoxville, TN back in March for Big Ears, I did NOT stop at Park 70 HQ. Well maybe it was for the better, as I imagine I’d be showing up to someone’s house uninvited and without bearing any gifts. A couple years back, I did talk to Park 70, one of the first tape labels I was paying attention to and deeply jiving with (Park 70 if you are reading this, get in touch I still have that zine for you). Prazision-era Labradford held an iron grip in my mind and pitch black strolls just before COVID reflected those early Park 70 industrial dream ambient tapes.

Even as the label’s finally surmounted 25 releases, nothing much has changed in the grand scheme of evocative packaging, uniform quality, and spatial discombobulation. Although, dreams of spring poppies and gracious summer mornings are beginning to thaw out on the label’s more recent releases–natural landscapes are finally in! Case in point with Concrete Colored Paint’s This Valley of Segmentation, a 14 track tape recorded in Azusa Canyons before the September 2020 Bobcat fire; “currently all locations are now closed for restoration” the tape card tells me. It’s a situated dispatch, one of the only of its kind that allow us travel to the Canyons in this fraught moment. Take a gander at those track titles; there’s an undercurrent of boundary lines, fault lines, and general lines of spatial disconnect. It’s our only way there, quite frankly.

The Valley of Segmentation is a noticeable lucid C45, itself concocting a clarity reminiscent of vast desert rock formation and clear, boundless skies. The bulk of this tape is based around succinct synth pieces. They’ll go one of two ways, either unfurling over their few minutes (Border Spaces) or creating their own stasis (Gone Today, the title track) for a listener to meditate within. At its quietest, like on the title track, the feeling of a subterranean “is this the sound of my heart beating?” is wildly strong and alluring. Isolation of this kind has been trickling out on a the occasional German Army/Peter Kris releases here and there, but its Concrete Colored Paint’s nailing of this sublime vagueness that kept me on the edge of my seat during Side A.

Side B is more shrouded and barren, before giving way to an ominous presence over the course of the listen. Opening piece, Regulated Landscapes, mend wind recordings and sounds of “waves” into that of an abandoned desert oasis. You can’t quite tell if this is friendly, neutral, or sinister–at least not until South of the Freeway and Growth of the Fault Lines begin to introduce piano and more astral synthesizer loops. Ghostly, but in a friendly way, I’d denote. Enough so that a breathing exercise is welcome and in order. By the time of Transfiguration in Form & Visualize Formations, the tape has moved beyond the desert formations and jumped straight into the sky.

Edition of 50 in letterpressed sleeve with heavy card stock insert sold out at the Park 70 Bandcamp page!

Tabs Out | Tatu Metsätähti & Olli Hänninen – Repullinen Skittejä

Tatu Metsätähti & Olli Hänninen – Repullinen Skittejä

6.17.22 by Matty McPherson

Okay let’s start at the end — well really side B of this tape. Okay, okay fine. First we can at least acknowledge these syllabic names. Tatu Metsätähti (Mesak) is a Finish producer that sometimes runs the “skweee” inflected Harmönia sub label — no, they don’t update their MySpace or Facebook anymore and both are down for good it seems. Metsätähti also (over the past twenty odd years) occasionally has pushed releases of all sorts of sizes out on Huge Bass, the parent label. And yes, they do have a functioning Bandcamp page. Through all of this, Olli Hänninen has been a reliable contributor within Metsätähti’s orbit. Hänninen himself has been in a variety of Finnish anachro-crust outfits–Church of Nihil, Confirmed Kill, Hate Unit. If like me, your answer to this news is “who are three bands that have never been in my kitchen,” well you’d probably be correct. They’re old school 90s and early 00s stuff; Hänninen’s more likely to be found making skweee or oddball electronics under the Claws Costeau moniker. Rare is the release under his actual name.

Look, you already made me drop an expository paragraph, I’d really like to talk about that side B! Oh yeah, the tape did get imported through Cudighi Records, the Los Angeles label that keeps sending us tapes and keeps making me go “damn! these guys are REALLY good at importing sounds that wouldn’t make it to America otherwise.” And because they don’t really play to one sound, just a conscious “anyone could be making noise anywhere” approach, we end up with a roster that tickles between easy listening and Repullinen Skittejä — the latter being top shelf Eastern-European black portal noise magic.

If you’d just let me talk about that side B, I can enlighten you abo-oh yeah they DID list all their gear — instruments, effects, customs, ephemera — on both the tape and Bandcamp. I was personally flabbergasted, because side A… well that’s more the R&D side of the tape. Realm brief vocal snippets, buggy lo-fi hip hop, vague ambient, and uhh that OPE track that sorta has a German Army thing going on; minimal synth funk always welcomed.  Side A is for the grinders, the people who love deciphering gear lists, listening to a proof of concept, and trying to piece it all together in their brains. Mikä Sapiens…*, the side closer, may only be 2:18, but it does feel like a culmination of the side. It shifts on a dime towards austere zones without people after its skweee inflections drop halfway through. It’s a set-up for side B.

SPEAKING OF, Side B is totally consumed by the near-23 minutes of Deep Finlandia. And coming after Side A, THIS has the feeling of white hot UFOs and bombed out metro tunnels. For the duo, it’s a deeper plane of listening, often riding out the crevices of one bass-driven drone and ethereal feedback. It could be steamy or claustrophobic all based on the volume knob’s tuning. Around the fifteen minute mark, the digital feedback discombobulates, becoming crunchier and further untethered. Its unsettling patterns and feedback loops could be the soundscape for a free-jazz ensemble, but the duo are not privy to that bound. The atmosphere here is vacuum sealed. Anti-dance? Sorta. Smidgens of piston-esque percussion gnarls and lashes in the mix. Wicked fun? Enticingly so. It’s a journey worth going down with this duo and their endless array of gear. Seriously, look at these guys and their gear! I wanna have a demolition derby with ‘em or something.

Limited Edition Pro-dubbed cassette with 4-panel J-card available at the Cudighi Records and Huge Bass Bandcamps.

Tabs Out | Stephan Moore – Stage

Stephan Moore – Stage

6.9.22 by Matty McPherson

Stephan Moore is a name we last checked in with in 2020, when he cooked up a batch of “solo voice music” for the “Chicago Sound Show” exhibition at the University of Chicago. Those tracks ended up making the bulk of Dreamwalk with Solo Voice, his fall 2020 release for Dead Definition. Well, Moore had more than just that on his plate at the time, wrapping up an older commission from 2017 for cassette home recording. “STAGE was composed as the score for the middle piece in a trilogy of works by choreographer Yanira Castro and realized by her company, a canary torsi.” I’ve practically undervalued this release even as it sat in a special pile for longer than I can remember. What exactly scared me about this release enough to not directly file it away? I truly could not tell you, as when I recently culled it back from the depths and gave it the hi-fi treatment, I found myself quite engulfed by the timbres found within this plane of existence.

Stage is split into eight tracks. Its slow build to a roaring climax and then bowing out back towards an austere finale do welcome it to these track breaks, yet is much more attuned to being side A/side B longform situation. As the Bandcamp bio reports, the crux of this performance is held by the musicians’ performance on “the Wall of Metals, a homemade instrument comprised of a 10-foot long sheet of steel, used as a resonator, with multiple cymbals, prayer bowls, and brass rods attached to it.” It’s a fascinating wall of sound, filling the space flush with all sorts of textures that feel regionally diverse. Pre-industrial music? Perhaps of its own accord. As the opening movements of side a lurk away from murky zones that best reflect decrepit New England lighthouses and balmy beaches, the Wall of Metals is introduced. It gasps and gushes, an endless gurgling crescendo lighting a path forward. An abstract dream of percussives.

It’s on “Sustained Explosion” that we finally experience the full force of this approach to scoring. Moore’s Wall of Sound collides, its fury enacting a fantastical array of sounds that go beyond a singular locale or zone. It may as well be a dispatch from the gates of Persephone, greatly clamoring and clanking with an intensity that ignites a divine spirit. For as reverent as it is, it is also bright; the melody is its own zippy kind of noise that carries such a bewildering, psychedelic spirit.

However, it is not an energy that can sustain an entire tape, just its climax. The back half of the tape’s B-side (split between “Trio,” “Bath,” and “Transfiguration”) is an eerie, atmospheric comedown. The clanks are minimal, softer and with a little more of a tickle to their sound. Medicine bowls and other deep listening instruments sustain the piece as it slowly comes down. The denouement, Transfiguration, practically sharpens the Wall of Metals into its razor-stricken form. Its vaporous free-jazz, a tumultuous revolt that lashes until it can no more.

Limited edition hand-dubbed rubine cassette, edition of 30, available from the Dead Definition Bandcamp page.

Tabs Out | Tim Thornton (4) – Teenage Tiger: Four Track Recordings 1997-2000

Tim Thornton (4) – Teenage Tiger: Four Track Recordings 1997-2000

5.31.22 by Matty McPherson

I feel as if I’ve been on a weird time travel odyssey the last while here. I can’t quite explain it, but just know the music seems to be a sort of variable at play here. I think this happens to us as a species more often than we know to articulate.

Anyways, we turn our attention to Mr. Tim Thornton (4), the local at the vinyl plant as well as the caretaker of Suite 309. When I’m on the local street corner or online formus slinging tapes, I’m always YAPPIN to people that they “have to get 101 Notes on Jazz; it’s so good!” Truth is, Thornton’s Suite 309 is an institution. In between Tim’s own releases (Tiger Village, TItanic II, various samplepedias) is offering one helluva platform for “electronic that goes hard” in various formats. In 2021 we got Silver Soul and Headache Bait, two releases with which words genuinely escape me in expressing the MAGNITUDE of what these pros are doing. To Sophiaaaahjkl;890 and hyphyskazerbox, your tapes are personal triumphs; I deeply love those undersung releases.

Today’s focus though is not on a return to 2021, but a return to the end of the millennium. Teenage Tiger: Four Track Recordings 1997-2000 is quite the welcoming and heartwarming release from Thornton; a genesis that lays out everything on the table. Tapes don’t just come with that Jcard presenting a fat stack of 4-track tapes and whatnot; we got a fatstack of liner notes and personal observations from Tim himself! And if there’s one thing that can be expected about those notes, it is that they are damn precise. You will likely learn: where and how Tim acquired a Fostex XR-5, what year he heard Aphex Twin, how he went to Florida, and what DVDs he liked in the year 2000. This is all important stuff for the Tabs Out 2027 Trivia Showdown, so PAY ATTENTION!

I have a huge heart for these kinds of rudimentary experiments–there’s an energy and ethos of exploration that works its way through Tim’s recordings even to the present day. By 1999 he was mostly using a “fostex xr-5 four track, boss ddr-660 drum machine, dod dfx91 delay/sampler, digitech rp3 pedalboard, toy keyboards, and rock instruments” to just fuck around with and make his own odysseys. By 2000, it was a strategy that was procuring Meen Man, a piece of samplepedia crossed with hogwashy drum n’ bass and (basically) 4-bit 240p action sounds. The sound of an MTV summer crossed with a potent amount of Code Red. Of course, most of Tim’s material here doesn’t reflect 2000. The endearingly haphazard Tires (1998) skirts and tumbles without a proper dance attached to it. It is one of many tracks perpetually on the fritz. 

In a way, I’m reminded of Bellectronic, the fascinating Techno footnote STR unearthed last year, mostly because both tapes are the products of one person engaging with a facet of mass culture in their own private way. With Tim’s recordings though, you sense someone who keeps finding NEW things as a teenager to fuck around with; songs are journals and timecapsules. He buys a matrix DVD and starts playing with his favorite quotes. He needs to submit something for the band teacher and basically puts a couple of ideas in a blender just to fuck with the fella (Audition Tape (1997)). He takes apart Elevators and basically makes a piece of illbient, DJ Braille (2000), that could’ve accidentally been slotted next to Techno Animal. It doesn’t matter that any of this is beginner’s luck. I’m just genuinely moved by the fact that with a nascent internet, Tim was just honing in on his own processes and modes in a way that felt more regional, landlocked, and curious. If there was a generational ancillary to Tim Thornton, it might have been one of those youtube MLG poopsters from the early to mid-2010s. Sometimes Four Track Recordings radiates THAT kind of magic energy I miss so dearly.

What is undeniably lingering over a lot of this release in some way is Richard D. James. One day, Tim is greeted by The Aphex Twin on the TV and hears a stereophonic drum sound he wants to troll with, affording him a track that’s basically just PS1 boss music, W (1998). From here on out you can basically run a calculation to figure out how much Aphex he could afford to buy or acquire sans import prices and what he really wanted to ape or gouge from. I seriously had thought part of Siol (1999) was egging Isopropanol’s Roland synthesizers, until Tim revealed his usage of the Rebirth RB-338 Roland emulator. God, what an open and welcoming trickster.

Edition of 60 home-dubbed tapes with silver shells and silver backed norelco cases available at the Suite 309 Bandcamp Page