Tabs Out | Genetics and Windsurfing – Recording Session of Waveform Poems

Genetics and Windsurfing – Recording Session of Waveform Poems

9.25.20 by Tony Lien

Genetics and Windsurfing – moniker of Polish experimental musician Daniel Jasniewski – is often one of the projects I tend to reference when I converse with people who have yet to delve into the geological layers of Orange Milk’s continuously diverse and forward-thinking catalogue. As it goes with any of their releases, verbal and/or written descriptions can never skim the surface when it comes to relating the listening experience to another person. Jasniewski’s music is THE prime example in a sea of prime examples. 

In his latest work, “Recording Session of Waveform Poems”, Jasniewski continues on with his idiosyncratic vision of experimental electronic exploration. Stuttering, shimmering blocks of digital noise pan back and forth in your headphones in a jagged, kaleidoscopic fashion. You’d think this would imply that the mangled computer sounds conjure that specific sort of synthetic Internet sound you’ve come to expect from OM – which, it does – but Jansniewski effortlessly reaches beyond this trope in a way that makes me believe Richard Brautigan’s hybrid techno-future forest dream where nature and computers exist in harmony together is actually possible and not just some rad freak-beat poem. 

The bombardment of sound is near constant – only occasionally broken up by brief intrusions of field recordings or silence – but it is by no means overwhelming. Jasniewski, I think, is trying his best to keep us interested. In this, there is a great wisdom in his music; he is well aware of the fickleness of our collective attention spans, and the ever-evolving flow of glitches is his response to the problem (yes, this can really be a problem for artists of all mediums). It’s almost as if he’s attempting to create a hybrid language that circumnavigates the mess of our mangled psyches; if you listen hard and long enough, you’ll swear that you’re beginning to understand what he’s trying to say. 

As of writing this, there are still plenty of copies available on the OM site. I’d say catch a wave while the wind is still blowing and pick up a tape before they fade into legend like all of the others. 

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Tabs Out | Jeff Brown – Forgive The Trespass

Jeff Brown – Forgive The Trespass

9.23.20 by Tony Lien

Jeff Brown – not only one of Seattle’s ambient heroes, but also a thoughtful music journalist – is back with a free-floating electric 12-string excursion that certainly shimmers and expands with the best of the genre. 

As it often goes with longform ambient pieces, I’m reticent to fully surrender myself to whatever state the given artist hopes to put me in. I typically require a bit of coaxing, being that ambient music requires a sort of passive yet deep attention investment. Thankfully, Brown is a convincing fellow when he has a guitar in his hands and some pedals at his feet. 

Forgive The Trespass” (out now on UK label Rusted Tone Recordings) is almost conversational – its wordless narrative slowly unfolding like that of a tree ent’s account of a past tragedy. In this sense, Brown’s story – told with gentle, reverb-drenched swells – seems to denote an extended moment of self-acceptance and forgiveness. A meditation within a secular space of spirituality.  

Even more so, I feel that he intends for this space to be open to the public. A place for anyone weary of heart or mind to step into and whisper their private mantras. 

As of writing this, there are five copies remaining on the Rusted Tone Bandcamp. I advise purchasing a tape and letting Jeff know that you are by no means offended by his trespassing.

Tabs Out | Kil Gore Trout – Sound Experiments For Reel To Reel Tape

Kil Gore Trout – Sound Experiments For Reel To Reel Tape

6.29.20 by Tony Lien

Though I was already intrigued by the homage to Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional alter ego, I was sold by the fact that “Sound Experiments For Reel to Reel Tape” by Kil Gore Trout was recently released on tape via Fargo, ND noise label Black Ring Rituals — possibly the brightest beacon in the Midwest for fringe artists who dabble in noise-based sub-genres such as power electronics, industrial, harsh noise wall, or dark ambient. 

Don’t just sit there and brush over those genre tags. Click on that link and (after experiencing Trout’s album, of course) explore the rest of the BRR catalogue. You’ll surely see — as I did when I first stumbled upon the label — that owner/operator Brandon Wald cares deeply for fostering an incredibly diverse array of creative projects. While some are saturated with revolutionary/socio-political undertones (see any of Wald’s own music released under the moniker Support Unit or the self-titled split tape courtesy of Aids Victim/Straight Panic), others exist in more abstract dimensions void of identifiable cultural rhetoric. 

“Sound Experimentations For Reel To Reel Tape” is of the latter category. 

If noise music could feasibly possess classical qualities, this tape certainly does. The cacophony of buzzes, shrieks, and frequency-bending sine waves is symphonic in terms of compositional scope. With a virtuoso’s touch — articulation and intent present with every twist of a knob — Trout is able to wed freeform noise experimentation with the same sort of amorphous (yet distinctive) vision coined by contemporary classical heavyweights such as Steve Reich or Fred Frith (except Trout, of course, uses electronics rather than guitars or xylophones). 

I’m not sure whether or not Trout (or any other noise artist for that matter) would punch me in the head for attempting to categorize their noise music in such a way. Regardless, it must be acknowledged. Noise music is always evolving, and Trout is one of the fish determined to crawl out of the water. 

There are still copies available on the Black Ring Rituals site — but keep in mind that there are only 25 copies that exist in total. This is far too few, in my opinion.

Tabs Out | Reflex Condition – Unknown Restraints

Reflex Condition – Unknown Restraints

0.0.20 by Tony Lien

As far as UK labels go, it’s hard to talk about the experimental cassette scene without mentioning Third Kind Records. Going on seven years since its founding in 2013, owner/operator Nicholas Langley has continuously been able to curate a catalog that satisfies just about any taste – with releases ranging from thoughtful lo-fi folk music to avant-classical synthesizer work. 

Something I’ve always personally enjoyed and respected about Langley’s curation is his devotion to certain artists and a willingness to work with them time and time again as the years go on – like Nikmis, or (the artist in question today) Reflex Condition. 

Unknown Restraints” is Reflex Condition’s third release on Third Kind (see 2014’s “Dashboard” and 2016’s “Witch Flower”). Though it’s surely a logical extension (style-wise) of these previous releases, there is an amplified essence of passion and (sounds cheesy but) adventure in these tracks. Honestly, as the moody, aggressive synth leads somehow become personified and rip through the speakers and bounce off of the driving, underlying beats like deep-space acrobats, I can’t help but feel that Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to come cruising in on his Cosmos ship and whisk me off to Titan or Europa or some nameless nebula far beyond the reaches of the known universe. 

Besides the energetic instrumentation, the most idiosyncratic aspect of “Unknown Restraints” is the occasional inclusion of vocal passages. In the second track, an ethereal, synthetic voice – which almost seems like that of an artificially intelligent entity soon after achieving singularity – beckons us: “Come with me, it’s not so bad…” Though you can speculate as to what is meant by this, I prefer to see it as an invitation to truly immerse yourself in the remainder of the album. The voice is right, if that’s the case: it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s breathtaking (a little more necessary cheesiness for you). 

There are still copies available on the Third Kind Bandcamp. Do your small part for the perpetuation of the human race and buy a tape. We’ll never get to space without embracing the spirit of interstellar adventure that defines Reflex Condition’s killer electronic compositions.

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Tabs Out | Butoh Sonics – Annihilate this Memory

Butoh Sonics – Annihilate this Memory

5.22.20 by Tony Lien

Check out this bio description from Bandcamp regarding music collective Butoh Sonics

“Phantasmagoria of sound sculpture, electronics, guitar debris & dance theater. Post-futurist clangor, dada/ambient improvisions and enchromatic jazz. Throw off the yoke of anxiety and oppression, embrace sonic sensorial immersion! Join with the eternal Void as primal waveform.” 

Am I even needed here? Do you even need to listen to the tape now? 

Really though – despite that killer Bandcamp byline – Butoh Sonics truly is a hard group to describe. Not only do they veil themselves with stage names, but their sizable creative output is not unlike an ever-growing abstract expressionist canvas; their spatters and patterns cannot be predicted – nor easily categorized as one particular genre. Noise? Plunderphonics? Freak jazz? All I can say is that it’s fruitless to try and do the typical music person thing and neatly file them away in your internal music compartment; the music will wriggle and ooze its way out of the drawer and crawl off to do its own thing or end up stuck to the bottom of our shoe. 

Annihilate this Memory” – available from Buffalo, NY label Zazen Tapes – is a foreboding improvisational noise album comprised of experimental guitar work, extensive/cryptic samples, and various other instruments/machines that are hard to put a finger on (just the way I like it). The sounds constantly morph and twist around each other – sometimes knotting up, other times floating freely in a paradoxically vast and claustrophobic space. In the tape’s finest moments (really, the entire album is a choice bizarro audio extravaganza), it reminds me of wandering through a dilapidated fun house maintained by pissed off art school students. 

It goes without saying that “Annihilate this Memory” is hardly forgettable. Add to that the fact that Zazen tapes doesn’t charge much (in relation to a great many labels out there) for their physical ephemera, and it would be a pretty nonsensical move for you to not trade them a few bucks for a genuine work of art that might as well be the official 30 minute anthem of one of the strangest years of our lives.

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Tabs Out | Rene J Nunez – Poems E on Magnetic Tape

Rene J Nunez – Poems E on Magnetic Tape

5.19.20 by Tony Lien

No Rent Records is possibly the most prolific label I can think of. By the time I received this tape in my “to-review” box, they had already released eight other albums. At the time of finally writing this piece, they are up to thirteen. There’s always a bit of lag in coverage – since the world’s most capable scientists have yet to devise a feasible way to teleport anything besides singular particles – but still. Damn. 

Existing as a sort of subconscious companion to his Horoscope project, “Poems E on Magnetic Tape” by Rene J Nunez is a lo-fi, abstract offering that harkens back to the early days of the cassette revival. I’m slightly reminded of Ricky Eat Acid’s first couple of albums (when it comes to recording style and how the songs are weaved together in a seamless stream-of-consciousness fashion) – except whereas R.E.A.’s music was born out of a rural atmosphere, Nunez’s compositions are more urban in texture and aesthetic; the lazy jazz element leaves me slumped in a corner booth in some dark, long-forgotten speak-easy in the bowels of Brooklyn. 

Going off of that image, each track is pensive and eerie – especially when comparing song titles to their respective sounds (see “Love Is a Word I’ve Never Used In A Song” – a janky loop that pans back and forth in your headphones and mirrors the uneasy notion suggested by the track name). Beneath this, moments of artful dissonance (see “Kendall Jenner in Print Part 2” or “Let’s Compare Ex’s Suite”) work to conjure sub-layers of beauty that make this tape seem more like a full-fledged silent film rather than a mere collection of songs. 

To me, it’s background music that’s meant to be appreciated in whatever segment of your attention span’s spectrum that feels the most comfortable at any given time. Nuances aplenty, there are countless audio details to sift through – but by no means is it ever too dense or busy; the warm, static-enveloped world Nunez has created is simply there for you when you choose to acknowledge it. 

Miraculously, there are still copies available on the No Rent Bandcamp site. Being that they sell out of their tapes pretty quickly, I would make sure to order this one once they get back to their normal shipping routine.

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Tabs Out | Modal Zork – Klog Borp

Modal Zork – Klog Borp

5.6.20 by Tony Lien

Modal Zork is the sole moniker of Jojo Nanez – weirdo synth extraordinaire. His work, if you are so far unfamiliar, is highly-defined and concept driven – his various releases documenting alien worlds and their colorful denizens through the expert utilization of hardware synths and effect-drenched vocals. And I don’t just mean that in a metaphorical sense; the punchy, aggressive stabs that Nanez teases out of his keyboards often enough sound more like unnameable, otherworldly instruments altogether (something I think synth designers/manufacturers wish more of their customers would attempt to accomplish) – while his nearly indiscernible vocals emulate zany, extra-terrestrial lifeforms hell-bent on spreading the stories of their people via hyperactive rhythms/sound waves. 

“Klug Borp” is Nanez’s latest interstellar excursion – available on tape via Texas label Pecan Crazy. Compared to his previous releases, the composition is next-level (I wrote this particular sentence when I was listening to the song “Zweep”). The track lengths range from thirty seconds to three minutes as per usual, but the overall production work/presentation is fully realized – artful layering, thoughtful dynamics, wide ranges of emotion (see “Plasmx_XRF”) abound. The album even wraps up with a Muppets cover (digital only) – a conclusion that no one would ever expect yet one that acts as a perfect representation of where Nanez comes from aesthetically and nostalgically (his music, to me, is an innocently-twisted ode to childhood sprinkled with a seasoned, fine-tuned sense of what makes left-field experimentation accessible to the limited masses who are willing to take the plunge). 

When are The Residents going to reach out and ask him to fake his own death and join the squad? Who knows. Regardless, I’d say he’s well on his way to earning his place in the higher echelons of the outsider canon – where only the most passionate and persistent thrive both by releasing music prolifically and wearing their wheel bearings out multiple times a year due to excessive travel. 

Yes, for a good while now he has been on what seems to be an endless tour (he cares deeply for live performance – check out his rad stage setup/getup here). When all of this quarantine business went down, he ended up in San Marcos, Texas – where he will remain until the coast is clear enough to move on. You can support him during these strange times by purchasing his work on his personal Bandcamp if you feel so inclined.

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Tabs Out | Concrete Colored Paint – Through a Lens

Concrete Colored Paint – Through a Lens

4.8.20 by Tony Lien

Orb Tapes has been experiencing exponential growth in variety and scope since its founding in 2015. With releases that span from experimental metal to lost recordings of legendary Sun Ra, it’s obvious that with each venture into new sonic territory the label remains true to a deep-rooted appreciation of sound as more than just a creative commodity.

Though not their latest release, “Through a Lens” by Concrete Colored Paint (Peter Kris) is a prime example of a tape that speaks to this sentiment. Before I delve into specifics though, I’ll leave a gentle reminder here to please wear some headphones while you listen to this tape. I know I say this basically every time I write one of these things, but it really can’t ever be stressed enough when it comes to albums like this one.  

According to the Bandcamp page, Concrete Colored Paint is a travel project – and the collected field recordings are used to “form an audio memory”. Built around an eclectic selection of these sounds (most of them originating from Taiwan), “Through a Lens” unfolds like an abstract audio-only documentary – with a near-continuous layer of ambient playfulness that interacts with the natural sounds in such a way that it almost seems like a separate soundtrack itself. 

With eyes closed, the imagination is surely stoked as these audio memories paint worlds within the listener’s skull. While some of the field recordings are more expected (forest sounds, the crunching of boots in dry grass, etc.) when considering the genre as a whole, others are rather mysterious (see “Death Comes Hardest”) and act almost as a sort of Rorschach test for the ears. Everyone will likely imagine something quite different. 

As the album progresses, the tracks take an unexpected turn. “Farther North” was recorded in what seems to be a crowded restaurant, the clanking of cups and drone of strangers having spirited conversations causing a claustrophobic feeling (in context with the rest of the album, at least – maybe I’m just really that anti-social). “Broken Eye Contact” – my favorite track – depicts the performance of street musicians; however, it seems the mic was somehow placed in a cup here and there, or at least obscured by Kris’s continuous change of position while recording. Whatever the truth behind his process may be, the results remind me of why field recording projects can be almost as surprising and intriguing as a real world experience. 

“Through a Lens” is, despite its underlying spirit of adventure, meditative and subtle – a soothing ode to the natural world and the magic of voluntary displacement. It’s a pleasure to immerse oneself in – especially in times of global hysteria and government-sanctioned quarantine. 

That being said, independent labels/artists need more assistance now than ever. A good portion of them rely on fan support not just for the healthy continuation of their projects, but also for their own personal livelihood. Head over to Orb Tapes and purchase this tape (and any of the others still available) if you have the means to.

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Tabs Out | Cop Funeral – Hot Lonely Singles

Cop Funeral – Hot Lonely Singles

3.23.20 by Tony Lien

It’s always interesting to explore the discographies of label owners’ personal work. This is especially true when it comes to the music of Josh Tabbia – who releases music as Cop Funeral and co-runs the prolific (and ultra-diverse) label Already Dead Tapes. I’ve been a fan of his music for a couple of years now, but I can distinctly remember how surprised I was the first time I realized he was one of the ADT overseers. The label’s catalog represents a staggering array of artists and genres (anything from free jazz to lo-fi bedroom pop) – so I had no way of knowing the specifics (and the depth and intensity) of his audio transmissions. 

“Hot Lonely Singles” is an expansive display of mesmerizing noise poetry – organic and deceivingly complex. The compositions truly add up to be a smorgasbord of emotions and intensities – sometimes so fuzzed-out and/or ethereal that you nearly lose your place in the sonic fog (see “Maybe Don’t Shit On Everyone You Know”), other times incredibly concise and pulverizing in the same vein as industrial soundtrack music fit for a pulse-pounding sci-fi/horror chase scene in the bowels of a derelict space cruiser (see “FYIQ”). 

Though I’m sure it helps that these songs are from many different eras in his life – thus showcasing natural growth in both creative ability and style – I still find myself thinking the same thing when listening to his other non-B-side releases in their entireties. Going back as far as his 2012 release “When the Heart Overflows the Mouth Speaks” and comparing it with 2017’s “Part Time Pay/Paid Vacation” is surely a testament to how Tabbia has – since the conception of his Cop Funeral project – been able to approach noise music from as many perspectives as his impressive musical prowess allows. This level of artistic vigor (and respect) is especially welcome in the realm of noise (I’m using that genre label in the most general sense possible so as not single anyone out) – where laziness and mediocrity can easily corrupt the creative soul. 

“Hot Lonely Singles” was released on Valentine’s Day, but there are still copies available on the ADT Bandcamp site (very reasonably priced at $6). Stick it in your tape deck, see how it feels; I can already tell you it’s a cassette you’ll want to keep within an arm’s reach.

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Tabs Out | New Batch – Garden Portal

New Batch – Garden Portal

3.12.20 by Tony Lien

Northern Minnesota is a frozen wasteland six months out of the year, so even the mention of Garden Portal (and the moderate wintertime temperatures of Georgia – where the label is ran from) is enough to slap a wistful smile on my face. Imagine, then, how I feel when I learn of a new set of releases. You could say it’s a moment akin to that part in The Revenant when Leo finally reaches the outpost near the end of the movie, frozen to his weary bones and still covered in blood from when he had to hide inside of his horse’s carcass in order to keep warm the night before. 

Sorry. It really does get cold up here. And I love Garden Portal. 

Anyway, prepare yourself for two sprawling yet intimate tapes – both with a very spooky release date (Friday the 13th): “Ohio” by Matthew J. Rolin and “Beacon” by Gerycz/Powers/Rolin.

Matthew J. Rolin – Ohio

While “Ohio” is a mostly solo endeavor (listen for the superb singing bowl addition to the track “Brooklyn Center” –  courtesy of Cloud Nothing’s Jayson Gerycz), Beacon is a collaborative album featuring the aforementioned Rolin and Gerycz, along with Jen Powers (dulcimer extraordinaire and second half of the Rolin/Powers duo). Despite the fact that both tapes were born of fruitful musical friendships, the albums couldn’t be more different – due to both atmosphere and technical execution.

From its very first moments to the droned-out epilogue of its final track, “Ohio” is a visual album; the image-ridden majesty of its meandering melodies far surpasses that of a warm Midwestern horizon. Add to that a transportive, forward-moving quality that mimics the onward chugging of a freight train and you have a shoddy yet well-intentioned attempt by yours truly to describe the journey that awaits once you dawn a pair of headphones. Yes, Rolin’s expert execution of dynamics and overall timing truly creates a sort of point A to point B feeling – an almost tangible representation of movement/passage of time that seems as real as the pebbles stuck between the ridges of the soles of one’s shoes. No song on the album truly repeats itself; the compositions push forward through the minutes, changing either slightly or drastically – whatever the universe contained within the frequencies permits. 

Gerycz / Powers / Rolin – Beacon

Beacon maintains a similar explorative feel, but nonetheless exists in a totally different era (or really, a completely different age). Whereas Ohio exhibits a sense of wandering and general lightheartedness, Beacon seems quite a bit heavier, a bit more in tune with the seismic forces that shape the earth. Powers and Gerycz both do their part to add their respective colors/designs to the auditory tapestry, augmenting Rolin’s guitar work with a sort of chemical intelligence/urgency that bubbles under the surface of the primordial ooze of joyful improvisation. The end result is a soundtrack to either the prologue of life on earth or the inevitable, post-apocalyptic erosion of all ephemeral human structures. No matter the case, the beauty cannot be denied. 

As is the case with Garden Portal tapes, they tend to sell out quickly. I would suggest scooping these up; we all must appreciate such musical harvests while we can.

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