Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cae-Sur-A Update

We got a new batch of tapes in from the ever-faithful Cae-Sur-A! Check 'em out:

Science vs. Witchcraft – 300 Useful Sound Effects

Rochester-based four-piece Science
vs. Witchcraft busts out this raunchy, live tape, which captures several crowd-favorites performed during a 2010 concert at the Western New York staple Bug Jar. On this release, they shrugs off all seriousness and kickoff songs like “200 Useful Sound Effects,” “Too Big for Pants” and the lewd “Sweatpants Boner.” This is obviously just rock for rock’s sake, but its lightheartedness seems to really allow them to loosen up and lay down some quality thrashing jams. It’s the kind of stuff that really works best in a live setting, which is refreshing in an era where too much production polishing can often result in some disappointing live shows. While the ringing guitars are really captured well, I only wish that the tape format was a little more forgiving for the drums. But in the live setting, I would want to be front row and center for this one, that’s for sure.

P.S. The artwork for this one is particularly charming. Enumerated on the cover are all 300 sound effects. If you can't see it here, you can check out a bigger image on their website.

P.P.S. Band name of the year?

These Feathers Have Plumes – All Cats Are Grey by Night

Short and sweet, this release from London’s very own Andie Brown is all dark drone atmospheres and smothering washes of overdrive bass peppered with some choice field
recordings and even vocal loops. Always “active” and never lulling, this brings the best of label mate ThrouRoof to mind, along with contemporaries Wether and the bad boys over at Sonic Meditations. Overall, a top-notch drone release with some really intelligent song structures and masterfully-executed dynamic shifts.

Mold Omen – Blacktop

I listened to this tape first and it’s stuck with me the longest—it very well may be my favorite of the lot. Baltimore’s Mold Omen have brewed up some really quality compositions that are instantly likeable although they fall far towards the end of the experimental spectrum. Thatching themselves together with churning, rhythmic scribbles of sound these multi-layered instrumentals are made from only the finest in colorful synths, the rawest percussion, and subtle blasts of noisy power electronics. I found Blacktop to take a novel approach
to noise music—one which coils, and builds itself up step by step, instead of instantly alienating you with run-of-the-mill penetrating blasts of static.The countless layers and overall refined details somehow work really well with its general lo-fi aesthetic. Ultimately, it's a release where the results are more organic that mechanical, and make you want to start looking up phrases like "bioelectronics" and "saltatory conduction" on wikipedia. Don’t sleep on this one.

While you hunt this one down, you can stream/preview/download a lot of their stuff here. Count your blessings.

Novoe Tsarstvo - Voda Naidet Teply Dim

International collaboration effort between a flexible group of forward-thinking Russians (including members of Love Cult, who run Full of Nothing) and their Finnish counterparts across the border. This release is very loose and open-ended, reminding me of the expansive releases of artists like Pine Smoke Lodge, Indian Weapons, and Ous Mal. It seamlessly integrates elements of drone and folk, and also has a nice spotlight on some Albert Ayler freakout sax and some truly gruesome percussion. Damn! Challenging, but so worth your time.

Their website is a real treat too, and has live performances and artwork, as well as side projects in dance music and film scores.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Red Electric Rainbow - Come and Melt Your Face Off

The face melter strikes again! If that doesn't make sense to you, let me go ahead a redirect you a previous Red Electric Rainbow Release here.

Another gem from
Sacred Phrases, this tape is certainly a stand-out of 2011. While Red Electric Rainbow sticks to his usual arsenal of spacey vibes,strobe lights, and cracking open glowsticks to huff their innards--this release is markedly different in it's varied use of throbbing percussive lines. I could really get used to this new sound.

There are 4 jams on this tape,clocking in at just under half an hour, and the repeated flipping is satisfying in a strange sort of way. Side A features a well-composed 2-song title track suite and the flip B-side is home to the 15-minute "Mayan Forest" which is so massively epic that I believe I used it as the closing song of my radio show for three consecutive weeks. I was on the Sacred Phrases website the other day, and I noticed that although it's been limited to a scant 100 copies, this tape was still in print! Which means that less than 100 people have heard this. Which is absurd.

(Side Note: okay, so it's charting at the station, so at least other people are hearing it--but still, the fact that less than 100 people have the actual tape, boggles the mind--this one should have sold out in a heartbeat.)

Fabrica Records Update

Our buddies at Fabrica Records have been holding it down over on the other coast with an awesome crop of tapes. I listened to these a few weeks ago on a spooky night while waking around Lake Laguinta (on my way the CCRMA concert) but I haven't had a chance to write anything up until now.

The first one I popped in was the "Dwellings" c20 by EarthMasters. It came with some explosive supernova j-card artwork and was housed in a lovely diaphanous purple shell. (Now that I write this, I don't think I've yet to review a purple tape that I didn't like...) I was instantly greeted with warm wooly pulses, chopped and screwed layers of synth and drawn-out guitar grinds that reverberated somewhere in my lower vertebrae. Gelatinous vocals whispered forth distorted fragments in throbbing pulses that I couldn’t understand. I flipped over to side B and listened to bubbly synth brooks gurgling colorful melodies and string instruments gently recoiling and winding down. Ambient washes gently shifted in tides that barely disturbed the surface, like the flutter of papers restless rearranging themselves in the garbage bin. Bliss.

You can find EarthMasters on facebook at the above link, or the ever-popular myspace and their goofy bandcamp, where you can indulge in their two posted songs, available for a combined sum of $80. (I'm not kidding)

Next up to bat was the self titled c30 by A Full Cosmic Sound. Having had the same redwoods forest desktop background for nearly two years, I was instantly hooked by the artwork, and the stellar song titles printed on the j-card, which had names like "Comandante Chupacabra Acelere Y Entregue El Mensaje" and " Hippis En Alerta, Estrategia En Rediseno" (which later made me laugh out loud when I read them on air).

A Full Cosmic Sound (AFCS) was formed in Santiago, Chile by members of a La Banda and
Du O des Etoiles, and the inspiration was apparently a sharing a mutual "casual UFO sighting." (Unsurprisingly, my family has a similar history of UFO sightings in South America...) Channeling the energy from this experience, AFCS unleashes a onslaught of psychadelic noise that sounds fantastical, open-ended and wholly unhuman. If I had to guess instruments, I would say keyboards, guitars, and drum machines, but by the sounds of it, there are a good dozen or so that I'm missing. Even from their very name, it's apparent that A Full Cosmic Sound is trying to deliver just that--a palette of sounds representing a radical departure from the human experience. And in just five songs, they'll do it.

It's incredible how accessible this music is given the fact that it has very little human elements. Little is recognizable, and what is is soaked with distortion and is only a fleeting apparition in the crowd. To heighten the experience, I highly recommend speakers rather than isolating headphones. This is music which commands the kind of transformative properties that are best felt in an environment.

Marvelous work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lava Church Records Update

We got an excellent package in the mail a while back from Lava Church Records, a newish label operating out of Sarasota, Florida. So far they've had a great year: they’ve put out a handful of cassettes and as of a few days ago, began venturing into the realm of limited CD-Rs.
Each release comes packaged snugly in a jewel case and each tape has been hand crafted to perfection. The J-card is printed on one side and handwritten on the other; glittered with little tidbits of philosophy like: “See the Dawn Before the Rest of the World,” “The Differences Between the Artistic and the Intelligent are Negligible at Best,” and my personal favorite: “Don’t Wait for the Translation,” which is followed by a line of Russian text that just seems to be taunting me every time I look at it.

We got a total of 6 tapes in this package, and here’s a brief rundown of each one:

Patrick McBratney – Lovebrrd

This tape is from the “High Priest” of Lava Church himself—a super cool guy who attends USF and runs the label and a handful of other art projects on the side. His latest release Lovebrrd is a collection of sorts, Side A was recorded in April ’11 and the flip was taken from assorted recordings he made from 2007-the present. Many of his songs are written off the cuff and banged out on a Casio with deep growling vocals blanketed with distortion and soaked with that ineffable reverb that proponents of the DIY movement have come to cherish and love. His lyrics tackle subjects big and small, with songs ranging from ballads about a children’s arts and crafts kit to love, hate, and disappointment—this one’s definitely got some emotional depth.

Spires – Puzzlebox

I spent a lot of time with this tape, mostly leaving it on while I was trying to do work, but I never ended up getting anything done. I’ve heard that classical and ambient music are supposedly the best to do homework to, but this tape was just too interesting and I found myself constantly nodding away from my homework and zoning out to these smoky mystical expanses. It was apparently produced by an army veteran from Colorado who is currently studying music composition. He’s been working on music for 20 years, but bandcamp has only been around for a couple. But to our luck, he’s posted three albums of electroacoustic goodness. Check it out.

Alto Jeffro – Songz (Sad Manther 1987)
Alto Jeffro – Songz USSR (1983)
Alto Jeffro – Echo Together

This batch included three tapes from Alto Jeffro, the tag team efforts of a certain "Jeff and Barney" who hail from Northern Massachusetts. These three albums sport some great artwork with full-color J-cards and metallic tape stickers that got glittery 'errewhere. These tapes are completely different, but all stick to a common theme of charming one-take bedroom pop songs. A lot of the bridges and interludes are great, with plenty of goofy antics, guitar bashing, and circusy sound effects. A lot of this stuff is even better than that Arial Pink guy I hear all the cool kids gush about all the time (hold on to your pants everybody).

P.S. On their, they claim to have recorded 455 songs in 3 months. I can believe this. You can also check out many of their other goodies on the Internet Archive.

Sky Stadium – Ancient

If you've ever read this blog before, you know we're big fans of Jeff Roman here at KZSU. This tape is no different: solid shimmering ambient washes--a dazzling display of rainbow colors swimming in a cohesive unity, like a light reflections in a pool of oil.

Tile –Universal

Tile is Jeff Roman’s new “pop” project. it has similar vibes as his other work, but with vocals (!) and more prominent melodies. You should check this one out. It’s like if Prince ever made a folk album—of course you would buy it. But seriously, this one is great...the first time I listened to it I ended up playing it 4 times in a row without swapping it out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grrrl Friend - Happening Now

DIY lo-fi shoegaze rockers with great vibes of youthful exuberance--the kind of stuff that makes you want to keep "one more try"-ing long after the sun has gone down and everybody else has gone home. Originally formed in New York, this trio recently moved to Portland where they have become a perfect fit for the DGAF pioneers of modern cassette tape “gnart:” Gnar Tapes n Shit. Equal parts spunky and punky, Grrrl Friend lists their main interests as “NY style pizza ∆∆∆” and “adding z's to the end of words.” You will probably dig this if you are a fan of lax open container laws, the big bowl at Burnside, turnstile hopping, white-out tags, or scribbling all over your sneakers and wearing them until they fall apart.

Available now at Gnar Tapes and also online on their bandcamp--now grip it and rip it.

NOTE: Gnar Tapes has been on a tear recently, and they've released several notible tapes by the likes of Young Prisms, Cool Angels and Jovontaes, as well as a stupefying 34-track compilation titled Gnarcotics Unanimous which you can get as a tape or from their bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Plankton Wat / Super Minerals Split

Two months ago, the legendary Stunned Records called it quits. Two weeks ago they rose from the ashes to release one final tape—a split between labelhead Phil French’s project Super Minerals and the notorious Plankton Wat (Portland, OR). Also featured throughout the album is a star-studded guest list of M. Geddes Gengras & Caitlin C. Mitchell. I passed along the following advice to our station DJs: "It would be a crime to not play this."

There’s a reason Stunned rose from the grave to release this tape—it is perhaps the finest album they have ever released.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pine Smoke Lodge - Season Above Lakes

New free-drone tape from the Portland (Maine) partners in crime Matt McKeever and Hillary Dickerson. Together these two run the label Existential Cloth, so if you dig Chapels, the North Sea, Archers by the Sea, Calypso Borealis, you’ll probably dig this as well. Great spooky stuff from the new Cae-Sur-A label in Rochester, NY.

Both sides are really solid. Opening with quiet intros, they quickly immerse listeners in a thick envelopment of jangly chimes, whispers in the wind, and deep resonating horns. Banking on the warm quality of analog tape, the cassette's hiss is just seasoning to the swirl of buzzy static and distorted slow-mo layers of bliss-out.

My apologies for not getting this added in time for Halloween.

Derek Rogers - Populist Context

Austin, Texas based ambient musician Derek Rogers has a fine new(ish) tape out--as if he didn't have an impressive enough resume, he now has this Goldtimers release to his name.

This tape is a bit more diverse than his usual stuff—lots of drifting abstract jams with killer effects. Although the album does tend to gravitate around the four-part suite "Temporal Patterns" there are also two tribute tracks--to one for John Coltrane and one dedicated to steel-string acoustic guitarist John Fahey.

And for longtime fans, no need to fret--there are still plenty of signature passages of tranquil drone smooth enough to ice skate on. This guy is going somewhere--keep an eye out, if you haven't been already.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Archers - Archers

Eggy Records has the magic touch with up-and-coming PNW talent, and this DIY rock gem from Portland is no different. Finding something like this in the rough is awesome. This release is the first from Archers, but they have a bright future ahead of them. Most of the album's blistering tracks fall into the post-punk category, but there are scattered elements of new wave and power pop that will keep all parties pleased.

Highly recommended to fans of Walt Mink, Lab Coast, Wolf Parade, The Woolen Men and Phenomenauts

Buchikamashi – Dontoyare

With each new package that shows up in our mailbox, the artwork for these things just keeps getting better and better. Picking up where we left off (in the ornate 2xcassette boxed sets category) we have a new four-track two-cassette concept album produced by Mizuhiro, the Japanese ambient musician who runs the label Ginjoha. (He also produces music as Taiyoutou, Hi-Speed, and Animo Computer, so don't let the new name trip you up.)

The unifying theme that links these 2 hours of beautiful bliss-outs is dontoyare, or “living life without regrets.” According to the included documentation, this album supposedly channels the spirit of the dead Japanese actor Shintaro Katsu.

It’s worth playing for that alone.

In addition to the two tapes and the totally baller case, this set also comes with a fold-out brochure of a Japanese "Bewitching Girl" circa 1970. I put mine on my door for the Trick-or-Treaters.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

No Mind Meditation - Molecular Clock

Ambitious double-album by cassette heavyweight champions No Mind Meditation. It’s taken me a lot of time to wrap my head around this thing—mostly because I’ve been asking and re-asking myself: is there such a thing as a perfect album? If so, this would be a candidate for sure (and a double album at that…)

While reminiscent of their debut Face Skull Spirit, Molecular Clock ramps everything up to unforeseen levels of grandeur: bigger crescendos, more radical departures from the familiar textures in music. There are several "movements" on each of its four sides, which cover a full spectrum ranging from "comfortably numb" to "bold and triumphant." And due to it's fuzzed-out long-play medium it stays for you for a little while, even after the tape has rolled to a stop.

It's inspirational more than anything.

This box set was sent to us by Goldtimers Tapes, packaged in a lovely two-cassette folder with a download card and a hand-silkscreened book of artwork. 50 copies exist.

Brain Syndrome - Disconnect

One of the many minimal synth recordings busted out by 20-somethings in their basements during the 80’s. Sounds like neon. If it was a little more pop-driven, it would fit perfectly alongside volume 1 of the Stones Throw Minimal Wave Tapes series. If it were 90 bpm faster, it would make an awesome workout video soundtrack.

Allegedly, this tape was found at random in a thrift store somewhere in the US. “Brain Syndrome” and “Disconnect” are simply stand-in titles. I can believe that. And I can also believe that there are plenty of other gems lurking out in any of the thousands of thrift stores that pepper lonely highways…where profound musical inspiration is laid to rest in foggy Tupperware crates.

This tape is so good that Sonic Meditations decided to repeat it on the B side so that you can save yourself the wear and tear of pounding the rewind and fast-forward buttons over and over. 100 copies of this sucker exist. If you and your buddy ever had a "radical" late-night recording sesh back in the day you might want to pick it up...this might be you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Peaking Lights - 936

Sun-bleached dubby psychedelic rock from our friends at Not Not Fun. Peaking Lights is a duo who have been known to refer to themselves as A.C.I.D. (Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis), who hail from Wisconsin, (of all places…) although their radiant trippy jams fit right alongside NNF’s excellent roster of Californian day-glo psychrockers. Highly recommended for fans of Pocahaunted, Sun Araw, Robedoor, Terror Bird, or Topaz Rings.

Crazy psychedelic wanderings through swirly keyboards, crystalline xylophone apparitions, whispers of guitar, and crunchy bass chords thumping from speakers that blew out months ago. Soooo so good.

I believe the cassette version of 936 is sold out, but it is still available through NNF on vinyl or CD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dust Bunnies - We Are Not Alone

Remember when every band used to have a kickass name? Yeah, me neither. But while it seems like some groups are really lacking in that department (read: Muse), here’s a band that really excels. Dust Bunnies, a four-piece indie outfit out of Chicago, play a unique mutt-like breed of folk-pop that effortlessly blends derivative psychedelia and strummy bar music with the kind of stuff that it is so far removed from rock music that it reminds me exactly why I hate the blanket term “indie” in the first place.

This album totals 18 songs, a full half of them being the scrumptious kind of sub-minute samples, garbled tones, and single-take instrumental ditties that make lonely jerkwater highschoolers wish they had been alive during the original incarnation of Guided by Voices...and then cry tears of joy when they reunite.

The sheer creative firepower and loosely-contained anarchy on this tape is so perfect for the medium that I almost feel bad to people who have to listen to this via MP3s.

Another charmingly-disorganized cassette from Plutapes. Well-played, well-played.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Folja - Pompa Funebris

The debut album from Polish video artist Folja! This release, the second from the brand-new Polish imprint Sangoplasmo Records, muses on the concept of found sound—quite literally-- nearly every song is accompanied by a music video documenting Folja hiding copies of the CD in lonely isolated woods, cupcake shops, burying them in parks, etc. (All these videos are available on his website, which is also peppered with other artsy bits of stuff and fluff). Each of his songs includes some truly superb field recordings—it's refreshing sometimes to remember that the world itself is a pre-tuned, rosined instrument and that you can do some serious damage with a $40 pocket recorder. I must have listened to this thing a dozen times already--irresistible cool midtempo jams with light, airy, sprity/pixyish riffs and complex intelligent songstructures. Dreamy and coursing but with definite goth elements, and a few choice bits of (dare I go there...) "witch house." Recommended if you like jj, ceo, or that one waaaaaaaay-overplayed riff in the Empire of the Sun song “Walking on a Dream.” But seriously, don't sleep on this one.

Unfortunately for most of you, this tape was printed in painfully low quantities (read: 44). Sangoplasmo is completely sold out, but perhaps you can dig one up on a distro or finagle the trade of a lifetime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Red Electric Rainbow - Homegrown Oscimation

Daniel D. Smith, AKA The Face Melter, AKA Red Electric Rainbow, drops off quite a doozy with this c94 tome from Rainbow Bridge. The c90, otherwise known as the "Trenta" of the cassette world, is reserved for only the most daring individuals, but in bombastic show of grandeur, Smith slam-dunks an extra four minutes on, and raises the ante to unprecedented levels. The cassette itself is lovingly housed in a clear case (perhaps expressly for exposing that thick wad of tape slumbering in there…)

As the executive of both Neon Blossom records and the Neon Marshmallow Festival you can pretty much guess what kind of music he tends to gravitate towards (dazzling, white-hot synthesizer manipulation) but as this lumbering, wobbly tape picked up speed, I noticed how he had effortlessly adapted to the Rainbow Bridge aesthetic—summoning slow-rolling tides of static and sprinkling spotty break-ups into his otherwise sunny pieces. Collaboration at its finest.

Side A in particular caught my attention—all the pistons are firing as he coasts through a magnificent fuzzed-out sea of voices and then nobly self-destructs into the uncontrollable din of an alarm clock symphony. Breathe…breathe… Side B.

P.S. The Chicago A.V. Club recently had an excellent feature on Neon Blossom Records as part of their Tapes 'n Tapes series. Check it out below:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Julia LaDense / Sensible Nectar - Split c62

A charmingly-decorated c62 from 2010 sent to us by Rainbow Bridge records, bringing us the talents of "internet DJ" Julia LaDense and seasoned noise-vet Sensible Nectar (AKA Pregnant Spore, Dementia and Hope Trails, Human Excuse, The Inappropriate King Live, etc. etc. etc.)

Julia LaDense's side is a muddled collage of manipulated foundsound: gloomy distortions, traffic hubbub, and unabashed eavesdropping on the neighbors through the apartment walls. This is probably what radio sounds like in purgatory. As I listened, I heard snatches of rhythmic pulses, mashed melodies... there's even a guest appearance by Akon which should make it a no-brainer, yeah?

Sensible Nectar does what he does best, but in a slight departure from his usual work,
His 30-minute track "Special" explores the musicality of harsh noise, interspersing soul-grating blasts of feedback with gentle ambient landscapes. This immense slab of tape brings the best stuff of Cherried-Out Merch to mind--it toys with riffs and melodies but in an entirely different structural context. Quite a rush of blood to the head.

Rainbow Bridge has been cranking out ultra-limited, top-notch noise projects for the past three years. But with a sprawling catalog topping over a hundred releases, you might want to catch up before you fall behind.

Daughters of the Sun - Ancient of the Ancients

Daughters of the Sun is a Minnesota-based psychedelic project that headlined our very own KZSU Frühling Fest back in the Spring! And they put on a damn good show, believe me.They're known for their elaborate sophisticated sound which incorporates reverb-drenched guitars and vox, layered percussion, and amazing manipulated found-sound recordings. What, you say? Sounds like just about every other project making a tape these days? Well, stop being such a naysayer, you burnout yuppie. Give this one a listen and apologize to me later. Thanks to Moon Glyph Records for shooting us this tape, which contains some of their juiciest, lengthiest jams to date.

Side A: Starts with the gentle sound of running water. Wordly flutes and gently warbling synthesizer gradually enter the mix and blend in a warm lazy haze. 8 minutes in, the piece again gains some momentum with assorted percussion, buzzy Moog and a whirlwind of distorted guitars.

Side B: Begins with a jolting art-rock jam with crashing percussion, muffled vocals and wild keyboard. 5 minutes in it melts down into a dark drone piece and then abruptly transitions into a gentle landscape of keyboards and tinkling windchimes. This soft melody later transitions into a gentle ambient piece with lovely flutes and gently shimmering cosmic synthesizer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Motion Sickness of Time Travel / Tidal - Split

2011 will surely go down in history as the Year of the Split. These past nine months have seen an unprecedented amount of dream-team collaborations--literally too many to name. I personally live for the split: and the digital age has spoiled me so, as it is now easier than ever to shoot files back and forth between people who would otherwise never cross paths in real life.

Such is the case with one of the more recent releases on Tranquility Tapes--the group effort of longtime KZSU faves Tidal and Motion Sickness of Time Travel, (AKA Rachel Evans of Hooker Vision) whose solo project has become one of the quintessential ambient offerings of the past few years.

MSOTT's side is chilly and refreshing. All the colorful electronic elements and gorgeous breathy crooning that we have come to expect in her recordings, but with
a plethora of new and exciting textures. Naturally gifted vocalists are an uncommon occurrence (even more so in a genre dominated by sonic manipulations) and each of her four tracks showcase her far-reaching set of pipes quite well.

Tidal's side opens up in a slow drift--"Shadow Cast" teases the listener with gently ringing shimmers of synth and flutters of static. As the tape rolls on into "Dissolver," this polished surface slowly crumbles away at the hands of the same icy waves of overdrive that we loved so much in 2010's
Fractal Empire. It is harsh and unforgiving, but still retains the strong underlying peaceful aesthetics that makes it such a good fit for Tranquility.

A wonderful split between two greats that once again proves that DIY is even better with a friend.