This week, in between writing my first article for Color, I began work on my inaugural post of monthly cassette reviews. I have been sitting on dozens and dozens of cassettes from various labels across the globe that I've ordered from various online distributors and labels. Things were getting so cluttered and confused that I had to start writing about these things before I completely forgot why I ordered them in the first place. Some of them are cassettes from favorite labels (Not Not Fun, Arbor, Night People etc) and some just had such glowing reviews from distributors that I had to take the chance. So, in an effort to keep my cassette collection from getting out of hand, I'm starting this monthly column of cassette reviews. The reviews will be short and I'll try to capture the usually odd sounds as best as I can. Sorry, Sam, there will be many Byron Coley-isms down below. Beware.
Subterranean League "Untitled" (Night People) C15
First up is another gem from Iowa City's burgeoning noise scene. This release was put out by Night People, which is run by Shawn Reed of Wet Hair and Raccoo-oo-oon. Here we have two sides of high speed junk noise that are sped up into a warp drive of white noise. Harsh feedback weaves in and out of the melee creating a dizzying effect. Keep a barf bag on hand for this one.
On the other side of the Night People spectrum we have Evan Miller's s/t C16. The tape starts off with screechy feedback that soon gives way to cavernous, torchlit rumblings. Then, then, THEN it all subsides into Eno-like ambience that is backed by Evan's finger picked acoustic. A lovely raga ensues and is accompanied by his distinct, slow, throat wrenching vocals. A lovely ending for such a ominous beginning. The flip side is more of a straight-forward finger picking number that recalls the early, simpler days of Six Organs of Admittance. Found a link for a DOWNLOAD
Night People have been branching out and have recently released this split cassette by Cooper Jones and Cars, who reside in the London/Lyon and the UK respectively. The Cooper Jones half begins with a harsh metallic clanging that soon steps aside for methodically plucked geetar. Layers are heaped on and soon we have a beautiful cherry blossom blissfest which, of course, is disturbed by some discordant strumming. Sounds all live to these ears. The Cars side also sounds live. Table drumming, chains dragged across a baren floor and slave yard junk tossed about the room. Heavy!
Debut release from another Iowa City resident. Nimby is a die-hard for the local scene and even goes as far to document the weirder aspects and sound creations of his hometown. Check out his blog here. The first side of this C22 starts with several layers of wailing vocals that sounds like they are run through a childs mic, all while a gentle keyboard lullaby plays gently underneath. The vocals are then accompanied by a stuttery drum machine and blasts of static bass bounce . Soon everything comes to a slow lurch while some TG bass blasts in the background and a drum machine that quickly turns monolithic. The vocals clear up and the bass picks up tempo to near danceability. The whole ordeal makes for some uneasy listening. The second side has an almost hip-hop bassline, but is fuzzed out into a whitehaze. Now all we need are some weird midwest kids rapping over this thing. Awesome debut. Can't wait to hear what comes next.
Knyfe Hyts feature current members of Oneida, Ex Models and Pterodactyl, hail from the always hip Brooklyn, and this cassette, Sword of the Lord, is their second release for the Party Store label (and second release in general), which is run by Allison Busch of Awesome Color. The music within are juggernauts of blownout kraut rock run through a blend of epic metal, 80s style, of course. Some have said that the recordings here are too lo-fi and, if higher production values were added, they might have something going. I say keep it in the red for now, kiddies. It sounds great up here.
Now it's time to kick it local, and why not start with local noise-nut Seagull (aka Michael Piercey) who has been making a racket in Vancouver for quite some time with his Smoke Filled Casket imprint and Ketchup Cavern. "From Grass Und Earth" is two blasts of sheer white sonic dread. A relentless white crackle dominates both sides of the tape. I'll let Thee Cassette Gods take over here.
In other local noise recordings, I managed to nab one of very few copies of a Leviathans recording that dates back a year or two. For those who have seen the rarely spotted beast that is Leviathans (compromised of Josh on guitar (rundownsun, Sick Buildings etc), Justin on drums (Mutators, V. Vecker) Brady on drums (ex-Book Of Lists) and Laryssa on vocals (exP:ano, ex-Choir Practice and now known as Kellarissa), I'm sure they'll tell you that this is one of the more potent acts in the Vancouver improv scene. This recording is a little on the low-end and assaultive than their more recent methodical sludgery that has been live more recently. Screeching vocal oscillations, neanderthal drumming and duelling bass and guitar make up this multi-headed beast. Let's hope this little project, which have not played since the Vancouver Noise Fest back in the spring, has a little more juice left for another release and maybe a live show or 5. Beautiful lacquered case on this fucker.
Down the West Coast to the Southern California based Ekhein label, run by noise artist Privy Seals, who has unleashed a real monster in this Protein Den tape. The first side is fizzy, static drenched electric windstorm that envelopes the room. Metal is wrenched, feedback swirls uncontrollably and the listener can do nothing but stay locked in the cellar while the shitstorm wails above. By the second side, the cellar door has been ripped open and the sounds of shattered windows and dancing electrical lines dominate the mix. Metallic rattling is then combined with distorted, screaming vocals. Some seriously frightening shit here.
Keeping things West Coast, "Hopeless Transformation" is one of the many 2008 releases from LA's Robedoor and is also the inaugural release from the new and promising Goaty Tapes label based out of Connecticut. The first side is a typical clanging drone fest from the masters of dirge drone, while the second side reveals a slow, pondering side to this two-piece beast. It soon builds up to a melancholy lurch and is incredibly cinematic for the gang. The tape is well out of print but has been re-issued on a CDR
by House of Alchemy in an edition of 200. Grab it before it disappears.
Nasa are a 3 piece based outta Florida and this “Bummer Daze" cassette is their debut for Not Not Fun. Not much info to be found on the interweb about this sun-fried, Cape Canveral-dreaming trio but the proof is in the pudding on this one. Ultra-submerged and wild bass plucking are toppled by 2 clanging guitars that dual high above the murk.. The mess slowly clears up and turns into psycho-funk jam sesh, then regresses into a hyped-up, speaker shredding Blues Control-like joint. The flip is a continuation of the basement-dirge-blues, only the guitars have completely taken over the mix and are set to a grinding stun. One of the best cassettes this year from the kids at NNF.
Magic Lantern are a 5 piece from Long Beach, California, and “At The Mountains Of Madness” is their second cassette release for the Not Not Fun label. Magic Lantern and Cameron Stallone's Sun Araw side project have quickly become some of my favorite sub-underground release. The tape in question is a comet racing skree fest very similar in vein to those Veee Deee CDRs I posted a while back. Upcoming full length LP on NNF should prove to be a milemarker in the groups short career.
Sean Mcann has slowly been churning out his lo-fi bedroom haze for a few years now, this tape on Digitalis is the first that I have been able to get my greasy hands on. Encased within this hard shell is a warm, fuzzy shot of mantric mushroom incantations that revolve around Sean's guitar and the busted tape deck he used to create this. The tracks meld into another, swaying from lo-fi folk to dense guitar extrapolations. Very captivating stuff here. Beautiful silkscreen job on the J-Card as well. The Digitalis Limited stuff is always worth the hard earned cash.
Steve Hauschildt, also known as 1/3 of cult-droners Emeralds, drops a stunner on the always amazing Arbor label. This is a straight synth-driven kraut workout, very similar to Ash Ra Tempel's "New Age Of Earth", but more on the pink cloud side of things than the barren earth angle of "New Age." Steve's criss-crossing synths take the listener to aural heaven. Check his myspace, there seems to be a flurry of upcoming releases from the man, which, due to the increasing popularity of Emeralds, will become scarce soon after release.
The infamous Aaron Dilloway drops a super-short release. The A Side is busy with swirling, churning vacuum electronics that threaten to suck the listener in and shred 'em to bits. The B side features a cycling wet buzz that gently floats above a din of soft, white static. The static eventually wins out. Released on the Monorail label. After checking out their webpage, this little tape label is looking promising. Upcoming releases by Robedoor, Thurston Moore and Pedstrian Deposit. Awesome consistent aesthetic on these tapes. Keep up the good work, whoever the hell you are.
That's it for this month. Should be a whole whack of new reviews about this time next month. Anyone with suggestions on what I should call this monthly article? Drop some suggestions my way. Also, anyone with a hot tip on a burgeoning tape label oughtta let me know.