Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monthly Cassette Reviews (All Vancouver Edition)

It took some time, but the all local edition of my Monthly Cassette reviews is finally complete. The cassette culture in Vancouver has been pretty strong the last 4 or 5 years, so it wasn't really an issue culling together 10 or so releases to cover. Unfortunately, outside of buying directly from the band or label, there really isn't any way to get a hold of these releases. Zulu and Solder and Sons carry some local cassettes, but there has yet to be a shop that carries a wider selection. Maybe some day. I would suggest copping these from live shows or just heading to Fake Jazz to see what's for sale, where there is usually a table of local handmade goodies ripe for the pickins.

Seagull "Gorgeous Calf" (Smoke Filled Casket)

"Cold Dreamin'" (Smoke Filled Casket)

"The Buffalo Dying On The Vine" (Smoke Filled Casket)

Three new tapes by Seagull (aka Michael Piercey) landed in the inbox last month and, boy, are these ever heavy. All 3 tapes are 10 minutes of pure, uninterrupted harsh noise. No build up, no release; just straight and brutal assaults on the ears and mind. Think these could be out of print already, as Michael usually does really short runs. Get at him here. And here. He also has a some beautiful looking and brutal sounding new releases on CDr's/3"CDr's, which are highly recommended. Get 'em while you can. Anyways, these are great appetizers if yr next listen is this one...

The Rita/Body Collector "s/t" (Ecstatic Peace)
The Rita, whom I've written about here before (and also for Discorder) dropped this one earlier in the year via Ecstatic Peace. The Rita side, much like those Seagull cassettes, start off with harsh white blast which ceases to relent. This is a full torrential force of frying electronics that, to the untrained/unfocused ear, sounds monotonous. Further and deeper listening reveals wires of electric fire springing loose and flailing under the jet engine assault that dominates the mix. Intense and relentless, yet very very satisfying. Sorry, kiddies, this one is out of print. Reach him here.

Sex Negatives "Stalker" (Cassette Or Die!!!)
Sex Negatives has a tendency to divide audiences, and it's no wonder why when they always seem to end up on non-noise bills. The free-aggro-stomp of this uncompromising cassette is unlikely to win anyone over. For the noise nerds who just can't seem to get enough of the duo/trio, Stalker should be enough to tide you over until the next show or the eventual release of their next 7 inch (due out early '09!). The A-Side is a two-piece tease between drums and guitar with the two seemingly challenging one another like two dragsters on the start line. The B-Side sees the two dualing in a frantic almost-Lightning Bolt-esque skipping that could practically cause some sort of epilectic hearing seizure, if one were to actually exist.

Workbench & Magneticring "Live In A Room With All The Windows" 2xCS (Rundownsun)
Coupla' confounding newish releases on the Rundownsun label, who have also released a live document of the seminal late 70s/early 80s Vancouver noise/power electronics outfit Tunnel Canary. Very recommended stuff indeed. Anyways, finally found the time to catch up on these two cassette releases from earlier this year and have been scratching my head ever since. Magneticring (local psych-meister Josh Stevenson, who, by the way, started a half-year long psych/folk/acid/outsider internet mix. Check it here) duals against Workbench (aka Mike Bernstein of Double Leopards and Religious Knives, and also of the Heavy Tapes crew) in an understated improv synth battle. Most of the two cassettes veer from submerged bubbly synth scribblings all the way to blackened and bleak electronics, then right back into the synth weirdness. The second cassette I found the most interesting, with one of the sides ending in a full on oscillating drone-out. Packaging on this one--as is the M.O. for Rundownsun--is well crafted. Double-wide cassette case with textured paper sleeve and pro-printed labels. Still available. Snag it quick.

Ian Gregroy James "Castle" (Rundownsun)
It seems as if Rundownsun has almost completely removed itself from it's penchant for harsh noise and has shifted into the sound art world. Here we have a solo release by Ian Gregory James, who is one-half of Blouse and one-third of the mysterious Robed and Allied. This C92 is a true test of patience on the end of the listener and, well, Ian as well. Slow rising tones rise up, fade away and leave large gaps of silence in their wake. It eventually gains a bit of steam until we have several low pitch tones buzzing and whirring against one another until a full tonal barrage is achieved. Nab it if you see it. Should still be some copies out there.

Shearing Pinx "Ammugammu" 2xCS (Isolated Now Waves)
It wouldn't really be a local cassette review without delving into a few of the Isolated Now Waves/Shearing Pinx-related releases, now would it?

First up in the INW camp is the Shearing Pinx "Ammugamu" double cassette release. The idea behind it is reimagining Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma" but fashioning it to Shearing Pinx punk/noise leanings. One side for Shearing Pinx and a side each for Les Beyond (Erin), N. 213 (Nic), and Mongst (Jeremy).

The Shearing Pinx side is a different dynamic from the already chameleon-like group. It sounds like Erin is playing and looping several spindly guitar lines while Nic builds up a modern day Sonic Youth guitar orgasm. Jeremy's propulsive drumming keeps the band moving over the ten minute side towards the white heat goal line. Not the best recording on this side but definitely worth releasing for posterity.

The Les Beyond side is a nice come down after the intense SHPX side. Lovely layers of looped and quivering guitar rubbings start the tape off. Soon the side builds up into a swirling, hazy ice cave of drone. Immense and quite beautiful.

N.213 starts off the third side, and it really captures the many vibes of Nic's alter ego. Switching from oddball tape manipulations to weirdo bedroom synth folk to noise, all in the span of ten minutes.

Mongst finishes up the final side with some vaccuumed garbage electronics that alternate between repetitive and blown out beatwork to harsher crashing noise. Over a little too soon for my liking, but that can only be a good thing, right? Always keep 'em wanting more.

N.213 & Jesse Taylor "15 Minutes/Soft Disco" (Isolated Now Waves)
Continuing along the INW freeway, we have this exciting new split cassette from N. 213 (Shearing Pinx) and Jesse Taylor (Twin Crystals), who both play(ed) together in the recently resurrected Channels 3 and 4. Both sides reveal their inner synth pop leanings that have had to remain mostly dormant in their other bands.

N. 213 starts off the tape with an echoed sample from Lost Highway. Soon, thumping bass kicks in accompanied by some deep bass and warbly toy keyboards. Once the warped melee comes to fruition, Nic jumps in with his unmistakable vocals, which are totally blown out and warped. Some of the tracks feature slow, distorted bass that almost creeps into Wolf Eyes terrortory, but rather than using it to frighten, it's used to entice. N. 213's side is very danceable and shows that there's a dancepop creep just waiting to cut a rug with you. Also features a Modern Creatures cover!

Jesse's side is a bit of a departure from his other band as well. Featuring drum machine, long notes on a buzzy junkyard keyboard and Jesse's instantly recognisable vocals. Soft Disco plays like Twin Crystals but at half speed. Much more sleepy-eyed than the immediateness of his other band, but there are still hooks'o'plenty to keep you coming back. This cassette has had more spins in the deck than any of the other releases listed above. Highly recommended.

Les Beyond "E.C.G." (Isolated Now Waves)
Packaged in a soft little pillow, Les Beyond's latest cassette on INW is easily the best thing I've heard from her. The first side is made up of two tracks that showcase her layered guitar twinklings to perfection. The flip is a live at Fake Jazz set recorded earlier this year. This ten ten-minute track is the guitar squeal version of her normally languid guitar lines. Once again, the lines are played then looped...over and over again until you lose count of the layers and become fully entranced in the ensuing dream weaving. The pillow should come in quite handy for this one. Dream on...

Feel free to contact me or any of the above labels/bands for info on how to get a hold of these. Most should still be in print.

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