Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Monthly Cassette Reviews (April Edition in May!)

Super Minerals “Clusters” (Stunned)
New batch of Stunned cassettes and CDRs are proving that this tiny label from California (run by Phil of Magic Lantern and Super Minerals) is clearly digging deep, far and wide to bring you some of the more bent sounds cooking underground. The label's releases tend to last no more than 2 weeks before selling out, so you'd be wise to keep an eye on their blogspot page to keep up. Oh heck, 4 new releases just dropped. See? Already behind on this one. Anyways, first up in the new batch is the newest from Super Minerals, who've managed to squirm from one vibe to the next so's not to be pigeonholed by pesky bloggers like myself. This time around the duo are going for a Terry Riley or La Monte Young piano driven arpeggiation that is dizzying. Two side-long pieces with the first being the dueling pianos and the flip taking a flashback into the tropical jungle morning. Quite unlike anything else I've heard from this confounding duo. Check out Stunned Aside.

Warm Climates “Edible Homes” (Stunned)
Stunned indeed! Second Stunned release here is an incredibly strange folk-ish effort from this LA native. This is my intro to the man, but he's apparently been releasing CDRs for close to a decade now. How the hell did I miss this guy? It's no matter becuase we found and we do likes 'em. The vocals on 'Edible Homes' brings to mind the twisted prog folk of Comus but he's tending a much gothier patch here, maybe more along the lines of early Legendary Pink Dots. The folk angle pops in and out, fighting for space alongside droning organs, fuzzy field recordings, garbled electronics, and even some wild, almost free jazz-style drumming. There are also some great blips of programmed electronics that bring to mind the spazzier moments of Aphex Twin's "Drukqs". Yessum, real mixed bag here, but sewn together well enough to convince me to start paying attention.

Dead Luke “The Black Plague In Mono No.3” (Jerkwave)
Can't get enough Dead Luke round these parts, and even though the man is calling it quits, he still has a fleet of new records dropping this year to keep his name floating around for a bit longer. Apparently there will be LPs coming from Night People, Florida's Dying, Sacred Bones, a split LP on Aurora Borealis, where he'll be joined by Zola Jesus, and a cassette coming out on Bathetic Tapes, which is a label I cannot find much info on. Possible interview with label head here? Where was I? Ok, Dead Luke. This one may only be recommended to the hardcore Luke fans, as the pop that's bubbled through to the surface of his other releases (the best being that 7" on Sweet Rot) is not really present here. This one runs from the bouncy goth synth of those earlier releases all the way to droning sitar bliss-outs. Also some Cramps-style boogie jams for good measure. This is part 3 of Jerkwave's ongoing 'The Black Plague in Mono" series, so I'm sure we can expect some more bent pop on the upcoming full lengths.

The Elks “The Black Plague In Mono No.4” (Jerkwave)
Outside of the black and white cover art adorning the cassettes in 'The Black Plague In Mono' series, and a general bleakness in the music, there's not a whole lot connecting these releases (Hanging Coffins and Absinthe Minds did the first two). Not a concern, just a thought. The Elks are running the same line of gnarly/blown out garage sickness that the likes of The Hunches, Lamps and The Hospitals have already traversed. If yr worried that this is a mere aping then rest at ease, The Elks take things to the next logical extreme by turning up the static, amping up those harsh metallic drums, and even adding in some droning synth. The vocals are especially effective here, flipping from a lock-jawed hiss to ferocious barks. Highly recommended shit here. Check out an earlier CDR the band released here (courtesy of The Elks).

BT. HN. “Valastro” (Cipher Productions)
First of two new collaborative efforts by Vancouver's Sick Buildings and THE RITA. This cassette, which was released on the Australian label Cipher Productions, starts off with a jarring shot of white noise that fire out like a cannon (this writer actually flinched) and is followed by what sounds like a a gathering street mob. Later, a man speaking French for several moments is interrupted by a familiar blast of harsh noise that could only be the doing of THE RITA. The speaker's voice is then interspersed with the same shots of noise that started the tape off, sounding like speaker happens to be under siege. The explosions are eventually wrenched into blow torch-like blasts and are backed up by violent feedback and teethgrinding vocals. This is perhaps the most visual release I've heard from either of these fellers, and brings to mind urban warfare happening well out of ear shot from these cozy Canadian shores. Apparently it has more to do with dynamite fishing than anything else. Go figger.

Lake Shark “Harsh Noise” (Lake Shark/Rundownsun)
Second collab between these two was recorded in a hotel room in NYC while the two were waiting to attend last year's No Fun Fest.
This is a real quicky and was reportedly recording using materials found in the room. There is a low bass rumble that acts as the river bed for a harsh electric trickle to weave its way atop the bass-y flow. Short and well to the point. Nice oversize packaging on this sucker, too. Thick cardstock flap with a nice print job. There's also some nice smut thrown in there for yr viewing pleasure.

Silver Futures “From The Swamp Rot Rises My Baby’s Dreams” (Future Sound Recordings)
Newest release by Future Sound Recordings, who are also responsible for those early Ducktails cassettes, is a duo featuring Mark McGuire (Emeralds) and Etienne Pierre Duguay, who is the drummer in Predator Vision. This effort definitely leans more towards the Emeralds end of things here with a cascade of twilight synths, dream sequence guitars and hushed xylophones (I think). Everything is wrapped in a warm tick-tocking swirl of ambient hum that gives this release a comforting new new-age vibe that I just can't get enough of these days. I've seen the future. It is silver.

Jeans Wilder “Antiques” (Night People)
Night People, who have always been dependable for their quality releases of disparate new sounds, have unearthed a gloomy pop cretin from somewhere along the US West Coast. Yup, another avant bedroom composer that seems to have dropped out of nowhere. Well, this one is gonna go in the pile that is already occupied by Night Control, Blank Dogs and Kurt Vile, though this doesn't really sound like any one of those. There are a few similarities, however, including warbled keyboards, echoed vocals, and some b-movie synths. What does separate him is his use of the acoustic guitar, giving this cassette a much more intimate feel while still remaining distant and out of grasp. Upcoming releases include a split cassette on Bathetic (seriously, someone wanna get me some info on this label) with the brooding a gal out of the UK, and a few 7"s and 12"s on tba labels.

Peaking Lights “Two Songs For Ceremony” (Night People)
Freshest, newest jams from one of my personal favorite groups running right now. Two songs, two sides, silkscreened covers, and 100% quality from Night People. Unfortunately, my wholesale copies vanished like a Record Store Day 7", but it looks like the label still has copies, so get's 'em while you can. Anyways, those who've heard their fabulous full length LP/CS on Night People/Not Not Fun can expect the same hazy head rush. Repetitious guitar waves, post-war electronic squiggles rising like fireflies, a lightly thudding drum machine, and those dreamy and distant vocals wrap around yr skull like a thundershot of THC. A brilliant cocoon of gauzy lo-fi dreamadelica. Oh so recommended. The duo seem to be outta merch right now, but hopefully they have some new material dropping soon. In the mean time, we can expect a new collaborative effort between Aaron of Peaking Lights and Luke of Dead Luke. They've dubbed themselves Bone Patrol and will have a cassette on Luke's own Jerkwave sometime soon. Couldn't be more excited 'bout that one. Check Peaking Lights blog here for infrequent updates. There's even a photo of Temptation from their opening slot at last year's show at the Sweatshop (RIP), which was stolen from yours truly! That one's on the house, guys.

Knitted Abyss “Winter Barn” (Night People)
Ok, one more from Night People, and it sure is on the same dub tip that Peaking Lights are rockin'. Knitted Abyss hail from New South Wales in Australia and consist of two members, one of whom calls Naked On The Vague home. That's right, we have a bonafide NOTV side-project here. Not exactly on that tip, but NOTV aren't exactly the kinda group you wanna even bother trying to replicate. The front end is chock full o' echo canyon drum machines and low end throbbing bass that brings to mind that overlooked Siltbreeze LP from fellow Australians Fabulous Diamonds LP. There are also some intense but muffled vocals which must have caught the ear of Shawn Reed, Night People's label head who also rocked the same style with Raccoo-oo-oon and continues the tradition with Wet Hair. Though this release tends more towards the hypnotic end of the spectrum rather than going for the full freak. The flip is a little different and see's the group heading into some groovy kraut blues that eventually gives way to rolling hits of noise. A mighty debut effort.

Treetops “Deep Purple Infinity” (Taped Sounds)
The never ending train of Treetops cassettes continues on, and thee Expressway is here to make sense of the mess. First up is a new one on the mysterious and plainly-named Taped Sounds, of which I have no information about. The recording here is a mid-pace drone creaker that's got a nice tapestry of wave-y synths that are layered up until it reaches an almost Tim Hecker-like ambience, though of a much more lo-fi quality. The flip is crammed with shaky, crystalline synths that are accompanied by cymbal rushes, which creates a nice underwater-with-the-sun-rippling-through kinda vibe. This would be a top notch release if it wasn't for the crap taping job. Must be low quality cassette used or just a crappy tape deck. Check out the Tomentosa site here for some other releases by Taped Sounds.

Treetops “North” (Arbor)
A nicer fidelity is achieved on "North", most likely due to the pros over at Arbor. More synth work here but of a dreamier, alien vibe. A lo-fi and gentle humming drone accompanies this side, creating a dream-like atmosphere that is easy to drift away in. The flip is another bliss-dream exercise that features some of those nice cymbal washes we heard on the above-mention release. Midnight beach soundtrack complete with whisps of ghosts drifting off the rolling tide.

Treetops “Melancholy” (Arbor)
Up there right alongside the guitar drones of Expo ‘70 (more on that below) is the most recent cassette release by my favorite droner Treetops. The flip begins with a slow mo windmill blast from the ray gun guitar this one man jammer before fading into the darker low-end buzz drone we’ve come to know and love. The flip is a short little come down of twinkling synth drone.

Treetops “Eternal Sky” (Monorail Trespassing)
Finally, we come to the newest Treetops cassette, released on the ever-improving Monorail Trespassing label. This one's a little darker and night nearly as meditative as those above mentioned cassettes. This one starts off with a slow encroaching bass rumble that rides underneath a slow cycling synth drone. The bass eventually outpaces the intensity of the droning synths, but eventually both fade out and give way to a dark piano (keyboard maybe?) lament that resembles some early Stars Of The Lid material. Beautiful drone/bliss territory covered here.

Earn “Down The Well” (Monorail Trespassing)
Another great cassette on the label comes from the mysterious Earn, whom I cannot find a lick of information on (privy parties please drop a comment). Whoever this is has dropped one of the finest tapes so far this year (truth), and I cannot stop flipping this (double truth!). The cassette starts off with a slow droning, plaintive cello that's apparently played by Scott Reber (of Work/Death infamy) before veering off into a warm swarm. The warmth is eventually subdued by a sharp wall of shoegaze noise that goes from calm to frighteningly shrill. Earn is definitely exploring the depths of shoegaze noise here, in fact, it almost feels like walking in on My Bloody Valentine as they perform the "bridge" of 'You Made Me Realise'. Not quite as damaging as that, but you get the idea. Brand spanking new tape on Ekhein sounds promising too. Check the samples on Mimaroglu, and, while you're there, pick up a tape or two. One of the best distributors online right now.

Expo ‘70 “White Ohms” (Peasant Magik)
One of a slew of new releases by this one-man guitar drone overlord, White Ohms is another advancement of the man's sound. Not quite as bleak as "Black Ohms" but still immobilizing and works as great companion piece. Though their influence is deep and their name gets tossed around a little too often, the Sunn O))) vibe is strong here. But, rather than the weigh of the recordings focusing on the deep tone of the guitars, Expo 70's approach, particularly on a few tracks here and elsewhere, is more about the volume of the buzz his guitar can conjure. Though the entire cassette here isn't strictly amplifier worship, there are a few moments of deep canyon guitar echoes and donging guitar ambience to bring some balance.
Not sure if there are copies left, but Expo 70' has just dropped an excellent LP on Fedora Corpse. Also worth investigating is the Evenings LP on the same label, another artist plunging the bottomless depths for dark ambience. Check an Evenings sample here. There is also a new LP to look forward to, which will also be released by Peasant Magik. You can pre-order that sucker here and even get the "White Ohms" cassette tossed in there.

FNU Ronnies - Golem / BLOOD! - Evacuted Materials (Skrot Up)
After kicking out the harsh garage jams on their debut 7" last year (on the up and coming Philadelphia based Richie Records), FNU Ronnies turn in another hellish trip through gnarly industrial/kraut/garage territory. The group's rhythm section find a deep groove to ride out while the keyboards screech, the guitars shred and scrape, and the seething vocals come out in wavering assaults. This is heavy on the Chrome vibe here. BLOOD, who take over on the flip, are almost indiscernible from FNU Ronnies, which is fine by me, because, outside of Six Finger Satellite, no one has taken the Chrome essence and roughened up the edges quite like these two. The FNU Ronnies side has just been released as a one-sided 12" on Night People, which seems like an odd pairing, but the who the hell am I to argue? As a side note, there are some upcoming releases on the Danish label Skrot Up by some groups that I know shit all about, including Balaclavas, SFHHH and Thetlvmth. After an hour of myspace "research" I have deemed these groups to be the new breed of damaged art punk, and This appears to be just about the most exciting new cassette label happening right now. New releases are in the mail and will hopefully be devoured in time for the next monthly issue. Until then, keep diggin'


Capt. Vertcloud said...

Thanks for the mammoth ( and insightful! ) review of tapes here Mark, much appreciated - I missed the boat on most of them but slowly I'm resolving to wake up and hunt better

Anonymous said...

thnx- it would be nice to check some of them out- in tryin to track em down some are already sold-out, or out of print-