Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monthly Cassette Reviews

La Otracina “Gardens Of Blackness” (Digitalis Limited)
After a spate of ridiculously limited CD-r and cassette releases, La Otracina were given their proper debut in 2007 by Holy Mountain. "Tonal Ellipse of the One" was a sorely overlooked modern psych ripper that saw the Brooklyn trio venturing into the desert to conjure the ghosts of early Ash Ra Tempel via Man's Ruins bands. "Gardens of Blackness" begins this way before veering into a horrific stoner-scape that's complete with darkly yawning keys. The flip is a bit more transcendental, employing some deliciously layered warm and warbled keys with some lightly plucked acoustic bits, which are then looped and reversed and accompanied by wide washes of cymbals. Very Taj Mahal Travellers-on-the-beach-mode here. Quiet a departure from that previous releases on Holy Mountain. Interested parties should also note that the group also have a brand new full length...on Holy Mountain, of course.

Sachiko “With Lament” (Sloow)
Newest batch of Sloow Tapes arrived the other week and lord-y are they ever beautiful--inside and out. First tape up is the newest solo venture by mysterious Japanese underground siren, Sachiko, who I know very little about other than it appears to be a single female who only has a a handful of releases to her name. The first side of the tape are some entrancing siren tracks that utilize voice only. Sweet, short and high-pitch wordless vocals are looped and layered until a whole new dizzying wave is trapped. Once the first wave is looped Sachiko keeps adding more lines to the bobbing waves below. This sucker will set you adrift into an undulating and foggy sea. The siren appears through the mist, drawing you closer. Seriously some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever heard put to tape. Grouper fans rejoice.

Pink Lumionous Invocation “The Pink Sea” (Sloow)
Another great dark jammer from Denmark's Pink Luminous Invocation, who already dropped a bleak beauty on Not Not Fun last year. Those early Sonic Youthisms that pervaded their previous cassette are pretty much gone, replaced by an even doomier atmosphere. Discordant and hazy thumping make way for a slow-mo slug through doom-and-organ-laden psych, which eventually picks up some momentum until the psych-ringing is hammered over yr skull. Eventually the beast runs out of steam until it’s just an ominous hum. The "Pink Sea," despite it's cute title, this is about as dark as doom-drone overlords Robedoor ever get. Very recommended.

Check out both Not Not Fun releases here. (via No Not Fun Not No)

Sepviva Bells “Halloween In The Sea” (Sloow)
Sepviva Bells is a duo comprised of Tara Burke (most famous for her fucked-folk project Fursaxa) and Grant Acker (also of Slurp Dogs). Here we have a disjointed mix of flutes, panicked drumming and a general lo-fi electric folk where the tape sounds as if its about cut out at any moment. Some tracks flit between mega-fuzzed guitar with childish drumming, while others reflect the fractured-folk of Burk's Fursaxa.

Scoop it here. (via microphones in the trees!)

Usputuspud “Disco” (Caligulan)
This unpronounceable (don't bother) is the one-man side project of Matt Rogers, who also swings a mean axe in Wildildlife (check my post about them here). Unlike the straight-up pummel horse that is his main band, Usputuspud is Matt's diversion into experimental ambient waters. "Disco" is, apparently, made up entirely of harmonica samples, though you wouldn't guess that after listening to this. The harmonica has been stretched and warped into murky sweeps of ambient bliss and even into a 4/4 drum machine-like beat, hence the title. The flip is a little headier and has a slightly dubby infection to it, with some parts even reminding me of Blues Control, though I can't help but hear them in a lot of music these days.

Usputuspud “Liturgical Alcoholik” (White Lodge)
The second release in this saga is much more subdued affair and is about an inch away from new age. Ambient lights sway from the left channel to the right, while deep drops of bass burst at the top of a slow-bubbling swamp, creating a serene and otherworldly landscape. It then mellows into a beautiful echo-y synthscape. Incredibly simple, but effective nonetheless.

Oneohtrix Point Never “Ruined Lives” (Young Tapes)

Menacing and dark new age on this amazing space-case label that's run by the same man that also ran the now defunct JK tapes. Chirping bird electronics collide with Ash Ra Tempel "New Age of Earth" via Blade Runner synth workouts. The cascading synth lines on this one spin around enough to make you a lil dizzy. Keep an eye on this label. Great things coming...

Strange Water “Environments” (Arbor)
Speaking of the new new age, over the last year Arbor has been harvesting some amazing soundscapes of midwestern (among other locales) drone/ambient that has been dropping jaws everywhere. Editions of 100-200, usually on cassette, sell out within a week of dropping. A new release by Ducktails, in an edition of 200, was gone within days (try fusetron or DNT for copies). The demand is at an all time high and shows no signs of slowing.
First release up from late last year's final onslaught is courtesy of Strange Water, which is a collab between Dan Dlugosielski (Uneven Universe) and Mike Pollard (Treetops and Arbor head honcho). This is one long droner over 2 sides of tape and features the train-like sax bellows of Dan and the slow encroaching drone concocted by Pollard. Darkness is eventually cleared for a crystalline high end drone that dominates the flip.

10, 000 Things “Crooked On Chrome” (Arbor)
Another collab here, this time between Geoffrey Mullen (of the Rare Youth label) and Scott Reber (aka Work/Death). This is a tougher nut to crack, but works along the same dark ambient lines as the Strange Water release. However, this one's a tad murkier and receives abrupt transmissions of static. Not bad overall.

Outer Space “Perfect Vacuum” (Arbor)
Emeralds side-project alert! This time around it's the usually quieter John Elliott that drops the new age bomb. Much like his main focus in Emeralds, Outer Space consists of deep drones made up entirely on a vintage Korg MS-10. Though this isn't quite as put-on-repeat listenable as Steve Hauschildt cassettes, "Perfect Vacuum" is heavy on imagery. Low frequency drones oscillate under eerie electronic drips, sounding as if yr caught in cave on some distant moon.

Bee Mask “s/t” (Arbor)
Bee Mask has been quietly releasing some excellent tapes on the low-profile Deception Island label, but this is his first for Arbor, who's a great addition to the label. Side A opens with some fried electronics which give way to squelching synth maneuvers before flying into high-pitch synth drones. The flip is all down-the-drain drones accompanied by an eerie jack-in-the-box twinkling, making for an ominous listen.

HNY “Mute In The Dust” (Not Not Fun)
HNY is a member of sonic oddballs Social Junk and this is her first release solo. HNY traverses the same mystic forests as her witchy contemporaries (think Grouper, Inca Ore) but prefers to head out into those forests in the dead of night. "Mute In The Dust" is jammed full of darkly-looped synth and guitar lines which swirl like blackened smoke around her banshee wail. Occasionally her vocals are allowed to travel along on their own and end up in wind tunnel of mirrors. There's also a coupla' cold wave sections that make this listen even icier. This is quite the debut and I ache a little to hear some more.

Tricorn and Queue “Continual Passage” (Stunned)
Warped and bubbly drone with plenty of warmth. Far from the sterile drone-works of other contemporaries, this work is almost crystalline and has a glowing lo-fi edge to it that many drone recordings lack. It's kinda like the Stars of the Lid debut if those bastards hadn’t have been so moody. Shimmering and slightly warbled synths bring a Boards of Canada feel, minus the beatwork, natch. Environmental field recordings swing into the mix with ease, giving these recording an earthy vibe.

Brave Priest “Precious Summers” (Stunned)
On the other end of the Stunned spectrum we have the debut recording by Portland's blazing Brave Priest. This tidy little threesome combine fiery whips of wah, howl at the moon vocals and a rumbling rhythm section which comes flying out the gates in the same way that Residual Echoes used to rock. It's not quite as bombastic and assaultive as Comets On Fire, who were Residual Echoes' big bros, but instead are more on the classic rock end of the spectrum rather than Blue Cheer. The recording here is a little on the lo-fi end of things for a huge-sounding band like this, but I'm sure we can expect some hi-fi recordings to drop soon.

Predator Vision “II” (Abandon Ship)
Continuing along the psych jammer highway, this new-ish cassette by up-and-comers Predator Vision should hold you over until their Not Not Fun split with Sun Araw arrives. Ya'anyways, this C30 features two side long psych workouts that feature the watery, eastern guitar wranglings of Matt Mondalien, who some of you may know as the horribly-named, yet totally awesome, Ducktails. This isn't nearly as pleasant as Ducktails, however, but instead stalks a darker end of the kosmische tropics that co-conspirators Sun Araw tend to habit. That upcoming split on NNF should prove to be an early highlight of '09.

Check out one of those jams here. (via Raven Sings The Blues)

Darwinsbitch “Steel Hum” (Digitalis)
I am at a loss for words on this one. Apparently it's made up of synths, tapes and violins, but I'm at a loss to hear any of those. I guess any Vanouverites who read this will just have to check out her show at Little Mountain on Saturday, February 7th. 8:30pm! Solars and Gregg Kowalsky (ambience from the Kranky label) will also be playing. Presented by Vancouver's up-and-coming promoters, Twee Death.


Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff! Thanks for giving us the low down on these!

Anonymous said...

Your monthly tape haul has never looked so sweet. Gotta get me some of these...keep em coming.

Anonymous said...

Hey - Greetings from Gastown where I'm tied to my computer and just discovered this very info-ladden blog!! Excited especially about local show announcements. I'm s.a.d. I missed this thingamajig at the LM Studios but I'm gonna keep my ears pricked better from now on thanks to you. Have a wonderful day.

bodo said...

How come you types never post links? It's not like they'll ever make more of these things. You have a responsibility here - if you have the tapes, please upload! WWJD!

Mark E. Rich said...

How come you types don't know how to use google? Also, I don't yet have the ability to convert a cassette into mp3s. also, SUPPORT THE FUCKING ARTIST AND BUY SOME OF THEIR SHIT.