Music Reviews

Red Math – “Unhinged” – [Digitalis Industries]

Belladonna   4/27/2011   A Library, Cassette

aka Lance Dibblee. I hated this at first. Its a perplexing mix of harsh noize, bleeps, “industrial dance”, glitchy frenetics and techno. So you can see why I was confused. It has a hollow analog quality that bugs me and I wish it wasn’t so noize-y. The choices are noize or beats and nothing in between it seems. I preferred the simple nature of tracks 6 & 10 but I think there is definitely something to be found for everyone.

Goldmann, Stefan – “haven’t i seen you before” – [Tapeworm, The]

Thurston Hunger   4/20/2011   A Library, Cassette

First I got to get something off my eChest. I find the cassette
revival frustrating on a couple of levels, from sound quality to
just the drag of getting them into KFJC’s airstream. Hell, images of
the loose tape spewing out a car window have returned like killer
whales to my nightmares…and inserting a pencil into my mind to
rewind away the pain does not help. That being said, yes I get the
anti-piracy attack, (and thank you pirates for making vinyl more
viable). Or course counter-coolness of the underground badge factor
connects (but please let us avoid 8-tracks) and of course I can
easily come to grips with the old Mishima notion that lo-fi flaws
accentuate high-art beauty… I guess I would rather see more
artful packaging for dread CDR burns, or wearable musical memory
sticks of something…

But now turning to this release in proper…it is perhaps the
paramount example of why one should love cassettes. Goldmann has
concocted a moebius mind trip of looping, that relies upon the
inherent two-way nature of cassettes. His notes state “Press REV on
your autoreverse deck at any time to enter the loop.” So that son of
an ourobourus has got a reversible release (which is even better
than the old cassette thing of stop/rewind/replay for your sonic
addiction). The work here has an “Evening Star” kind of stillness,
clean ringing guitar, doubly amped taking cues of percussion
from the immediate interaction of player and instrument as well
as the softer soundwaves. Gotta to love the heartbeat/railroad
clicking/tapping tracks 3/8. Other sections have what I first
though were micro-sample delays, till I read more. There is a very
intimate tactile presence on this solo guitar work, but upon
checking Tapeworm out it is not necessarily immediate. Evidently
Goldmann (who is the same DJ behind beat bopping techno), fumbled
his way on guitar to generate massive material, and then took his
ear and editing expertise to hand-craft this. Thus making the
title even more genius than the nod to the love of the loopy
cassette. I do think the release stands fine as it is, and have no
qualms with the genitive splicing myself (this tops a lot of Derek
Bailey for me, even if it ain’t improv by the book…it’s improved
improv). Pretty damn classy in conception and construction.

-Thurston Hunger

Stern, Marnie – “Demo” – [Dog Daze]

lombard   4/5/2011   A Library, Cassette

On this cassette release simply titled Demo, we get a chance to hear solo demo recordings recorded at home by Marnie Stern back in 2006. Released just a few months back in January 2011, this cassette showcases Marnie Stern’s talents before she was signed to Kill Rock Stars in 2007. Instrumentation can be quite hectic, calling to mind Melt-Banana’s frenetic guitar genius in places. Yet it can also be poetic with spoken word-style lyrics, along the lines of Miranda July or Bongwater. There are also more melodic parts to this, illuminating her lovely voice.

Pushkin, A. – “Figure, The” – [Avant Archive]

Belladonna   3/23/2011   A Library, Cassette

aka Alexey Pushkin, also goes by the name of “Analog Concept”. This is an unusual combination of raw and crunchy beats with moments of menace and of cricket hums, then techno-y beats and rounded out with lovely and melodic ambiance. There are moments of all of my favorite electronic elements, there is something for everyone which makes it excellent.

Fielded – “Lord Reigns, Let The People Tremble, The” – [Catholic Tapes]

humana   3/19/2011   A Library, Cassette

This is a weird bit of loveliness from Lindsay Powell of Chicago, whose voice, whether it be a cappella or minimally accompanied by itself and other instruments, fascinates with chants and other permutations. The last song is a cover of ???Release Me,??? and it ends quite suddenly, which I guess implies the release. 6 is a must-try, and the others are well worth a listen.

Yole Boys – “Megakut #1” – [Megakut Records]

MSTiZA   2/10/2011   Cassette, Hip Hop

This cassette release is limited to 250 copies. It’s a mega mix from your faves DJ Quest(SF) on cuts and “records” alongside Fatees(OAK) with his “Bay”ami Bass style. These two hold it down with samples and beats that make you want to whip your hair back and forth. Keep a lookout for Megakut Records. They are takig back cassette culture releasing mixtapes and local side projects from Hip Hop greats, including a slice pulp fiction. Don’t sleep on this!

Lord Jeff – “Lord Jeff” – [Ecstatic Peace!]

humana   1/18/2011   A Library, Cassette

Try not to hold it against this band from Northampton, MA that they???re named after a general who allegedly gave smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans during the French and Indian War. Instead focus on their music, which is well worth listening to for its clever lyrics, vocals that sound like John Lennon, and fine psychedelic guitar, bass, and drums (10 has a great drum solo). Start with 3 and then move to 7 and 9. You won???t be disappointed.

Internal Improv – “[small]” – [Scotch Tapes]

lombard   7/20/2010   A Library, Cassette

Limited to 25 copies, this 2009 cassette release by Los Angeles-area musician David Lucien (aka Internal Improv or [dav’s] Internal Improv) is a quick jaunt through his lo-fi experimental artistry. Super low male vocals, guitar, and tape fuzz begin it all and lead into a twinkly piece with some minimal beats. My favorite is the final piece, “Small,” with its muffled male voice and a lady joining in with the refrain “my body is a failure.” Quite evocative material.

Altar Eagle – “Judo Songs” – [Digitalis Industries]

lombard   5/4/2010   A Library, Cassette

On 2009’s limited (125 copies-now sold out) cassette release “Judo Songs,” Oklahoma project Altar Eagle (aka Digitalis owners and wife-husband duo Eden Hemming and Brad Rose) presents 5 hazy, fuzzy tracks full of spacy beauty. Keyboards may remind you of an ancient church organ or maybe the 1980s or perhaps the 1990s shoegaze or 4AD scene, with barely audible vocals by Eden peeking through and competing with shimmer and buzz. I know the word mesmerizing is overused, but after listening to this upwards of 10 times, it’s an apt description of the relaxed and altered state that this lovely music will put you in.

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