Now here’s a minor Blast from the Past with Michael Pouw’s Knit Prism solo vision and one of the first cassettes released on Michael Jantz owned Avant Archive. There’s a lot of electric guitar on Knit Prism’s albums, but it’s as if it was not even played by a human. It’s not as much played but rather the strings are brought to life by gusts of wind or birds perching on it. The two sides are randomly enveloping, seemingly chaotic yet harmonic compositions that drift in a semi-conscious haze that reigns all over the cassette, now long sold out. It’s still available digitally, though. And you better check it out – or maybe I’m just a sucker for rapidly descending clusters of guitar notes and a bit of shimmering field recordings. Anyway, highly recommended!
If you’re a sucker for droning, reverbed shamanic ruminations that often employ synthesizers and field recordings (and following Weed Temple, it’s pretty much a sure thing), then this cassette by the Melbourne based Popol Vuh worshipper Isis Aquarium will be the Manna from heaven for you. Issued on the fresh yet already very interesting (and promising!) Australian label Habitat Tapes, it is a joyous almanac of the visionary present, as told through analog circuitry with Germanic precision. If you don’t buy this, check out the label’s blurb: “a nebulous acoustic terrain that shifts from jungle fog to desert plain.” It’s like old-skool National Geographic magazine without any old NatGeo collages on the cover. Recommended!
The Philadelphia based Data Garden is a label like no other in the terms of the format on which they release their music. It’s even weirder and more fascinating than the concept-pushing releases of Auris Apothecary, who tend to release their music on reel-to-reel tapes, floppy discs, stylus-destroying vinyl records, or even candles. Data Garden, in relation to their name, release music that you can… plant. Like a plant. Each physical release is a strip of seed paper, which contains a free download code. After downloading the album, the paper can be put into soil and flowers will grow. In the case of this album – blue Lobelias. As Data Garden’s “About” page explains this groundbreaking connection between newest findings in science and new ideas for music distribution:
“We seek to redefine traditional music distribution. Digital files are easily lost by the impermanence of computing. Physical objects like CDs, tapes and records last far beyond their usability and possibly even our existence as a species. Data Garden mitigates these challenges by releasing digital album codes on artwork that can grow into living plants. This addresses the need for easy access to music, as well as the natural human desire to own an awesome physical object.”
But the science doesn’t endly on on employing seed paper for Data Garden. The newest album by the label is an ambient journey by Ben Warfield, a musically talented scientist and a lab researcher working on developing lighting systems for astronauts. The music and the themes on Songs of Light and Dust are like Brian Eno meeting Carl Sagan. It is a classic ambient record, “classic” in a sense that it’s soft and melodic, stemming straight from the kosmische Musik and early progressive electronic traditions, when there was much fascination and hope in exploration of space and the early synthesizers gave a lot of previously unheard, unearthly feel. It’s an ambient record which is a legacy of the classic stargazers, for whom ambient music expressed wonder with the unknown, not yet “polluted” by harsh textures or digital glitches that would come later. Some might call Warfield’s album unremarkable or derivative, but I view it more like a legacy for the man’s quest for breaking the borders and making step after step toward the stars. Songs of Light and Dust is a thoroughly enjoyable, wonderfully melodic old-school ambient album. And a reminder that this planet is just a mote of dust in space bathed in light from the Sun.
If William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops were a polished, hi-fi representation of a memory fading and crumbling, then the Corpus cassette by Black Thread, released on San Francisco tape destroyer microlabel Turmeric Magnitudes is the ultra lo-fi attempt to represent loops falling apart into hissing oblivion. Piano melodies are getting torn to single notes, echoing ambience is abruptly cut with loud clicks, there is a truly raw bedroom feel to this whole cloud of sound… This is not low fidelity. This is even not no fidelity. This is minus fidelity.
From the Toronto based nanolabel Power Moves comes a collection of impressionistic, mid-fi bedroom recordings recorded solely with the use of electric guiar and some basic effects. A compilation of brief feelings, ideas and glimpses of inspiration rather than a fully fleshed out album, For Guitar and Amplifier is the kind of recording that celebrates the ability to play an instrument and publish it free on the Internet for the sake of personal satisfaction rather than the need to be recognized and heard and pushing any boundaries in music. I could call it a poor man’s Roy Montgomery if I wanted, but this is simply a man having a ball with his guitar in the confined, intimate space of his own flat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pretty guitar ambience that will probably get lost in the digital crowd, but enjoy it while you’re still paying attention before switching to another YouTube/Bandcamp/SoundCloud tab on your browser.
What a fun, lengthy and fulfiling album. Despite coming from a Texas based label Obsolete Future (check out their “best of 2013” lists, this shit is tight!), this cassette by WWC (real name: Bill Converse) is deeply rooted in Detroit techno and acid house traditions, bouncing all over the place with analog precision and acidic swagger, expanding over the course of 11 tracks into a sort of taped AFX worship and gaining new layers of sound-faring ecstasy with each minute. This wayback machine takes the listener straight to grimey nightclubs and half-legal warehouse parties at the dawn of the techno age. Total synthgasm in eleven parts – all recorded with no overdubs or multi-tracking, totally impressive! Highly recommended!
Joseph Bastardo’s Bastian Void has been constantly one of my favorite time-travelling music of choice for the last few years. Each and single one of his releases keeps at the highest level, and he seems to gradually one-up himself (even if slightly) with each successive release. Following the stellar Fluorescent Bells (released on Field Hymns, available for free download now, check it out!!), his newest release (well, it’s only two months old, so it can still count as “new”) is the Chemical Tapes released vista Phonics. Through dusted analog electronics he unveils the half-forgotten (or subconscious) memories of childhood, old computers and introduction to the world of global communications with a disarming, New Agey ease. The following blurb from the label’s Bandcamp might easily replace all my introductions, it’s just so perfect:
“Warm daylight, myself at age 8, sitting in computer class. Circuits and pine trees. Views out various bedroom windows. The research laboratory down the street. Atari in the basement. Wood paneling. Office buildings. Power generators sitting in the forest. Light shapes cast on walls. Science class. Old computer games. Leaves and educational video tapes.”
Say what you want, but he got me at “wood panelling”. Can’t forget wood panelling. Because this shit’s probably never coming back. And it was awesome.