Since it’s Halloween almost everywhere in the English (and the Internet-) speaking world, have something with a spooky skeleton on the cover. But that’s not the only thing that the Weed Temple and the Halloween have in common. First of all, I’ve equipped myself with some quality homegrown bud and a few beers and I’m pretty much in the zone rigth now. Second of all, I’m being accompanied in this zone by the Buenos Aires based killer psych unit Kill West, who filter the garagey, 60’s-inspired tunes through extensive reverb and distortion which give it a nearly shoegaze feeling, except with balls. Highly recommended, seriously fuzzy sound!
Disco Insolence is a “wannabe tape label” from Darlington, UK. While their oputput rate might not be head-spinning, it’s obvious that they prefer the “quality over quantity” principle. The newest release is a minimalist ambient journey byt the Detroit based electronic explorer Solvognen. Translating the urban decay into a set of slightly noisy, coldly futuristic vistas echoing with a metallic clang like the reverbearting halls of abandoned factories, Solvognen crafts an unsettling New Age travel to the heart of imagined future and forgotten technology.
Another round of cassettes. This time it’s a mix of relatively new tapes and some minor blasts from the past (2012). This one’s a little more eclectic and psychedelic, too. I’ve decided again to stay with the mystical number seven – 7 tapes for each episode of the series. Let’s go!!!
The Montreal experimental synth game is strong, with many players trying to one-up each other in homegrown analog electronics. Karl Fousek takes the challenge, too – and goes the more abstract way with both sides of his cassette, released with an elegant, grid-like artwork by Daniel Everett. The first side, “Isotopies” is a collection of shorter, Stockhausian drafts and experiments in whacked-out musique concrete – rarely any track is longer than 1 minute. Things get more interesting on the flipside, titled “Symmetries”, which are a gathering of crystalline analog musics by the way of melodic M. Geddes Gengras or Venndiagram. Karl Fousek seeks nirvana in maniacally repeating sequences – and gets dangerously close.
Ki Oni – Autumn, In Reel Time (Inner Islands)
Inner Islands label seems to have some sort of a positive schizophrenia (is something like this even possible?). At one hand, they love slow New Age tinged drones filled with meticulous field recordings and general site-specific aesthetic (much like the legendary Jeweled Antler collective). On the other hand, they want to be DJ’s and drift off to looping techno seemingly inspired by Axel Willner’s The Field project, a Swedish glacial gentle giant enveloping you in giant, looping melancholic melodies poised to hypnotize you. Ki Oni take very much the same path, setting the ambient techno aesthetics below the reverb-o-mania and angelic drones hovering above the mid-tempo beat.
dogeeseseegod / The Zero Map – Split (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
This cassette struck me initially with its sprayed golden cover, hiding the tape beneath with a semi-opaque golden curtain. Two sides of desperate caveman drone/noise clatter, with the first side striking the more ritualized, ancient temple of a forgotten civilization vibe, with the other becoming a torrent of modified recorded noises of everyday occurences, including what sounds like a no-fi recording of flowing water, filtered through some pedal effects to create some deafening wall noise, like a no-budget version of Daniel Menche’s “Kataract”. Uplifting and upsetting. Mad props for the label name, too. Really cool!
Moss Lime – July First (Fixture)
There’s something adorable, if not downright magical, in listening to French girls sing in English. The beautiful accent makes it all the more lyrical and romantic for some reason, even if the musical background is inspired by the gritty sound of late 70’s British post-punk. But the Lyon based trio Moss Lime manage to spice it up with some sunshine, especially with an interesting cover of Alex Gaudino’s “Destination Calabria” turned into a bouncing tropicadelic jam. Vague vapors of Royal Trux can be felt throughout the tape, with occasionally sloppy and detuned guitars cutting the harmony like a rusty scalpel. Watch out for hints of psychedelia slipping through the cracks in melody, too.
Soft Eyes – Lazy Life (Under the Gun)
Lukas Goudreault, of MMOSS fame, smokes a few bowls of good ol’ natural green and goes psychedelic, in a mellowed out, lo-fi way. These are mostly guitar-based (with a very little and very rudimental analog synthesizer added here and there, think Damaged Bug lite) hippie meditations somewhere between drone-based folk improvisations to totally wasted, dripping setting sun acid rock solos. The album artwork seems to me like a distant cousin to Wildildlife’s “Six”, and a lot of that tropical, stoned atmosphere is kept here, too. Although in a much more relaxed and hazy way. Like WAY hazy, bro.
Prayer – Second Species (Constellation Tatsu)
A minor blast from the past with this 2012 tape from the then relatively fresh Constellation Tatsu (one of the first pages to put all their releases on Bandcamp, by the way!). Like a thin cover of snow on the cold fields, this tape is synthesized slowcore, like a set of Low songs translated into slowly undulating drones and basic, skeletal ambience. It’s as simple as ambient music can get, barely noticeable organ miniatures looped and stretched into snippets of infinity. This is an example of learning to speak Eno perfectly, except in this case it’s music for bedrooms, not airports.
Pajjama – Starch (Orange Milk)
OK, I gotta admit: a lot of stuff on Orange Milk is pretty goddamn weird, but this cassette is totally fucking bonkers. Which is funny, because it’s pretty damn melodic and cohesive. It’s just so ridiculously epic and overblown using 8-bit-ish sounds and chiptune approximations to achieve an emulation of 70’s prog rock ensemble. As the blurb on the label’s Bandcamp page says: “I have a hard time resisting the urge to call Pajjama an epic Norwegian prog rock outfit.” It’s like a warped prophecy of vaporwave taking its cues from cheesiest prog and lounge funk instead of corporate synth-pop. At times it sounds as if synth-era Popol Vuh or any of the great Berlin masters was commissioned to make a soundtrack for a sci-fi animated comedy film. And it turns into a techno/krautrock fusion at the end. Flip the sides, it’s the same mind-warping piece. Craaaazy.
If Los Angeles based glitch neophyte Alex Grains gains some momentum with his D/P/I vehicle – or at least gains some followers in the same vein, then the year 2015 might be a witness to the re-birth of glitch. Or its revival, whatever you want to call it. The newest release from Gray, MN.ROY is as fractured yet strangely melodic as the sort of super-precise, austere glitch concrete can be. The Leaving Records resident and chanceimag.es label honcho crafts an ambient-informed version of frenetic click and cut patchwork emerging and hiding in the hyper-futuristic ooze ocasionally shaken up by a cluster of sudden beats or a deep bass wave. Actually, when it comes to ADHD sound collages MN.ROY might be, together with Giant Claw’s Dark Web, the best interpretation of the cultural overproduction and hyper-acceleration of the Intertnet these days. Highly recommended!
Beer on the Rug comes back with some refreshingly non-vaporwave material from the likes of YYU and Tilburg, Netherlands based sound magician De Tuinen. Mintor Function is 45 minutes of perfectly zoned out trippertronic/kosmische electronic areas with one of the greatest openings I’ve heard in quite some time, with a meticulous sound design resembling a vintage control deck booting up in a rusty spacecraft, with a tired voice saying “press control shift” to the hum of old computers. It’s a deep, multilayered journey through different shades of the subconscious, both soaked with oldschool technology (thus recalling the futuristically mystical early works of Oneohtrix Point Never) and clinging to nature and found sound manipulation (a’la Dolphins Into the Future). It’s a fascinating soundworld, nearly an hour of synth-induced eargasms. Highly recommended!
Y’know what, there’s a whole fuckload of cassettes sitting on my shelves which I haven’t written a single word about. I feel like a fucking scumbag. All these people sending me tapes, spending their hard earned money – for nothing! Well, not anymore. Over the next few days, I will attempt to review all (or eat least most) the cassettes which I haven’t reviewed during all the years with Weed Temple. Some of them are still available, some are long sold out, you can stream some of them via Bandcamp or Soundcloud and some of them are so obscure there’s barely any info on them on the web.
With their simple, minimal artworks and reduced, cold aesthetics the Denmark based Phinery Tapes seem like a welcome ground for all sorts working with the inaccessible. And Michael J. O’Neal, working under the moniker Hollowfonts, has found himself a great niche within the label. The tape is filled with rugged and noisy musique concréte, a mistreated maelstrom of “captured and mistreated” (as the j-card states) sounds. XLVIII would fit as a background noise for Halloween themed party which takes place in an art gallery with popular props (like pumpkins or scarecrows) made into though-provoking, meticulous installations. There are even some mutant techno vibes stemming here and there from the ocean of tape sludge.
softest – Music for Rain: Volume One (Inner Islands)
Braden J. McKenna is surely a man of nature. The clear cassette signifies both the clean air and the clean mind, showing that he has nothing to hide and his intentions are clear: to give you a deep relaxation. As the title suggests, the distant sound of rain (and some other nature recordings) is present throughout much of the tape, providing a soothing background for equally soothing Eno Age emanations, painting sonic vistas with silky synth drones and gently reverbed guitar, like a shaman who elevates himself through deep meditation, not through psychoactive substances. If McKenna’s intention was to create the softest sound, he got pretty darn close to achieving his goal.
MONOL!TH – Andromeda (Self-released)
This tape is definitely cosmic. If the title didn’t give you a hint yet, then the tracklist, consisting merely of various stars’ names most surely will. The omnipresent geometric patterns on the package might suggest a cold, angular listening, but this ain’t no “Andromeda Strain”, more like “Silent Running”: a nostalgic flight through warm tones and analog textures which sounds like a simpler, more pop-oriented take on Emeralds, except without the bombast approach of their latter albums. This one is a cozy, mild cassette which occasionally shines a bright beam right into the third eye.
Themays – Knowhere (Otherworldly Mystics)
What do you get when you combine the drones of the five members of the San Francisco based zone explorers Themays? A bigger drone. Or at least a more monolithic, yet airy one, like a glacier made out of aerogel, simply gliding over the surface of the land, instead of carving it with tremendous force. Themays’ music is light as a feather and completely enveloping at a right volume. It shifts between blissful and ominous, changing the moods in a slow gradient, almost impossibly to notice only until a few minutes into a new zone when you notice that the sound is completely different. Good material for zoning out – or drifting off to sleep. Or both, because one can very well lead to another.
From the sitar-driven opening of the title track, Boston based musician and singer Rachel Thomasin’s Outlines is full of wide-eyed wonder combining dream pop dynamics with an otherworldly (living up to the label name, after all!) psychedelic touch. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone: a bit of IDM-informed synthtopia, sitar drones lurking in the background, wonderful hooks and vocal harmonies of faerie-voiced Thomasin, whose words fade into the aether with a lengthy echo, echoing the oeuvre of Grouper. But where Grouper seems more like a disconnected hermit exploring the inner space against the raw nature, Rachel Thomasin appears to be more like an urban goddess, carving emotional hymns from modern electronic styles and a wide palette of computer effects.
What is it with San Franscisco and mind-bending sound collages? Must be the shadow of the San Francisco Tape Music Center looming on all the experimental acolytes from that area, including some pretty famous tape cutters like The Residents and Negativland. Anyway, the fresh tape label Foreign Domestic begins operation with Malaise Forever by the mysterious entity described both in the j-card and on the Bandcamp page as simply “The Kid”. But this ain’t no child’s game: the tape samples here are crumbling, looping and mangled into a hallucinatory world of re-surfaced half-memories, sound snippets and outtakes. Sometimes a deconstructed hip-hop beat will sneak in, elsewhere the amassed organ samples form a beatless, droney jazz jam. Sometimes it feels like a tape of B-sides from a visionary West Coast rap producer. It’s like oldschool experimental stuff shaking stuff with the newer, more beat-based stuff.
Is it vaporwave? Is it sound collage? Is it musique concréte? Who the fuck cares, man!? Grab a beer from the fridge and come drop these pillz with me. I’ve got some VHS tapes here man, they’re fucking crazy on this stuff! Everything’s in slo-mo and blurry and shit. Just tell me you brought some weed and that Dotson tape, this combo will blow us straight into the stratosphere! I AM SO STOKED BRO. By the way: there is also a Bardo Pond album with the same name, so this is a good sign!
Thank you! The next part will be published shortly.
Body Tools is a collaborative duo of Luke “Torn Hawk” Wyatt and Sheela “XOSAR” Rahman, and “Facebook Divorce” is one of their first offerings released to the public. Despite the title and the artwork (what looks like a desktop screenshot with mind-boggling folders like “Divorce Paper Scans” or the mysteriously incomplete “Stuff My Shrink Told Me To… Night”) it’s not a hilarious vaporwave truck, but rather a brooding noise/ambient trip through darker zones of the mind which ponders finally announcing the divorce on Facebook (because y’know, you can only make your relantionship official – or the end of it – by announcing it on Facebook). This nearly 37 minute monster takes you on a trip through a brain so completely burned out by social media only the harsh spectres remain from what was once memories.