CASSETTE MANIA #1Posted: October 27, 2014
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.