Of Habit – Extended Technique [CS]
8.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

I leapt at the very notion of this project, as a Spoils & Relics listener recently hipped to Mr. Myles’ A Series of Lizards imprint, a new tape that adds a literal voice to his activities was a no-brainer of an acquisition. A couple small boxes and a microphone from the desk of a calm downer is often a winning formula in my book, and Extended Technique draws out rich material from that territory, with the same lustrous blackness as the material in which the cassette itself is encased. There’s an extraordinarily high degree of clarity being delivered, suggesting a crystallized view of a dreary, sickened setting. Head firmly in hand, the sun all but forgotten, a readback of the captain’s log, interwoven with surreal, recovered half-dreams that bleed into reality. Rhythms hit hard, contrasted with the low, undramatic delivery of the text, and the whole outing is quite craftily sequenced, spacing out the vocals for an eventful listen. A sense of movement from one place to another under the shadiest of circumstances is injected by the stretched instrumentals. Loops fade the listener in and out of consciousness down hallways. Talk of gear and signal paths somehow lends to the confusion, more so than breaking any walls, as the equipment being discussed sounds more and more like William Lee’s typewriter on my third pass. A damp, poetic survey of technological malaise and wasting days, full of quotable lines. Already sold out at the source, so do the right thing.

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Transistor – The Horde [12"]
13.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: 12"

Year: 2017

It seems like most desks this one has come across elicit some comparison to Vainio/Vega from the listener, so rather than formally regurgitate that observation, I’ll at least acknowledge its validity and leave it here. “Never Again” and “Swallow the Brim” are both hinged on the crushed, saturated discharge of electronics as fiery accompaniment to Ben Miller’s possessed howling. It’s easy to imagine the red lights flashing, smoke billowing, and panic to find the emergency exits during these controlled electronic combustion workouts. Blast away, fellas. Personally, I’m much more of a fan of where things go on the flip, accompanied by a rpm change to literally and figuratively take things down a notch for the flip to the titular track. Both performers present themselves in clearer light; the fire and brimstone text is delivered with audiobook transparency, backed by Frank Vigroux's cautiously arranged, semi-theatrical sound design of lurking synthetic strings, fragments of raw diffused impulses, and the occasional crackle and sharp sine wave. The coda satisfies your craving for tightly structured, clipped, spartan electronics from machines sure to alert TSA officers.

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Mike Majkowski ‎– Swimming In Light [LP]
13.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: LP

Year: 2016

Sustain doesn’t come without work on Swimming in Light—on the first side, you can hear all the flexor action being implemented to heat up the instruments enough that they might start to levitate, a small band, vibrating in a shared magnetic field, suspended in time.“Radio Weather Vending Machine” feels like it could break out into bombastic horn wailing and snare explosions at any moment, but instead that energy is reserved and fed back into the cycle. The first side resets a few times to change color, generally anchored by a slow pendulum of bass notes to anchor the shimmering acoustic blur to a clock—a rowing motion of minimalism that reminded me of the d’incise disc you can still get here (as it turns out, Majkowski has indeed performed a collaborative work by said artist). “Structure and Posture” lives up to its title, and inverts the ratio of notes to abstract washes for a something more like eerie, creeping incidental music. Stay field recordings suddenly sneak up behind the instruments to liven up the upper reaches, like someone hit a jackpot of bottle caps. One of the great success of this one is the amount of instrumentation that Majkowski seamlessly rotates through, never saddling the music with a shred of business. Varying timbres drift in the same glimmering pool of sound, floating into different pockets of translucency, ripe for a Sunday morning listening session.

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Gerard Herman ‎– Die paste, die wrong [LP]
13.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: LP

Year: 2017

Gerard Herman grapples with an undulance of masked and tarnished sounds—swelling grocery sacks of pulses, plunks, and unwieldy resonances. Musical fragments get caught in a mason jar, and buzz around with building anxiety. On Die paste, die wrong, we’re escorted through a trip down an assembly line of wobbly motifs digested by plastics. Wake just before dawn to catch the blue fade through flowing curtains, evidence of work clinking and humming from a distance. Limber up, takes some vitamins, and start chipping away. Get lost in the wheel grind and the pings of the hopper for a bit, start to have a couple bad ideas. Go to town for a hallucinatory stroll through a street fair, step into a tent and walk through a hall of cracked mirrors and clocks, make a wrong move and get sucked under by a vortex of phantom tones. Emerge to scale a heap of torn armchairs and bicycle parts, plopped onto a conveyor built upon descent. Resolve to relax and listen to the the pistons pump and the whistles blow, gazing into the flickering lights above. Exceptional studies in transformation, nurturing and growing sounds with materials others might all too often use to exploit decay.

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Laurent Fairon ‎– Musique Isotype [CD]
11.00

Format: CD

Label: Entr'acte

Year: 2016

Laurent Fairon, of Continuo’s Weblog fame, gives us a taste of his curatorial prowess, playing matchmaker for some strange bedfellows of found sounds. The results of these crude lab tests plays like negative space heavy musique concrète, which staunchly refuses to pander or do tricks. Odd disparities, redactions, and contextual uprooting makes for a challenging listen; layered images never seem to line up in an obvious way, as if provoking one’s ears to do the aural equivalent of squinting. Broken library music, multiple autoplays going at the same time—a great thali of ‘other’. Musique Isotype is also given to highlighting and voraciously turning out individual sounds like a Rubik’s cube, flicking at them like a spring door stop—a style similar to the classics of Anne Gillis with an archaeological twist. Sometimes speech comes largely unobstructed, but in the dizziest of turns, voices get get swallowed up by the grinder when Fairon decides to really get his hands dirty. A total head-scratcher of ADD in slow motion. Any knowledge of the Continuo blog (or the ‘press’ photo of the man in his Tellus t-shirt) should be enough info to hook you in on the one.

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John Wall / Alex Rodgers ‎– Rafia Longer [7"]
8.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: 7"

Year: 2015

This one appeared a year after the excellent Work 2011–2014 from the Wall/Rodgers pairing, further highlighting their predilection toward an near song-like approach to crafting hacked up miniatures of computerized expression. The opener “Rafia Longer” keeps the largely numerical text low in the mix, tucked nicely into shuffled and smeared abstractions of basic kit sounds. Less structurally delinquent or sonically acrobatic as one might come to expect from Wall, this piece is more of a primer for the other side of the disc.  The four short tracks on the flip relish in directness and separation of power. It’s mostly text-to-speech for the duration, which is fine by me—it’s a form I’ve been especially fond of lately (just had the computer serenade me with this write-up for fun), and the synthetic proxy yields some delightful quirks in the vulgarity. Full of choice slang and modern grievances, I’d happily sit down with a full-length program version of the few minutes that make up “Macbeth”. The new Wall/Durgan CD on Harbinger is a cause for celebration, so why not extend the festivities with a rare JW vinyl outing, eh?

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John Wall / Alex Rodgers ‎– Work 2011-2014 [CD]
11.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: CD

Year: 2014

The second of three collaborative releases thus far, Work 2011-2014 is a thrilling composition of scattered computer wheeze and sparkling sandstorms of searing mutations, seasoned with black salt prepared texts from Rodgers. Bubbles burst, drinks get spilled, shoes get scuffed. A remarkable gauntlet of sounds that seem absolutely to be happening for the first time ever, constantly evolving and spawning new ones atop medical grade stainless steel. Speech starts in a somewhat neutral zone, then proceeds to take many different machines as host. The singularity seems as close as ever here—the most human of concerns and dissatisfaction in perfect harmony with living, breathing data dissemination. Presented as a single track, this is actually fifteen different pieces seamlessly unified, as indicated on Wall’s website, which explains the edge-of-your-seat feeling present throughout the easily repeatable runtime, along with what is credited as "severe editing". Rodgers’ strength as a poet is clearly evident (especially in the sleeve text), but in service to the disc as a whole, he lurks in the shadows often. There’s plenty of room to breathe and not get overwhelmed; both partners pulls their weight accordingly and flesh out something more interesting than a continuous reading layered over freeform electronics. Confrontational and jarring, yet with a sense of economy and technical precision to make this something very special indeed.

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Ben Gwilliam / Michael Vorfeld ‎– Lauste [CD]
11.00

Label: Entr'acte

Format: CD

Year: 2010

Having enjoyed some of his more recent work, I wanted to dig a little deeper into Ben Gwilliam’s back catalog, so I checked this collaboration with Michael Vorfeld off on my list for Entr’acte. Lauste turns out to be just the right thing to put on when I want to mask some of the nasty wiring/ground loop/dying amplifier issues in my current apartment. A magnetic quilt of flickering pinpricks and pilfered wattage, these five pieces have an unsettling element of household danger that comes and goes as the listener is immersed in modulating depths of sharp, microscopic textures. Coiled up from light bulbs and tape recorders, the material is (for the most part) on the especially brittle side—which means you have to crank it up to really get the full experience. There’s no attempt at sculpting this audio into the electronic music listener’s preferred EQ curve; instead, we’re subject to the findings of exploratory probes with natural dynamics that yield more than a few jolts. A fair amount of this reminds me of the Joe Colley tracks that are posed as studies of malfunctioning circuits and failing small electronics—which is awfully fine company to be in—although Lauste is even more ungarnished and preferential to the tweeter. Live incandescent audio with an extra fine point; sounds normally only heard when something’s about to break, magnified and proliferated by trusted professionals for your listening pleasure.

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Giuseppe Ielasi – 3 Pauses [3CD Box Set]
21.00

Label: Senufo Editions

Format: 3CD Box Set

Year: 2017

First solo release under his own name in a few years from Ielasi, presented in a sleek, black box in three separate parts. While many of the releases and series in his body of work incorporate elements of natural and coaxed rhythms, 3 Pauses is stripped down to narrow beams of light hues and floating dust particles—dare I say, suitable for playback on virtually any sound system. Identifiable peaks and ripples form through repetition, so in that sense, rhythms emerge in a more biological than kinetic form. This attractive set comprises a volume of mostly delicate loops that change phase and fold back on themselves through simple, yet effective imaging for the listener to absorb, as one would peruse a book of photography, carefully studying each page in the album for a good five minutes or so before moving onward. Useful ambience that rings of air conditioning, seashell resonance, small appliance songs, multiplying wildlife; grainy reductions, stippled and selectively erased. There are a few forays with more bold, clicky mechanisms that wind up and down through “Part 2”, but they’re generally in a more docile realm than Ielasi’s recent tape improvisations. Hard not to use the term ‘microsound’ here, as this is very much like a meditative gaze into a catalog of cell slides, but despite the descriptor of “electronic music” from Senufo, it’s within the most humble of organic sounding means. Very ear-friendly, tactile frequency ranges. Thumbnails of environments and lifeforms, tastefully sketched with real and processed sounds. Smallness remains a fertile fields for cultivation, when done with the right set of hands. Far more of a steal than a purchase, if you ask me…

 

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Alessandro Brivio – SB [CS]
9.00

Label: Senufo Editions

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

I must confess to not having seen. or even previously been aware of Sound Barrier, the film from which SB was pruned. However, I’m certainly no stranger to storage facilities in Queens, so after gleaning that part from the synopsis and taking into account the Senufo bump, my interest is piqued! Apparently, the film features a not-inconsequential 1,753 separate cuts, which Alessandro Brivio saw fit to fold even further for a rhythmically scrubbed fan edit of the audio track that seems heavy on street traffic and aggressive rummaging. If one chooses to omit all the cinematic context, the unknowing listener gets to hear a twitchy game of hopscotch within the start and end points of innumerable excerpts. This one is like being in a room in a noisy neighborhood with all the windows opening and closing in spasmodic fits, yet somehow extremely enjoyable. Working his way through the timeline at the itchiest of paces, Brivio emphasizes the aspect of an endless search that comes up empty-handed, making sure not to overlook any instance of one or more objects making contact in his source material. The sound sample provided is one of the more subdued passages that features actual dialogue, an element that reinforces the narrative focus. Not often do we find stutter-centric splicer music to be so concerned with thematic elements unrelated to the sound objects themselves, so the noble utilization of suppression and repetition tactics on SB is a rare treat. Appropriately cracked cases, which I initially forgot was part of the deal upon opening the box—damaged Norelco boxes are pretty much a rolling headache in this business. Listen closely, and maybe you can hear the o u n d and a r r i e r parts scattered on the cutting room floor.

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Pablo Picco – The Bombastic And Repetitive Sounds Of Tashi Ling Buddhas In Pokhara, Nepal [CS] ‎
8.00

With the ease of portable digital recording and filesharing nowadays, ethnographic field recordings are not hard to come by for any individual with enough curiosity to indulge in some audio tourism. However, it still takes a gifted ear and knack for research to import such cohesive and listenable loot that could sit alongside the finest in Nonesuch Explorer recordings. A couple listens in, I’d wager this would have gotten a thumbs up from Mr. Lewiston. Cannily edited, and captured with appropriate depth of field for each chapter, the listener gets a few stunning excerpts of the most aurally mystifying aspects of the ceremonies documented in Picco’s film Kalinga Utkal, bumpered with sounds from the surrounding environment to establish the setting. The chants that dominate the first side are the clear highlight, as they seem at times borderline inhuman or synthesized (I had to check to make sure if the digital pitch control wasn’t engaged on my Handi-Cassette II). The wedding band recording is more along the lines of what might get dropped into the bustling street market scene of an action movie, but is nevertheless intriguing and authentic. Major accolades due to the documentarian for gaining access and harvesting such wonderful sounds. Fully mind-bending and gadget-less.

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Anne-F Jacques & Takamitsu Ohta – Two Forms of Contact [CS]
8.00

Label: more mars team

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

Anne-F Jacques’ name is one I’m always happy to see, as every document of her carefully engineered networks of clockwork electroacoustics is a rewarding listen that occupies a tricky space between automatic music, improvisation, sculpture, and outsider hobby shop. On the other end of the table is Takamitsu Ohta, who might be less well known in the world of sound (at least in terms of recordings), however his work in the fields of design and amateur geology foretells solid chemistry. While “Mine” has a sense of urgency sparked by the respective performers propensity to let loose with their trustiest of tools, “Yours” finds its groove at a more leisurely, exploratory pace of cooking in someone else’s kitchen. A refreshing take on the hot new duo format— the trading of objects is a nice little office icebreaker. Since this is a dutifully mic’d event, a tangible air of movement and work smooth out the patterns that start to drift into locked groove territory. To that effect, Ohta’s tapes float freely around the room, adding some flare to the shuffling mineral foundation. Percolating gravel, miniaturized construction sites, spokes stuffed silly with bric-a-brac: the finest of elegant scrapheaps.

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Panos Charalambous ‎– Fullness Of Harmony [Single-Sided 12"]
16.50

Label: Rekem Records

Format: LP

Year: 2017

Sound is a two way street with innumerable means of transportation, and how one chooses to access a recording informs his or her relationship with its personal and historical significance. Panos Charalmbous opens up the time capsule of recorded music throughout Greek history by exploiting the fluid nature of cartridge mechanisms on Fullness of Harmony. While most listeners insert themselves into the equation of audio time travel passively, Charalambous brazenly comes in through the backdoor to become an active participant in music reproduction. In gallery terms: you’re reverently admiring a sculpture from behind the clearly demarcated boundary, and this guy’s got his paws all over it. The performer/auditor employs an unusual cast of pointed objects to summon vibrations from vinyl, and while the resulting sound is not wholly transformative in an illusory, funhouse mirror sort of way, it materializes into a larger performance activity of conceptual, reheated listening. Those enamored with the private, fumbling about solo in a room format (such as myself) will be keen to tap into this wobbly anti-DJ set. If all the generously offered production notes were absent, this disc would still be as strong entry in the field of objectified music as non-music. One side proves to be just the right amount. Also a bit of an ear-opener—Maria Callas and Demetrio Stratos are the only selections I recognized in the tracklist, the latter of which is a notable inclusion, as it qualifies as being twice-baked avant garde (and likely making some collectors squirm at the mistreatment of a nova musicha LP). Phonograph needles recommended, but there’s always more than one way to bake a cake. 

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Dimosioypalliliko Retire – On the administration of panic [LP]
15.00

Label: Rekem Records

Format: LP

Year: 2016

The layers on this baklava of confusion start at the format lineage: here we have an LP reissue of a ‘magazine’ that was published in 2002 in the form of a CD-R. (Is this technically still a magazine? Maybe I should put the ‘zine’ commerce tag on this just in case.) The instrumentation and production is mostly an odd, two-decades-late take on Brilliant Trees era David Sylvian, Laurie Anderson, or something from the Downtown pop end of the Lovely Music catalog. Extra watery drums, rubbery bass, chorused guitar all over the place, multi-effect action leads, chunky FM keyboards—you get the picture. But there’s plenty of object work and extended vocalizations that push this further into outsider territory, rather than exclusively tongue-in-cheek pastiche. The opener, “When I Retire”, gives us a look at the group’s most free and unmasked incarnation (I actually played the B-side first by mistake, so for me it was a little mid-meal palette cleanser rather than an amuse-bouche.) A solid ten minute vocal riff on a phrase which translates to “come on, why bother”, which lets us know right off the bat that this periodical didn’t come here to make friends. Check that inner-sleeve photo of these weirdos cracking hundreds of walnuts on the floor—looks far more archival 60s avant grade than 80s leftfield rock, right? Clearly, there’s some shenanigans going on here. I’ll have to take word of the label notes that there’s a hefty amount of humor, provocation, and boundary-pushing at their word, but I presume those with an ear for Greek would able to use the lyrics to identify the subversion tactics more conclusively. D. Retire seems to thrive on playing in a extremely boxy area that could hardly be more loaded, which creates a formidable challenge for both parties in the creator/consumer relationship. Definitely in a league of its own, and the performance art rockisms go down much easier than one would think.

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Kostis Kilymis – Bethnal Greener [LP]
15.00

Label: Rekem Recrds

Format: LP

Year: 2015

The significance of place looms heavily over Bethnal Greener, whch comes as a personalized psychic map of sharp pins and fuzzy boundaries, a sonic realization of the air in a particular room, the the cracks of a familiar sidewalk. At times recalling the frayed, sizzling approach to synthesizer of Thomas Ankersmit, Kilymis unfurls delicate nets of finely pointed peaks, hisses, and pulses. Coils heating up, molecules dancing. On the first side, the four pieces convey an image of parallel editing that firmly harnesses time, until “Your Little Something for the Weekend” sets flame to wick for a steady, closely monitered blaze. The real magic happens on the “The Ghost in the Typewriter (For Leif Elggren)”, a suite of micro-extremes somehow miraculously contained in the vinyl medium, wherein X-Acto sine waves do some impromptu neurosurgery, set against faint washes that sound of not-so-distant airfields (ok, so more likely contact mic’d tower block—says here in the label write-up—can’t win ‘em all). Excellent set of currents that would appeal to the licensed electrician.

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Panos Alexiadis ‎– Katabasis [LP]
15.00

Label: Rekem Records

Format: LP

Year: 2014

A fitting title if there ever was one, as my first thought was of a creeping descent down a well via a pulley system, followed by: hazy detective hallucinations featuring bug-zapper electronics, echoes of unknown footsteps, expressionist swells, serialist scatter. Dark music box excursions with a consciousness of breath—more than one Morty comes too mind. A shadowy sense of withholding, an intermittent blocking of the CCTV lens. Bleeding the radiators. Out for a midnight stroll through city streets, looks to be all set scenery. Trying to recall the exact reason for a state of nervousness. Skipping stones in the dark, wading further into the water. Cover is looking sharp and on the money in bold black and gray, so come on down.

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Michael Adamis ‎– A Selection Of Electroacoustic Works 1964-1977 [2CD]
18.00

Label: Rekem Records/Mafia

Format: 2CD

Year: 2013

Prior to finding this set, I would have had trouble naming any Greek composers of 20th century experimental music aside from Xenakis, and perhaps I’m not alone here. Rekem and Mafia teamed up to deliver this glowing, marvelously detailed effort to introduce the world to one of Greece’s lesser known figures regarded as significant to the development of early electronic and electroacoustic music. The pieces presented here might not necessarily track as a ‘greatest hits’ compilation for the composer, however the curators nobly tasked themselves with providing a well rounded overview that follows the evolution of Adamis’ work, ranging from etudes and studio experimentation, to sprawling dramatic realizations. “Proschemata (Pretexts)” is composed entirely with tape-manipulated voice, and while Adamis doesn’t sound to be as much of a cartwheeling, explosively proficient technician when it comes to tape editing as—let’s say, a Parmegiani (who is?)—he demonstrates an impressive ability to smear and refract a single sound source into a sustained tonal environment far removed from its initial starting point.“Kratema” (presented in two separate incarnations, 30 years apart) is a highlight, as the performers run a noticeably free, while Adamis roils up a shifting undercurrent of electronics and tape, including the most prominent EMS usage to my ears. This is a particularly interesting piece that links the namesake Byzantine chanting with 20th century avant garde music, borrowing a phonetic free-space component of ancient religious music for a result that’s more akin to dadaism. Fans of Jean-Claude Éloy’s work in the 80s, which partnered extended vocal techniques and ethnic instrumentation in an open electroacoustic setting should feel at home with more than a few recordings on this set. The latest piece included, “Endon (Inward)”, hides the seams a bit more than the earlier cut-up affairs, finding Adamis using old sound sources with newer technology to craft a more spectrally focused and inconspicuously morphing tonal gradient. A satisfying range of compositions from a lesser known name, and evidently only a drop in the bucket—the introduction states the man took part in over four hundred productions, which makes it all the more curious for those of us just being introduced.

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Harness – Sleight of Hand [CS]
7.50

Label: Imminent Frequencies

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

Underexposed and slow-roasted tape slinging from Shane Church and Luke Tandy, who seem to draw further inward when paired side by side, careful to keep their heart rates down in an effort to ratchet up listener’s. The demolition crew get called off for this one; no engagements with flamethrower effects or shattering feedback—this is classic introverted hometaper psychoacustics, reminiscent of the early direct-to-body Hands To recordings at their most reclined state of insidiousness. A fully concussed listening experience birthed out of a leaky underpass; slow motion aluminum drags and wrecked equilibrium, crawling toward a probably unreachable horizon; nature’s widening jaw and the amplified circulatory system; the ratcheting world reduced to its thickest and bleakest aural mechanisms. While I did enjoy the Hostage Pageant LP a good deal, this is certainly more in my wheelhouse if we’re comparing the two, as I tend to gravitate toward the ones that take the risk of cutting out all the action sequences. An excellent project that looks to have a recent upturn in activity, perhaps catching your eye for the first time (as it did mine) in that well regarded Imminent Frequencies light.

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The Glass Path – Floating Heads in Rhapsody [CS]
7.50

Label: Imminent Frequencies

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

The Glass Path submits another installment in his growing catalog of current-soaked chirps and toppled over toolbox distillations. We’re treated to a woozy overture of primitive instrumentation that intermittently and aggressively tears into the fabric of the magnetic canvas, before settling into the snowball of narrow width punch-ins and junk extractions. The synthesizers credited in the IF description suggest more of a utilitarian Tudor box or Nicolas Collins variety upon listening, more so than even the most humble of conventional electronic instruments: pulse machines with little aspirations for pitch, defiant homebrews of common electrical engineering. The B-side is a more overtly loop-building exercise, but there’s a guiding hand present in The Glass Path that diverts the listener’s attention from the cycle rate enough to focus on the sounds themselves rather than the crooked grid lines. Still not for the repetition averse though—relentless thwack patterns crash in for a mild endurance test, such as someone intending to provoke by acting as if their going to strike you, stopping inches from your face repeatedly. The most recent recording I’d heard previous, Lunatic Fringe on Summer Isle, was of a beefier and more lively nature, in contrast to Floating Heads in Rhapsody which seems like a negative image line drawing composite of its antecedent. A performed, minimally edited, after hours quality sets this tape apart, seasoned with the slow-reeling, drippy, psychological interference one might commonly associate with the Great Lake State. Lots of empty space and room for missteps, so the degree to which this effort works is all the more commendable. Especially fine artwork to boot.

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The Latent Hour – Arcata Nocturne [CS]
7.50

Label: Imminent Frequencies

Format: Cassette

Year: 2017

A gloomy three-parter approximating a prolonged experience of optically adjusting darkness as forms begin to take shape in moonlight. Heavily cloaked organ/not-organ cycles without any connotations of robes or flimsy mysticism; the mental fog of insomnia as opposed the atmospheric fog of flimsy drama. External intrusions narrowly seep in through the cracks in the baseboards, stifled enough to just add some welcome breath to the bellows. Constantly in motion without drawing too much attention to the changing of the gears, chords and timbres shift subtly in service of the sustained whole. The latter portion is forged from a rumbling furnace a few floors down, for a more troubled, elemental churning that disturbs the foundation, compared to the half-conscious melancholy daze of the first side. Patience and measured dynamics make this a far more successful effort at rendering something composerly with long-haul electronic sound than your average droner. While not quite as glistening and of-the-air as a Chalk/Heemann joint, this is certainly in the right area. A fine debut—both eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel.

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d’incise – Ukigusa (the sky is as blue as a tragedy) [CD-R/Score]
9.00

Label: Suppedaneum

Year: 2017

Format: Score/CD-R

Swiss sound artist d’incise’s Ukigusa (The Sky Is As Blue As A Tragedy) is a relatively accessible work, contrary to what one might expect from the somewhat lofty, albeit inviting presentation. The score has a simple legend and basic notation system which is enough to follow along, and there’s hardly a more pleasing instrument to listen to than than a vibraphone—struck hard or soft, prepared or clean, it’s rooted in an acoustic purity that’s easy to be lured into. The two players focus on a small range of tones across one vibe and brush them out in precisely clocked intervals. The effects suggest a calm traversal not unlike dragging a sled over ice with ease, stopping every few meters for a rest; or the gentle, impeded time of a half-speed chime clock with a couple loose parts. “Just… Hold… Your… Horses!” is heavy on the beat frequencies, exuding an amiable dissonance which has a sneaky, investigative quality. The two middle pieces, “She Sent Me a Postcard” and “I’m Not So Sure Now”, shimmer in a miniaturized space often reserved for electronics, marked by delicate, high sustained tones and the subtle erosion of the midrange pendulum strikes keeping time. “He Always Left Like That, With a Heavy Heart” takes this even a little further, with soft, long bows, letting the metallic buzz get more of the shine.  d’incise’s chosen preparation are all relatively soft in nature—nothing heavier than aluminum—and inject just enough noise into the system to keep one’s ears perked up. Nice to see that the titles of the pieces have a pulpy radio drama excerpt quality, adding some personality to the proceedings. The origami swan is the cherry on top of the elegantly designed packaging, acting as a small totem for the precise folding and demure simplicity contained within.

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Sean Tatol – Black Pin
10.00

Self-Published/19933.biz

Year: 2017

Format: Book

Sean Tatol directs his artistic output via a number of different literary and sound practices, most notably in the assemblage of alluring, artfully broken text that falls somewhere in the realm of poetry. I’m pleased to offer his most recent publication in the form of a slim, nicely pocketable book of puzzling and enticing forms. Much of Black Pin is like having words predigested on the page, approximating how the skimmed version of an unknown text might be processed in one’s brain. I found myself disoriented enough to experience the sensation that I was reading through someone else's shifty eyes, much like the way Graham Lambkin’s work employs diegetic music to create a similarly mind-altering experience of listening to someone else listen—the sense of being a fly on the wall that eventually lands in someone’s drink. This is likely not the author’s intention at all; nevertheless, I found my reading enriched by being able to frame the seemingly inscrutable fragments through the lens of a lurking persona that exists in an unseen stratum of the book. Tatol strikes a difficult balance by stitching together a work that’s very much spliced and folded, yet still fluid, readable, and mellifluous. A tasteful layout delivers the goods in eye-catching, playful, floral text arrangements, tucked into niches along a well-lit hallway sporadically adorned with clipart. In terms of content, my personal tasting notes: flawed YouTube auto-captions that still achieve some level of coherence in their absurdity; screen caps explored in microscopic detail with a mildly voyeuristic tone; origami; lyrical field surveys; concrete poetry sourced from technical manuals; chopped and screwed semi-romantic prose excerpts; a smashed vase, glued back together, bearing only minor semblance of a vase. There’s also kind of a twist ending, so let's say a 'dry finish'. I road tested my copy linearly, and also cherry-picked pages at random to pass the time on public transit; both have been equally satisfying, but the cover-to-cover option offers a panorama conducive to plotting the scattered dots of curiously recurring characters. Sean has been leaving a trail of understated artifacts around the internet and in small publications for what looks to be a few years now. I’ve only had a chance to familiarize myself with what’s been offered on his equal parts transparent and enigmatic website, but I think it’s safe to speculate that this is his most significant and aesthetically representative work to date. I look forward to giving my already tattered, coffee-stained copy many future perusals. A lovely, singular addition to any shelf. Straight from the bottle.

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City Medicine – Catch Me [CS]
5.00

Label: Not on Label

Year: 2016

Format: Cassette

Out in the world findings of a covert observer, mixed with electronic interruptions that cohabitate the juxtaposed recorded environments in a separate third space contained in the listener’s mind. Putting your head up real close to that window unit with the worn out belt, losing consciousness and slowly fading back into the world around you. Soundscapes in the R. Murray Schafer sense of the word, acoustic ecology. A fruitful study of the noises that precede emotion, rather than expressions thereof. Acknowledgment of the human voice’s ability to be as concrete and malleable as other animal or mechanical sound byproducts; recognition of the claustrophobia and disharmony in its multiplication (too many humans). Effectively short and to the point. Probably best summed up by what the artist says right there on the card: audio opportunity. An exquisite tape that would work even better as part of an LP, so cough it up.

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Network Glass – Vault [CD]
7.00

Label: Hologram Label

Year: 2016

Format: CD

Network Glass is a pretty far cry from the Earth Crown set I saw nearly a decade ago, and while I haven’t taken a full inventory of all Daniel La Porte’s activities since then, it seems like he simultaneously managed to hone his brainier computer chops and avoid a possibly regrettable entry into the homogeneous noise-cum-techno gold rush. Not to say that the laboratory/art gallery vibe of his current project is smarter or better by default, but growth is always an admirable trait—although, I wouldn’t be surprised if the man was crafting this material in the same exhumed, peasant garb I saw back then. The primary through line is the focus on physicality; while previous endeavors may have been a more full-body affair, Network Glass goes straight into the ears, touching parts of the brain and cranial structure that are hard to scratch—you know, Amacher, Toshimaru Nakamura style. On Vault, La Porte grates up and mandolins a haul of clean, narrow beams of neuron-zapping synthesis and mic’d abstractions, then plates ‘em up on a shiny, reflective surface in geometric arrangements. Frequencies tend to occupy the more extreme ranges, and keep a safe distance from one another so the listener gets an unobstructed hit. Audio that’s not purely electronic is mostly unrecognizable in it’s processed state, either washed in the same chemical Risset used to blur the line between real and synthetic audio on Sud, or reduced to fragmented spikes to trigger resonances. As a skillful construction of a contained, raw audio environment, Vault leave the door open for the listener to drop in and out at any point, free to receive the same aural acupuncture at any time.

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Hostage Pageant – Barren Terminals [LP]
10.00

Label: Hologram Label

Year: 2016

Format: LP

Cautious to avoid the pervasive threat of monotony in noise music, Hostage Pageant mixes it up with welcome regularity on the two sides of Barren Terminals. One might suspect this to be a pretty straight-up harsh noise affair, however, Shane Church must've felt he didn't have much wax to waste; this is a nicely varied mélange which encopasses a wide breadth of suspense and pyrotechnics that can be coaxed out of basic objects and electricity. Plot-thickening diversion tactics are utilized, switching between full on wake-the-dead noise blasts and softened basement creaking—grabs you by the ears and shakes you silly, then wanders off into a corner to dig through some scrap, leavening you even more unnerved by the sudden aloofness. Kind of a more verse-chorus approach of Pedestrian Deposit’s (for a time) often used method of slowly charging up the raw materials and then unleashing an unfettered assault. Mr. Church has been doing it a while, and thus seems capable of delivering material that seems to occur in a natural acoustic setting without the baggage of any identifiable name-brand electronics hoisting up the proceedings. When Barren Terminals goes for the throat, it’s of a rusty, layered variety that makes me think of a beefed-up Meiosis. The amorphous photo on the sleeve resembles a rough terrain or treacherous waterfall to me, which would be in step with the way these two sides move like a splintering vessel down river, hitting a series of steep, life-threatening cataracts at irregular intervals. Thoughtful execution, full of queasy tension and wild turmoil. Get that gambler’s adrenaline going for the low price of premium burrito.

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Drowning The Virgin Silence – Monument [CDr]
5.00

Label: Hologram Label

Year: 2016

Format: CDr

I’ll be forthright here—I was ready to to not be so into this the moment I deduced that it was primarily a drone disc. I’ve already got stacks of unopened Kevin Drumm downloads named after months piled up in my inbox, so It’s safe to say I have not been in the mood for some long, sustained tones for some time; it’s rare that I want to sit down and get lost in a sea of immersive drift—I’d prefer to be working the oars a little more, doing some on-the-fly cartography. You, on the other hand, may be in the market for some slowly evolving, electrified cloud ambience. Having given Monument a couple honest listens, there is a little more going on here than I was willing to see at first. Rougher textures shuffling beneath the surface and acoustic resonances come into play which push this closer to an elongated version of the most cascading part of one of Luc Ferrari’s electronic compositions, or Rafael Toral’s early, performer-driven sustain pieces that modulate frequently and have a similar aura of aviation. Divided into three phases, each occupying a distinct space and becoming increasingly more active, there's a narrative journey ghosted in the close frequencies. Drowning the Virgin Silence avoids being an absentee manager by introducing enough new elements that I’m convinced there must have some vision in mind, as opposed to an endeavor based on simply setting up the oscillators and letting them go play. However, Monument does have some undeniable traits that put it in line with a lot of sleep-centric, meditative drone works. Even though I, personally, may not have the time to feel as if I’ve lost time, you might be in need of such a lift. Here’s a nice one.

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Absurd Cosmos Late Nite – 2016-17 [2CD]
13.00

Label: Index Clean

Year: 2017

Format: 2CD

Mark Groves’ most recent project treats us to an addictive format that imparts the sensation of tuning into a strange and beguiling radio broadcast, complete with bed music that often evokes the limp jazz and new age indigenous to the modern open air shopping mall experience—but in a good way. Ever fallen in and out of sleep while listening to a worn out tape of Chris Morris’ Jam? Each track presents a fuzzily rendered aural animation, synthesized from sources such as petty restaurant, product, and shop reviews; ad copy and radio nonsense; tidbits gleaned from staring at tabloids while waiting in the checkout line; the brief snippets of dialogue from passersby that seem solely for your benefit. The tipsy backing tracks have a warped in-the-room quality, peppered with stumbling piano and some shuffling rhythm box. The results are as relaxing as they are funny and disorienting. When delivered from a pleasantly dosed voice, consumer grievances are disarmed and snake-charmed into a neutral state. Omnipresent, bitter, smug online grousing that makes the internet a wasteland is magically transformed, encased in amber, doused in soft blue lights, and placed on a rotating pedestal. From where I stand, this is a crafty backdoor approach to creating so-called ambient music that exists comfortably outside the confines of sleepy field recordings and held synth chords. Overt instances of humor are not too hard to find—“Cool Ranch”, complete with dueling chip munching, is bizarrely hilarious and plays like the tape music version a rap skit. It’s difficult to sidestep the superficial similarities between the general getup of Absurd Cosmos Late Night and the muted backdrop, tight delays, and sputtering consonants of Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing; however, more significant comparisons could be drawn to Ashley’s later works like Dust and Concrete, where street talk and banal chatter are finessed into carefully metered librettos. ACLN falls somewhere in between, as it’s neither stream of consciousness, nor is it meticulously locked into tight patterns or rhythms. The pacing of the text is similar to the way anecdotes are conveyed over meals, replete with long pauses for a swig of Farmers Union (check me out, learning about other cultures!). What’s especially fun is the way we’re ushered along between autonomous supersize song length tracks, almost always delightfully punctuated by the reels firing up or coming to a halt. I’ve listened to these tapes more times than I can count, so to have them all here in one place ripe for overindulgence is an affordable luxury. Five stars.

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Red Wine and Sugar – Chattels + The Confidence and Humour of John [CD]
11.00

Label: Index Clean

Year: 2016

Format: CD

Red Wine and Sugar stood out to me amongst the stacked line-up on The First Thing that you want is the Last Thing that you Need, a fantastic double cassette compilation that turned out to be one of the last Mazurka releases. I probably checked in on some of Mark’s other projects while snooping around the A.G. Picks website, but I believe "The Confidence and Humour of John" was the first thing I got to hear in full. After that, I fell head over heels with the vibe of the then newly launched Index Clean—so much so that it eventually spurred me to finally get this very site going. A collaboration between the aforementioned Mr. Groves and Samaan Fleck, this project is remarkably discreet and sober. It's impressive to hear a duo work with such barely-there sounds for long stretches and not go off the rails when they do decide to turn to more piercing and powerful backdrops. The dusty sound design is truly astounding. “Flushing of the Face” sounds and feels like being trapped inside a nervous stomach. “Often Burns Rarely Tans” and “Bitter Almonds” turn high drama tape selections into internalized neuroticism, and the former is cut with shrill yet desirable ear-cleaning feedback. “Tenderness of Scalp” has a swarming, burnt, reanimated Radiophonic Workshop tone, and “The Confidence and Humor of John” churns out hacked granular shifting by means of last-legs tools. RW&S don’t get complacent in set-up—the vocals have a different quality on every track to suit the rest of the composition, with varied breath, amplitude, and mic techniques (the elongated whisper on “Often Burns Rarely Tans” is really something else). I sense a lot of the lifting of the text here is probably done with a menacing wink—but goddamn if I didn’t find these words to be genuinely assuasive. Failure, doubt, anxiety, fraudulence, embarrassment, stress: it’s all here. There’s an LP in the works, for which I could not be in greater anticipation. I may have to qualify this as my favorite new 'band', so in this instance, do not steer clear of Red Wine and Sugar.

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Von Einem - The Von Einem Tapes [2CD]
13.00

Label: Index Clean

Year: 2015

Format: 2CD

True crime aficionados might be familiar with Australia’s claim to more than a few particularly gruesome cases. A recording project that upon first assessment: (a) takes its inspiration from one of said horrors, and (b) has “Power Electronics" in its Discogs entry, would normally be something of a red flag. Fortunately, for his Von Einem recordings, Mark Groves eschews the myopic view of a gore-obsessed stompbox jockey in favor of an approach that’s more akin to late night research and amateur sleuthing. There’s no pretense of a cheap persona that begs the listener to imagine he’s in some way closer to the carnage than he actually is. Granted, there’s an abundance of text and artwork pointing to the motif throughout the whole package (the two pills inside the digipak being a particularly nice touch), the project isn't exactly married to the events surrounding Bevan Spencer von Einem. Groves casts a wider net for source material while sustaining the mood of combing through unsettling local newspaper clippings. Facts are disseminated in a cold, matter-of-fact tone that steers clear of any ghoulishness. The text is arranged in a way that only raises more questions for the listener: a warbled voice draws one closer, cryptically doling out information in measured increments, leaving us to ponder what's being left out. Tape wrangling, synth-padded backgrounds, well-governed feedback, and a drenched rhythm box populate the setting—all texturally dynamic on their own, but often times in service to the corrupted voice transmissions. Speech is gracefully woven through rising and falling noise elements, giving the impression that someone’s always dutifully manning the controls, and total cacophony is rarely indulged—but the segments nearing that pack a mean punch. Tracks like “Vigil” and “Scripted Phrases” lean on a click-driven groove for a nice change of pace, highlighting the natural tape compression and hiss factor that forms a really satisfying mechanical breathiness. I don’t think it would be as engaging to hear Von Einem one tape at a time, so this comprehensive retrospect is the perfect way to go. Aside from the difficulty in procuring every micro-edition, the aesthetic wouldn’t track as well as it does here. Top it off with a quality mastering job by Joe Talia, and you've got yourself a finely directed tour of South Australia's most lurid, mysterious, and dark corners.

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Hideo Nomo – Dire Aging [CS]
10.00

Label: 777 Was 666

Year: 2016

Format: Cassette

Hideo Nomo is the partnership of Mike Collino and Knox Mitchell, both from Michigan, found here operating under the auspices of a Japanese label. Japan is the original home of the duo's namesake pitcher, and I can easily imagine seeing either of these guys' names on an old Topps card—so the stars have aligned for this one. Dire Aging creates an atmosphere that could either be meditative or cause for dread, depending on how deep the listener chooses to investigate. Much of the first side is centered around an interplay of calmly abrasive textures over some stark violin whimpering, channeling the more soothing side of what it would be like to observe a group of people build primitive weapons from a distance. Pitched down string/bell/chime tones add an element of continuity and something vaguely approaching an abandoned melody. There’s also a fair amount of raw electrical throb that never gets out of hand, nor does it undercut the organic qualities comprising Dire Aging's aesthetic strong suit. On the flip side is a longer piece entirely dedicated to a piano performance subject to a dour recontextualization. Minimal gestures manage to corrupt the tonal elements enough that it's as if the performer of an otherwise 'nice' piece of music is becoming slowly cognizant of the undeniable signs of food poisoning. The unusual added harmonics and stray artifacts make this a more interesting scene on a purely sonic level, although what exactly is going on here remains unclear. I’m curious to hear what the first side would sound like with the veil (or rather, dust-covered tarp) lifted slightly to offset the murkiness factor a few degrees, the results thus far are plenty satisfying. If another recording emerges with a less obscured take on the creaking, seasick M.O. of this one, it’d certainly be welcome. Assembling the first side as a tasting menu of brief passages was a savvy move; one can only hope this is intentional, and that we haven't been given a scant handful of ripe plums from an otherwise unsavory tree of basement jam sessions (I have faith, though, particularly in Mr. Dog Lady). The Darksmith artwork is what initially got my attention (anything Tom touches is a must-have). Fortunately, there’s an abundance of intrigue and shadowy ambience contained in the sounds of Dire Aging to make it far more than some finely rendered drawings of the Tornado, perfect for you to to display alongside your other sports memorabilia.

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Lieutenant Murnau | Oxidized Man – Ut Fona Res [CS]
11.00

Label: 777 Was 666

Year: 2017/1982

Format: Cassette

Here’s a reissue that’s easy to get behind: an Italian mail-art recording from 1982, heard by only a handful of individuals upon its original release, swept into obscurity—not even a Youtube clip to document its original existence—quietly reintroduced into the world 35 years later in its original cassette format. Lieutenant Murnau was an open source performance and recording alias that could be adorned by anyone who wished to adopt the moniker, with the binding precept being the encouraged use of borrowed material. Vittore Baroni, co-founder of the Trax label, is credited with the concept, however he proudly let the Lieutenant run free, pledging not to contribute any content or action beyond the idea itself. One such individual who took to plundering in the name of Lt. Murnau was Daniele Ciullini, working here as Oxidized Man. Ut Fona Res employs the use of plenty of pre-existing sound materials, but is free of any potentially cartoonish trappings, such as shuffling small bites of copyrighted material at a herk-jerky pace, or dropping in too many bombastic effects. Instead, Ciullini opted for transparency, getting as much juice out of his chosen sources and three recorder set-up as he can before moving on to the next phase. Recordings of public spaces mingle with old soundtrack fare and television reports, interspersed with stretches of free-improv clatter and piano antics. The first side closes with some surprisingly moody synth loops that sprout up quite nicely—dare I say, almost stepping into Fripp & Eno territory. The liner notes (collaboratively supplied by Ciullini and Baroni, finely illuminating and not at all coy with the origin story) classifies Ut Fona Res as essentially a private live recording, but it’s contained within movements that point toward responsible compositional choices. What we get is ultimately a cohesive grab bag of tactics and concerns pertinent to the ’80s cassette network of the time, a unique document that reflects the world at large as much as it does the world constructed at the hands of stamp-wielding tape freaks, vampires that feed on and repurpose the oppressive culture that surrounds them.

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D.D. Dobson – A Halo of Affectation [CS]
10.00

Label: 777 Was 666

Year: 2016

Format: Cassette

D.D. Dobson is the long-running free space project of Jim Goodall, who—as I’m sure others have pointed out—has a CV that ranges from The Flying Burrito Brothers to Whitehouse. A Halo of Affectation does indeed corroborate that he’s a man of multitudes, as nearly every track is an isolated experiment based on a wager with a particular set of tools. Goodall’s background as a percussionist is alluded to in the opener, before launching into some high current fizz, commingling with a thumpy bassline and radio gating. Along the way, there’s some whirling psychoacoustic panning that keeps the listener engaged over noise that follows an on/off vacuum cleaner curve. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the scratchy dub plate sounding part from a Von Oswald/Ernestus production extracted and filtered—but stripped of echo—you’ve even got some of that here, layered over a muted public field recording. Is that a corrido I hear?  Plenty of weird speech mangling too; nothing goofy here, however. Quality electroacoustic recreation that knows when to change its playing style, in the context of what I perceive to be a relatively pro recording situation. Jim’s bandmate from Medicine—a band I’ve admittedly only ever heard of—Brad Laner, assists in a technical capacity and a creative one I suspect as well. (This guy I know, of course—who else put out an IDM record on a major label in the ‘90s, by the way? Autechre on Nothing doesn’t count. I guess Photek does.) It’s inspiring to imagine two lifers searching for new sounds in the lab together and hear the results turn out this dynamic and fresh. Goodall is still offering tapes new and old by the handful; I intend to do some catching up, so consider yourself advised to do the same.

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The Bohman Brothers & Blood Stereo – Live at Wilton's Music Hall [CD]
11.00

Here we have a top-tier doubles match between two long running collaborations, making this something of a Jetsons meets the Flintstones affair. Hard to say who’s who—although Nyoukis’ trademark Neanderthal tongue might align Blood Stereo in the latter camp, it’s relatively toned down in what seems to be a pretty classy performance atmosphere for this one. The recording is ensconced in a medium sized hall ambience that formed an image of a rather posh venue in my mind, which turned out to be pretty spot-on after some quick research. A lot of improvisation frames the participants in a collaboration where they’re attempting to build something. Once they’ve constructed some likeness of house they can share a roof under, inevitably the players will decide it’s time to blow the fucker up and sift through the detritus for another fifteen minutes—or however long until they feel they’ve fulfilled their obligation to the audience. For the first part of Live at Wilton's Music Hall, we get something that’s more of an exercise in communication: four different players speaking two slightly different languages in a game of mind-meld. Metallic, springy, full frequency range call and response sound object work, starting from opposing corners in an effort to arrive at the center. Of course, they never quite reach it, but the listener is a privileged passenger for the sinuous journey. I’ll concede that this ain’t a perfect metaphor, as there’s also some found sound interjections and lovely mood-setting bowed instruments towards the end—but for the most part, this does feel quite different your usual electro-acoustic jam session. Part two (which is verbally demarcated and introduced, to the audience’s amusement) is a delightfully chaotic voice exercise featuring disparate texts cueing off and devouring one another. Karen Constance starts laughing more than once amidst the insanity, which is a refreshing thing to hear in contrast to the frequently too buttoned-up world of sound poetry. Obviously the Bloods always have a strong component of humor in their work—ditto for the Bohmans (my god, that Back on the Streets cover)—but even the biggest of goofballs can sometimes get caught up in themselves when intoxicated by the stuffy air of performance. This is also a good opportunity to hear Blood Stereo outside of their normal direct-line recording situation, really getting a chance to soak in the opulence of the hall and diffuse some crud into it. Pristinely captured and exquisitely mixed, the document preserves the spaciousness of the original happening in a rendering that’s a real treat for headphone listening. 

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Posset - Goose That Shat Silver Dollars [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2013

Format: Cassette

Posset unleashes a lengthy smorgasbord of trademark slithering, spontaneous, good-natured mucking about with whatever he can get his hands on. My mental image is of some drunken kitchen clatter in that cottage from Withnail and I. Our guy’s in no hurry to find a comfortable spot, perfectly content to squeal until the saliva runs dry or pluck at an untuned instrument until it’s time for dinner. The voice work is often the most pleasing part of a Posset tape, and there’s no shortage of that here. Plenty of zippy, fried charm. This one often confines itself to a narrow band of sound that renders the output more digestible in contrast to the clamorous input. We also get to tick the box of top-notch song titles from Joe Murray. The Standard cassette on Spam perhaps remains the high-water mark for the half dozen or so recordings I have, and not just because it features a voice early on that sounds very much like power-child Amanda.

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Brood Ma – Fission [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2012

Format: Cassette

Brood Ma’s already made a name for himself among more visible circles in the five years that have passed since this cassette’s release, but I’m more or less scanning this one with blinders on. F I S S I O N is sample based, hyper-edited, hard-hitting, kaliaidescopy electronic music, likely too adventurous and frenzied to be neatly classified as any specific brand of techno. My first thought is actually just ‘laptop music’—which seems like a ridiculously broad catch-all term in 2017, when most music is made with laptops—however, I posit that it’s still an applicable term; to me it connotes a strain of music characterized by enlisting software as a Vitamix for sound, with readymade chunks of music ranking high on the ingredient list. F I S S I O N has the chaotic, frenetic energy resultant from such processes, along with high-tempo bouncy kick and clap patterns that lay the track work for the ride. The degree of technical proficiency and sound clarity is high—off the charts for a tape of this ilk, actually—which may be a turn-off for some, but is irrefutable evidence of the time and effort put into crafting this kind of work. I imagine this tape would work pretty well in car; at times it functions as the aural equivalent to seeing the world around you blurred behind glass. While we’re on vehicles, F I S S I O N also paints a surrealist picture of walking around a crowded street in a hallucinatory state and hearing short bursts of songs spew out from panting SUVs and street vendors’ speakers. I was revisiting the Gum anthology around the time I listened to this, and in the afterglow, I ended up finding some of what Brood Ma does here to be not far removed from the lineage of their teenaged industrial turntable abuse (barring all the beats and such). This tape is considered long gone (the copies offered here were a surprise find from Mantile HQ), so best not wait around if you wish to grab this piece of the puzzle.

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Burd - Wild Saloone [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2012

Format: Cassette

The Burd & Scarr tape that came out a few ears before this one—my only other encounter with the former—caught me a little off guard, as I was not expecting so much drifty, placid synth work on a Spoils & Relics affiliated outing. Here we have yet another surprise, as Wild Saloone seems partly indebted to an unfiltered sampler-less house music aesthetic, with maybe even some classic sidescroller influence drizzled in. Some unflashy synthesizers (or plain old ‘keyboards’?) make up the lean cast of characters with which Burd builds loops that are rough enough around the edges to keep the listener paying attention—lots of big, jazzy sliding 7th chords and bloopy drum sounds. There’s evidence to suggest our man is operating within some self-imposed limitations, namely working without the net of an undo/erase option. Scarcely any effects are to be found, and there’s a closely adhered to formula of bringing one pot of phrases to a boil, then putting it on the back burner and starting fresh with another. Initially I thought things were getting so dense that the first track would mesh into a solid wall of noise, but that’s right when the slate gets wiped clean. I’d have been happy if Burd leaned back after the second or third layer is introduced, but to each his own (this might just be more fun than I’m willing to have, and I’m a less-is-more guy when it comes to any electronic music with a steady kick drum). Side B deviates from the pattern a bit, reintroducing chord structures and bass lines subjected to different modulations; it functions more as one long piece, as if Burd is doing a rework of his own track in real time. The live-from-the-bedroom presentation and unassuming fidelity help develop a sense of personality that keeps Wild Saloone from being an approximation of a budget gear demonstration. A good time to be had (if you’re looking for one).

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Simon Werner – The European Manga Demon Looses His Head In The Face Of Flowers And Other Suspicious Anthropomorphism [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2013

Format: Cassette

Simon Werner is (and has) quite a unique voice. He serves up eloquent, rankled rap-adjacent spoken word essays and takedowns from the perspective of a passionate and articulate fan. Werner demonstrates a command of language and knack for analysis you’d be hard pressed to find on any social media, distributing his vitriol in measured increments as not to repel the listener or hit an early peak. The backing tracks are lengthy excerpts of moody, reverb soaked head-in-the-clouds beats that are much more digestible here in a uniformly time-stretched stutter. Music isn’t just an afterthought though; Werner waits for cues and is keenly aware of where his texts sits in the mix: the way he delivers the titular line during a beatless lull is exemplary of this. The “(Acapella)” tagged on to the second side isn’t just for laughs—hear that headphone bleed? As previously alluded, Werner’s voice is really something to behold: a strange, croaky, fried regional accent I’m too dumb to detect. It’s jarring to hear at first, but only a minute or so in and I was fully on-board—an indicator of merit for any music of a more challenging variety. Someone let a genuine weirdo into the cloud rap party—he sure is pissed off, but clearly wants things to better, to strive to be as good as the things that fuel his own creativity. If there’s anything on this site that took me most by surprise. with respect to how many points it won with yours truly, it's this guy.

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Previously available titles

Joseph Clayton Mills – The Letter [CS]
5.00

Label: Suppedaneum

Format: Cassette

Year: 2015

Joseph Clayton Mills presents a vanishing act in progress with The Letter, a single-sided cassette edition wherein each copy is hand-dubbed from its nearest antecedent, incurring significant generation loss which then becomes increasingly dominant in the audio. The copies offered here go up to #85, so quite a bit has been rubbed out—but don’t let that dissuade you. Despite, and also because of the minimal surviving content, playing the The Letter is a very active listening pursuit; it summons one’s efforts to decipher it and speculate what one was. Each listener is offered an individual experience, and is themselves integral to the existence of the work. Among the half-hidden artifacts of sound are some voice recordings that seem worthy of comparison to a recovered surveillance tape. Elsewhere behind the thick veil of soft noise are fragile piano tones and wobbly electronics, likely made more intriguing in their obscured state than their original form. This is a good one for all of us who have ever opted to tune in to deep AM radio static in the car as opposed to actual music. At one point, I accidentally started playing this at the same time as the d’incise disc from Suppedaneum—which I found myself enjoying quite a bit—so although it might not be the recommended serving suggestion, The Letter could incidentally be a nice spice to add to other recordings, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Ryoko Akama/Joseph Clayton Mills/Will Montgomery – Inscriptions [CD-R/Score]
9.00

Label: Suppedaneum

Format: CD-R/Score

Year: 2017

Suppedaneum showcases two proposals composer Ryoko Akama devised for Will Montgomery and Joseph Clayton Mills, supplying the listener with cardstock replicas of the graphic and texts suggestions, the respective performers’ interpretation notes, and a CD-R documenting the results. Akama has had a recent surge in activity of late—she was previously part of the Lappetities (even though I’ve heard the CD, I still had to be reminded of her involvement), and her recorded output between that disc's release in 2005 and the next decade was sparse. In the past few years, she’s emerged as a prolific composer with a clear vision centered around alternative scoring techniques and what might be characterized as ‘small music’. Montgomery’s proposal plants the seed for an interpretive work of fluid vibration between a multiplying array of tones, with spikes of piano functioning as audible cues, stamping out the grid structure for the morphing shades of juxtaposition. Proposal 6 suggests a magnification of a gradually forming topography which, at first, bears a similarity to Alvin Lucier’s pure wave and solo instrument pieces on Still Lives, however that comparison runs dry quickly. It’s not long before Montgomery ventures into more grizzly, saturated territory—feedback and cross modulation embolden the piece with texture reminiscent of a controlled burn. There’s no specific focus on sustained linearity or acoustic phenomena; the movement of the piece is directed in shifting narrative stages that fade in and out, rearranging the components and allowing new energies to snowball and feed off one another. Mills works with a completely different set of ingredients for Proposal 7, yielding a series of object studies informed by precipitation. The performer’s notes for this piece are a noticeably more concrete, empirical document compared to Montgomery’s associative, poetic interpretation—which makes sense, considering the tactile, photographic nature of Mills’ realization. As a suite of three different approaches, this one is an instant gratifier to me (who doesn’t like some well-recorded rainfall?). Mills allows his interpretation to take on different forms which have a common thread, yet contrast one another effectively. The text acts as the primary guide for source material, the graphic element for the execution and arrangement. Using only rain recordings, BBs in a cup and bowl, and a microfiche machine, the performer makes full use of the stereo width to best serve the score, and allows his chosen mediums to reflect one another in high-res detail. Never the least bit dull, Proposal 7 is a detailed triptych of raw, pointed sounds. As a whole, Inscriptions is a thoroughly considered, multifaceted look into the work of all three artists that goes well beyond the standard presentation, offering a full, extended listening experience in wood veneered envelope. Hardly any excuse not to pick this up if you’re the least bit interested in any party.

Takamitsu Ohta – Elemental Studies [Book]
11.00

Label: Senufo Editions

Format: Book

Year: 2017

Ohta’s name has been cropping up in places enough for me to take note, but it comes as a surprise that work documented in this book reaches back into 2004. Until now, westerners haven’t had much they can hold, so this fine introduction to his installation work, paired with the release of the excellent duo with Anne-F Jacques, signifies a bit of an international emergence of Takamitsu Ohta. As the title implies, Ohta builds networks of objects in fascinating arrays that draws the participant in and leads them to examine more closely basic natural utilities, while implementing his own ‘hacks’ to penetrate sensory walls and catch the elements for observation. He uses air, water, light, and electricity as harnessable mediums and finds new ways to interact with them. While the physical arrangements are indeed aesthetically alluring and carefully designed, there’s a makeshift quality, not unlike a Wabi-sabi type means of construction, which makes the photographs more interesting to look at than pristine, symmetrical, all white gallery shots. The work comes as an approachable hybrid form of environmental field research and contemporary art and design, in a context that is free form the icky stock market of the Art world. The accompanying text is plain and inviting for aficianados and art-dummies like myself alike, generously describing what exactly is going on in each piece, as not to leave one feeling like they would had to have been there to fully grasp the designs. A perfect fit for followers of Senfuo, accustomed to close listening, keen to take interest in an artist who engages with the world beyond sound with a similar closeness.

Posting – Zine
4.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Format; Zine

Year: 2017

The perfect companion piece to supplement your intake of the weathered audio snapshots mysteriously blown in from the north a couple times a year. Dive deeper into Korea Undok Group’s chosen aesthetic, layering rough mythologizing over raw documentation. Portable atmosphere, distilled into visual form via shady cuts and copy degradation. Take a ride in the back seat, blindfolded. Peek out from the corners a little; the windows are almost entirely fogged up, but maybe you’ll recognize something you’ve heard about.

Silent Partner – Collection 1 [CS]
5.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Year: 2017

Format: Cassette

Collection 1 is somewhat of a loose ends mixtape of ongoing, past, or aborted Korea Undok Group projects. Silent Partner is the wild card. Despite the fact that the tracks here are from four different incarnations—one of them being a real curveball—they've been culled and arranged into a cohesive compilation that has a late night video store vibe. The bookends resemble the Silent Partner appearances on Black Spring, where they sidled up as nebulous, lurking interludes.. The big anomaly is "Moma", which features smeared, boomy vocals (that I think I recognize those from Angel's Egg), over lively, charred electro fit for a chase scene in—I’m sure there’s a specific “wave” term for this, but I get a pretty distinct doped-up bedroom Wax Trax! flavor. "Knoll Office" and “Glatter Tanzboden” would have fit right in on Studio B, but that would have pushed it over he 30 minute mark. The Group has a firm grasp on the virtue of brevity; leave 'em wanting more, jam econo—all that stuff. And it's true: even with a batch of five tapes and a zine, I'm waiting for that next update to roll around. Consider Collection 1 the sorbet to cap off your gluttonous feast.

Zika Boys – Climate [CS]
5.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Year: 2017

Format: Cassette

Always nice to see some new masks in the foggy land of Korea Undok Group. Zika Boys already win some praise for the name alone (ahem, I’d like to submit this to evidence), but also manage to shake out a wonderful debut of palpitating resonances and loop-driven traversals of a gravely, low-visibility landscape that matches the greyscale artwork. Far-away industrial music that points to the factory flame that serves as the focal point for a downer meditation. Degraded rhythms claw at the windows, threatening to bring the whole storm in with them. Despite there being only two side-long tracks, Climate reports from a number of different locations without interrupting the hipnosis, cutting in subtle tool changes and shifts in proximity. I can’t really imagine myself getting any more comfortable than sinking into the low-passed lull that makes up the last section of the first side. Demo quality always reigns supreme when the content is comprised of melancholy, suffocated harmonies and opioid groves, so the end product is perfectly overcast and gritty for the sunken mood of this one. Good work, Boys.

Una Lasemé – Studio B [CS]
5.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Year: 2017

Format: Cassette

Una Lasemé pays us a welcome repeat visit, adorned with the same pink hue and cozy demeanor of the Details cassette, in a stretched out and refined form. Compared to the debut from last year, Studio B is a bit more delicate and subdued than it’s predecessor—which also had a sensitivity and romanticism about it, albeit more purposefully rough around the edges. Low-flying ambience, with gradually shifting intensity that make this a more dynamic turn compared to the consistently soft pummeling of the brief Details. Only on “Di Milano” and “E-1027” do things get all worked up and throbbing, unfurling some submerged, deconstructed techno. “Club 200” rings of classic Shuttle358, except it sounds like it was made on a household tape deck instead of a Powerbook. The rest is calmly dispersed like a dense, cloudy mist through the air vents of your tastefully finished basement. Studio B hit me with the pleasant memory of driving around on Sunday nights near some railroad tracks in the twilight hours, listening to Hearts of Space because the tape deck was broken (or was it Echoes?—I can’t remember). Naturally, the music is much better here (none of the weird Celtic instruments they throw in that stuff for some reason). The elephant in the room is the Beuys in “Studio Beuys”, which one would think is a direct reference to Joseph—of course, there's nothing overtly Fluxus sounding here, but it could be an allusion of a more personal nature. I've tried to suss out how KUG's activities could relate to a democratic, humanist approach to art Beuys was a strong proponent of—it all seemed like kind of a stretch; I wouldn't recommend looking too much into it. I'm pretty sure Studio B is an album meant to be taken closer to face value, so just enjoy the damn thing and get whatever you want of it.

Dogon Lock – Winnipeg's West Nile [CS]
5.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Year: 2017

Format: Cassette

Earliest Forms of Magic, the first Dogon Lock release, was one I had to dig for; it proved to be a real stunner once I finally heard it, leaving most other present day tape manipulators in the dust. (Unfortunately, I only managed to procure two more additional copies of that for this site—KUG to the rescue—so the rest of you will have to match my resourcefulness.) For the follow up, the means of production seem to have changed a great deal. The mood remains the same, but we’re treated to a much more electronics heavy VHS psycho-thriller suite of doom and submission. Pounding rhythms and emerging dissonance suggest an image of being dragged through a forest by two imposing figures at each arm, with a silent, harsh tribunal bringing up the rear. Deposited at the riverbed and forced to kneel, someone starts pestling away at unknown botanicals collected nearby, mixing it with the fetid river water. For a moment, an unexpected serenity arises from the sounds accompanying the dark, rippling reflection at the water’s edge. Someone says “drink,” and down we go. A fine suite of stomach-churning synth and pulse work, but there’s maybe a sample near the end I could have done without, If I’m being truthful—that’s just me. Thrilled to have more Dogon Lock in my house, but I hope this is only one of many assorted flavors he’s got in store, as I’m still holding out for more of that Earliest Forms of Magic magic.

Purple Circles – Gender Summit (Reissue) [CS]
5.00

Label: Korea Undok Group

Format; Cassette

Year: 2017/2016

Reissue of a tape from last years batch that it seems some folks were particularly fond of. Cavernous chamber music captured by a hidden tape recorder; mighty real drums and buried piano set adrift on a raft of somber, swooning loops.. If I try to imagine Purple Circles as a band, it's a patient unit of players churning out a fuzzy, heavily weighted live soundtrack, complete with a blissful, watercolor intermission in the form of “Under the Canopy by the Red River”. Keeping this brief, 'cause this thing's so limited it's practically already gone. (I didn't even get one for myself—deference to the customer since I have an original. This purple paper's looking pretty good though....)

Dogon Lock – Earliest Forms of Magic [CS]
5.00

Label: Barbaric Cultural Practices

Year: 2016

Format: Cassette

The debut Dogon Lock cassette is a captivating excursion in slowly convulsing tape work that is heavy on the pitch control, and at times, brilliantly disgusting. Crude, primal, gulping, and wooden—there’s a half-alien, half-animal quality to a lot of the sounds on Earliest Forms of Magic that make me feel like I’m getting a more unobstructed view of the contorted sources G*Park shines a light on briefly (and always thanks—the G* is for gentleman), before plunging the listener back into the shadows, or initiating a swift redirect. Weird, hollow, plinky sounds resembling bone-on-bone are all over this thing, along with mutated liquids and mangled thicket skirmishes. There’s hardly any consistent tonal element to speak of—a low, wobbling groan, and frozen echo being the most prominent. On side two there’s a strange, vowel-morphed loop that is fully deserving of the extended repetition. Hard to find anything this successful in doing the mouthy forest four-track routine in recent years (I’d love to be proven wrong on this). You could have slipped parts of this into An Accident in Substance, and well—I’d still notice, but it would take me awhile. Paired with the imagery and general theme of the label, Earliest of Forms of Magic could hardly be a more promising start for Barbaric Cultural Practices.

Culver – Prophecy of the Black Spider [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2014

Format: Cassette

Culver exercise some admirable restraint to great effect here with two impressionistic streams of ominous gloom. The first side of The Prophecy of the Black Spider is consumed with what sounds like an endless flow of rubble, a rush of billowing flames, or having one’s head shoved out the window of a vehicle speeding down a dirt road. The unrelenting debris evolves into the image of a ship coming into a harbor, ignoring the echoes of a cautionary foghorn; thousand-yard stare, hypnotized by the surrounding maelstrom. After the break, droning strings are pushed to the forefront with an urgent, dark magnetism—as if from a mind’s eye perspective of the tumultuous scene we saw previously. Two trancelike views of something from which no good can come. Have at it.

 

Yearning Kru – Swumpengelf ‎[CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2017

Format: Cassette

This happens to be the most recent release from Mantile, but the layering of cracked, stuttering, digitally refracted samples could have fooled me into guessing it’s a Mille Plateaux or Mego release circa 2001. I submit that in the most complimentary way possible—I’m a sucker for this era of homemade computer music, and it comes as a pleasant surprise to find someone mining such territory in the context of today’s small edition cassette culture. Swumpengelf is teeming with airy spectral traces, shifting partials, and floating, augmented bass resonances, all swimming around one another like a school of fish, implying a unified texture in their profusion. The remnants of a dismantled trap set (or an ad hoc stand-in for one) and an off kilter ticking pulse imparts a not-too-comfortable rhythmic component. Yearning Kru taps into the same spirit as any artist one might find on the Magnetic Detritus compilation, offering an alternate take on the aesthetic via DSP techniques I’d wager are as outmoded as four track, Walkman, and dictaphone exploits. The results exude as much charm, playfulness, and authenticity of tape-based sound works in a noticeably tidier work environment. While the sound tools are idiomatic of a dusty sort of early 2000s abstract electronic music, YK’s work feels fresh and not bogged down by glitch/clicks and cuts tropes; the approach is more freewheeling and bold—not unlike Sakana Hosomi’s underappreciated work as Maju and Neina that was less prone to the overly gentle demeanor of his peers. I’m now in the unexpected position of having a Planet Mu LP on my to-buy list, so hat’s off to all parties.

Kayaka ‎– Operation Deep Freeze [CS]
7.00

Label: Mantile

Year: 2012

Format: Cassette

Kayaka is definitely guided by her own personal compass; I was not expecting to hear glassy, clean, budget GRM synth tones over the hand triggered 80s industrial drum and guitar gnashing that introduced “Operation Deep Freeze”. There’s an instillation quality to most of the tracks, given the way large chunks of varying fidelity and tone are separated into their own hard-panned corners. Take this for whatever it’s worth, but while listening, I was driven to watch, yet again, the clip of AF and Murphy’s Law being featured in Cremaster 3. Domestic field recording mutations, solo DAW-based instrumental Slugfuckers, hiccuping firecracker electronics, exploded sludge dub. Equal parts thuggish and cerebral sound design. I imagine the artist has made considerable strides since this tape, but for the uninitiated, this seems like a fine place to start.