John Swana, Mark Price & David Lackner
Smooth End of Summer [CS; Galtta Media]

What gall, to release something with a title like this one in May of all months. When we are all actually extremely excited about summer’s rise to mighty power in the wake of winter’s slow and gruesome demise. But anything from Galtta Media I will take, and so be it that it’s this totally bonkers, ambient-jazz tape from a trio of talent. This music came to exist over some distance; David Lackner played some noise/saxophone at a session in New York with Mark Price and recorded it. They squished, squashed, chopped, chiseled, charred and char-broiled that sax all down into a soupy stew of chordal-drone and added some beats. Then the two shipped the tapes over to veteran EVI-virtuoso John Swana’s studio in Philly to tickle the mix with his scalar prowess. And that’s it. That’s not it! There’s also baritone marching horn, MIDI keyboards and samplers, and a voice on this album too. Whatever you think all of that might sound like, it probably sounds a lot different. There’s no good way to prepare you for what is here. I want to say that it’s aggressive, but it’s not: These guys, in a tone that is dimly lit, cull cool neon purples and blues from the 80s, and supplant them gracefully onto the surface of Pluto. If there’s any kind of rhythm here (and there is), it’s not based on any Earthly notion of the concept. It’s an aural space where whistles occupy odd nooks, singing off as distant ghosts, and melodies are known to drift like the smoke off a clove cigarette. Add the beats, and you know you are in one hip, holographic zone. As much In a Silent Way as it is Selected Ambient Works vol. II and further is this tape, a snapshot of the future of jazz as we know it.

Links: John Swana, Mark Price & David Lackner - Galtta Media

Black Hat

Covalence

[CS; Field Hymns]

Spoken of in mere whispers these days, the myth of the perfect mix tape still resonates with a generation keen on creating digital mixes as technology dictates. Though the magic of actual cassette mixes has reached an uptick in recent years, it’s rare to pay a compliment of mix tape pacing to one entity but here it goes: Black Hat’s Covalence is the summer mix tape you’ll want in your car stereo. Though it doesn’t have jams like “Get Lucky” or “What I Like,” what it lacks in mainstream pop appeal it makes up for in pacing. Tumblers such as “Ashe” and “The Lattice and the Cormorant” are settled by the deep running waters of “Jaune” and “Arabesque.” Covalence also has trippy artwork that feels like it was done by your friend, the design student. And that it comes shipped from Portland’s Field Hymns lends the tape the stench of cool-friend-across-the-country cluing you into a vibe. Though not a 1-of-1, there’s only 100 of these bad boys and millions of humans, so you better claim yours before it heats up and you don’t have the killer hooks of Summer ‘13 bumping from your Focus.

Links: Field Hymns

Quicksails

Weight of Worth

[CS; Teen River]

Quicksails might as well represent the nexus of the drone universe. They melt stacks and stacks of OPN/Mego/ambient tapes into one neat pile, condensing what has become a bloated genre into digestible form. Also, Dave Smolen and hair_loss (who, together, ended up forming Metasplice) work with similar sets of effects. I’m all for it. Ben Billington trims the fat obsessively; this ain’t sloppy Texas gristle-brisket, this is lean, smooth, unmarbled meat of the highest order. Playing scads of effects against longform drift seems like such a played-out idea, but in the right hands the strategy carries endless charm. Dismiss Quicksails at your own peril. It’s interesting to hear this release from Teen River after digging on that Julie Byrne tape, as there’s quite a contrast between the two, for the record (or the tape).

Links: Teen River

Paw Paw

Temporalis / Epiphysis

[2xCS; Fire Talk]

“Temporalis” and “epiphysis” are both terms related to human anatomy (specifically bones, joints, and muscle), which is at once a little surprising, and then later completely understandable for Paw Paw’s latest work, which is this deeply chill double tape for Fire Talk. The ex-Woodsman-man Eston Lathrop’s music and its inherent psychedelia might seem to stare straight out into the cosmic abyss at first, or rather, it might already be up there looking back down on pitiful ground-dwellers below. But instead, as Paw Paw, Lathrop engages music at a primal, elemental level, keeping everything focused inward to tap directly into the body vis-à-vis an extremely relaxed brain. The rhythmic core to each piece is integral to the feel and effect of the music, but it’s less about the syncopations that are present and more about the way Lathrop captures things like the texture of the skin across the drum’s frame, or the brittle scrape of beads in a gourd shaker. You get a sense for the stuff that is between the sounds you actually hear — spaces become organic tissues, ligaments holding together a living thing’s delicate, emotive and graceful body. And that body lopes along with slow tempos and trails of guitar harmony smearing their cool colors softly into one another. Light melodies circle ‘round the campfire while the mix takes a nice yawning stretch in a bath of reverb. Yep, a real spa-fest, body massage to the max.

Links: Paw Paw - Fire Talk

Tracey Trance

101

[CS; Turned Word]

Look Tracey Trance-pants, if that is your real name, you’ve got it. And I don’t even know what it is. But you’ve got it. I don’t know what a psychiatrist might have to say of the contents of 101 (I’m guessing some prescriptions would be written with the dash of an eager pen), nor do I know how fucked-up it makes me for digging on these deeply entrenched thought bubbles; all that can be said, if anything, is that everything here is Real. Lo-fi spoken-word, uncooked synth noodles, and general on-the-road zaniness might turn to ear-puke in the hands of most, but in the case of Tracey the results are surprisingly safe and concrete. It just makes sense, that is, if you want to chase a sassy young guy down the rabbit hole at the exact point where Ariel Pink left off. Bendy.

Links: Turned Word

Ulaan Passerine

Ulaan Passerine

[2xCS; Brave Mysteries]

Two admirable forces joining under the tri-insignia. Both masters at changing direction, masking their scents to stay ahead of the hunters. Those who are always hunted adapt, so it is of no surprise that after a meeting of such prey, they would team up to produce a ward more powerful and spellbinding than their enemies could conjure. Say hello to the latest Steven R. Smith pseudo, Ulaan Passerine. Throughout the span of two calculating tapes, Smith’s newest disguise (often borrowing from past disguises) mixes with the Brave Mysteries brand; that light at the end of the tunnel–just one more barricade, just one more baddie to allude. Ulaan Passerine seems to borrow the lone wolf mentality of Old Skete, though the eerie textures and ominous winds of past Brave Mysteries fair (think upon any Troy Shafer offering–the kindred spirit to Smith’s long-played naming runaround) creep in–and the addition of piano lends Ulaan Passerine a timeless element. Notes are plucked from the icy air, then cast like thorny arrows at would-be trappers. Hexes are thrown to attract and capture the most unruly spirits to fight against the blight of blackness. Like any Smith album, no matter its slight variation in sound and identity, it finds the light amid the dark. It’s an allegory as old as time, but so is Ulaan Passerine. This is ancient knowledge now needed in the fight against the foe of time. Glad to have Smith and Brave Mysteries on our side.

Links: Ulaan Passerine - Brave Mysteries

Gran

No Love

[10-inch; Totally Wired]

No Love is a wired, grinding take on post-post-darkwave punk doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper. Intense beats melded with melted synth goo? Cold Cave-y vocals and digital finger-snaps? If you were to propose this album to me in writing, I’d scuttle the whole project and blackball the principle arrangers, but in the hands of Gran the varying elements come together rather convincingly. One of the stranger tumbleweeds to roll past my homestead in a spell, to be sure. At times it sounds like an Esplendor Geométrico nightmare, at others like Kill Me Tomorrow or any number of dance-y, spiky old GSL bands. There’s also the aforementioned darkwave connection, so bear that in mind; the 1980s, such a beast of late, hover over the proceedings like like an impatient ‘tech guy.’ My favorite’s “Easy.” Edition of 500, released on 12-12-12. So there’s that.

Links: Totally Wired

Dead C/Rangda

split

[12-inch; Ba Da Bing]

I remember that first step into the Sunset. I was invited to witness the emergence of Rangda; to bask in the beginning of something new. I stood in the middle of the club surrounded by Chasny and Corsano, only for Bishop to walk to the stage and the rest follow. Thus began the greatest night in the history of our sport. Of course, the same phenomenon occurred 20 years prior in a small New Zealand hamlet with The Dead C. History has a funny way of repeating itself, but this split from trans-global wunderkinds averts deja vu. Rangda’s half is a more meditative but nonetheless raucous jam, expanding the band’s False Flag transcendental melodies while stripping bare the rigidness of Formerly Extinct. The Dead C…well…each cut is different, a compass to the story of New Zealand experimentation as reinvented by the trio. And as familiar as any Dead C can be, it all feels very different from their lengthy catalog (expounded by “Eusa Kills,” a tip of the cap to the band’s 1989 LP) without losing the directional thread. There are garages and alleys to explore to find the sound needed to complete an idea. Fact of the matter is these two are linked by the bloody bond of restlessness, so sharing a piece of wax seems like the least messy manner in which to squish legends together. So much in common with each other and music’s rich history and yet, no desire to repeat any of it out of social grace. It should be noted that these 6 songs only whet the appetite for what we really want: a Rangda/Dead C super-duper group.

Links: Ba Da Bing

Mike Rep & The Quotas

Rocket to Nowhere

[7-inch; Mighty Mouth]

AWWWWWWWWWW yeah, down and dirty, party-till-4:30, Ramones T-shirt-y, somethin’-somethin’-flirty… You know what I mean: It’s 1975, and Mike Rep And The Quotas don’t give a fuck about what anyone else is doing. They’re going to play loud, in a garage, if that, and they’re going to record with a boombox, if that. Funny thing is, “Quasar” is actually, unless the piece I received is defective, a minimalist drone piece, so go figure I guess. Didn’t realize the proto-punks were dipping into this pool so long ago, but then again I didn’t realize Morton Subotnick invented solo synth either; it’s a learning process, all the time. “Rocket To Nowhere,” thank god, makes with the rock, and to a cheering crowd that seems to be manufactured. Am I going crazy? Well it’s probably because of the music. Nice, thick vinyl, as per usual from the Almost Ready fold.

Links: Mighty Mouth

Dolphin Tears

Spa World

[CS; Lillerne Tapes]

Who doesn’t want to go to a place called Spa World right now? No one doesn’t. Spa World is a place where there’s nothing but the absolute best of vibes after all, and I’ll tell you what, every vibe I come across from now until the end of my very life might just end up being compared to this vibe — this one, singular, holistically healing vibe. Man, it’s just right. There’s another I heard that does this kind of thing, and does it with that just-right vibe: Water Lily Jaguar. Might there be a genre for this yet? I’m not doing the Vapor-thing here (and yeah, there’s an earlier BOTR tape, so what?), but at the same time I want to say that the way Dolphin Tears goes about it is called… something. And why? It shouldn’t matter. It’s because I want more of it, whatever it is that these guys do. What it does smells good. It clears the sinuses, rids the pores of microscopic debris, all with the steam of a synth-salve. Harmonic consonance made for maximum soul-resonance, texture-matched melodies scrubbing the insides of your mind and a sunken groove to keep your body conscious and Dolphin Tears strangely within the realm of pop. Here’s a thought: you’re thinking too hard. Just relax.

Links: Dolphin Tears - Lillerne Tapes
  

In this ever-expanding musical world, there's a wealth of 7-inches, cassettes, CD-Rs, and objet d'art being released that, due to their limited quantities and adventurous sonics, go unnoticed by the public at large. Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.