Future Machines

[LP; These Are Not Records]

It’s dangerous to start off a calendar year with a record like Future Machines because I’m not sure if it can possibly get better from here on out. Kösmonaut, their moniker teasing a kraut/prog sensibility, surge so far beyond the borders of that ridiculous genre it’s sick, approaching space from the opposite end of equally inventive bands like Kraus. Or maybe Mudboy commandeered the Star Trek Enterprise and set his phasers to ‘arpeggiate’ (I hope DeForrest reads this). Or maybe Popol Gluant got ahold of some new machines and built a new city, THIS city, on prog ‘n’ roll. Or maybe Patrick R. Pärk is the John Zorn of future-prog and is just getting started (though he’s already held auditions via Deep Distance and an imprint of his own). I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW. I even feel like there’s a pinch of Demdike Stare, minus the beats, tucked in here like a mini-baggy of heroin in Jonah Hill’s sweet ass. Spectrum Spools/Emeralds/etc. and OPN too. My head is spinning a bit, and the presentation of Future Machines, as with other These Are Not Records releases I’ve detailed in this section, is flawless enough to virtually guarantee its 250 copies, 100 on blood-red wax, will be jettisoned imminently. (Spoiler alert: There also appears to be a full-length from Landing on the TANR horizon; be ready.)

Links: Kösmonaut


Battered Sphinx


I’ve flipped this one over so many damned times I have no idea what’s side A and what’s side B anymore. Not that it especially matters, nor is that to say that each doesn’t have a unique set of textures and weirdo non-forms of its own. Indeed, as the minutes tick past throughout my work day (what time is it anyway?) and I continue to keep this tape in my Walkman, Ahnnu creeps forward with his mutant, constantly mutating meta-world of free jazz, hip hop, pitter-patters of peripheral noise and ambient music. It all coalesces into a twinkling star on my horizon: the end of the day is just a few more flips away (I think). Yes, there’s a brief light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope to be found within the cloudy misery of my miserable, cloudy day. Battered Sphinx glides along an oil slick and bubbles like a boiling tar pit. It bleeds maple syrup and … and it’s been drinking. Tones yawn and stretch like they’re waking up after a night of heavy clubbing (at the club, or actually being clubbed in the head with a club – either works), eyes blinking open like they’re coming out of a cough medicine-coma. And while I sit here and try my hardest to figure out the significance of a title like “Battered Sphinx,” Ahnnu’s representation of the beaten effigy is all cigarette smoke curling around pianos and double basses, which leaves my massaged brain tired and confused. Best to leave the symbolic significance stuff to Ahnnu I guess and enjoy this dose of cosmic relaxation for what it really is: One nice, nice dose of cosmic relaxation.

Links: Ahnnu - NNA


Looping Around the Forest I Thought I Remembered

[CS; Constellation Tatsu]

Embrace the embryonic, naturalistic ease of Hakobune. Every time I come back to the Japanese master of tranquility, I feel more childlike and less stressed. But Looping is much more than a meditative mantra or a momentary attempt at recapturing lost youth. With similar run times, each song speaks to our inner rhythms, helping to concentrate unparalleled thoughts into similar streams of consciousness. We can begin to notice the patterns of our routine and then begin to stretch them thin. Looping is about finding the details in our larger picture, breaking our habits to see what we’ve been missing. It’s a subtle trick Hakobune has played on more than 30 releases. It’s been training for this; the time when our patience and practice can be honed to spot those integral moments beyond our peripheral. It’s been a gentle coax from Takahiro Yorifuji, carefully crafting an identity and tone. But now we must pay attention to everything around us, for letting it go to waste not only sours our relationship with this broken cassette, but with the shattered reality we’ve neglected for too long. The sun rise; the falling dew; the frolicking deer; the flat tire, the busted gasket; the missed mortgage payment; the sick and the hungry – it’s all part of our beautiful world and with focus we can understand it. With Looping, we can better it.

Links: Hakobune - Constellation Tatsu

tooth ache.

Flash & Yearn

[LP; Feeding Tube]

I was ready to pitch my review-tent for the night when a lovely female voice, in the form of Tooth Ache (Why do I feel the need to say ‘female’? I don’t know.) begged me to stay. And I did, through the entire Flash & Yearn LP, and now I’m convinced she’s the princess from Neverending Story, encased in crystal and the glorious synth-peggios of the past. Hearing this witch house-tinted journey unfold, I figure: Soft Metals but better, or: This is where Portishead might have gone, had they taken shit seriously after those first few records and kept at it. Alexandria Hall dominates every song with her vocals and I don’t hear any reason why she shouldn’t, despite the quality of the arrangements. We’ve all heard a lot of synth programs over the last few years so I’m not gonna recommend it unless it’s top of the line. It’s sort of like an Editions Mego solo keyboard album fronted by a sexy chick. That’s totally reductive but doesn’t it sound kinda good?

Links: Feeding Tube

Sound Out Light


[CS; Golden Cloud Tapes]

Some more spacey Krautronic explorations from Golden Cloud Tapes, this cassette features the synth work of Mr. Dave Doyen, who’s one of the three weirdos you’ll hear yammering about the latest fringe tapes on Tabs Out’s famed podcast. Nice to hear some tunes from any one of these guys (Vales is another associated project), but especially nice that these particular tunes are so… well, just plain nice. Smooth, sweet tones on Side A, a plethora of them stacking themselves up uniformly while at the same time bleeding down into one another, a melting pot of beautiful melody that results in a wide, expansive field of audio. There’s no friction here, like riding a million mile an hour treadmill through outer space, and just as scenic a voyage as that sounds like it should be. Side B breaks things up a bit melodically to offer more repetitive patterns that lay the ground work for electro-zap noodling. The second number on this half scrolls into some deeply hypnotic and troubling zones, psychedelic not exactly in a “bad” way, but in a “I don’t fucking trust whatever drug I just took” way. Circuit boards stutter and sputter on the periphery as some slinky lines slither and weave gingerly around one another, a cosmic dance for the ages. Excellent mind-warpage at work here, Doyen hits on a lot of different moods while maintaining a fairly uniform voice. It’s a little curious that things wind down with “Capsule,” one of the creepier numbers, since the tape has so many other lovely moments that might round things out a little cleaner. Still, one of the best in exclusively modular synth works that I’ve come across in recent months.

Links: Sound Out Light - Golden Cloud Tapes



[CS; Drone Warfare]

In the span of a 60 Minutes feature, drones have transformed from frightening machines bent on privacy invasion and destruction of the Axis into getting our online shopping fix in 30 minutes or less. Considering the middle ground home to three-piece Juche. Where consumerism delight and chaotic espionage intersect is where the band’s Drone Warfare released self-titled exists. A place hacking contemporary melody for intelligence purposes, before reshaping it into popular culture spies to test the marketplace for interest beyond typical E! fodder. Juche embodies a style of attack tackling what is currently accepted and what could be accepted, if only delivered in a cute but potentially vengeful package. Juche is broken neon lights, wafts of nostalgic tinges from rolled down car windows and loud radios, and the beautifully wasted energy of youth. The only bombs dropped from this are revelatory: those “if I knew then what I know now” missives. But you’re never too old and Juche is never too beholden to ideas of the past. So order the tape, having it delivered unmanned via the current, and countdown as you press play for an explosion that will lead to a utopia of consumer delights rather than a dystopia of carnal devolution.

Links: Juche - Drone Warfare



[CS; Singapore Sling]

Although I very much want to use the word “Zany” to describe what Erasurehead does on this new cassette, that word is just a little too… quick. It’s too fast, too zippy – A. Cooper Reid, the Nor’Easter’ bedroom song writer, harnesses the colorful, carefree spirit of a classic Saturday morning cartoon and mutes it, slows it way down to a comfortable and comforting lope. The result is something scratched and sepia-tinged with a deep voice burying unintelligible vocals inside lovesick melodies between circuit-bent segues of noise that glue the tunes together.

Moonwort is indeed pleasantry that takes some pains to fully appreciate as the songs feel like they’re wrapped up in wool blankets, smothered and searching for air. At the same time, it’s tough to say that this would be any better with a crystal clear, clean air to it. The tape’s inherent pollution gives the songs their own unique charm that is sweet and endearing in their self-suffocation. For when that Erasurehead cracks a smile and those pearly whites do gleam through the dingy surface, the sweetness is enough of a hook to reel any able-bodied eardrum in for repeated listens. Yet another winner for Russian imprint Singapore Sling, which produced not a single dud in all the tapes I wrangled from their catalog in 2013 – a perfect, essential addition to their knockout series of lo-fi pop releases from others like Nose Bleed Island, Sam Gas Can, and Travel Kyoto.

Links: Erasurehead - Singapore Sling

Che Chen

Che Chen

[7-inch; In Context]

In Context Music’s jib is cut so clearly and concisely I couldn’t help but fall in love with it right away. Che Chen, of Pilgrim Talk fame, delivers ICM’s second release you should make sure you’re one of the lucky 25 people who get their hands on it. I’m having trouble placing this material on Chen’s timeline. Is this what those other releases sounded like? I’m thinking not, and I appreciate the change in direction. The idea of a ‘solo guitar’ record has become such a loaded proposition due to abuse of the term of the last few years, so don’t be afraid to push past the concept and imbibe the anti-shred session afoot. “Saturday (I Just Want to Go To Sleep)” finds time to work a few field-recorded voice samples into its muddy six-string bog, and if you don’t know exactly what to do with “Bus Passes By,” well, that means it’s working. If those old John Frusciante recordings make sense to you, or if you’re looking for something along the lines of Loren Connors and Jim O’Rourke that takes it to the next level of the next level, “Bus Passes By” will suit you nicely. I could spend a few days decoding this one; and how!

Links: In Context


Change of Heart

[CS; Already Dead Tapes]

For the eighty-fifth entry in Already Dead’s now well over 100 release count, we have a nice instrumental hip-hop collection courtesy of a gentleman called Joran Bakx who sent this one in all the way from Holland. Change of Heart is a fairly planar ride, each and every beat set up to basically glide along a straight and narrow sort of trajectory. And although it’s a bit robotic and feels rather safe, the melodies are mysterious, smoky and alluring enough to give it some intrigue – the thing not only warrants repeat listens but almost demands them as flipping the tape over from A to B and back again comes pretty naturally. It might have something to do with the beats themselves, as there’s enough textural variety to keep things interesting, not to mention the creative syncopation this tape is rife with. A heavy low-end keeps the album’s footing on the ground, but Pyramidal still manages a light, fluffy bounce to it that feels free and easy. There’s this one track I just have to mention also, and it’s called “My Old Radio,” second to last on side B. It’s just the bee’s knees, guys - the beat, the bent melody and glistening piano flourishes… I’ve caught myself rewinding it just for that one track alone, well worth the $5 price of admission ADT’s charging.

Links: Already Dead Tapes


Holographic Headdress

[CS; Sacred Phrases]

The fascination Sacred Phrases carries for projects-named-for-cities-you’ve-never-visited continues with the Riley-esque Enumclaw. It’s as strong a draw as my putting-unnecessary-hyphens-in-reviews. Perhaps we both need rehab, but not before smoking the last crack rock of Holographic Headdress. Unlike the inspiration behind the beautifully design minimalism of HH’s cover, there’s a bit more going on between the spaces. Even if it’s just the faint sound of falling water or the residual hum of a synthesizer note, there’s always a sound to catch your attention. Not that Enumclaw doesn’t allow these compositions time to relax, they just seem to shine brighter when there’s a continuation of point and counterpoint.

I want to make some elaborate joke about zonez or waves, but it’ll only diminish how elegant this tape is front-to-back. Artists adapting little known towns as their pseudonym > Artists using states and big cities as names.

Links: Sacred Phrases

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