Minor Trials [CS; Life Like]
I’m trying (hard) to resist the urge to make every tape I review representative of some bigger thing I have to say about physical media in post-internet society. That said, Minor Trials, the new tape by Ann Arbor, MI performance artist Emily Roll AKA Haunted, is a sterling example of where putting out a tape is not stupid and wasteful (whereas 97% of current tapes, in my eyes, are the opposite). The whole thing is available online, but it just doesn’t seem right to listen to it there… it’s too personal, too secret. It sounds like it belongs on tape.
Minor Trials largely sticks to a format of bare-bones, funny spoken word in the venerable tradition of Suckdog, Algebra Suicide, or those Kill Rock Stars “Wordcore” records, with Roll accompanying herself with dreamy saxophone lines that recall a post-punk version of early John Klemmer or Roland P. Young. She is occasionally joined on drums/percussion by Life Like prime mover Fred Thomas (he of many bands, currently “Fred Thomas”). Some of these pieces would probably resonate most among friends in local basements, which is totally all well and good, but my personal favorite sections find Roll gazing well past her navel and out into this incredibly weird world. I’m not sure how one does that with all the guts in the way between those two things, but there it is.Links: Haunted - Life Like
ABABABABABABAS (Blue Lion Child) [LP; Further]
Hans Dens, nee Innercity, takes to exp-drone with a dark-ambient drill, hollowing out the dullness and injecting it with wriggling new life that will earworm its way into your brain. The impossibly titled ABABABABABABAS (Blue Lion Child) is chopped into disparate song titles but never deviates from the mission at hand; it’s a singular movement, directed to the tunnels of the electronic underground. Dens is a restless soul, not at all content to leave much to chance, his angry drifts reminiscent of some of those great LPs on the now-defunct/much-missed Fedora Corpse label. There’s a drama inherent as well, a nagging feeling of tension that can’t be taught and damn well can’t be discerned by this reviewer. It’s as if a figure is waiting behind the curtains of noise, ready to make good on all those bad trips you had back in high school. A hard bump or two of bass intrude on Side B, hinting at more to come, but no, instead a choppy guitar feature (or maybe, not?) overtakes the still-churning ambient static. This is all well and good; I’m drawn, however, to the tidal waves of soot blackening the edges of tracks like “Raragrams” the most; that and the overall grandeur of “Masks and Mold Matter,” a fascinatingly warble-y sound experiment I’d like to view under a slide, redolent of Mudboy’s collaborative LP on Hundebiss. If the Further chatter has escaped you ABABABABABABAS (Blue Lion Child) is an apt spot to drop yr anchor, and let me tell you, there isn’t much time left to visit the Innercity (32 copies of the limited-edition version of this LP last I checked). See that you do.Links: Further
Single Lash [CS; Mirror Universe]
In some alternate dimension this is worship music. There is a reverence, closing in on idolatry, for the mythologized past of Post-punk and Goth running through the twelve songs on this cassette. That’s not negative: heroes and legends are necessary to measure ourselves by, to be the beacon we are rowing vaguely toward across a infinite plain of water. And while this cassette is proudly displaying its exposed roots, this is not that most sincere form of flattery. Think of it more like a nugget dug from a long thought mined-out vein of gold. Put it on at a party of Cure and Joy Division aficionados and not only will they be asking who it is while trying to purloin your copy but they will be shocked it was released in 2015. Single Lash have nailed the tone of the guitars, the distance and hollowness of the kick drum, the wash of distortion over the chorus; welcome back to the 80s we missed you. This is not, however, mimicry or some kind of misguided cover-band‘s side-project. Single Lash is not trying to join the pantheon, but they have bottled the echoes of their forerunners and distilled something satiating.Links: Mirror Universe
Andrew Weathers Ensemble
Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything [LP; Full Spectrum]
I imagine the positive curses that light the latest from Andrew Weathers as the battlecry of Super Dave Osborne before he infamously took numerous nasty spills. Those falls from (lack of) grace that we all endure. Yet Super Dave – as fictional as he may have been – spoke to the resilience of its character actor, Bob Einstein. It also speaks to each of us, continuously told by family, friends and faculty that failure is what should be expected. As it should be. But from failure comes success (the part many naysayers leave out). I hope that’s why Weathers chose Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything as the title for his most triumphant work to date. Featuring a wealth of hard road travelers (including a personal fav, CJ Boyd) weary from years of being told to fuck off in various ways (as if to belittle the hard work and beautiful music they’ve made outside of whatever passes as normal), Fuck Everybody is uplifting and…yeah, I’m going here…spiritual. Don’t run away from that. It’s not about god or religion but about what is in oneself that keeps the world spinning. What motivates us to keep trying when we’ve ran face first into another obstacle. It’s a much more obtuse idea rather than the stated purpose of the album. However, we all need that slice of positivity to face down our own doubt. I imagine Bob Einstein, or even Albert, would embrace Fuck Everybody. After all, we are all in this together. Unified field theories, atomic yo-yos and all.Links: Full Spectrum
Troubled Heart [CS; Self Released]
As any American youth above a certain age, I fondly remember the electronic themes of Saturday Morning cartoons and PBS kids’ entertainment. They still resonant, still echo in the chest cavity where my heart once stood. But this absence is being re-filled by Saif Mode. Reassuringly, musician Ben Hunter has even christened his latest offering Troubled Heart as if understanding the sort of heartless existence I’ve endured since the death of my childhood. His tape even goes so far as to capture the pre-techno goodness of those electric light orchestrations before “Picture Pages” was forever ruined. Troubled Heart swirls in a sea of magical synthesizers, often eschewing 80’s music tropes in favor of more robust and childlike explorations of inorganic music as life essence. A warming, energetic pulse keeps the tape moving. It brings back the pinkish hue of the skin, and eventually rediscovers the beating organ deep in my chest. Always there, but often hiding to shield itself from the rigors of adulthood. No more, says Hunter…no more. We’ve rebooted in Saif Mode.
Links: Self Released
Dodging The Column [CS; Mirror Universe]
Everyone can use an injection of youthful exuberance every now and then. We spend so many of our days worried about “adult” things, things largely artificial that we have been socialized to worry about. But when we are young we have the strange luxury of worrying primarily about other people and our relationships to them.
Which is definitely what this particular cassette is concerned about: the prolific use of the word “you” in the lyrics proves that if nothing else. It has the feeling of going back over an argument in your head, what you did say, what you wish you said, what you would say different in retrospect. It’s an endless parade of other theoretical arguments and how you would win them; things we do for our egos when we are young and it matters to us. That feeling is gilded by fuzzy, warm and muscular guitars, drums and vocals. This music sounds positively joyous, which creates a pleasurable tension between what could otherwise have been forlorn lyrics and music that feels like rays of summer sun. It’s a tension and energy that “adult” life has little way of creating, and it’s nice to have 31 minutes worth of magnetic tape provide it.
Through Your Head [CS; Serenity Now]
I’m not going to lie and tell you I know anything about or even listen to much punk music. Hell, I don’t even really know if “punk” is the right thing to label this cassette. There seems to be endless narrow, cultish, and very specific sub-genres spawning from deep within the internet and I like to be careful. My ears and my gut is telling me this is punk, so I’ll agree and barrel forward trying not to be too jejune about the whole affair.
Now, working from our supposition that this is punk music, it appears to have been cross-contaminated by Metal, which is good, this is a tasty cross-contamination. Over the ten-odd minute length of this EP we get a sprinkling of gloomy depth; a hint of black void behind the sweat, spittle and smashing drums. To my ears this elevates it bit out of the morass and combined with the incensed female vocals across the viciously short tracks it leaves me scouring the web for more. Death Vacation has snuck around the carefully constructed wall I made between myself and the genre whose name I am tired of typing out. It won me over, I surrender.
Good Cop [CS; Eternal Laser]
Vienna played patron to the birth of classical music. Good Cop is not classical, but certainly classic. Blending punk in its many iterations from across multiple generations, the group from Vienna play with expectations similarly to their compatriots from hundreds of years ago. This is not Mozart cracking fart jokes, but rather Hunx chilling the fuck out with some rad European dudes. Just a little bit of pop, a little bit of slop and a lot of bop. And when Good Cop really go off the beaten path (“O.C.B.T,” “Ex Pavement”), the cassette becomes more interesting and breaks the rules of what punk is as a modern entity trapped in a Wiki definition. In fact, it becomes more compositionally playful. Not quite Schubert but certainly Johansen.Links: Eternal Laser
Blue Seventeen: Headache [CS; Blue Tapes]
I have to admit that it’s been a while since a rock band was able to give me that real “woah” factor without resorting to completely deconstructing everything altogether. That’s not to say Polish quartet Trupa Trupa doesn’t break away from form, or experiment with style by any means. But instead of crumpling our old pal rock and roll into its palm, the band circles around concrete songs, stretching and plying them into dazzling displays of sonic architecture that immediately stopped me in my tracks. Somewhere between Radiohead, Faust, Pink Floyd, and maybe a few more of your favorites from your favorite bygone eras, Trupa Trupa’s songs sketch the portrait of a band in something of a genre-fluid state that is nonetheless fully-formed and consistent in its generally downcast and stormy trajectory. Solid foundations are laid out for each tune to mold into tempered explosions, drawing climaxes out with patience and precision, engulfing the psyche with monsoons of noise while subconsciously shocking the neuron in your brain in charge of throwing up the horns to life – this all before any given tune could drop off the edge of the cliff into the calming, cooling pools of beautiful coda below. There’s a healthy bout of straight rockers and humbling ballads alike here to give Headache its welcome sense of variety. But that would mean little if the group didn’t commit as they do to each number, every song a new arena for the members to flex their very capable instrumental muscles – completely solid work across the board, from studious and atmospheric organ playing, drums deep in the pocket of plodding tempo, buzzsaw bass tearing the mix in half, silvery guitars slipping through the sluice, all the way to that pitch-perfect vocal ringing out over it all. It’s 2015, everyone, and did you hear? Bands are back in a big way, and Trupa Trupa is hands-down among the very best of them.Links: Trupa Trupa - Blue Tapes
Chindia Tower Impalements [CS; Hospital Productions]
“An inexorably haunted landscape” best sums up the three hours of noise on these cassettes. If field-recordings of the history that surrounded Chindia Tower were folded and layered into 180 minutes of sound this would be the result. See, Chindia Tower’s construction began under the direction of Vlad III, who is primarily famous these days for his penchant for impaling his enemies. So many that sometimes chunks of Wallachia (the place he was prince of) looked like a forest of rotting carcasses held aloft by a pointy pillar of wood up their backside.
The music that Âmes Sanglantes created as perhaps a sort of eulogy for this particular tract of history is unrelenting: constant, damaged, oscillating noise is layered with paralyzing drones, yelping vocalizations and animalistic howls. There is a distinct sense of being overwhelmed; of being driven at break-neck speed down a horrific path of discovery or rediscovery. Within the blacked confines of these tapes history is treated as a stain that cannot be washed out, that cannot be bleached from memory. It fades over time, but every glimpse of it brings the twisting incorporeal stab of something we wish we could forget and know we should not.Links: Âmes Sanglantes - Hospital Productions