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. TMT Cerberus seeks to document the aesthetic of these home recorders and backyard labels. Email us here.
Deaf in the Valley [2xCS]
[905 Tapes; 2009]
905 Tapes, the label named after the Wilmington, DE address that it calls home, has upped its game with its 100th release. Combining a miniature art zine with two hard-hitting cassettes, Deaf in the Valley is the sort of collector’s item that isn’t a mantel piece but a weapon to bludgeon the clueless. Featuring the art and music of such notable scene supporters as Thurston Moore, Growing, and John Olson alongside some of 905’s stable of artists, Deaf in the Valley finds the rich, creamy center that happens when music and art are mixed in equal parts to deliver oozy goodness. The double cassette covers the plethora of genres that are represented in the microlabel underground at the moment — abstract experimentalism, heavy psychedelia, industrial noise, heady drone — serving as both a bookend to 905’s previous 99 releases as well as a suitable starting point for anyone daring to mine the intimidating depths of modern cassette culture. Hats off to (Mike) Haley.
Sound of Porridge Bubbling [LP]
On the heels of last year’s stupendous re-release of Genesis Breyer P-orridge’s late-60s solo project Early Worm, Dais has made available the next installment in the ongoing series of lost pre-TG Porridge and Coum Transmissions recordings. During their time, COUM were a performance and music collective operating under the philosophy that life and art were inseparable. On The Sound of Porridge Bubbling, Gen is joined by a cast of pre-TG characters who he leads through a series of primitive sound experiments all recorded in a roof-space attic in 1968. One can hear the burgeoning voice of what would later evolve into TG, albeit at a decidedly more primal stage. Indeed, the influence of Fluxus and Dada are present here in spades, with the arty nature of these aural documents occasionally coming off like a cross between early Nihilist Spasm Band and AMM. One can find an obligatory sound-art checklist amongst the record’s groove: tape experiments, check; found sounds, check; Porridge’s mini-missives masquerading as art manifestos, check; liner notes documenting some of Gen’s random memories from the time, including being taught elementary drone practice by members of the Third Ear Band and being deemed unplayable by John Peel’s station manager — you better believe that’s a check! Big ups go to Dais for pulling these lost recordings out of the memory hole and onto turntable platters worldwide where they belong.
Colorful Disturbances [LP]
In what has been a breakout year for Sarah Lipstate, it comes as no surprise that on Colorful Disturbances — an LP Lipstate shares with Nadja member Aidan Baker — she continues to assert herself as a central figure in the reinvention and reinterpretation of guitar-as-paintbrush. “Under the Color Cave” and “White Rabbit” devour the A-side with subtle guitar plucks and inner-ear buzzes. The beauty of each composition is found in their whispered tones. Lipstate chooses to let glacial statements pack as much punch as the loud, ferocious howls of guitar heroes past. The two tracks bleed seamlessly into each other, serving more as complements rather than two separate ideas. It’s much the same aesthetic at work on the full-length Red Rainbows also released in 2009, though Lipstate says just as much with her minimal bows on Colorful Disturbances as she did throughout Red Rainbows, making this LP a sturdy bookend to Noveller’s 2009.
Likewise, Aidan Baker utilizes every groove on his side of Colorful Disturbances to stake his own claim to the new-era guitar throne. Baker’s “Disturbances Part 1 & 2” is far more colorful and bombastic. In a solo setting, much of the heaving doom of Baker’s other outlet, Nadja, is replaced with higher pitches in the midst of tantric transcendentalism. “Disturbances” recalls the engine’s cries and swooshing of air that occurs in the midst of takeoff. Sounds grow increasingly muffled as ears clog and pop, and it’s this industrial-inspired drone of machinery that fuels Baker’s half of the LP. Elsewhere, “Disturbances” provides a foil — however so slight — to Lipstate’s more nuanced work. Baker is bare bones; the sound of gear wheels, cogs, and grit that yields results after hard work, whereas Lipstate is an architect consciously building a piece that’s both beautiful and practical. Colorful Disturbances not only displays the success that results when differing points of view come together in cohesion, but also how the world of processors and pedals have once again transformed the guitar landscape.
Endless Plains / Flat Horizon [CS]
[Peasant Magik; 2009]
If Locrian’s Drenched Lands was, in title and sound, a slow raft ride through the charred, thicketed aftermath of mankind (all technology is dead: no science, no climax; most of all, no perky-titted robots), then Side A of Endless Plains / Flat Horizon is the human experience once the initial shock of a Noah-worthy flood has subsided and it’s time to comb the countryside for survivors. Patience, my son; shake harder. Side B occurs after you’ve woken up from a blackout you don’t remember, all the tranquility from the previous scene slowly drained like a thick, primordial ooze. Calm tones are replaced by ominous clouds and dentist’s drills; you look up, and all you see are masked doctors frantically running around. Is there something wrong with you or something wrong with the world? You’ll never know. What you’ll do, however, is RIP that mother-fucking IV from your arm and run away as a cracking drone follows you like a hovering band of atomic bees. Then, just as you realize you’ve just escaped medical malfeasance, you reenter the world and realize just how dark, empty, and charcoal-black the world has become in your absence. There will be souls to reap…
In Orbit [CS]
Having found a larger audience thanks to a few vinyl releases through the L.A. pipeline of Not Not Fun, Cameron Stallones returns to Stunned for two lengthy tape jams with filmmaker Matthew Lessner. The results of which are one hell of an intergalactic jaunt. “Luther” dominated the A-side, relying on a strong Indian sound through the use of meditative guitar licks and farfisa cadences. Coupled with the jubilant, if buried, wails of pleasure as Stallones and Lessner hug the hull of their pop-star powered rocket, “Luther” evolves into a a cosmic stoner jam where sightseeing is only enjoyed through continuous yelps of joy. In Orbit finds its B-side a bit more body electric. “The Geosynchronous Feeling” is a repetitious organ note with the same urgency as The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” but the track is fleshed out with the same weed afterburn that “Luther” used to propel us to the celestial. “The Geosynchronous Feeling” is not as ominous as its predecessor, but what it lacks in heaviness it more than makes up for with an even more ecstatic progression than the A-side. Thanks to works from such heady minds as Stallone, we can all rest assured that California will not fall into the ocean when the big one comes but rather drift into the airtight happiness that is the Milky Way.
Contacting the Eye [CS]
Evan Miller has said bon voyage to the states as well as the guitar in recent months, leaving us with such spaced-out fare as Contacting the Eye. The 14-minute cassette finds Miller basking in the radiant oscillation of synth-produced drone (which is all the craze, kids!). Side A’s “Number” is a mountain of gelatin enclosed synthesizer — one note held for six minutes while Miller flicks the blob to produce ripples of monochromatic drone that slowly rise from the bottom’s hefty base to its flimsy top. On the flipside, “Letter” begins as subtly and restrained as its sibling before harnessing the rhythmic pulsations associated with acts such as Growing. “Letter” buzzes like a phone left off the hook. The incessant hum is at first a bit irritating, but it yields to your imaginative ear like the varoom of a vacuum or the wing flaps of a fly.
“Greg the Nerd” b/w “Freak in Nature” [7-inch]
[Underwater Peoples; 2009]
Bearing witness to the ever-growing number of buzz acts flooding forth from the town of Ridgewood, NJ, I’m reminded a bit of the enthusiasm elicited nationwide by the (mostly early) movies of director Kevin Smith. Like the indie filmmaker, the Ridgewood gang (Ducktails, Real Estate, Julian Lynch et al.) masterfully spin tales regarding teenage ennui and coming of age in Anytown across the Garden State, providing snapshots of American suburban life that are submerged in equal amounts of nostalgia and out-of-focus surrealism. Having recently garnered coverage in the Washington Post, label Underwater Peoples and its exuberant roster of Ridgewood boys look poised to break out into the next plane of their hypnagogically fairytale existence. With their new self titled 7-inch on UP, Frat Dad become the latest chapter in this bildungsroman. The group is comprised of Sam Franklin (Fluffy Lumbers) and James Benson, who, according to the shtick-filled “interview” that accompanies this record, became friends after getting into a physical altercation while both were holed up in songwriter jail. The duo pens reverb- and distortion-soaked ditties about adolescence and high school that, judging by the two fresh faces glancing out on this record’s cover, are presumably still in. A-side “Greg the Nerd” administers a much-needed wedgie to the stagnating world of lo-fi punk, while the more brooding “Freak in Nature,” bemoans an absent mother in a similar vein to Nirvana’s “Sliver.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what’s going on in that Northern Jersey hub of Ridgewood — perhaps the town’s municipal water supply has been spiked with some performance enhancing agent or hallucinogenic ether. It is more likely the close-knit friendships and childlike sense of community betwixt these not-yet-jaded groups of musicians that make the sounds emanating from there so youthfully joyous.
Home of the Glassman [CS]
[Holy Cheever Church; 2009]
Through his own Holy Cheever Church, Oberlin graduate Christopher Riggs has unloaded over 20 cassettes of original recordings during 2009. While each is a separate entity all its own, they all revolve around the idea of guitar composition at the center of destruction rather than construction. While Riggs is quite capable of laying down classical creations in the most boring and rigid sense, it’s his excruciating squelches, scratches, and abuses that are at the heart of his aesthetic. Home of the Glassman, as simple as it may seem, provides the best explanation of what Riggs is trying to accomplish with his 71-minute opus. The A-side is near torture in the most pleasurably masochistic way. Akin to nails on a chalkboard — or more apt, stone to glass — the track tears at your eardrums like a cat at a scratching post. Each cringe-worthy swipe at the steely guitar strings is Riggs slowly ripping into our fragile psyche. Side B is a bit more tolerable, focusing on slower mechanics. The effect creates an odd blend of subtle drone amidst the chaotic din. Whereas the A-side is a constant attack on the aural, the B-side is the culmination of the experimentation found on Home of the Glassman’s first half.