Friday, June 23, 2017

MIKE PISS “Corridor" C20 (Self-Released)

The DIY spirit, alive and well, maybe I came of age in the back of a mediocre pizza-chain parking lot. We’d been skating for hours in Southwestern Ohio humidity, so, of course, it was night. His girlfriend delivered, and/or answered the phone, & he’d just gotten his license.

Panting, we slumped down into the front row. He turned the key half-way & pressed play. Beck’s “Stereopathetic Soul Manure” returned, in surround sound, & we ritualistically ate up those skits with just as much fervor as the anthemic “Satan Gave Me a Taco”…maybe even more so.

I think it was the “…weedwhackers…we stole…two of ‘em…” vignette that had just finished before Timmot pressed stop and spontaneously/monotonously pronounced “Safety pins...” leaving just enough pause for me to intuit

and join in

with a cocksure, “don’t you feel


I then sat back in his passenger’s seat and felt utterly fulfilled as a partner in chyme.


This “Mike Piss” release is yet another of Kevin Oliver’s manic sharings, and is both cheek-pierced-by-tongue-ingly brilliant and concertedly playful, with pop-tropes massaged & origami’d into easily digestible hokey-hooky-hooks for anyone willing to give such rawness its proper fucking due. It has served as fuel for the flux-capacitor, rocketing me back to the ‘90s, when “lo-fi” was a genre, not just an excuse.

Sonically, brilliant notes of prime Sonic Youth & Swearing @ Motorists are scattered throughout this tape, while poignant lyrics (both the bizarre and the transformative) are exercised judiciously. The DIY spirit, so alive and swell.

RIYL GBV and pretty much any good ol’ time. “Good Summer” is the fucking jaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm!!!

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Thursday, June 22, 2017

HANGING FREUD “Motherland” (Tiny Box)

Paula Borges and Jonathan Perez collaborate across space and time. Maybe. The Brazilian/British partnership sure sounds like they exist outside of time’s gentle crawl (or hellacious thrill ride, depending on your perspective). Their work is too drolly captioned “bedroom folk” or “lo-fi trip hop” or some such nonsense, but the reality is that the duo inhabits a space all their own. Hanging Freud hover menacingly in the background, in all backgrounds, a sense of dread filtering through every note and every loop. Borges’s vocals are intoned more than sung, a warning to all those looking to the ghosts of history for inspiration. All you’ll find there is blood and death. Probably. The sense of sadness throughout Motherland’s six tracks is so thick that it feels like you’re breathing it, but instead of heavy oxygen you get lungfuls of black liquid. Your blood pumps it to your soul. Your extremities give up. Your only recourse is the fetal position, and the lump in your throat signals that there’s no tomorrow. Borges keeps singing, oblivious to her and Perez’s effect on you. Of course they’re oblivious, they’re on a tape. But they’ve succeeded in what they’ve likely set out to do. Enjoy this kind deep dive into your psyche when you can find it.

Hanging Freud

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“Cardboard Prince” C60 (Cardboard Club)

Belt your stupid pop hits in another direction, there, singer of songs, because I’m listening to Cardboard Prince in a corner all by myself with a big silly grin on my face. I don’t know if you know Robert Ridley-Shackleton or not, but if you don’t better getcha head on straight, because he has more releases than you and your band and that other band you opened for combined. No band needed. Ridley-Shackleton is bigger than Kanye, honestly, he says so himself, and he sings over noise, just noise, and his voice is your pop song ground through a nightmare of processors until there is no song and nothing else but ol’ Robert’s daily doings, musique concrèted properly and with great disdain for rational thought. I’m marrying Peter Weller, dating Terminator, and loving Robocop, I think, but I’m not sure if that’s really the right answer and getting kind of sick thinking about it. Basically, Robert is menacing us like David Lynch would if Lynch had the balls to get all up in our grills and make Angelo Badalamenti music noises with his mouth realllll close to a microphone (see, e.g., “2 Bad”). “C’mon Kitty” is music. “Download Ure Memes” is terrifying music. “Mother Sublime” is music. Everything else is Eraserhead on acid (well, acid again) in 1993. Each sound pops and scrapes and fillets imaginary body parts that don’t exist in this dimension. Lops em right off. And my copy of this was recorded over a Children’s Talking Bible tape, like it bloody oughta. Were they all? I hope so. I hope yours was. I hope you’re paying attention and that you’ve subscribed to the madness. What happened to us? Why does this make sense?

Cardboard Club

-- Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

UNFOLLOW “Blue Twenty-One” C40 (Blue Tapes)

Social media is an awkward thing, an intangible landscape where anybody can say anything with impunity. The only repercussion is reduction in friends or followers, the nomenclature depending only on your platform. And with the goal of increasing indefinitely your digital reach, shouldn’t the threat of losing those friends and followers act as a deterrent to doing stupid stuff? I mean, I’m only writing here to stroke my own ego, and piling up readers is the quantifiable result. In short, I’m in it for the money. I’ll pander to whatever, my pride’s for sale.

Just kidding. There’s no money in this.

But for some people accumulation is important, or at least it’s the be-all and end-all of social media existence. Unfollow, Toronto’s Tony Boggs (I literally wrote “Boston” first – let’s be fair, Wade is the first and only Boggs you ever think of off the top of your head) is all “Ha ha, you’re stupid for thinking that.” He’s the IDM troll who will friend you or follow you only to give you the cold shoulder when he follows his moniker to its logical conclusion. You’re unimportant to him – but your misery is his lifeblood.

Just kidding. He actually seems like a nice enough guy.

Listen, when you’re Tony Boggs and you’re making music as Unfollow – the formula: shoegaze + drum n bass = constant synthetic musical starbursts for future evolutionary iterations – there are way more important things than social concerns, so turning to the output is the only way to suss out an answer. In this case, the question would be something like, “How should I enjoy this tape?,” or, “Can you provide a quantitative measure of how much I will enjoy this tape?” Both are terrible questions, and I’ll deign to answer them both: 1) Enjoy it as much as possible, anywhere, everywhere, on headphones, on a stereo speaker, even put the MP3s on your phone if you’re not at home. And, 2) No, because that would just be unfair.

Maybe the key’s somewhere around the “future evolutionary iterations” stuff I was spouting above, in that we’re evolving in quick ways to keep up with technology – ahem, smartphones, social media, unfollowing fools – and Unfollow is a nice companion on that journey, offering hope in the midst of the chaos and a human element among all the electrics. Boggs embraces the “glitch,” the rough edge, the imperfection in music. The randomness of the moment is a compositional element. How he runs with those moments, wraps them into the work he’s doing, is the perfect encapsulation of the idea that humans are still working on figuring it out and moving beyond stasis. At least that’s what I’m hoping, that’s probably what Tony Boggs is hoping. In the meantime, the result is Blue Twenty-One, another Blue Tapes winner. Ears will hear, butts will wiggle, teeth will shake in clenched jaws, minds will blow.

Oh! – no wonder I liked Unfollow so much! I’m a Joshua Treble fan: Tony Boggs, fka. Brilliant.

Blue Tapes

-- Ryan Masteller

Monday, June 19, 2017

BELL STRAY "Scribble The Pink"

Bell takes some adjusting to. Her voice is, uh, let's say unusual but in an interesting and even captivating sort of way. What we have here is an e.p. of five originals-all keyboard based. I dove into this blindly but before "Roses Shade" (the opening track) was done, I was hooked. Each song is different enough to keep you into it, but there is a sameness that results from that unique vocal tone.

This, her fourth release, shows the southern Californian coming into her own. I liked all five tracks though I confess that an e.p. is a sufficient dose at one sitting.

-- Bob Zilli

Sunday, June 18, 2017

“Exterminate All Rational Music” C92

Welcome to \\NULL|ZØNE//. I hop in the oversized green pipe like an Italian plumber in overalls, a goofy hat, and a mustache and come out the other side in who knows where. No, I know where – it’s a netherworld, a miasma of hellish grotesqueries, where the outcasts of all musical scenes and genres are dumped when their use is determined to be no longer needed. I mean, heck, when there’s no longer a need for endowments for arts and humanities, as determined by our esteemed national leadership, the great unrefined still need some shore to wash up on. And they know it, too! Hey, track one by Sunwatchers is called “There Is No God and Fuck the Government” – haha, wow, that’s a spicy meat-a-ball! To stick with our Super Mario theme, Sunwatchers stomp koopas to bits and watch their turtly guts smear out all over their instruments for inspiration, then free-associate sonics to brainwaves for five straight wonderful minutes. And then for the next 87 wonderful minutes, the gang \\NULL|ZØNE// has brought together does very similar whacked out, brazen, and fully belligerent experimental/improv-y bits of decisive action, complete with mid-album power-ups. Don’t believe me about the power-ups? Doesn’t matter, I hear them. There are electronics, acoustic instruments (some nice, gnarly sax passages), musique concrete (piped-in weirdo radio frequencies), and everything in between, including an appearance by CM and CG favorite Future Ape Tapes! And as usual with these Various Artists releases, you’re bound to discover a new name or ten that you’ll have to do more research on later. For me this time around, I totally got into the aforementioned Sunwatchers, Carey, Alec Livaditis, Ramble Tamble, and Clang Quartet. But there’s so much more on here! And you gotta act fast – there are only 9 left (as of this writing, 3/16/17, probably waaaay before this posts) out of the original run of 50. You know what to do. And you’re gonna have to do it before fricking orange Bowser-man takes away any more of our arts and junk, like our cassette tapes or something equally insane…

\\NULL|ZØNE// on the Bandcamps

--Ryan Masteller

Saturday, June 17, 2017

HUSK “Husk” C45 (Curly Cassettes)

If any rock music comes across my path, I’m immediately skeptical. However, I’ll dismiss the anticipation of what I think of this “rock” tape immediately, because it doesn’t deserve to be drawn out: Husk is stupendous. It’s a branch of jangly, ramshackle indie, along the lines of your Fleet Foxes or your Wilcos, with a Hayden Desser or David Bazan on vocals, except with way more range. Opener “Wicked Mantras” gave me a distinct William Tyler vibe – I freaking love William Tyler. So I will gush, unabashedly about Husk, aka Oakland’s Wesley Powell and some friends. Does William have chops? Dang right, he does – there’s not a wasted minute on this tape. How’s the recording? Coated in reverb, just the way it’s supposed to be. No backwoods acoustic rambling here, no coffeehouse nonsense. It lends a surreal quality to the otherwise grounded songwriting, a nice counterpoint, almost as if everything that comes out of William’s mouth does so at night, and he’s exhausted, and everything is important and everything is bittersweet. Look no further (or as far as) album closer “Leaving” for an example of world-weariness, where a disgruntled, disillusioned Powell intones the mantra, “So long, so long…” World weary – everybody is right now, so Husk is the perfect antidote, or accompaniment, or both. Could “Half Moon” replace “Earth Angel” at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance? You bet your life. See? I’m already thinking positive, with positive references flooding my perspective. There’s even a fuzzy take on the classic “Bye Bye Love,” which, while explicitly familiar, carries with it the sense that it fits perfectly within the Husk oeuvre, almost as if Powell had written the dang thing himself. And “Quiet” even takes a page from brother Tyler Powell’s ambient work and works perfectly as a late-album interlude. But of course, all of this must be taken in bas-relief of the whole, as Husk emerges from its background components a fully formed and fully distinct recording. Why even bother with Fleet Foxes or Wilco or Bon Iver or whatever anymore? They’ll just disappoint you. Husk keeps it real – Husk will not disappoint you. Husk will be your pal for life.

Curly Cassettes

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, June 16, 2017

RENDEZVOUS "Suoni Della Paura II"

I made the mistake of putting the tape in with zero background information as to what it was. It kicks in with an old-school movie preview for a boogie an of sorts. OK, they win the first round, now I'm going to find out what I'm dealing with here but as I do, the tape rolls....

Turns out this is a DJ collective that meets every Friday in the city of angels. That's enough info 'cause this mix has got me good. Sadly, there is no track notation or artist info because every inch of this is premier stuff. Lots of 50's-60's style sci-fi and thriller connections with everything familiar yet new at the same time.

As much as I enjoy a good mix I seldom venture out to see the art in process live. This, I would leave home for and next time through LA I'll make a point to stop at the Hyperion Tavern (every other Friday)

It's that good.

-- Bob Zilli

Thursday, June 15, 2017

JESSOP&CO. “Manly Man” C40
(Tingo Tongo Tapes)

JESSOP&CO.? Ffffuu.. Calcutta? Probably every cutthroat from Bombay to here is here. No jokes, now. Manly Man stretches forever. Stretches beyond the city, into rurality, on to other cities. Decay, decomposition, deconstruction. Colonization? Heck. Colonials are gone. JESSOP&CO..? I dunno. (*Thinks*) I dunno. Colonials. Colonials. Ffffuu.. Live and let live. How do I reconcile that with my love for the British? Heck.

Manly Man stretches forever and envelops the city, and god is my witness, it captures everything. Listen to the nocturnal rhythms and splice together nocturnal rendezvous and Fully comprehend just what is happening. JESSOP&CO. ensure that no one is left behind. Manly Man is not a tape for music listeners or cultural tourists or the casual dabblers; it means too much. It’s too clearly labored over for the caste whisperers to get their hands on and interpret in dangerous and debilitating ways. Wait a second – am I part of the problem? Is my proximity to collusion a detriment?

No. No way. I’m not even remotely letting that thought enter my filament, as it would unravel my very being if I’d prove it wrong, so here’s the lesson everybody (but mostly myself) needs to learn: lighten up. Lighten up! That doesn’t mean the important stuff gets swept into a corner, it just means that JESSOP&CO. are a total force to be reckoned with, and it’s important to understand that every single fragment of their spectrum is presented on Manly Man, not in isolation, but distinct and palpable as a genetic whole, fully concocted for weird consumption. These forty minutes are forty magic flipping minutes where every stop is pulled in favor of a vast kitchen sink approach – every trick in the electro-plunder handbook works like a brilliant charm. Samples. Electronics. Samples. Electrics. Spam pulls. Eccentrics. Lay bulls. Palimpseptics. Transition gulls. Crass tactics.

JESSOP&CO., company in name only, incorporated in a dream state, fire beams of specifics, cultured in dynamics, straight into our thoughts for future decoding, also in a dream state, where everything unspools. The fragments become the reality, the waking moments bleed into the unconscious ones. This land is less my land, this land is no one’s. This land is made for blazing trails of discovery through. That’s what makes a Manly Man, whatever that even means.


--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LOTO RETINA “Fiction” (Orange Milk)

The new Loto Retina tape from Orange Milk Records’ most recent batch is a sparse blend of digital textures and midi instruments. The album is fairly ambient and changes through moments of glitchy transition. For most of the tracks a single timbre is highlighted at a time rather than there be much layering of the diverse amount of sounds throughout this album. It feels like a majority of the album is immersed in thick swaying digital tones, leaving you unsure of what may come next, or unsure if you may have missed small details while proceeding through “Fiction”. The album breaks into moments of charming computer instrument arpeggios, cognizant of similar electronic records that have been released within the past couple years. “Fiction” is certainly an entertaining listen while remaining mostly minimal throughout, and sounds like Loto Retina’s twist on contemporary ambient electronica.

-- Lucas Martinez

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

GARRETT DOUGLAS “Vol. 1” (self-released)

Coffee percolates. The barista fills a mug and hands it to the patron. The patron gives the barista a debit card. The barista swipes it and asks if the patron wants a receipt. The patron says no and drops a dollar bill into the glass jar in front of the register with the “Tips are greatly appreciated!” sign taped to it. The patron turns and walks toward the exit, pausing long enough to glance at the back corner, where Garrett Douglas, apple-cheeked and eager, strums his acoustic guitar and sings longingly about things that are important to him. The patron, remembering that it’s Tuesday, realizes that he’s late for a dinner with a colleague. He turns, opens the door of the coffee shop, and strolls toward his car, gently sipping his coffee. He unlocks his car, gets in, and starts the engine. He backs out of his parking space, puts his car in drive, and proceeds toward the exit of the parking lot. He puts on his right turn signal. He waits for two cars and an HVAC van before he pulls out. The light ahead turns yellow, but there’s enough time for him to make it through. He sips his coffee, turns on the radio, which happens to be on a news station, and turns it off. Silence, he thinks, is golden sometimes.

-- ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday, June 12, 2017

REPTILIANS FROM ANDROMEDA “Whatever” (Illuminated Paths)

I wish Reptilians from Andromeda had a distinct personality, but as it stands, they embody someone else’s – namely the early 1990s riot grrrl sound boiling from PacNW house shows, except the Reptilians are from Istanbul (not really Andromeda). How bout another blast from the friggin past? Remember that Ugly Kid Joe song, the one that went “I hate everything about you”? It was called “I Hate Everything About You.” [Ed note: Actually it was called “Everything About You”] I wish this review was the opposite of that song – it’s not, but it also doesn’t suggest that Reptilians from Andromeda are at the end of the spectrum where the sentiment of that song is either. It’s maybe 56% or so toward that end, barely enough for me to warrant a shrug. But since I don’t like this tape, it’s at least over the halfway point. Whatever indeed! And on the plus side, I’ve just trolled your entire day by making you remember Ugly Kid Joe, and maybe even getting that song stuck in your head if you’re lucky enough to have caught the video on MTV’s rotation when you were a kid. (*Evil supervillain laugh*) If you want a bright side here instead of a “meh” side, you can hang your hat on the fact that it at least sounds like Reptilians from Andromeda are having fun. Plus, they’re very eager – they have a bunch of releases.

--Whitfield Crane’s insidious long con

Sunday, June 11, 2017

“The Russian Submarine” C26
(Gertrude Tapes)

Tracking a Russian submarine on its final mission before its ultimate destruction could go a bunch of ways. You’ve see The Hunt for Red October, you know how the whole thing could play out. Could being the operative word, assuming, of course, that the titular Russian submarine here was going to defect. Let’s not assume that. The first main difference is that the Russian sub’s captain is probably not Scottish. Second, there’s a distinct lack of onboard gunplay. Third, Das Torpedoes, the artist not actual torpedoes, is the one who’s gonna tell us when and how this episode ends. The music, ambient passages only, carries with it a lovely introspective quality, which, when juxtaposed with the idea of the final days of a submarine crew, infuses the listening experience with a heavy dose of melancholy. So no, this is not a Hollywood visualization of dramatic events but is instead a decidedly un-blow-uppy world built within your imagination. There are goodbyes, the sub leaving port, submergence, internalization, emergency (still, no klaxons or anything), a letter written home, and a finality of the voyage throughout these six tracks. It’s all rendered in such placid textures and tones. I can only imagine the torpedoes, Das Torpedoes brand, with sudden finality ending the lives of the crew in a swift and senseless fashion, ratcheting up the sadness that I can no longer keep at bay within my own body. Oh the humanity! I didn’t sign up for this kind of emotional depth charge today. I had such grand intentions, so much to do, now my plans are totally tanked, along with my attitude, victims of my soul-crushing empathy toward those poor Russian sailors.

Anyhoo, I’ll get over it.

Gertrude Tapes

-- Ryan Masteller

Saturday, June 10, 2017

“Hi Sun Pro Castle” C36
(International Winners)

Smudged window panes let in just enough light to cut the cannabis haze. Hi Pro and Sun Castle thought, in the depths of a weed binge, man, to call their collection of bizarre improvisations Hi Sun Pro Castle, just to mess with us. The cops will never figure it out, not in a million years. One of these guys, I don’t know which one, hugged the Casio in the basement until one of the “reggae” presets accidentally started, and then the other one, somehow tinkering enough with a synthesizer to get it working again (“Whooooah…” he probably said, eyes wide in surprise, when the gurgling sonics started issuing from the machine), began riffing on slo-mo electronic jammage. Let’s call the hugger Hi Pro and the synth one Sun Castle. Once they realized what was up, they giggled and started improvising for a little over a half hour until the buzz wore off. By that time they had recorded three tracks, the woozy dub runner “Gold Ascent,” the sticky formless ambient of “Holbox,” and the pagan ritual “Jáal Ja’.” After a couple of gravity bong rips, they went to the bodega for some Icees and stuck their faces under the machines before turning them on. A mess ensued. “Weez the juice!” they shouted at each other while cackling in insane laughter, a million Encino Man references bubbling to the surface like a bong hit. The bodega owners, clearly flummoxed, countered with “No weezing the juice!”

-- Steve Koozer

Friday, June 9, 2017

RAMBUTAN “Universal Impulses”
(These Are Not Records)

This is a great noise tape, it’s got a lot of feeling behind it. To me, that’s the great meaning of noise art –the closer I get to someone’s Feeling of Excitement, the closer I get to the Cosmic Perspective. In spite of a basic aloofness, the tape imparts a feeling of bliss. I think, “he’s really feeling this one,” and I feel, vicariously, the bliss of the artist in his act of creation. Also the cover art is really good.

-- Kevin Oliver

Thursday, June 8, 2017

“The Answer Is You"

Not gonna lie; I give away, swap, or attempt to sell off the vast majority of tapes I receive for review. I’m now sitting on around 300 hundred exceptional cassettes that I (currently) feel are just too goddamn good to leave in Li’l Free Libraries or sell without first chatting the ear off of the new proud parent that I’m giving them up to, those in this second set. But the first set, the ones that are good-but-y’know, nothing I’ll ever choose to listen to on purpose again, these I try & sell at Econo Jam Records, in downtown Oakland.

EJR are a pretty rad, punk-oriented, all vinyl/cassette shop, with some stereo equipment & a few zines, to boot, & EJR is where I was given a tape by one of their employees who figured I might dig it, since I dug that Red Bolatiero comp put out by said EJR employee’s friend who has something or other to do with Teen Action Records.

Still slightly out of sorts from pretending I’m not too old to now to party with old bandmates visiting from Pittsburg, PA, I didn’t quite catch the name, as it was hand-written (and somewhere along the line, smudged off the plastic case), but, after some probing (aka Facebook messaging EJR direct), I’m now able to spread the good word that is Hiss &Hum!

The inner J-Card & lone liner note is a psychedelic collage of printed copy, with primary color blotch accents, which pretty much sums up the weird sonic soundscapes within, these, composed solely of blown out of proportion guitar distortions, warped synth loops and a haunting, equally disorienting series of Self-Help/Savior samples, whose words are barely legible to the ear, but whose tones/intents are crystal clear & (mis)guiding against the underlying hypnotic, noisy melodies beneath. Great to get lost in & never look back.

RIYL: Starlite Coffins, Zomes, dirty Shoegaze guitar tones, melodic feedback & dissonant harmonies, distorted impersonal epiphanies

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

(Small Scale Music)

I’m a sucker for musicians who create their own instruments, those who perhaps consider Harry Partch the patron saint of experimental composition. Montreal’s Philippe Lauzier is one of them, and yes, I’m therefore a sucker for the recording of his installation work, entitled DÔME. But first, the exciting news – Lauzier performs upon a contraption that he built himself “made of bells, zithers, motors and a Korg synthesizer.” The erstwhile saxophonist and clarinetist may have stepped out of his comfort zone a little bit here – you sort of have to teach yourself every new instrument, and if you’ve created that instrument, well, you have to start at the beginning and define the very parameters of that instrument’s abilities. It’s not like you can just grab a sax and read a manual and wail away like you’re in Huey Lewis and the News or something (or, uh, if you’re, like, John Coltrane). You have to discover the very sounds you’re able to conjure, and the limitations of timbre and tone you’re restricted to. But maybe DÔME, which captures a live performance at La Passe in Montreal on July 31, 2015, is a record of that discovery. Surely it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. For 34 minutes, on “Far Side” and “Far Out,” Lauzier drones in sonic mélange, the minimalist reverberations pinging about the confines of the room until they’re constant, infiltrating the space behind your eyelids and nesting there long after the tape ends. The passages are weird and otherworldly, difficult to pin down, offering glimpses into the vast possibility of musical arrangement. You have no other choice but to get caught up in it, even as it threatens to overwhelm in a wave of telephonic cacophony. It’s restrained and chaotic at once, tentative and unhinged, threatening to coalesce its identity and mass into sheer devastating resonance. DÔME is freaky and singular, a creative high point for tinkerers of the physical everywhere. I’d love to hear it with some sax accompaniment too, actually, if Lauzier is ever up for the remix treatment.

Philippe Lauzier
Small Scale Music

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NOSTROMO “Guts” C45 (5cm Recordings)




As I repeated this in a deep, reverberating monotone to the five-year-old girl sitting across from me on the bus, I thought to myself, This isn’t doing either of us any good. The girl’s mother, thirty-ish, vilely unattractive under an unseasonal Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap and vicious scowl, stared so deeply and hatefully at me that I wondered if the intensity was enough to impregnate me with a baby xenomorph. Who needs the facehugger middleman to do all the dirty work?

The bus reached my stop, and I disembarked, but not before tousling the girl’s hair and flashing a smile at her mom. The scowl remained, and in fact deepened. Undaunted, I flipped my aviator headphones back over my ears and pressed “Play” on the comically oversized tape player attached via belt clip to the waistband of my sweatpants. Out poured the lovingly noisy math punk of Nostromo, a sweaty three-piece probably from somewhere around Des Moines, Iowa, a long way from Panama City, the capital of the country that I now called home. The churning sleaze, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Drag City compilation, soothed me, pushed the mantra that haunted me to the back of my consciousness. For a moment at least.

I entered the Weyland-Yutani Corporation complex through the gated entryway, flashing my badge to the hyper-alert guard flanked by automatic-weapons-toting ex-military security officers. I flashed him a smile as well and contemplated what he would do if I tousled his hair. His stoic face did not return my attempt at connection. He pressed a button and a gate opened. I kept smiling.

I walked across the campus to my building, an unassuming warehouse-like structure a quarter of a mile from the entrance. Nostromo’s guiding rock and roll continued to keep me company. I entered through a plain metal door in the side of the building, a retina scan the only thing suggesting advanced technology to the outside observer.

We knew what they were – those things. We’d encountered them before, in deep space. We needed more information, but we needed stooges to bring us that information. So I was in charge of the project to make that happen. I had the perfect plan – an interstellar transport operation, moving mined materials from other planets to Earth like a truck pulls a tractor – but in space! We’d initiate a distress call, our chosen ship would investigate, and blammo! We’d have access to all the, ahem, alien DNA we’d need.

I wandered into the hangar area where the almost-completed ship, our ship, was being fitted with various parts and equipment. It was busy. Nostromo, reverberating through my ear canals, was on fire this morning – yeah the tape, Guts, was still playing (“Trebuchet” is a long song after all). A tech in an Atlanta Braves cap wandered by with a large coil of hose over one shoulder. “Hey Charlie,” I said to him, “in space, no one can hear Sid Bream, amiright??” Charlie, with an incredulous and vastly confused look on his face, almost stopped his pace, the “What?” clearly forming on his lips before he thought better of it and continued on his way. I shrugged. Nothing was gonna ruin my day.

The conference room was not empty as I entered it – three American men of similar ages (don’t make me guess what they were) in sharp bespoke suits standing at one end of the conference table looked up as I entered. My smile lit the room, and I did not feel self-conscious in the slightest dressed as I was in navy sweatpants and a plain orange t-shirt. I slid my headphones back off my ears, but I dared not hit “Stop” and silence Nostromo’s guiding sonics. “Guys,” I said. “This is my project, right? It’s only fair that I get to name the ship. Here we go. I’m going to call it the Nostromo. What do you think? Actually, it doesn’t matter what you think. You’re not the head of the engineering department. I am. I’m the one in charge of this whole operation. So now that we got that out of the way, let’s get down to business.”

The CEO of Weyland-Yutani – sure, probably the oldest one, but seriously, I have no idea how old – smiled even wider than I did, if that was even possible. “That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard, Phil. Nostromo it is. Now, let’s decide which rubes are gonna bring us back this wonderful alien DNA. By the way, what is that enchanting music you’re listening to?”

5cm Recordings

--Ryan Masteller

Monday, June 5, 2017

"UV Sea" C37
(Constellation Tatsu)

If you were worried that a release by only half of SEABAT might fall flat, you’re in for one wooed awakening. Sounds like Forest Walker (Christenson) can not only hold his own, but run staggering loops around most of today’s ambient/new age/drone artists.

The key, here -and a Golden one, if I may say- is his seamless transitions between ever-nuanced, t!h!i!c!k! layers of teeming, evolving texture-vs-drone. What first comes on as shimmer then leads to possible rhythm…but then artfully recedes as another aural pose auditions. Furthermore, these interplays between blissful consonance and alluded dissonance is outright brilliant, and the contrapuntal cut-out collage of moodinesses is beyond inspiring for any tonal sound sculptor out there, amateur or seasoned.

The bottom line: This release will easily be noted as one of the best tapes of 2017, and right up there in good company with Sarah Davachi’s “Qualities of Bodies Made Permanent” (last year) as the very best of the Constellation Tatsu CAT-alogue.

-- Jacob An Kittenplan

Sunday, June 4, 2017

LOTO RETINA “Fiction” (Orange Milk)

Speaking of Fiction, I’ve just figured it out: Donald Trump drinks the Orange Milk. It’s so obvious in hindsight – an orange drink for an orange man, seeping throughout his presidential body, tingeing his very epidermis. Does everything he touches turn to orange, kind of like old King Midas’s carrot? Maybe we’ll never know. I certainly don’t want to find out firsthand.

To further troll some truly good people at Orange Milk headquarters – and France, essentially, since that’s where Loto Retina is from – why waste a good story on the truth? President Orange Man refuses to do so, and in the spirit of great American storytellers like Mark Twain and Richard Nixon, neither will I. So let’s dive down the rabbit hole of Fiction, Loto Retina’s excellent smorgasbord (or bouillabaisse if we’re being French about it) of smeared electronics and rhythmic spikes, applying a fine sheen of true myth or mythological truth or half-researched slander to the whole thing, shall we?

Actually, it’s less complicated than all that, I just wanted to get you all riled up so you’d be ready for Loto Retina’s output. Because hey, it doesn’t sit still, and neither should you. Well, it sits still sometimes – that’s sort of the beauty of this Logo Retina joint. It almost seems like the French producer has crammed every possible electronic experiment into Fiction just to see where the narrative ends up. But to say that the narrative ends anywhere is wrongheaded – instead, the cassette keeps cycling back on itself the more you listen, and the more you listen the more detail is unearthed from the narrative. Fleeting as that narrative may even be. If there’s any narrative at all.

Or is the narrative everything? Practically. Stretches of ambient tone placidly extend until they’re punctuated by jittering counterpoints, acting as obstacles to overcome or elements to enhance the whole. It’s the great thing about Fiction (and actual fiction), in that the unexpected is always lurking to surprise. And Loto Retina fits within the label’s carefully curated stable, displaying an aesthetic perfected by so many others with an OM catalog number. Thus the narrative is extended, indefinitely, or at least until Orange Milk stops releasing tapes.

So what, then, is the narrative? Haven’t you figured it out? It’s whatever I say it is. My narrative. Orange narrative.

Loto Retina
Orange Milk

--Ryan Masteller