Friday, October 7, 2016

The Lower Echelon—Come to the Loud cs

The Lower Echelon
Come to the Loud
Unpossible Records

This takes me back. If you were ever a fan of early Jawbreaker, Crimpshrine or any of those early, great Lookout Records releases you will probably find this as fun as I did. It’s punk, it’s pissed, it’s catchy as hell. They may not like this comparison but I think I hear a touch of Fear in there as well and I dig that. It has this drunk, angry, happiness that I just love. 

The layout and artwork aren’t really my thing. The drawing is pretty cool but the whole layout, especially the type, feels like an afterthought. I would have loved to taken a stab at this because I can see ways that I feel this would have been more attractive to me but it’s fine. Don’t let that stop you. This is worth it for the killer Jam cover alone.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Endurance—City of Signals cs

City of Signals
Self Released

Wow. This is really great. Endurance is Joshua Stefane (Witting?) from Japan and he creates some really beautiful and thoughtful drone. This album has a sort of narrative that is as tragic and melancholy as it’s audio sounds. You know how sometimes you spent a little longer than one might staring at some picture from the Hubble telescope that shows a supernova, exploding with the brilliance of 10 billion suns? You just let your gaze fixate on that before thinking about the other starts and systems nearby that have a front row seat at the destruction and beauty and how none of it matters while it all really matters? Well, this is what that sounds like. 

The art is great and the type is handled well. I think the word I used above, thoughtful, is a good way to sum up the whole release… Find this if you can. 

Lace—Supine cs

Prime Ruin

Dark as fuck. I love this minimalist audio electronic horror stuff. It’s m\just drenched in reverb and tickles that part of my brain that is truly insane. I love it. This whole thing, while moving around sonically quite a bit, is still pretty fucking creepy. The awesome xeroxed layout and packaging is kvlt as fuck as well. Into this terrifying tape. 

Arrows—Voyage cs

Crash Symbols

First of all I want to give it up for the super restrained and minimal layout. Very cool. I appreciate that much control. It’s great. The audio is also pretty restrained. Lot of disturbing audio loops that have an almost subtle dance quality in their rhythms but only if you are one of those super fucked-up serial killers that poses their victims’ corpses as if it’s at that prom, your prom, that started everything and you can dance with everyone this time. No one can say no this time. They can all love you. Forever. 


Anyway. It’s not all like that but it’s pretty rad. I recommend this for sure. 

Knoll—The Social Flirt: A Harsh Soundscape in Two Parts cs

The Social Flirt: A Harsh Soundscape in Two Parts
Step Pepper Records

Well, we all know how I feel about samples. I am not usually too into them but this is pretty good. It has a sort of laid back late 90s sort of noise vibe. Closer to when people had started doing noise after they first discovered Throbbing Gristle. Not that this totally sounds like that but there is some serious pedal manipulation going on here. I hear flanger, delay and reverb sort of crashing in together. It’s a little refreshing. Reminds me of why I started this journey. The layout and artwork is pretty killer. I like the handling of the type and the art itself is cool… Reminds me of Muslimgauze for some reason. Not aurally but in it’s simple aesthetics.

Dark Tourist—Arc of Visibility cs

Dark Tourist
Arc of Visibility
Cinderblock People

I was not expecting this. This is some super dark techno. Like full on dance but made out some super strange sounds. It’s also, for what is essentially dance music, incredibly aggressive. It is just barreling at you and it’s not giving a fuck how broken you might be after it’s done with you. Pretty cool. Not really my thing but this was a lot of fun to work to while I was printing. The layout is great. Simple, clean, with a little random color that worked for me. 

Shalwar Kameez—The End of the Life cs

Shalwar Kameez
The End of the Life
Cinderblock People

More dark and fucked up techno from Cinderblock People. This time it’s a bit more minimal but this has a real interesting narrative to it. There is a strange conspiratorial slant to the art and some of the samples that are in to music. It’s real weird but I bet if off-putting techno with enough fear to make this HNW guy stay interested this might be right up your alley. 

I really appreciated the artwork. It’s very focused and tell a great story. Well done guys.

Trevor Ransom—Glimpses ep cs

Trevor Ransom
Glimpses ep
Outset Recordings

i stole this photo

Nice. I didn’t know what to expect when I put this in. I honestly thought it might be some singer/songwriter stuff but nope. This is really interesting and emotional electronic soundscape/modern composer stuff. Really emphasizing the emotional part there. This is great and super melancholy, which is my very favorite way to feel. This captures that wonderful combination of beauty and anxiety very well. Really excellent piano and organ work throughout with just enough percussion to give it an immediacy. If you told me this was part of the film score to some new movie I have to see I would probably believe you. Highly recommend. The artwork is beautiful and I am pleased with that.

Arvo Zylo—Sequencer Works Vol. 1 cs

Arvo Zylo
Sequencer Works Vol. 1
Out of Body Records

This makes me feel like I am going insane. I don’t think I enjoyed it but I have a feeling that was the idea. Have you ever heard André Popp’s Delirium in Hi-Fi? It’s like but a million times crazier and louder. It’s good for clearing out your brain of whatever is bothering you though. The layout is not terrible but the dark blue on black is almost illegible. Then the for used on the inside is awful and hard to read. The art itself is cool and I love the transparent overlay but all in all it’s kind of a failure to me. Still the insanity of the audio demands enough attention that you will soon forget all about the layout. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hillboggle—Live in Columbus cs

Live in Columbus
Crash Symbols

This is described as noise-grass and it’s exactly as fantastic as you might think it is. Well, assuming you think that sounds cool. I think it’s great. Noise and banjo. Together again. For the first time. For me. This is a live collab between a father and son and it’s fucking adorable while still being legitimately awesome. I don’t think I can really describe this so I am just going to type NOISE-GRASS one more time.

The layout didn’t do it for me but I did like the cover art. Once I knew the type of music the layout made a little more sense but the inside has this script font that i find especially hard to read at the size of a cassette j-card. It’s not horrible or anything just not really working for me. 

Leaver—Head Home cs

Head Home
Amek Collective/Serpent Ever Records

Very eclectic. It starts with this beautiful sad piano thing that will break your heart then moves into these almost John Carpenter-esque synth swells with these little guitar licks over it. It’s almost like a soundtrack score or maybe a collection of short musical vignettes. It will then move into some neo folk that has a cool Current 93 sort of feel. I like this. Haunting is a good descriptor. I almost said creepy but it’s much more sad than that. I’m going to have to sit with this for a bit… Good work. It have a nice simple layout. Nothing too mind-blowing but nice and dark. It really fits with the sad music and the type is handled well… 

Nadir—Deffektegg cs

Amek Collective

Gorgeous. Beautiful modern minimal drone that holds onto your attention in a surprisingly thoughtful way. The pieces aren’t particularly long which makes them more fascinating to me but also they seem much more focused. It’s just beautiful. I know I use that word a lot to describe stuff like this but I see so much beauty in this work. 

The layout is amazing. The type treatments on the Jcard and the cassette itself are stunning and the layout itself is perfect for the audio. Well done. 

Brothers—s/t cs

Tapes of a Neon God

As I write this I am thinking about how Tapes of a Neon God is most likely shuttering their business. It’s a bummer. I will probably write about what a loss this is to the world of cassette releases. Every single thing that has been released on TOANG has been excellent. Thankfully this release by Brothers is no exception. This is phenomenal. Imagine if Bitch Magnet had kept with the direction they were going with Star Booty but just got better and better. That is what I am hearing here. The vocals are amazing and work so well for me. It’s a really solid release. Sad post punk that is somehow fitting that it’s one of TOANG’s final releases… 

Les Hommes-Chiens/Actuary—Le Vide Méditatif cs

Les Hommes-Chiens/Actuary
Le Vide Méditatif
GBS Records

Soundtracks are all the rage right now. I love that. There have been so many killer scores put to vinyl that were never initially intended to be heard lately. This tape isn’t exactly a soundtrack but it has all the hallmarks of a great score. It’s narrative, it tells a story without words (maybe a quiet sample here or there) and like the best scores, it is haunting. Both acts on here give us some much to pour through that I think it’s going to take a few listens to really understand this dark, broken beauty. It’s truly epic. 

It’s looks fantastic. The design is so strong and it also sort of brings to mind a great 1960’s Italian horror movie poster. The type is handled expertly. Its great. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dried Up Corpse/Distant Relative—split cs

Dried Up Corpse/Distant Relative
Enemata Productions

Thank fuckingchrist this showed up. I love most of the stuff I get but this is life-sustaining for me. Two sides of just fucking noise. I love this so hard. Dried Up Corpse are always amazing and this is no exception. This is a bit different from the usual HNW though. This is most of wave after wave of sliding, grinding waves of noise. The first track is called Black Sand and I think that is a pretty good descriptor. The Distant Relative side is more of a sputtering, exploding HNW and it’s great. Distant Relative is Dustin Johnston (no relation to me, Demian Johnston, but some people thought it was me) from Actuary so you know it’s fucking killer. This whole thing rules. Find this. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Odor Orienting—Ratkiller cs

Odor Orienting
Crash Symbols

This sounds like music that an alien would make if that alien wanted to pass for a human. “Come on friends! Let’s dance to this human music i made! Then rest in this not space oven over here!” It’s pretty fun. 

The type is insane and the art is bonkers. It makes me pretty happy.

Young Statues—s/t cs

Young Statues
Run For Cover Records/Doghouse Records

Huh. This is different. Well, different for me. It’s actually kinda sweet. Reminds a little of a male-fronted Sundays a lot. I kinda like this… Don’t tell anyone. Anyhow… I feel like I should say something else about this. I guess fans of REM, the Sundays, the Smiths, Get Up Kids, Soul Asylum and maybe a little Pedro the Lion might be into this. I kinda like most of that shit so it works for me. The layout is fine. I am not a huge fan of those covers that I think National Audio Company provides that are almost perforated at the folds. It just destroys the artwork. Oh well… 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Women of the Night—s/t cs

Women of the Night
Manic Records

So, I am not sure how I am supposed to feel about a male-fronted band using a name like Women of the Night. Part of me doesn’t care at all. Bands don’t have to identify the members. I didn’t think the Animals (who this band reminds me of a bit) were claiming to be actual animals but there is a weight to using male and female terms with your band. Especially using the term “Women of the Night” which implies a time and era when woman’s sexuality was treated as something negative and that “loose” women were somehow immoral yet exciting. It’s a bullshit term but maybe this band is aware of that and is turning that on it’s head. I can’t count out irony. The name of a band, I think, is more of a narrative. The only thing in regards to this is that I don’t know if there is enough here to support that narrative. Then again… maybe. This is a tough one. Musically this is described as proto-punk but I am not sure what that means. To me this reminds me of a lot of great 60s rock and pop with a bit of that 2000s-era nyc hipster stuff. I think, ultimately, I liked it. There is enough here to enjoy. I am sure this entire band would make me feel bad about myself if I saw them but that’s cool. The layout is fine. The pictures of scantily clad women with film noir style photography adds some negative weight to the possibly sexist narrative but then again I am not going to judge because I could be very wrong here. I say you check it out and be the judge. Oh, real quick. There is a small die cut on the back of this cassette that is pretty cool but it’s so subtle that I really wonder why they spent the extra time or money to do it. Really strange.

Q///Q—Jardim cs

Self Released?

I think…

I know the group Q///Q and I know they have a track on a previous record called Jardim… but this could maybe be a split with a group coincidentally called Jardim… Maybe? I don’t know. Anyway this is pretty great minimal experimental. Not totally something I would pop on normally but this totally ruled while I was drawing. I am super into this. The packaging is also minimal, which is normally cool, but this time I found it just plain hard to understand. Still. It’s a good tape. 

Oltron—Doze On cs

Doze On
Self Released

When I first heard this I wasn’t that into it but after a few listens of this sort of vaporwave/electronic mix I was totally hooked. This is fucking great. It’s like the music rad miniature aliens would listen to if they lived in a small, beautiful, eternal night version of Venice Beach. Does that make any sense? It’s great.

I will say that the way they did the type had me a little confused as to what was the group’s name and what was the album name. Thankfully discos came to my rescue. 

Super chill. 

Plebeiangrandstand—False Highs, True Lows cs

False Highs, True Lows cs
Tapes of a Neon God

Holy fuck.

This is great.

Guide to Bizarre Behavior—Vol. 2 cs

Guide to Bizarre Behavior
Vol. 2
Shangoril La Records

This is interesting. That’s for sure. It’s really a big fish mosh of pop, noise, la weirdo lo-fi and something else entirely. It reminds me vaguely of the earliest Ariel Pink demos but it’s not really there. At least for me this isn’t really there. It’s kind of…light. It’s hard to explain. I’m not really into it. I recognize that it is made by some very interesting brains though. Maybe a few more listens and I will be on board. Hmmm.

It looks pretty strange. Collage and simple type. It’s not really as interesting as the music but there is still something happening that I don’t quite follow. Maybe it’s my age. 

Amulets—In Flux cs

In Flux
Wounded Knife

Excellent. Absolutely. I have listened to this a handful of times now and it has this beautiful broken quality. It feels like the music that might haunt you if after death all you were left was the memories you had when you were little and trying to make memories for the first time. There is a feeling of traveling and discovery in this sort of electronic layered music. This is good for you.

The packaging is tip top as well. Great handling of type and excellent photography. I really feel like this artists and this label really give a shit. Thanks everyone. 

Tristan Welch—Washington D.C. cs

Tristan Welch
Washington D.C.
Self Released

This is pure beauty. Honestly I love the way this tape sounds so much. It is half in a dream the whole time and makes you feel like you are dragging your senses just a little bit into infinity. It is drone but it’s also something more. It’s a language. I feel like this could honestly heal me. I was so upset when my tape deck ate this tape. Furious even but it still plays well enough because I am never going to stop listening. 

I was a bit disappointed in the packaging though. A simple O card with pretty lackluster type and a logo that mad me think, yup, that’s D.C.’s flag…as musical notation…eh. Still, it barely matters because the music is transcendent. 

Black Cum—Cum ep & Live at the Palace of Pain cs

Black Cum
Cum ep & Live at the Palace of Pain
Self Released

These guys are so fucking weird. I really sort of love them. Both of these tapes are super short but they are also super strange. The live one is really, really funny. Encouraging the crowd to not talk for what is almost an accurate count of 10 seconds before a totally anti-climatic beginning is perfection. This is got to be some Andy Kaufman level brilliance on here. I can’t even begin to explain this. Find it and love it.

The tapes are made by hand and it’s glorious. Exactly what you had hoped.

I'm back.

Hey, trade show season has come to a close for me and I can focus on a few other projects. I am excited to start getting some more reviews up. Here you go!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hoops—A Whiff of Spirits cs

A Whiff of Spirits
self released

This is very intimate. This is like a small delicate noise diary. Little found moments, signal noise, tape manipulatios… they are seem so sweet and delicate. Yeah, delicate. That is what i would use to describe most of this. I like it. It feels like seeing a show in someone’s bedroom with just you and two other people you’ve never met. I’m into it. 

It looks pretty good. It has this faraway memory vibe that goes with the audio. The type is fine. Nothing to complain about here…

Alexandra Atnif/Constable Flavour—remix cassette

Alexandra Atnif/Constable Flavour
remix cassette
self released?

So here is another one from that Alexandra Atnif. This time it is a collaboration with Constable Flavor in which they remix each other’s tracks. Hmm. SO now we have two mysterious LA based artist making some pretty killer industrial, noise with some pretty heavy beats. It’s great. Definitely something you are going to dig if you can ever find it. The layout is rather simpler but it’s thoughtfully down with a good handling of the type. I appreciate that. 

Komissar Hjuler und Mama Baer—Leben Gesteingt Selektion cs

Komissar Hjuler und Mama Baer
Leben Gesteingt Selektion
Black Horizons

This is really, really, really, really, interesting. I don’t even know exactly how to classify this. It sounds like something that is built out of field recordings and very up close and personal noise and folk performances. I could imagine hearing this at a MOMA somewhere in conjunction with a beautiful art installation. Thankfully, Black Horizons did a wonderful job packaging this so you sort of get that. I still have a hard time describing this. I know it’s still available from the label so maybe just go get it. It’s really good. 

(i’m going to use the images from BH’s website. They look way best than my crappy pictures)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lord Time—A Destiny of Death cs

Lord Time
A Destiny of Death
Universal Consciousness

I think this might be the final Lord Time release. Everything about it, the cover, the title, the tone… It all says, this is it. I feel bad I couldn’t get to this right after it showed up in the mail a handful of months ago because you may have missed this. I love Lord Time. In the world of bedroom black metal this is one of my favorites. I have paid plenty of my own money of Lord Time stuff and so should you. This cassette is probably the most beautiful thing Lord Time has ever done. There is plenty of brutal and blazing on here but there is a lot of pensive, sad and deliberate parts that really hold my interest. Parts that remind me of Klaus Schultz and parts that sound almost like a forgotten, tragic symphony playing to no one. The whole thing is beautiful. I hope you find it. I mean, I hope it finds you.

Sterile Garden—Miasma cs

Sterile Garden
Obfuscated Records

Sweet. Sounds like player pianos falling into a quarry. I dig this. There are some moments of harsh noise and some more analog tape fuckery type moments. It’s cool. It has that vintage, canned sort of sound that I have loved forever. Nice minimal layout, fine type treatment. I am into it. Nice.

Harassor—Archives Vol. 1 cs

Archives Vol. 1
Universal Consciousness

So this is pretty fucking raw. It’s boombox recordings of Harassor rehearsal which is mostly improvised. This isn’t a tape of them working on a part for any hour or anything like that but it’s still very much a rehearsal recording. There are some edits and it actually comes together as almost a study of the band. This is sort of the musical version of an artist’s sketchbook. Growing up I always loved when publishers would publish sketchbooks from Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams or whoever’s comics I was really into at that time. This is like that. It’s pretty satisfying if you are a Harassor fan. Which I am. The tape looks great. Mine is the second edition and I don’t know if anything has changed but even though these are DIY they are still very much made with care to quality. Nice. 

Germ Class—s/t cs

Germ Class
Night People

I don’t know where the German Army people find the time. This is a new group with members of both Dunes and German Army. It’s been the best thing to listen to today while I trudge away at the computer, separating layers for letterpress plates. It is slow building, laid back productivity and I appreciate it. The layout is really simple but the type and art are fantastic. I think they are printed on a risograph. It reminds me that I need one of those asap. Nice work people.

Andorkappen—Columbarium cs

Universal Consciousness

Fuck. This actually broke my tape deck. Well, the tape deck maybe broke on it’s own coincidentally but if I want to commit a logical fallacy here I can say that I can find no better reason than it breaking than this epic drone cassette. It’s awesome. Apparently made with organ and vocals on one side and then no vocals on the other. It’s cool. I think the vocal side is a bit stronger but I like that option. Very much for fans of drone or dark ambient. Maybe a touch of fucked industrial in there. As per usual for UC releases it looks great and is well worth finding. Good luck. 

Personal Best—Loaf of Bread Rising cs

Personal Best
Loaf of Bread Rising
Squid Records

Super weird. This is a more traditional band in that it sounds like guitars, bass, vocals and drums. The music is kinda in the art rock/noise rock vein. It’s a little devo, a little wire, maybe a touch of ween. It’s just strange and kinda fun. Not really my thing but i dig elements for sure. It kinda sounds like the weird songs I make up for my cat but played by people with a better grasp on what songs about a bad cat should probably sound like. The layout has a picture of bread on it. It’s so on the nose that I sort of have to respect it.

Behavior/Maxwell Genders—split cassette cs

Behavior/Maxwell Genders
split cassette
Squid Records

Yeah! This rules. Super noisy punk weirdness from Behavior is a total blast. Short songs that get in and get weird. Maxwell Genders is very different. More spacey synths and drones. Kind of has an evil Tangerine Dream feel to me. It’s totally good. My favorite thing about this is how it looks though. I can’t really place what it is about it but I love the art, type and the printing. Simple and solid. 

Ross W. Chait/Ian G. McColm—solo/solo cs

Ross W. Chait/Ian G. McColm
Pidgin Records

Minimal through and through. Loops and drones create soundscapes that are almost americana in it’s tone on the first side. The second is a bit more Eastern sounding and they are both really solid. The minimalism of the layout is pretty underwhelming though. I get what they were going for but it just feels kinda lazy. 

Amalgamated—trudge/slap cs

Cave Recordings 

Great electronic experimental from this crazy group. I have dug everything I have heard of theirs so far and this is no exception. Really layered and full of good judgement. The songs on this are pretty long but they really pay off the longer you are in. It’s like a James Elroy novel. You are rewarded for your attention. The art is awesome. Great collage work paired with simple and smart design. Excellent. 

Alexandra Atnif—Mix.1. (c-90) cs

Alexandra Atnif
Mix.1. (c-90)

Not sure where this came from. Sometimes I get tapes in the mail with nothing on them at all. This demo came with a very small handwritten bio in broken english. Apparently this is a Romanian girl living in LA who is working on some crazy minimalist industrial techno stuff. It’s dark and horrifying and I sort of love this person. Of course I am though. I am a pathetic beta male who gravitates towards any woman with this much moxy. Anyhow, I don’t know how you will find this. The case and tape were completely covered in gray spray paint with some stenciled text on the J card and some random art inside. It’s pretty great and I hope you can find it. The bio said something about brutalist architecture and I get it from the layout. I guess go on a google hunt…

Peter Kris—Marshal South cs

Peter Kris
Marshal South

Another amazing guitar centered album by German Army’s Peter Kris. It’s so fucking inspiring. Every time I get something from these guys, whether it’s solo work or German Army stuff, I always immediately create music of my own. This time I recorded for a 4” lathe I’m putting out all because this tape is so killer. It actually creates it’s own music outside of itself. The tape is transcendent.  It’s what apologists always claim God is. That is what this is. It looks great. Simple, clean photograph and type layout. The type is killer and the whole thing is just fucking tasteful as fuck.