Sunday, December 30, 2018

Adrian Knight - Vacation Man

At first blush, this cassette made me think it had fallen through a space-time vortex from 1979. Heavy influences range from Steely Dan to Alan Parsons Project and other late night rotation AM radio hits. As the music progresses, however, a vague sense of unease sets in. Nostalgia morphs into moden anxiety and the despair of unfulfilled relationships. Adrian's lyrics are edgy and spare no dark emotion:

Lost a whole week stuck in bed
I couldn’t get up even if I tried
Called in sick to make some space inside my head
Karen at the pawnshop said
you can’t just keep paddling on in the dangerous tide
Lucy’s gone but you’re still alive

... and that's some of the lighter stuff. The last track, Radiogram, even sounded depressed, like it was recorded deep within the recesses of an abandoned factory at midnight. Vacation Man is no vacation. Musically, however, Vacation Man captivates with a surreal retro sensibility. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Comic Review: Granite State Bigfoot

Granite State Bigfoot
$5 from:
Mitchell Comics
PO Box 158
Tilton NH 03276

An ongoing mystery for decades has been whether “Bigfoot” exists and if so, does Bigfoot live in New Hampshire? There is documentation of numerous alleged encounters and sightings, including video & audio readily available via YouTube. The most compelling of these videos is “Shyman of the White Mountains” episode 3 of the Sasquatch: Out of the Shadows documentary series. Shyman of the White Mountains chronicles several decades of the experiences & perspectives of Michael Eastman of Berlin NH.

If only the incidents that form the basis for the comic book Granite State Bigfoot were as compelling! None of the three encounters featured (which feel more like brief synopses than actual stories) are very compelling or believable. Characters and situations aren’t fully realized, and there is no supporting reference material to point readers toward source material or further research. It is kind of fun to think about these alleged encounters that took place near where I lived during my adolescence, yet I was hoping for more substance. Comics and graphic novels have the potential to educate as well as entertain. While I applaud the concept of Granite State Bigfoot, this comic doesn’t do this potentially fascinating topic any justice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Spacebomb House Band: Library Music 4: Return of the End of Time

Return of the End of Time sounds like a lost episode from Doctor Who, and this cassette definitely has a more science-fiction sensibility than the previous three Library Music releases from Spacebomb House Band. More of an EP than a fully realized work, Return of the End of Time rolls out with darker, more synthesized sounds, and takes its sweet time in lightening up. The beauty of library music is the range of sonic patterns and worlds that it explores as a "genre", like folk music it can bend and morph and be recreated almost infinitely. Spacebomb House Band is applying that creative process to its evolution as a musical collective. Each release is its own sonic adventure. Just add your imagination.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bubblegum Best 1998 - 2018

What's better than receiving a handwritten note from a musician with your cassette? A cassette that is created specifically for the recipient. Nathan Budde aka Bubblegum Best sent me a 90 minute compilation of music from twenty years of songwriting and recording and it is magnificent. From the opening track titled (appropriately) "Mixtape" to the last notes on side B, I was captivated by the seamless journey the music takes you on. Bedroom pop? Space folk? Indie music that glows in the dark and is wholly original.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ancient Forest - Richard's Selections

What attracted me to this cassette was the first track "Sealand" which may or may not be referring to the Roughs Tower sea fort in the Thames estuary that became a pirate radio haven and later a sovereign micronation. Based upon the lyrics, I can't make a direct connection between the song and the place - a place that could be easily mined for musical inspiration. Overall, Richard's Selections holds some interesting moments (the song "Purple" being a strong contender for most fully realized track on this tape) however the music feels relatively lackluster and pedestrian overall, and at $9 which seems a bit steep for a digital download, I prefer the physical cassette instead which is available from Jigsaw Records. On the other hand - indie musicians need to make a living!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sklavo Cervalo - A Horse for the Stranger

Halfway through listening to the first track on A Horse for the Stranger (Satellite Park Messiah) I knew this was no simple indie pop cassette. The lyrics turn from pedestrian songwriting to something dark, then fade out on a chant that sounds up "your fucked up quiet life". My ancient ears might be mis-hearing those lyrics. Regardless, the music here feels like a wake-up call, to fall away from the knife-edge of indecision to take the bold, untraveled road. The cumulative effect of these songs are sobering and stunning, celebrating maturity and the journey of coming into artistic fullness. "The Looting of Paradise Suburbia" literally seems like an audio soundtrack to what haunts our mundane dreams; and "Night Light of Insight (An Aging Paradigm)" guides the listener down the garden path and into the night, fading out with a chorus of twilight birds. There are only 20 copies of this cassette and I am thrilled to own one of them. Rewind. Play. This is a worthy musical adventure. Go deeper. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Zine Review: Listen Up 2

About two decades ago, the “be your own media” movement really accelerated in the pirate radio world, and around the same time, the podcasting scene started to take hold. It was the audio version of zines, as technology placed the means of audio production at people’s fingertips (literally). Podcasts are now so plentiful that the dream of microcasting has become a reality – anyone can now produce a show that maybe only a handful of people listen to – however, the show is produced for them, like telling a story around the campfire for your circle of friends. Listen Up 2 is a colorful zine of podcast reviews that introduces readers to lesser-known podcasts and even suggests episodes to begin listening with. Katie digs into podcasts like This is Actually Happening, and By the Book which you might otherwise overlook. I hope she continues with regular podcast review zines – this is a very useful resource to help you explore the expanding podcast universe.

Contact email:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Leon Patriz - Pop Monstrosities

Full disclosure: I tend to listen through a cassette once and write these brief, ephemeral reviews after one listening session. At first I chose not to review Pop Monstrosities because I thought: why review somethings that you don't have a favorable impression of? However, upon second listen, the gems that are sprinkled throughout this tape emerge. I generally don't care much for the crunchier, drone-y pieces, however the raw edges of this tape begin to take root and delight. There is emotional urgency in the lyrics and both melodic and discordant elements that carry these songs beyond the mundane into something deep and true.  Worth more than one listen - or perhaps you will connect immediately with the shambolic homegrown glory within.

Man meets Bear - Temples of Zion

Immersive journeys into natural landscapes and psychedelic meanderings punctuate Temples of Zion, the most recent cassette by Man meets Bear. Glitchy beats, hushed vocals, distant accordion drones, shimming guitars lead you on a journey into both open vistas and interior spaces. Some of the composition titles are "Muir Bathes in the Great Salt Lake" and "Wind Caves Over Logan Canyon". Musically these themes drift and calm, a balm for frenetic times.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spacebomb House Band: Library Music III: For the Sun and Waters

How many sounds can you pack into a thirty minute cassette? If there were some kind of weird sonic competition, Spacebomb House Band would win, hands down. Library Music III: For the Sun and Waters continues the journey launched via the first two tapes in this series - we begin somewhere left of Saturn & adventure on from there. Sun Ra would be smiling. How to "categorize" this music? Future library? Sci-fi funk? These pieces veer from noisy glitch to neo-classical, some speckled with wordless vocals. If we're fortunate, there will be a fourth tape in this series. And a fifth. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Evan Anderson - Pillow Talk

With it's black & white iron horse photograph on the cover & typewriter font graphics, this cassette is lovely to look at. Evan Anderson has crafted four pieces titled simply 1, II, III and IV. He overlays steel string guitar with some electric leads in places - the overall effect is rambling, melodic,and slightly unsettling: like hopping the rails & finding that your familiar landscape has changed in both beauty and scale. Evan's guitar style is both traditional and inventive - these instrumentals would not be out of place on the Windham Hill label back in the day (please read that as a complement). Pillow Talk is a soundtrack for your next catching out adventure.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Smooth Cactus: An overlooked gem from 2017

The soundscapes of the mind that echo throughout Smooth Cactus are an excursion through attic rooms full of abandoned VCR tapes, transistor radios, and analogue synthesizers. Smooth Cactus collects artifacts from ephemeral inspirations as diverse as shortwave transmissions & old TV idents & weaves them into a library exhibition from the spacetime continuum. Occasionally, unexpected elements surface to please the inner ear: an acoustic guitar, an oriental riff, a playful nod to Isao Tomita.

Ye olde DJ has recently launched a library music show called At The Tone via The Global Voice ( and Smooth Cactus will flow right into the playlist. Exploring music should be fun - after almost a year since my first listen, this cassette is a wondrous pleasure to re-visit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Docks - Montseny

Your afternoon drive will be enhanced by this eponymous set of five ambient guitar pieces from Manon Raupp and Daniel Selig who record under the name Docks. Perfect headphone soundscapes for eyelid movies, or following a winding dusty road through the woods. Post-rock, chiming, rhythmic, hypnotic - a wonderful EP from first note to last.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Cave People - Salt

I don't have much intel on this band, other than according to their Bandcamp page here is the personnel lineup:

Drums by Derrick Macias Brandon 
Guitar, Keyboards, and Bass by Russell Edling 
Guitar and Vocals by Dave Tomaine

Salt is a five song EP that veers through indie folk territory with a nod or two to the punk aesthetic. The strongest songs bookend this cassette Are You Looking and I Shall Believe. Little did I know that I Shall Believe is a Sheryl Crow cover - it's an outstanding, religious anthem to the need for comfort and honesty in relationships, which are not mutually exclusive. Salt is a major effort by a band that I hope will find its way into your ears in the not too distant future.

Woolen Warrior - Dear Crone

Dear Crone is an object of handcrafted beauty with indie folk sensibilities from Sam Gray & friends from the Olympia WA music scene. The tape comes in a hand-sewn, hand-stamped bag with a vellum insert. Unfortunately the insert does not contain song titles or lyrics, which would be appreciated. Why? Because the pond here is deep, lyrically this is a starling and truthful document. The title track Dear Crone is a searing folk blues that unmasks intense and fragile human relationships:

I'm the lantern that burns through the night 

you're the darkness that receives the light 
when I hear your name 
oh, please receive my light

These songs work together brilliantly like a musical river; moving past wellsprings of stark healing and beauty when least expected & end up leaning into the wind & rain - but not a cold wind, or a cold rain. Sometimes we ache for the light. And sometimes we are the light. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Kevin Krauter - Toss Up

Toss Up has been released on green vinyl (complete with a paper airplane) & cassette. I'm completely happy with the cassette version - mostly because my honest feeling is the $20 for the vinyl isn't worth it.

Toss Up is comprised of nine songs, most of which are pedestrian indie pop music. The lyrics don't plunge too deeply into the human condition; the music is fairly derivative, like an amalgamation of other indie music that sounds vaguely familiar. Both side closers, however, are exceptional. Restless is a scintillating slice of instrumental synth pop, and the titular Toss Up soars when it finally lifts off. Kevin Krauter is certainly an accomplished musician & I'm sure will go somewhere interesting from this point of departure.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Life - Living

Alex Alexander of Mandala Eyes coaxes music out of moments both ethereal and earthy. Living is a cassette that was released back in 2010 and re-released in 2012 & features two meandering guitar, bass & drum improvisations (at least they feel like improvisations - in reality these are probably highly constructed and crafted pieces). My favorite of these two epic compositions is Suitcase Full of Letters which is a title I might borrow for a future zine! Apparently there were only 25 copies of this cassette released, which makes it all the more a treasure.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fitzhugh Ralph Mason III - Fanny Pack

This cassette arrived without fanfare in a generic cassette with no printed titles. Apparently only ten copies of Fanny Pack were released. Minimalist, melodic, drifting grooves for the your summer drive - day, night, or evening. This cassette is a wonderful soundtrack to de-stress with: soothing, lo-key, highly enjoyable.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Bird Songs - In & Of

Bird Songs - In & Of

During my childhood, we almost lived through a revolution. The times were intense: war, racism, poverty, and the ever-grinding police state rolling over anyone who attempted to live the ideals of "be the change you want to see in the world". In & Of weaves audio from the revolution that almost was into gorgeous ambient guitar pieces. Buried somewhere in this audio archaeology is the presence of now. This cassette could be the soundtrack to a dream. Let's sleep like it's 1969.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ignoble Marmalade

Ignoble Marmalade

The raison d'etre of this blog is exactly because cassettes like this exist, have existed, and NEED to exist - individual creativity poured out on magnetic tape & shared with others. Dana Weisbrock has crafted a near perfect mix of ambient sounds & shimmery folk guitar; music at home in the woods and rainstorms and silent streets after midnight. Apparently only ten copies of this are available via bandcamp - don't waste any more time on this brief review - go there now & treat yourself to sounds that echo in the mind long after the stop button clicks.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Zachary Carroll - Medicine Mouth

Zachary Carroll
Medicine Mouth

Thank you Zachary for sending me a review cassette! I was completely and pleasantly surprised to listen to this cassette - having never heard Zachary's music before. Medicine Mouth is a collection of six songs that flow seamlessly from first note to last. Zachary's vocals are sometimes low in the mix, however the lyrics seemed mostly positive and life affirming (a later check of Bandcamp confirmed this). Here's a verse from the closing piece "Postcard":

I'm dropping a postcard 
from the edge of the earth 
I'm writing to tell you, 
"I'm still fond of the world"

Zachary weaves acoustic melodies with electric leads, along with mellow percussion in a DIY sensibility that adds up to a glorious yet brief EP. Minimalists decree that less is more, and with Medicine Mouth six exceptional songs leaves one savoring what we've been given. Essential summer listening.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mini zine mini review: Moods

Here in New Hampshire we have dozens of covered bridges (four within a 10 mile radius of my house alone) so this zine caught my eye about a covered bridge in Pennsylvania. Very enjoyable writing, maybe a bit too brief, but a perfect homage to home & heritage.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Widest Smiling Faces - Milk Garden

The Widest Smiling Faces
Milk Garden
Already Dead Tapes / 2018

I’m already behind the curve when it comes to cassette culture; having spent so much of my life working 7 days a week and raising a family. Now that I am still employed but involved with pursuits that I love (to balance my career / income making life) I’ve found the cliché so much music so little time to be true.

I know nothing about the genesis or the genealogy of this music, so it was a lovely, and welcomed, surprise from the first note to last. When a cassette is as quietly astonishing as Milk Garden, you listen. Repeatedly. Perhaps it is the gauzy vocals bathed in purple lilacs; or hypnotic guitar patterns echoing subtly through filtered sunlight, or maybe it is the commanding organ of opening track “Be Nothing” that leads you through the threshold into the spiritual cathedral of your inner garden. This cassette is accompanied by a mini-zine (or chapbook) of a poetic nature – achingly beautiful words glancing upon opening one's self to love & dreams & rain. Milk Garden will be flowing in my inner ear for a long time to come.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tremolo Ghosts - Gibraltar

Tremolo Ghosts

This might be the closest approach within the orbit of folky sea shanties that we will see this decade. Owen Chambers has crafted a sonic ode to solitude & seashores that rings both true and timeless. Owen crafts lyrics that soothe as well as disturb & melodies that we re-inhabit from hushed dreams of summers past. Gibraltar is a mature work that must be listened to in sequence and in its entirety. This is how you prepare for the undertow – by feeling into each subterranean pull and emerging back into the light.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kenduskeag - Autumn 2017

I love mysteries when it comes to deciphering cassettes. Gleaning from Bandcamp, I see that the cassette was recorded in Orono Maine by Jesse Guerin. These instrumental tunes are mostly titled after dates, possibly the dates when the music was recorded. Regardless of the minimalist presentation, the music herein is wonderful and timeless lo-fi guitar & keyboards with effects & wah-wah pedal. Enjoy! Limited to 10 copies!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Spacebomb House Band: Library Music 1: No Space High Enough

Spacebomb House Band
Library Music 1: No Space High Enough

A debut cassette brimming with snippets of wordless vocals, bouncy keyboards, and a thrift shop ethic. All of the best elements of library music are packed into 17 tracks - it's like David Axelrod fell through a timewarp and ended up alive & well & recording in 2018. I am fascinated to hear where this band goes next. 

Here's their bandcamp promo in full. 

Library Music is an anthology of new recordings from the world of Spacebomb, a growing archive of instrumentals, interstitial music and spiritual sound effects collected in Richmond, Va. Each release is intended for practical use and distributed as supplementary material for the good times, the bad times, and the no times.

The surface of the muddy James River, twisting, glistening and opaque, acts like a textural twin of magnetic tape, a parallel ribbon of inspiration, burnt brown river spooling on and on. The skill of the producer is to wade in these waters and lay a net for a track, to catch one before it is gone.

Straight from the Spacebomb House Band, No Space High Enough is the first installment of a serialized sonic venture. Unlike other Spacebomb productions, lyrics and melody are not central here, so mood and texture come to the fore on these largely instrumental set pieces. Four constant collaborators–Matthew E. White the visionary pragmatist, Trey Pollard the pragmatic visionary, Cameron Ralston the navigator of spirits & Pinson Chanselle the spirited navigator–focus their output in a flowing mix of styles and scenes, discrete soundtracks saturated with the soul of an imaginary cinema. Operating through the blurred roles of producer, composer, player, arranger, and dub engineer, these four interlocking personalities combine to form a remarkably singular voice.

A sketchbook of sorts, functioning as mixtape, beat tape, library music, demonstration reel, but with a baseline of quality and thoughtfulness throughout, No Space High Enough reflects Spacebomb’s full life in the city of Richmond. This knotty tapestry of musical energy is the fruit of longstanding relationships with members of the symphony, the jazz scene and the gospel community. The project contemporizes that time when studios could call in strings, horns and choirs with scarcely a second thought, intrinsic tools in the musical process, as everyday as every day. The natural ease of these collaborations lends power and depth to the sound of Library Music.

The tape moves on, through gray archways, rain on a lead roof, a monastic quartet pouring over stacks of illuminated scores. Now red dust clouds swirl through a hot stereo sky, and four horsemen down below ride for home out of range. Voices in the tank, snares rattling and bells towering, analog luster and digital depth. It’s 80s Morricone, 90s hip hop beats, 60s peace chants, 70s AM radio, a party in the apartment next door, memories contained inside an empty bottle, whispers of forgotten dub sessions, smoke in the morning from the embers of last night’s fire. An organ solo wanders off into silence, then click and the tape is cut off.


Pinson Chanselle – Drum set, drum machine, drum machine programming, choir arrangements, string arrangements, horn arrangements

Cameron Ralston – Electric bass guitar, synth bass, choir arrangements, string arrangements, horn arrangements, drum machine programming

Trey Pollard – Piano, synthesizer, string arrangements, horn arrangements, choir arrangements

Matthew E. White – Guitar, synthesizer, string arrangements, choir arrangements, drum machine programming

Additional keyboards played by Daniel Clarke
Additional guitars played by Alan Parker

Adrian Pintea
Treesa Gold
Anna Bishop
Stacy Matthew

HyoJoo Uh
Kimberly Ryan

Schuyler Slack

Strings contracted by Treesa Gold

Taylor Barnett
Craig Taylor
Marcus Tenney

Bryan Hooten
Nathaniel Lee
Benjamin Weisiger

French Horns:
Rachel Velvikis
Stephen Slater

Stephanie Ycaza

Strings and Horns conducted by Trey Pollard

Briana Vaughn
Raven Worlds
Princess Warlington
Brandi Wellman
Jada Evans
Charnise Archie

Choir conducted by Joseph Clarke

Engineered by Pinson Chanselle, Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, Matthew E. White and Adrian Olsen
Recorded at Spacebomb Studios and Montrose Recording
Mixed at Spacebomb Studio
Produced by Pinson Chanselle, Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, Matthew E. White
All songs written by Pinson Chanselle, Trey Pollard, Cameron Ralston, Matthew E. White 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

This Reminds Me: Songs by Linda Smith Reimagined

Various Artists
This Reminds Me: Songs by Linda Smith Reimagined       
Lost Sound Tapes / 2018

In the relatively calm decade of the 1990s, I was listening to all of the indie / hometaped music I could uncover, like a lost man parched in the desert, searching for a phone booth. Pre-internet, all I had for a road map were the monthly mailout catalogues from Parasol Records. I bought many a record sight unseen, solely by intuition and Parasol’s one-line descriptions. Discovering music from Orange Cake Mix made this guessing game worthwhile, as well as buying my first Linda Smith 7” record. Her songs were a bundle of poetic dichotomies, like peering into a handwritten diary of someone figuring out the nuances of life. This Reminds Me: Songs by Linda Smith Reimagined is long overdue recognition of her brilliance as a musician & songwriter. Lost Sound Tapes has assembled a nineteen-song tribute featuring bands as luminous as Silly Pillows & musicians like Rose Melberg, Peter Kirsch, & Paula Strong. The one minor flaw in this collection is a lack of mixtape choreography: the songs are arranged alphabetically rather than by musical flow. Let’s hope there is a second compilation in the works – you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

seventeen years - blueberry

Seventeen Years
Spirit Goth / 2018

Someone has been listening to Abecedarians, For Against and The Dentists & it has paid off. Eight tracks of gorgeous shoegaze indie pop comprise an almost perfect cassette. Watery guitar lines, gauzy vocals, and a time warp back to 1990. Things grow even more intriguing with the two closing tracks “Cassie pt. 2” and “Cassie pt.3” which are piano led, lo-fi songs that feel personal and fragile in contrast to the previous dreampop tracks. Exceptional.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Erik Kramer - A House Floating In The Middle Of A Lake

Erik Kramer
A House, Floating In The Middle of A Lake            
Anthropocene Recordings / 2017

Experimentation for the sake of experimentation pays off when least expected; perhaps our over confidence impedes our forward motion. Let me explain: Erik Kramer’s debut cassette “A House, Floating In The Middle Of A Lake” brims with intriguing ideas, slowly swimming out with the folk-ambient “Other Spaces”.  There is a boldness in this work, yet it feels like one is following a surreal and faded map, unsure of which direction to pursue. This tape is least adventurous when bogging down in the drones; yet acoustic guitar-based pieces soar with clarity – “Face of God on the Forest Floor” rambles beautifully through the trees; “For Bruce Langhorne” sounds like it truly is written in the spirit and memory of Bruce Langhorne; and “Map” is the perfect lo-fi coda as we drift back ashore.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Packer EP

Austin Jenkins
Packer EP            
Punk Jazz Records / 2018

Right up front I have to say that I love every aspect of this cassette release. All you’re going to read in this review are gushing words expressing how wonderful & enjoyable this homemade cassette release by Austin Jenkins is.

The Packer EP included a handwritten note which is much appreciated – we here in the cassette culture are a small, homegrown crew who thrive on communication and sharing music. The tape itself is enclosed in canvas, hand painted, and closed with a sewn-on button. The Packer EP was dubbed onto a used cassette of Alexander Scourby reading the book of Leviticus. Ten out of ten points from ye olde DJ – not only for style but because Leviticus happens to be one of my five favorite books of Scripture. And ... the tapes were bought from a thrift shop!

The music itself is inventive, lo-fi jazz featuring guitar, drums, bass & sax. There are six brief pieces on the EP featuring Austin playing all of the instruments and vocals. Then, the listener is treated to Punk Jazz Radio featuring extended jazz pieces by various bands (how can anyone resist Joy Spring by the First Punk Jazz Quartet?). The radio show sounds almost exactly how I started out in radio as a young teenager – recording my own shows on an inexpensive portable cassette recorder, using only a cheap mic, placing the mic next to my record player’s speakers to record the songs. There are even unexpected goodies on Side B. How cool is that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rake Kash - Exile

Rake Kash           
Title: Exile
Cthonic Records / 2018

RAKE KASH on this recording is: Alex Boardman, Ben Brodin, Kevin Donahue, L. Eugene Methe, Megan Siebe, Ian Simons, Noah Sterba, and Edmund Wilson.

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve dipped into the free jazz zone. Rake Kash seems steeped in free jazz on Exile, and that’s a good thing. The opening track “Four Decades” sets a European sounding tone, with keyboard, guitar & drum interplay that is reminiscent of the Greg Foat Group. From there, the cassette meanders through “Exile Poem” and winds up delivering a psychedelic tinged “Ghost of Bacchus” which seems informed by some of the Grateful Dead’s space jams yet is wholly original and wonderful. The entire second side of the tape is an untitled piece that is best heard in the light of day, infused with hauntology and whispery improvisations until it lands in full-on psych dirge territory. I’ll stick with side A for now but eventually will give the untitled piece another listen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mario D'Agostino - Creatures of Sea & Seashore

Mario D’Agostino            
Title: Creatures of Sea and Seashore
Self Released 2017

What you hear is what you get? This is an oddly affecting collection of five songs that describe sea animals. Crabs! Eels! Protozoa! It’s like having an aural science lesson. Learn while you listen! Fascinating concept cassette that I wish were more musically adventurous. Still – 10 out of 10 for style.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

First zine review of 2018: Library Excavations #5

Library Excavations #5: A Handbook of Library Ideas
Dale E. Shaffer
38 pages * 1977 / 2017

Public Collectors has reissued a significant booklet by library consultant Dale E. Shaffer. A Handbook of Library Ideas collects 156 projects & possibilities for the 1970’s library looking to expand its horizons. Today, many of these ideas are already antiquated (such as creating a VHS collection), yet many are relevant and innovative ways of engaging the wider community.

The typewritten format is true to the original booklet, essentially presented unaltered here. In his preface, Shaffer discusses characteristics of a creative librarian: imaginative, original, fluent in information technology, undaunted by chaos and going with the flow. He writes “Creative librarians are givers. Their minds act as channels through which ideas pass along to others – not as static storehouses. They have thoughts and ideas and carry them into action. They live creatively and productively. Hopefully the ideas presented herein will encourage the reader to try new methods for making the library more valuable to patrons.”

Shaffer mixes practicality with brainstorming and develops concepts that I would love to see in my town library. A health club, guitar jams, soil testing kits, and (at my age) retirement planning workshops. Mr. Shaffer’s love for libraries is evident and his willingness to think outside the box is still refreshing in 2017. We need libraries now more than ever, as we drown in the information / misinformation age. We still need sanctuaries where we can learn, study, play, stretch ourselves and breathe.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Weston Smith - Forest of Reflection

Weston Smith   
Title: Forest of Reflection
Label / Year: Tortoiseshell Tapes / 2017

Do people really make tapes this essential?!? Forest of Reflection is a gorgeous collection of wizardly woods wandering, steeped in the magic of nature. Washes of synths, keyboards, bass & drum bubble through each piece like a trail through the forest, or through the psyche. Gloriously lo-fi, homemade aesthetic with a wistful and quiet melancholy. Forest of Reflection goes to the top of my listening pile for this or any season. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Warm Songs For Cold Weather

Various Artists  
Title: Warm Songs for Cold Weather
Label / Year: Deadplant / 2018

You know a compilation is that good when you listen to it, turn over, listen again, and repeat several times. Warm Songs For Cold Weather is insanely wonderful, exactly the right remedy for the winter blues. Cassette enthusiasts rejoice! Some of the tunes here feature lo-fi tape warble to amazing effect, like on Drug Bugz Seeing Stars, which sounds like Sufjan Stevens recording on a Walkman with a dying battery. Side one seems draped in a folky gauze until Nim Chimpsky rocks out with an alt-70s pop anthem Jelly, Baby. Later on side B, Paddlefish treats us to a psychedelic meltdown on Another Way & the tape winds out on an ambient and poetic piece by Blithe Field. This is the tape for seasonal affective disorder. Throw away those expensive meds & don the headphones.

Friday, February 2, 2018


Yellow K / 2017

Inaugural recordings often set the tone for what is to follow; with Houseplants, the bar is set in the stratosphere so I have no idea what, if anything, to expect from their next cassette. Tinged with washes of guitar, keys, and female vocals, Houseplants recalls the best work of the shoegaze band Mahogany with some unexpected flourishes a la For Against. The 1990's aesthetic GLOWS from this tape - it is a beautiful sonic journey in six songs into everything dreampop should be - shimmering, mysterious, and succinct.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sacred Aviary - Coconut Dot Matrix

Sacred Aviary
Coconut Dot Matrix
Big Ear Tapes / 2018

Future primitive exotica from the year 3000. Music for cruising at midnight; drops emerging from a dream of cool breezes & micropercussion.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Outside the Museum - With Clouds

Ben Catt (Outside the Museum)
With Clouds
Self released / 2010

I was fortunate to grab this cassette from the Lost Sound Tapes cassette sale for $2 which arrived in a clear ziplok with photocopied insert. Mostly acoustic, pensive sonic meditations ranging from quiet to noisy drone - the overall effect is mesmerizing and lovely. All of these tracks are excellent; one that stands out for me is "The Longest Day" in which surreal moments morph into each other in a dreamlike mosaic. Melodically, "The Longest Day" borrows heavily from Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll but (dare I say it?) this is a better song. The times, they are a changing. Releases from Outside the Museum are way too hard to track down. I hope they will be reissued for those of us who missed them the first time around.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

David Chutka & Stephen Roper

Artist: David Chutka & Stephen Roper    
Title: Collaboration One
Albert Street Records / 2018

Some musicians take risks. Releasing what is essentially a “cassingle” in this day & age is a definite risk. Clocking in at just under six minutes total, these two pieces (known as #21 and #22) are mellow improvisations featuring piano and synthesizer – somber in tone, like soundtracks for a bleak midwinter. While I find the music unremarkable, the packaging is gorgeous, including an insert with four pictures from the recording session. So ten out of ten for style. A bargain at $3. Edition of 100 on gold cassettes.