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.


https://www.etsy.com/listing/515898996/moods-a-brief-intro-to-covered-bridges?ref=bestselling_by_query-3

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
Gibraltar

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!

https://marlyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/autumn-2017


Friday, March 23, 2018

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



Spacebomb House Band
Library Music 1: No Space High Enough
2018

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.
 

credits


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

Violins:
Adrian Pintea
Treesa Gold
Anna Bishop
Stacy Matthew

Violas:
HyoJoo Uh
Kimberly Ryan

Cello:
Schuyler Slack

Strings contracted by Treesa Gold

Trumpets:
Taylor Barnett
Craig Taylor
Marcus Tenney

Trombones:
Bryan Hooten
Nathaniel Lee
Benjamin Weisiger

French Horns:
Rachel Velvikis
Stephen Slater

Tuba:
Stephanie Ycaza

Strings and Horns conducted by Trey Pollard

Choir:
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
Blueberry
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.


https://seventeenyears.bandcamp.com/album/blueberry

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

Houseplants



Houseplants
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. 

https://houseplantssss.bandcamp.com/

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.

http://bigeartapes.com/album/coconut-dot-matrix

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.