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.