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Killing the Music Industry (One tape at a time…)

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This is the first in an irregular overview of cassette releases from a variety of labels. This edition features releases from The Tapeworm, Cassauna, Peasant Magik, Goat Eater Arts and Witch Sermon, including works by Pauline Oliveros, Deceh, Francisco López, Moss and Hoor-paar-Kraat amongst many, many others.

The first two tapes from Important Records’ new sub-label Cassauna are both gorgeous examples of contemporary minimalism. The first is 4 by the mysterious Deceh, a quartet (made up of Eleh and three others) who specialize in tight, controlled drones. Analogue synthesizers and what sounds like bowed strings create a mood somewhere between the aforementioned Eleh and Charlemagne Palestine's "Strumming for Strings." The meditative nature of the music is intoxicating and I keep finding myself returning to its warm, welcoming tones.

The second release from Cassauna is a collaborative effort between the mighty Pauline Oliveros and Michael T. Bullock. Accordion to Bass is a fitting partner to the Deceh tape, although on the surface they are different beasts entirely. Percussive double bass and stabs of accordion create a frenetic form of Oliveros' minimalism. However, despite the almost hyperactive form of improvisation on display, Accordion to Bass is as engaging and welcoming as the Deceh tape. Much like the Attention Patterns double LP released on Important a few months ago, these two releases show how minimalism is more than just a sparse arrangement but rather an attack on methodology (with Oliveros sounding very much un-Oliveros-like).

Another new label, Witch Sermon, focuses on the heavier end of the metal spectrum. Their first release is a live recording from occult doom metallers Moss. Despite its bootleg origins, this audience recording has been given one hell of a mastering job as it sounds phenomenal. The band erupt from the speakers like demons from a crypt, ploughing through a selection of songs from their recent Tombs of the Blind Drugged EP and their two main albums. My stereo shuddered and shook throughout the album, songs like "Eternal Return" and "The Gate" hitting like an avalanche.

Also on Witch Sermon, zz's I, Gorgon comes wrapped in frayed twine with a blotchy, hand-painted piece of canvas attached. Part of the joy of these small run cassette labels is the feeling that you are able to get a more private snapshot of an artist at work, the care needed to create and duplicate such an album seeps into my appreciation of the work. It also allows for some truly unusual music to make it out into the world. zz (Andy Lippoldt) is best known as one half of Gorgontongue and is also the main man behind Persistence in Mourning. However, unlike his work with these projects, this solo recording instead sounds like a dog chewing a microphone while a doom band practises next door on side A and some strange mix of doom and tape loops on the b side. It is an odd release to say the least but there is a charm to the chaotic, unpredictable sonic squalor.

Over the last couple of years, The Tapeworm has become the most recognizable bastion for tape culture and it is understandably so when looking at the label’s back catalog. The mix of styles, genre and artistic intents across all the releases make for an Aladdin’s cave of treasured recordings. Their latest releases bolster their reputation as purveyors of fine music on cassette with fantastic releases by Deceh, Philip Marshall, Francisco López and Zan Hoffman. Fundamental Structure by Deceh sees the group exploring more intense frequencies than those on their other release reviewed above. Again this is deeply meditative music but where 4 relaxed me, Fundamental Structure acts more as a stimulant. This is not surprising judging by the liner notes which state that the group have given close "attention… to the organization of isolated frequencies and the effects of these vibrations on brain activity." Clashing tones create beautiful interferences and by moving my head around I can alter the sounds further. This gives way to a pleasant sea of Hammond organ and sruti box, leaving me adrift and at peace.

Both sides of Philip Marshall's Casse-tête follow a very similar path, so much so that I had to consult the liner notes to be sure that it was not the same material repeated on both sides. Strong, clear piano playing opens both sides before giving way to atmospheric if stereotypical field recordings of accordion playing on what sounds like a Parisian street. Both sides finish off with some serious organ drone, side B's performance being particularly powerful. The transitions between the sections are edited beautifully, reminiscent of early Nurse With Wound and I must say that Casse-tête is a gem of a tape.

Concert for 300 Magnetic Tapes by Francisco López and Zan Hoffman is a surprisingly disappointing affair (especially considering Hoffman is known as a fanatic for tape). As the name suggests, this is an archive recording of a live performance from 1994 where López and Hoffman used audio cassettes from hundreds of sound artists to create a dense fog of sound. The different layers merge together into one gray lump and it is hard to get excited about a gray lump. It is a worthwhile release to some extent as an early example of López's work and a rare release of Hoffman's but it pales in comparison to the company it keeps on The Tapeworm label.

Goat Eater Arts also has a couple tapes out, including a new Hoor-paar-Kraat album made in collaboration with York Factory Complaint. This one is a bruiser and sounds completely unlike anything I have heard from Hoor-paar-Kraat before (though I must admit it is my first time hearing York Factory Complaint at all). Sheets of noise, intense synthesizer rhythms and dangerous sounding rumbles are brought together into one expressive, cathartic whole. After a recent discussion with a friend over the poor state of noise (and the obsession with crappy harsh noise wall style), it is great to hear artists pushing noise back into the adventurous maelstrom that made it so appealing to me in the first place. Follow this example, ditch your pedals and get your hands dirty!

Also out on Goat Eater Arts is the debut release from Weeks. This trio pump out some fantastic metal that is reminiscent of the likes of Neurosis and Eyehategod but rougher. Across the two sides of this regrettably short release, their primal assault blew the cobwebs from my ears. If I was sitting down in front of my stereo I imagine I would probably look like the man in the old advertisement for Maxell cassettes. Hopefully Weeks have more in the pipeline because this is killer.

Finally, Peasant Magik have recently unleashed a truckload of new tapes into the wild. Croque Madame (a duo of Melissa Farley and Kat Moran) have put together four awesome psychedelic jams on their I Love to Laugh cassette. A dreamy fog of guitar and keyboard obscure barely decipherable vocals like some sort of sprawling My Bloody Valentine where the melodies and rhythms have long been forgotten. Elsewhere there is a touch of early Low to the music. There is a naivety to the music that makes I Love to Laugh all the more charming; "Caravan of Vegetables" has a distracted whimsy to it which encapsulates all that I like about this tape.

La Répétition is a soundtrack to an independent French film of the same name by Terence Hannum from Locrian. Hannum pulls sparse, desolate tones from his guitar and accordion to conjure up feelings of isolation and that kind of metaphysical angst that French films and literature do so well. I do not know if that is supposed to be the desired effect as I have not seen the movie but the soundtrack definitely stands up on its own. It all comes to the boil on the second side, it sounds like something fairly traumatic must be happening on the screen!

The striking cover art that adorns Fat Burren Moon is unfortunately not matched by Gryn Brvs' music. The first side is a forgettable collage of noise that fades quickly into the background. The second side fares better as a warbly recording of a piano is used as a scaffold for Ian Murphy and Stuart Fernie's atonal recordings. It never gels for me though; there is something good there but the duo does not seem to fully engage with the music to make it truly interesting. Fat Burren Moon ends up sounding like a half-finished sketch.

Pink Priest's And I Watched the Ivy Cover Your House also sounds half-finished but unlike Gryn Brvs, it is more intriguing because of this open ended feeling. James Livingston creates a gentle haze of what are supposedly keyboards (but due to all the fuzz could be anything), never really going anywhere but that is OK because it is an enjoyable journey. The music quickly sends me into reverie and it is only the sudden end of each tape that brings me back. And I Watched the Ivy Cover Your House is pleasantly short, I get the impression that a longer immersion in Livingston's music might mean I would never come back to reality.


Last Updated on Monday, 30 May 2011 03:02  


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