New Master is the debut release by L.A.’s Fantastic Sleep. It’s a duo of Grant Capes and Ged Gengras, both whom you’ve probably heard before either in their main gigs ((VxPxC) and Antique Brothers, respectively) or their solo guises (Sleepwalkers Local 242 and Fantastic Ego, gee I wonder where “Fantastic Sleep” came from…) or their other band Thousands. Also New Master is the first tape to come from Grant’s label Phantom Limb Recordings. Wow, that was a lot of name dropping, hope you stuck with me through it. Anyway, you could probably boil that little info intro into “These guys got skillz” and this cassette sees ‘em using those skillz in whole new ways.
The first side of the tape has a nice bit of symmetry, two 10 minute tracks sandwiched by two 3 minute ones. The first of the shorter ones, “Liquid Breathing System”, leads off with what sounds like guitar drones, manipulated vocals and various bits of percussive clatter. It’s a brief but pretty dense smog cloud. The most reminiscent of the guys other projects is “Dead Reckoning”. It features more recognizable guitar ramblings with many droning frequencies swelling in the background marrying the psychedelic drone of the first track with dual psych-ambient guitar improv. The approach produces pretty swirling results though whole thing doesn’t quite cohere as well as the rest of the songs do. My personal favorite, “Deep Core”, heads straight for the drone jugular, I’d say maybe a little bit like Family Underground does. Grant and Ged do a real nice job here, overall the track feels pretty massive and monolithic but there are lots of little things going on as well, odd melodies drifting through and so forth. A real excellently composed and thick ten minutes. The side closer, “Temporary Apothesis” is quite a capable follower. It’s shorter and a bit more ramshackle/active than the previous track, but there are still plenty of heavy and pretty drones to be had.
Side B holds the 27 minute monsterfest “Well Received by the Under Priests”. It starts out like it’s got something to prove, lots of sustaining and lots of quaking and lots shadows looming, and all at the same time (is that surprising?). There is a part that I swear has to be a sample of someone saying “wake up” repeated a bunch of times, but I’m not 100% sure if it is or not. It may just be some electronics fuckery but, man, it creeps the hell out of me every time I hear it. Makes me wonder what kind of non-musical sorcery G + G were practicing during the session. The track carries a steady momentum through its majority despite there being many sounds that come and go rather quickly. At one point there is a weird breakdown of sorts where a bunch of electronic percussion and other sounds all start going haywire and interrupt the proceedings. Then live(?) percussion enters and the track starts being pulled back together, though in a different, almost (ar)rhythmic manner. There is a pretty little casio-type refrain that emerges as well before the whole thing is engulfed in a sonic airplane flying overhead.
Overall, it’s a real solid first outing from these guys (well, for this project anyway). I imagine they will only get better and more refined with each release, and whaddya know? they got some more coming on rad L.A. labels like Not Not Fun and Buried Valley so I’ll definitely keep my ears pricked. Speaking of rad L.A. labels it’s worth noting that Phantom Limb Recordings keeps looking tastier with every passing day. A recent batch was just dropped, including cdrs by Quetzolcoatl, Changeling, Century Plants, 6majik9 and Stone Baby, and they all look pretty awesome. Grant did a nice job packaging this cassette by the way, the beguiling cover photo is printed on heavy photo paper and the clear tape is stamped. There are still copies of New Master at the Phantom Limb HQ too, available for cheap but limited to 90 copies so don’t wait.
(My apologies for how many times I used the word 'drone')