Sunday, June 9, 2019

JUNE 2019

As has been clear for fuckin' years now, I don't have a lot of time to crank out (long ass) reviews with some degree of frequency like I did once upon a time. There's probably not gonna be many "featured"-type reviews going forward and things are probably gonna be mostly in this vain, which is some blurbs about things I'm listening to (both submissions and just shit from my own collection). 

Playboy - Celebration [Negative Jazz]
The greatest Canadian record of all time? Well maybe not as good as Leonard Cohen's, but better than the Matthew Good Band's. All seriousness aside, this is the greatest Canadian record of all time. I can't stop listening to it, and when I listen to it I can't stop punching the fucking air (until I have to stop and flip the record). And when I'm listening and punching the shit out of canuck ghosts, I also have to drink ice cold English gin. I can't figure this out because they're Canadian and I'm a whiskey/rum guy. It doesn't make sense. But when I listen to Playboy, I'm a gin guy. I actually keep gin in the freezer so it's available whenever the moment strikes. I don't know why, it just feels right.
So Playboy sort of has that early No Trend or Flippery vibe. Thuggish and sluggish. The bass grinds as much as it grooves (and has this odd, somewhat metallic quality that I still can't pin down--adding just a hint of Shellac-y seasoning). The rhythm section is really the foundation of Celebration, with A Frames-like precision, it churns like a machine. Its importance can't be overstated. But the thing that sets Playboy apart is those clarinets, man.
Is it one clarinet? Is it a cadre of clarinets? I can't tell, but they can really wail! Every so often I hear a bit of barely-there synthesizer but when it comes down to it this is one of the most arresting, rocking, virile and tough-as-shit records I've ever heard, and without a guitar in sight.
Normally, packaging isn't especially important to me but this is top notch stuff both in production-quality and the cool cartoons-meets-vorticism design aesthetic. Los Angeles's Negative Jazz imprint (LA rules, fuck you) did the whole fucking world a solid dropping this hot little number.
Just fuckin' buy it, buy a fuckin' case of Ford's or whatever's on sale and don't stop listening 'til yr dead from a busted liver. Be a part of history and own the magic for a mere 10 bucks. Oh, Canada. 

Aaron Zarzutzki & Nick Hoffman - Exhaustive Expulsion [Pilgrim Talk]
As far as I know this is the cacophonous duo's follow-up to the the bizarre and awesome LP Psychophagi and its accompanying cassingle Opening Band. This dual tape set of live performances is no less obscure or interesting in its sounds but less of a curatorial eye was taken in its construction. The LP had a single 20+ minute improvisation and two more in the 10-12 minute range; the cassingle was fascinating as it distilled Hoffman's and Zarzutzki's efforts down to under five minutes a side. 
This session of dual hour long tapes is more difficult to consume and a bit of a "fans only" affair. But if you can't get enough of a spinning metal plate scraping other pieces of metal, you know who you are and you should have this dynamic duo's full discography in your collection. There are dozens of us!

Amalgamated - Spark I [Intangible Cat]
Amalgamated is a crew operating somewhere in Illinois (I think) with a bit of an unusual set-up that makes their name ring true. Four people generate music, not sure if they’re all jamming separately or together, and then another two people are responsible for editing and other post-production duties. Apparently this 3” CDr had been in the works for some time and saw the light of day earlier this decade (yeah, I'm late). The vibe is mostly chilled out electronic music drawing on a variety of sources. I’m assuming there might be some acoustic instrumentation in here but I’m not positive, there’s definitely a hearty dose of synths, samples and drum machines often spun through spacey dub delay and filters. To the group’s credit, I don’t think this sounds like 6 people had a hand in it; it sounds like it came from one mind to me.
“Rot Makor” features some heavier synth percussion but the tracks generally yield to a smoother pulse. Usually, at least one element in the mix is set to ultra-glide at all times. So even when things get a little crunchy, there’s a plush keyboard somewhere smoothing out the bumps.
People into the trippier electronic music spheres take note, if you haven't already that is!

Back Magic - Chorus Line to Hell [Milvia Son]
I woke up one Sunday morning and had a hankering for Back Magic's Chorus Line to Hell LP. Figured I could try out one of those "Now Playing tweets" and link to the review I wrote about it. Except after some mildly frantic searching, there was no review to be found. Could've sworn I'd written one but once again I reveal myself to be an incorrigible fuck up. So here comes the review that I thought I wrote and definitely should've:
A pungent concoction of punk, surf, no wave, medieval folk and moldy psychedelia (that doesn't quite sound like any of the above) emanating from some basement in Indiana. Back Magic is the work of the Brothers Hoffman, billing themselves as Hair EXP on guitar and sometimes voice and Terror Trans on drums. Chorus Line to Hell marks their debut LP following up 8" and 5" lathes (which included one of my favorite punk rippers from last decade "Cough Syrup Buzz") and a tape on Nick Hoffman's Pilgrim Talk label. And I did actually review those (here, here and here).
This is full of bangers and well worth grabbing to hear all the alleyways the Back Magic boys trek down but a couple favorites are the lo-fi punk anthem "Peace Police", "Thing I am" which heads into a noise rock zone (with a certain Suicide-ish propulsion), the Middle Eastern vibin' of "Paradise of Skulls" and the eerie and droning "Class Coven" with its 60s Italian pulp film score fumes. Oh yeah, there's a ripping Crass cover too because obviously an LP as magnanimous as this should end on a Crass cover.
You can grab yourself a copy from Back Magic themselves here.

Bearded Astronaut - 9.8 m/s^2 [Green Tape]
Like all projects released by Illinois's mysterious little Green Tape label, Bearded Astronaut is a little mysterious. Nearly every phrase on the j-card (save for the label's URL) has at least one space or physics related term: the artist name, tape title, track titles feature words such as "Moon" "Trajectory" "Stellar" and "Transmission" and, probably the most telling "Third Sun from the Stoned." 
Bearded Astronaut at first really subverts the general, sonic expectations associated with "space." There's no ethereal, cosmic keyboards, no 'future sounds'. The tape sounds decidedly terrestrial. Clean-toned guitar offers pleasant arpeggios amidst a backdrop that sounds more than a little raw and gristly. There seems to be a light coat of rust on everything, nothing is space age or state-of-the-art. Bearded Astronaut mostly ambles along pitching makeshift song structures comprised of said guitar, fuzzy bass and stumbling drum machine. 
You know, when I said there's nothing here generally associated with space? Well that only holds true for so long as "Pause and Reflects" does feature pretty organ and guitar glistening. The drum machine still thumps underneath giving the universe a heartbeat. It's a humble, quietly beautiful piece--certainly the centerpiece of the tape. After soaring for so long the piece crashes and burns into a crude 8-bit drum machine loop. Maybe there's some sort of concept going on here: Bearded Astronaut beginning in the terrestrial sphere, ascending upward to the heavens before falling face first once gravity gets its paws on the spaceman again. Jus' sayin'...
"Final Transmission" marks a spiritual heir to "Pause and Reflects." Gliding organ notes are overcome by pulsing static and humming feedback into another very fine track, the aforementioned "Third Sun from the Stoned." There's nothing radically "new" about this tape, but there's something a little intriguing about how they concoct the recipe.

Body Morph - Pussy for Breakfast/Medical Fame [Moon Myst]
Who love da sax, baby? Are there still sax duos out there nowadays? Haven't been keeping my finger on the pulse but Daniel Dlugosielski was in a pretty rad one called Uneven Universe which I hope you heard back in the day. Dlugosiekski helped to pioneer those moldy scrape 'n creep "jazz" moves that oozed out of Michigan on a regular basis (and has since been coined "psycho jazz" if I'm applying the proper meme).
Double D has been in the game a long time and Body Morph is his ongoing solo project of processed sax and mildew. This hour-long album luxuriates across two 30 minute tapes. Bleary-eyed sax drifts from place to place via the occasional sputter and bend of electronics and tapes. There's an occasional harsh punctuation but mostly Dlugosielski lets you just sink in the foggy bog, cushioned by tape hiss.
Each half-hour tape is given a separate title (Pussy for Breakfast and Medical Fame respectively) but they blend together as one big clammy mass for all intents and purposes, though the lovely, drifting melodies of Medical Fame's first side do stand out. When you're in the mood, there's nothing that scratches the itch like Dlugosiekski's brand of reedy, feverish lethargy. Soak up the sonic smells while lying flat on your back and except no substitutes.
Tape's longggggggg sold out as far as I can tell because I'm a pathetic no good loafer, but there's a host of other great ways to ruin your ears from Moon Myst.

Embarker - Point Location [Send Help]
Embarker - False Purview [Send Help]
It comes with the territory, but in the realms of the that's-just-noise genre there are some folks that just seem to fly a little too under the radar for my liking, not getting the amount of pub they deserve from my vantage point. Michael Barker better known (or perhaps not) as Embarker fits into that category. He dropped a self-titled LP over a decade ago, my first introduction to his work and still one of my favorite harsh needle drops in the AuxOut home library. He's been plugging away since, dropping a tape every year or two on labels such as Phase!, I Just Live Here and Spleencoffin, but lucky us, The Bark dropped a tape twofer last year of Point Location and False Purview.
I was gonna try to work this next bit into paragraphs with complete sentences and shit, but I decided fuck it. Here are my listening notes, reproduced verbatim:

point location
side a
track 1
cut-up freak out - killin' it
track 2
Unexpected shift in to vintage Yellow Swans territory. sheets of electric needles crashing on the beach - hell yeah
track 3
splits the difference between the first two
track 4
clicky percussive track, longggg

side b
heavy, violent herk & jerk, sounds like hightops on a basketball court (sick. where are the wells fargo center samples?), some background whispers (really sounds like a mashup of first two tracks)
then back into clicky percussive track, longggg

False Purview is a 60 minute slab of twisted tech(no)ise. The opener "Chrome Hill" embraces the minimal, patiently building around a thick, irregular throb while "Skeeball w/ Georgio" could totally bang at an adventurous club if you upped the BPMs a bit.
The casual yet insistent slow burn of "Haze Gradient" is far better than so many recent techno 12"s I've heard (okay, I probably haven't heard that many) but, still, Barker's grasp of pacing and drama is far better than most. Somebody offer this guy a record deal!
Even though False Purview is the most approachable Embarker joint that I've heard, dude's not looking to go pop anytime soon dropping the title track's 21 minutes of trance-like rhythmic noise nirvana on the listener only four minutes into Side A. I don't know if False Purview represents the current Embarker phase or if MB has already moved well on to some other exciting territory but it's a direction he certainly excels at.
Check for the tapes (and the excellent LP) HERE

Future Storms - "Chew Me Up" & Other Dance Hits [no label]
The thing that attracted me most about this tape when I received it was the recording credits which read: "I did everything my goddamn self." In places such as "Nacho Mountain" and "Crap Island" no less. How could you not look forward to listening to something with that scrawled inside. This tape is lo-fi. And not just in terms of genre or sonic affectation, this truly sounds like it was recorded all by someone's "goddamn self." There are five tracks, maybe 15 minutes?
It seems like the tracks could be sequenced chronologically based on the date of recording as the production seems to shift as the tape rolls along. "Stellaphone" which opens Side B, while blown out, sounds much louder (and better) than the first side perhaps indicating a musician figuring shit out. The track really thumps with a great little guitar lead peeking out near the end, easily making it the high point of the tape's hissy, buzzy Future Storming. The kicker is that tape ends with a verbal "You're Welcome." Yes, thank you very much Mr. Storms.
Not sure how you're supposed to acquire this tape, but it exists.

Things Falling Apart - One Must Not Move Quiet [Green Tape]
I am curious if there is any overlap in personnel between Bearded Astronaut and Things Falling Apart, as there were certain touches of post-rock dynamics among the mounds of basement grit. Well this tape pretty much eschews the basement grit and amps up the post-rock. 
My relationship to post-rock was always something of a love/hate affair; for every piece of genius like F#A#that the genre produced there were another 25 completely underwhelming, useless albums. Maybe it's been so long that the bad taste has worn off or maybe post-rock just doesn't seem so damn priggish on a cassette but this tape is pretty enjoyable. Even the goddamn title One Must Not Move Quiet is coming straight out of the A Silver Mt. Zion or Do Make Say Think playbooks. With the world drowning perilously in a sea of crooked cheats, some truth-in-advertising is more appreciated now than ever. Thanks guys.

Voicehandler - Light from Another Light [Humbler]
Whoa. This one is potent. If I see percussionist Jacob Felix Heule's name attached to anything my expectations skyrocket, from my discovery of Ettrick back in '06 to this modern day banger by Voicehandler, every experience I've had with his live or recorded work has delivered. I missed out on Voicehandler's debut several years ago so this is fresh territory for me and it certainly stands apart from Heule's other work that I'm familiar with.
Voicehandler marks Heule's percussive prowess teaming up with Danishta Rivero's processed voice and things get wild. This CD collects three sessions recorded late May/early June 2017 in Berkeley ranging from 11-18 minutes, which is kind of great for a short attention spanner like me cause I just pop on an individual set if I just need a 15 minute dose.
That's not to say that care wasn't taken in the track sequencing as "June 8" is a perfect introduction to the album with its kosmische freak jazz vibes. Shards of digital synthesis ping hard back and forth across your speakers, with feral chirps and barks creeping in and, of course, Heule keeping the foundation ever shifting as he volleys between manic and minimal modes. Particularly excellent is the breakdown midway through which sounds like Heule practicing his chops to an alien transmission instead of a Milford Graves record.
I wasn't familiar with Rivero before this but her contributions here are pleasantly unexpected. It's my own bias speaking but when I see "voice & drums" I assume the vocalist is going to be going for a lot of volume (shrieks, guttural moans, whatever) but Rivero's work is wonderfully subtle and calculated on Light from Another Light. She has her in-yr-face freak out moments for sure, but she derives a lot of interesting textures from her voice and electronic processing. The tactile nature of the sounds fits seamlessly with Heule's approach.
That kosmische vibe I hinted at earlier comes thick and heavy on "June 1" which is a sort of twitchy, witchy drone track, really tossing the jazz elements by the wayside with percussion emulating crackly patterns of static. The longest session "May 25" concludes the disc, with Heule picking up the sticks again for some focused, champion-level workouts and Rivero droppin' some wigged out Gremlins-inspired vocal exhalations, an angelic coo or two and a heap of cyber-mainframe pulses.
Great care was put into the recording and it sounds sharp as hell, listen loud on a decent system if you can. Hit up Humbler records for the pro-pressed CD which looks quite spiffy with artwork supplied by Brittany Nelson. Edition of 200.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ricardo Dias Gomes - Aa [Kill Shaman/SDZ]

Happy New Year! Uhhhh... Well, quite embarrassingly, at AuxOut HQ we're kicking off 2019 in March. This one's been caught in the meat grinder for too many months now. But I promise you it's tops and well worth the wait. The record I mean, not the review. I never vouch for anything written on these pages.

When Kill Shaman puts out a record you always have to take notice and the LP Aa by Brazilian artist Ricardo Dias Gomes is their first release since 2016's essential jaw dropper by Heimat. Teaming up for Aa with Parisian label SDZ, who's no slouch in it's own right, makes a lot of sense considering the two labels released records by several of the same artists (The Rebel, Dan Melchior, and AuxOut favorites, Cheveu) over the past 15 years. Gomes stands just a bit to the side of that trio, however, forging an unquestionably specific aura within the grooves.

Forever late to the party, I was unfamiliar with Gomes's work before Aa, despite a heavily praised solo debut in 2015. My first encounter with Gomes was the music video for "Precipício" released summer 2018. (I excitedly called it "DAF in slow motion".) A gooey, grunting quease with an obsidian gleam, and it kicks off the LP in style. When I listened to the record I anticipated more of the same, and while you get "Tela Parada" which grooves with ease on a thick electro-throb and chopped up hand percussion, that's not totally what Aa offers. As a big fan of the DAF ethos I obviously would have welcomed revivalism in that vein, but Gomes serves up something more his own. A blend of agitation and gentleness, always proffered with as few instruments as necessary.  

Aa is interesting to me because of this minimalism, but minimalism itself isn't all that interesting anymore, it's that Gomes is applying a trajectory burdened with pretensions to a short record comprised of, at their core, pop songs. (Pop songs to my mind anyway.) I'm probably overreaching using the loaded "pop" term as these aren't exactly verse-chorus ditties and their structures feature built-in abstraction. "Paranormal", for instance, is founded on a simple bassline. Gomes's vocals sit midway between a purr and growl. And it's just those two elements aside from a few bars of drums that pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as suddenly. Fittingly, after so much quietude a brief maelstrom of fuzzed out voice and guitar erupts at the end of the track.

"Partimos Daqui Pt. 2" follows suit but even eschews the trappings of drums, guitar, and distorted voice--anything remotely conceived of as aggression. A soft voice and electric bass in ballad mode, and nothing more. Just as "Partimos Daqui Pt. 2" fades, Gomes hits home with the biggest surprise of the record. "1 2 3 Nenéns" begins this time in full-fledged ballad mode with a downright lovely tune of finger picked acoustic guitar and a lyrical bassoon(?) line with Gomes showing off he has quite a nice singing voice.

Aside from that DAF mention, I've found it's a bit of a struggle to pinpoint specific comparisons for the record. I keep coming back to Young Marble Giants. Not a similarity in sound so much as rationale. Also, I'm surprised to say this but there's a distinct flavor of Kid A-era Radiohead (Kid Aa?) on "Fogo Chama" but Gomes chooses to undercut the somnambulist charm by inviting Arto Lindsay (DNA, etc.) to lurk in the shadows and lay down a bit of tasteful guitar skronk.

Aa clocks in around 20 minutes but you'll feel as if you've traveled much further. When dealing with temporal media, length is an aesthetic feature. For some films it's important that they run for three hours and for others it's just as important that they run for 90 minutes. It's no different with records. I believe that the enigmatic qualities of Aa would dissipate some had it run for 30-35 minutes. Gomes practices perfectly calculated restraint, giving the proverbial Listener just enough that it can't walk away after a single listen, or a second, or a third...

For a while I was spinning this everyday before work and before bed; Aa's either thoroughly invigorating or thoroughly relaxing depending on the time of day. Gomes has made a record that slots in perfectly to relieve us from this inveterate 21st century lifestyle of ours.

If you're stateside you can grab the record (cut at 45rpm for the audiophiles!) from Kill Shaman, in Europe you can grab it from SDZ or from the artist himself.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Nick Stevens - The New Age [Galtta]

Do you like listening to things that sound like Leonard Cohen? Or even Leonard Cohen himself? If the answer is "fuck yeah!" (it should be) then read this review and buy this tape.

Nick Stevens's portrait on the cover suggests a cross between Nick Cave and Dr. Jacobi of Twin Peaks fame. To be honest, that's not too far off in terms of how this brand new cassette sounds. A marriage of baritone brooding and garish, meta-cornball textures.
Mid-period Leonard Cohen, when he transformed the sonically tawdry and tacky into transcendent, is the number one touchstone in play here, and I will be mentioning the Bard of the Boudoir quite often so buckle up. At its weakest, The New Age is a damn good impression of a Cohen album and at its best, it's an arresting re-contextualization of 80s Cohen hallmarks transmuting them into something of Stevens's own.
No effort is made to disguise the Cohen inspiration and, in fact, there may even be a wry attempt to draw attention to it. To my ear, the first few seconds of the opening track, "The Vow", mirror the first few seconds of "I Can't Forget". Considering that these are the first few seconds that someone will hear when they pop in this tape, I assume they were carefully selected. Or maybe this is just some musical Rorschach situation and as a person who used a line from "I Can't Forget" in his wedding vows, it's no surprise that I'm hearing its echoes here.
After "The Vow" closes, Stevens makes his first true gambit, smacking me in the face with the enjoyably kitsch, dare-I-say? Rick Astley-ish intro of "Inviting You (Into My Life)". Stevens stops at nothing, including dropping in a lengthy nylon string guitar solo, to perfect the groovy, easy listening experience.
Escorted by a vibrato-laden synth lead "Easy to Hold" is an early stand-out, and the first glimpse of the heights Stevens and producer and co-writer Adrian Knight are truly capable of. The track is the kind of thing Puff Daddy would have sampled into oblivion in the Biggie days had this cassette dropped in 1988 rather than 2018. A muted sex jam that concludes perfectly with a chanteuse repeating "I may be easy to hold". Prepare to put this one on repeat.
Some of these tracks just feel good to have on the stereo, infusing your environment, like "(Beyond) The Law" and its slinky, operatic groove augmented by wordless "hmmms" and exhalations. I've definitely found my pew in Stevens's therapeutic disco-church.
"Colors of the Sunset" might be a little too Leonard Cohen for its own good—in the sense that I don't recognize enough of Stevens in it. It's not a bad tune whatsoever but it simply hasn't stuck with me through several listens like the rest of the album.
Another one of my favorites "All Night Messiah", more obliquely takes on Death of a Ladies Man (think "True Love Leaves No Traces" but freshened up with Stevens's mellow disco vibe). I would be sorely remiss if I didn't point out the fantastically fluttering lilt of the guest sax and flute work by David Lackner. The classy synth-cheese on the outro courtesy of Adrian Knight is superb as well. Magnifico!
Stevens follows up "Messiah" with another big time banger, title track "The New Age", finding a remarkable sweet spot between Cohen worship, rock solid songwriting, and dark-edged Depeche Mode-style overtones and production before pivoting into finale "Motorcycle", a gently propulsive Smog-gone-synth pop situation with Stevens crooning in a higher register and gliding into the ether.
Even though his name isn't on the spine, producer Adrian Knight has to be commended for his massive contribution. Other than the occasional wind instrument, female backing vocals and Stevens's voice and rhythm guitar, Knight is the backing band. Stevens does his part for sure, but The New Age wouldn't be what it is without Knight; they make a great team with Knight even co-writing a couple tunes as well. I definitely hope this collaboration has a future.
Grab yr tape here before the normals catch on and this thing goes gold.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Doll - Hiss [Big Sleep]/Patrick Cosmos - Tonal Rotors [Big Sleep]

On today's menu: a compact cassette tape twofer from the Jersey boyz at Big Sleep Records.

The Doll - Hiss [Big Sleep]
The Doll is a secretly great sonic moniker (soniker?) because it completely guards against assumptions of what an artist called The Doll sounds like. Some iteration of "doll" I would have at least had a hint. The Babydolls? Doll Face? Doll Eyes? The New Jersey Dolls? But just The Doll? I had no fucking clue. Literally no ideas popped into my head. The red bubblewrap cover didn't prod me in any direction either. Now Hiss was potentially a proper clue, but I don't know, maybe after all this it's just neo-post-neo-nü-shügaze?
Turns out this is a slovenly cassette concrète-ish whirlpool. The curtain raises on "Bubblewrap" a repetitious dirge that sounds like it's composed of the looped snap of the titular popping bubblewrap, a digital glitch and a field recording of a running toilet fully immersing you in the Hiss-y mood.
"Saw" is a bit of a bedroom-version of a 60s horror movie soundtrack, bristling with uncomfortable idiophonic overtones. The Doll is really speaking my language on "Wheel" with a garbled something or other that could be some gnarled-ass cassette tape scraping along the head or maybe just The Doll blowing bubbles in her Coke cup. I'll let the people decide.
"Silence" is not quite that but it's close, capturing the occasional incidental noise in ragged fidelity but with a heartbeat pumping from the far corner of the room. The track lasts a mere 98 seconds and vanishes right as the hypnotic spell is really starting to take old; I would have easily traded the following track, the lo-fi fuzzy strum-drone of "Lean", for an extended cut of "Silence". "Radiator" doesn't start off with The Doll getting behind the wheel (that would be "Static") nor does it feature a honking car alarm for a backbeat (that would be "Home, Sweet Home") but it does feature teenage drum practice dusted with feedback emanating through the air ducts in the living room from the basement. The best thing about Hiss is how it creates very specific environments while listening.  
Hiss is difficult to write about but if you're intrigued by any of the above (you know who you are) get at it and listen for yourself.

Patrick Cosmos - Tonal Rotors [Big Sleep]
And now a tape so nice it was pressed twice... Tonal Rotors is a long player from Pat Cosmos and who knew that Mr. Hilarious on Twitter, a real Ryley Walker meets Neil "DeGrassi" Tyson personality, was out there pounding the pavement, wiring up some synth&sampler contraption and rocking that old Guided By Voices tee?
As a person who (occasionally) writes about music, I try to avoid reading press releases because sometimes that really fucks me up. I did, however, make the mistake of reading the one for Tonal Rotors. It's actually a pretty accurate description so that's not the issue. It read: "a 2000s-era IDM/drill n' bass album condensed into the poppy, proggy, quick-hit format of a GBV record" and that is actually impressively accurate, but when we're talking three letter acronyms, IDM (which I actually don't know that much about) and GBV (which I know much more about) don't hold equal weight in my mind. Unconsciously, I got it fucked around and was expecting "a 2000s-era GBV album condensed into the poppy, proggy, quick-hit format of a IDM record" (nonsensical as that may seem) and it took several listens to unlearn that bullshit and start from scratch. After doing so, I could finally see that this tape is a fun time.
The man of the Cosmos whips through 22 tracks at a rapid pace, modulating his approach from track to track. The first three tracks illustrate this right away. Elegiac opener "Portentious Omen" would slot in quite nicely over a credits sequence in the post-OPN and SURVIVE-as-film-composers world. "Narrowly Avoided Pun-Title" flips into a 20 second chopped/screwed blip of the Yo-Yo Dieting variety and the longest of the three "SX-150" conjures memories of the most raucous moments of Endtroducing... deep fried in synth-batter. That gives you an idea about the parameters of the sandbox that Cosmos is playing in.
Despite the long list of tracks, cassette is a perfect format for Tonal Rotors and I don't think there's a benefit to skipping around the album. "A Helicopter with a Computer in it (for Joe)" is nice to return to on its own but the pleasure of the unexpected thump of the filtered bass thrum is increased when in the context of a mid-side movement. Similarly, the peppy techno-power-pop of "Fear of Heights" that follows immediately is a perfect foil that would lose some impact following another song. All I'm saying is the sequencing is aces and I'm never gonna listen to this thing on "shuffle."
To totally contradict my previous point, the transcendent flutter of "The Blood and the Soil" and virile dog bark 'n groove of "There's Always Something (feat. Squints)" are so potent that they'll succeed regardless of attachment or detachment to the rest of the proceedings.
The second side of the tape gets a little more expansive with some longer tracks, best exemplified by the wordy standout "Maybe My Best Friend is a Dog, and This is My Dog, and I Made My Best Friend a Sweater" which shirks the fragmentary concept of many of the tracks for a steadily mounting dynamic. "Profanity-induced Parity Error" follows as an all-too-brief coda which drops a sick Depeche Mode-styled banger in the last 20 seconds. Hope we get more of that on the next tape.
As alluded to earlier, I don't have any credentials to flaunt with regard to IDM, techno, or whathaveyou. But I can say as a person who doesn't get particularly excited about the prospect of listening to a techno tape, that this stuff is definitely good enough to earn a picky layman's approval.

Hiss dropped recently and is available and, as alluded to, Patty Cosmos is cruising along on his second pressing which is also available. Dank audio squalor or introspective techno-bro jams, Big Sleep is here to serve you so take your pick. Or be cosmopolitan and pick both. There's no wrong way to buy some tapes HERE

Sunday, July 22, 2018

*e* - Red Sammy [Green Tape]/Napoleon Blownaparte - Inside a Tree [Green Tape]

Some longhairs out there are all about them long tapes: "c-60, c-90, c-120, who cares? It just means the trip's gonna last longer" or so they say. But, you know what, life moves fast and some of us got responsibilities—we've got no time to waste so give us the straight dirt. These, here, oxides do that in spades, or more precisely in as few spades as necessary. Enjoy Part 2 of this two part series on short-ass tapes.

*e* - Red Sammy [Green Tape]
Long running Midwest iconoclast Green Tape has been in the short-ass tape game for a while now, with being the pioneer of the c-3 and all, it's probably got the greatest short tape claim to fame of all the short-tapers out there. That's right, 3 minute tapes and total commitment. Barrabarracudas' ode to Yellow Swans, Draft Dodging Sexual Vietnam (for Gabe and Pete), is a classic c-3 and personal favorite and these are the latest c-3 installments from Green Tape by my calendar.
I assumed this tape by *e* was about a "red sandwich" when I first popped it in, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The titular Red Sammy seems to be a person of sorts but I haven't completely written off the theory that it's in fact a "red salmon." Although the question is merely academic, because anyone with ears will tell you "Red Sammy" is a sweet slice of shambling, jingle jangle vaguely reminiscent of, say, the K Records clan. Agreeable female vocals, a walking (or rather stumbling) bass line, and a chiming clean-tone guitar arpeggio over a shuffling mid tempo drumbeat. If this is your thing, then this is your thing. The ditty cleaves midway through as we hit the tail leader on side A—not unlike Harry Pussy splitting up "Nazi USA" (my favorite HP track) into two sides of a 7inch just to punk me all those years later when I discovered it—but the brief interruption doesn't keep "Red Sammy" from getting stuck in your head. Maybe that's the game they're playing. My favorite part is the slight return at the end, when after the embers seem to die the band marches right back into form.
Red Sammy. Green Tape. If nothing else, this is a perfect tool to teach your toddler the colors.

Napoleon Blownaparte - Inside a Tree [Green Tape]
While they are not the Green Tape house band (that would have to be Churchburners who have probably dropped 20 releases over the years) Napoleon Blownaparte is no stranger to Green Tape. Inside a Tree, however, does mark Monsieur Blownaparte's first foray into the world of c-3s.
Can't recall if all M. Blownaparte's recordings feature a duo line-up but this one does. We got one member wylin' out on a gift shop spirit flute and the other kickin' up a racket with every hollowed out thing he lays eyes on. They take turns taking the lead on each side. Side A has the vibe of a 5th grade recorder soloist getting kicked out of the ensemble before the big school-wide assembly for going too Ayler all the time. The pots 'n pans man dutifully supports him, even delivering a rock solid beat at one point. Spiritual unity indeed.
Patience is rewarded as the pots 'n pans man finally gets his shot to wig on the flip, sounding like Animal, the Muppet, the morning after he discovered Milford Graves's Percussion Ensemble. Baby Ayler keeps things close to the vest, careful not to upstage his partner's 90 seconds in the spotlight. These guys sound like best friends.
This is the kind of thing most groups of this ilk would slop onto a 45 minute single-track CD-r you would never finish listening to. But this is restrained-free music, which is no oxymoron. 3 minutes can heal all wounds. More c-3s please. 
Green Tape is perhaps the only org left in the world rockin' a Freewebs url—pro tip: scroll down on the home page—so you have no reason not to visit and check out these tapes and Green Tape's other brews (many of which are available for free download on their blog.) While you're at it, make sure you ask if they still have copies of Gang Wizard's God-Time-Man Universal Continuum Calibration Disc and grab one if they do.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Famous Logs in History - Famous Logs in History [Fuzzy Warbles]/Portopak - Bull Inside the Echo Chamber [No Label]

Some longhairs out there are all about them long tapes: "c-60, c-90, c-120, who cares? It just means the trip's gonna last longer" or so they say. But, you know what, life moves fast and some of us got responsibilities—we've got no time to waste so give us the straight dirt. These, here, oxides do that in spades, or more precisely in as few spades as necessary. Enjoy Part 1 of this two part series on short-ass tapes.

Famous Logs in History - Famous Logs in History [Fuzzy Warbles]
I've never heard of these Famous Logs before but when you're talkin' log, the barometer for fame can't be too tough. I mean we're talkin' The Log Lady's log and the list ends there, right? I think I'll table the subject for when the Ladies in the Radiator send me a tape so I can get on with this review.
The Logs don't do anything particularly "new" on this c-10 but it is a thin slab of fine solid oak. Wound up to a springy consistency, not spiky but still prickly, the whizzbang maestros deliver four twinkling, clean-ish toned power pop tunes in under 10 minutes. "Ground" thumps away with a clipped jangle, and a repeated sax-like bleat seals it for me at the midpoint. Before you know it, that's a wrap. "Crawling for Freedom" is comparatively expansive lasting beyond the two minute mark with an actual repeated verse-chorus structure.
"Slabsides" is the hit of the bunch, with a rev'd up bassline and earworm keyboard line replete with a split-second feedback freakout. Thumbs up to that one. Before waving goodbye, the Logs throw their hat in the ring to be the voice of the Trump generation with the one-minute mantra "(This is) Not Normal". Sing along with them, you'll feel better.
I'm reminded a bit of Montreal's Sheer Agony (who delivered their own brief but tasty delight once upon a time) but the Logs are a bit more single-minded in their aesthetic.
The tape is available at a bargain basement price from Fuzzy Warbles. Check it out!

Portopak - Bull Inside the Echo Chamber [No Label]
Ah, the cassingle, the much maligned and underappreciated format. Feels great to get one of these from time to time and this one arrives via Pittsburgh's Portopak. Portopak comes with the disclaimer of "Gameboy + Guitars = Portopak" and I gotta say I always get a bit of insta-apprehension whenever I read "Gameboy" as an instrument. Portopak is firmly in the 8-bit pop category, but the burner on the first side transcends that innately-limited categorization.
After a frenetic intro right out of the home screen of an unpublished game, "Bull Inside the Echo Chamber" jets off to a hot start. Employing my favorite guitar, the Squier Affinity Stratocaster, Portopak a.k.a. Justin Channell lets it rip shaping the track into vintage video game guitar pop. The relentless fuzzy, buzzy bassline generated courtesy of the Casio SK-1 or the ubiquitous Gameboy anchors the whole damn thing with a viscid energy providing an effective foil to Channell's soft, somewhat distant vocals. The heavily hummable sugar rush is about as perfect as something in this vein can sound, at least to these un-chiptuned ears.
The flipside brings the "The Unfriendly Dreamer" a solid enough instrumental piece that leans into bouncy Nintendo pulse waves in a surprisingly fluid manner. It's not something I'll probably ever reach for specifically but it does its job as a b-side providing you a solid soundtrack while you bask in the afterglow of the hit on Side A. Your mileage will vary based on how enamored you are with those signature beeps and boops.
Three bucks nets you both tracks suspended in oxide coating. HERE

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Garbage Man - Tobacco Bong Rips [Personal Militia/Forbidden Place]/Slush - Frog Water [Personal Militia]

When a package showed up from Sheboygan, WI, I thought it might be some Gus Polinski & The Kenosha Kickers reissues. I was wrong. So wrong.

Garbage Man - Tobacco Bong Rips [Personal Militia/Forbidden Place]
This ain't news anyone but there's a lot of irony in music these days. Not so with Garbage Man. They named their band Garbage Man and they sound like a band named Garbage Man. Tobacco Bong Rips is a double-A-side cassette-turned-sludge barge zippin' down the Mississippi. The guitar player's named Nick Duude, the bass player's named Roach and the drummer's named Jeff, so you know you're in the right place.
This thing is heavy on the bass frequencies, at least on my system. The guitar and bass are nearly indistinguishable creating a thick fuzzy morass on "Hillbilly Kick Squad" punctuated by the pop of the snare drum and Duude trying to shout above the racket.  The 49 second "Dinners" and "Engine" drift more into hardcore territory while "Sea Shanty for Planet Hopping" delves into some straight up metal riffing. Somewhat ironically, my favorite track is the "bonus" entitled "Belinda Would Make a Good Car Aisle" which is less Melvins, more 90s Touch & Go.
The bottom line is simple: Garbage Man lives to pummel. There aren't many hooks here, so only listen if you want to get thumped. Don't worry, the bloody nose is normal.
There is one big no-no here though, dudes you gotta get your spine right side-up next time around.
Nab the tape here or if you prefer your sludge served on a platter you can pre-order Tobacco Bong Rips on a blue and red 7" at the same link. But no "Belinda" on that one so choose wisely.

Slush - Frog Water [Personal Militia]
While we're on the subject of band names, "Slush"instantly evokes the vibe here sounding like some short-lived slumrock outfit that split a 7" on AmRep in '93 and disappeared. That sort of gets you in the general range, but Slush, to their credit, throw a staggering number of curveballs making it difficult to actually identify what the hell they are.
The 80 second blast "Your Place" kicks things off in style, riding a relentless riff that sounds like it's emanating from a battery powered amp. Slush quickly shift gears to a heavily 'verbed organ-driven surf ditty called "Predator" topped off with plenty of ride cymbal. The singer is barely a blur in the midst of everything. Didn't see that one coming.
Much like their brothers in Garbage, Slush shows a hardcore side on "H.O.L.E."--but not content to be merely conventional, I'm pretty sure they've stuck a trumpet in the mix somewhere. The title track makes be think Slush might just be fucking with me with a long-ass intro chugging along on a cello riff and some cackling right out of the 60s spooky surf  genre. If the Bomboras could get a major label record deal, why can't these guys? I didn't even mention that the eventual frenetic riot marking the middle of the track ultimately breaks up into a weird lounge act.
"Losing" is maybe even the most unexpected track (are those 7th chords?) with a surprising bit of Strokes-vibes (circa the one good album they made) with a reasonably compact space-prog conclusion. I don't know what's going on but I'm feelin' it.
"Victim" gets your head throbbing again malformed into a degenerative half-breed of "Zoo Music Girl" and Faith No More-style jitter metal. Sweet. They wrap Side A with a campfire singalong "In the Junkyard" because of course they would.
Opening the second side, "To Mind or Care" dips back into those space-prog vibes lead by echoing piano strikes and militant snare rolls hitting the post-rock power ballad target with ease. The average song length just about doubles on the flip so Side B brings different, more expansive and/or dirge-like vibes than the spunky, agitated Side A. The final track is an unholy collision of 50's doo-wop ballad and arena metal rave up, and, yeah, it's about as strange as that sounds.
All in all, this is a weird weird and warmly welcome dose of mad rock & roll science.
Slurp some Slushy Frog Water here.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Ivy Meadows - Zodiac [Moon Glyph]/Capricorn Vertical Slum - "Various Portals & Sleazo Inputs Vol. 1: Tourism" [Moon Glyph]

We have a salty/sweet astrological double feature on the docket this evening from the Bay Area's preeminent lunar linguists at Moon Glyph. Let's get to it.

Ivy Meadows - Zodiac [Moon Glyph]
The praises of this one have already been sung by much sharper individuals than I, so I'm not sure how helpful me chiming in is, but that's a question I've asked since AO's inception. Why answer it now?
From the first glimpse of Zodiac my antennas were up: (1) We've got a handsomely packaged tape with a watercolor of a spirit woman (wrong term I'm sure) on the cover with the scrawled subtitle "Magic is life." (2) We've got a heavy dose of the astrology horseshit that I've spent nearly 30 years ignoring in the form of 12 tracks each named for a sign of the zodiac. (3) And, perhaps most importantly of all, this is a long-ass tape. (Hard to tell with pro-dubs but probably a c-90.) I was all ready to write the "how many fucking 90 minute neo-New-New-Age cassettes do we actually need on our cramped shelves?" think piece which I'm sure would have gone over swimmingly. Ivy Meadows threw a wrench in my plans, however, because after a few listens I gotta say this is good stuff. Meadows a.k.a. Camilla Padgitt-Coles is clearly very skilled at crafting these ethereal wisps and imbuing them with gravity (I've heard legions of mediocre drones in my day, so it's easy to spot talent when I hear it.) She doesn't just drench everything in reverb and call it good. Rather, Padgitt-Coles finds the right balance between too-little and too-much nearly every time. And this thing just sounds stellar (props to Zeljko McMullen's mastering as well).
The extent of my criticism of Zodiac is simply that it's too long. "Taure" is nice but I don't need 9 minutes of it. With the most unambiguous rhythms on display, "Géminis" gets the blood pumping near the middle of the album which is welcome but it could stand a bit of editing as well. Yet, because I'm forever the hypocrite, the longest track "Capricorn" may actually be my favorite. Go figure, I'm just a mixed up kid.
 As with all things this comes down to taste, some folks wanna jam out to the dulcet tones of Zodiac for an hour and a half, other folks (me) would rather have an abridged c-30 but the vibes are good ones nonetheless.
Grab the tape from Moon Glyph here.

Capricorn Vertical Slum - "Various Portals & Sleazo Inputs Vol. 1: Tourism" [Moon Glyph]
Sticking with the zodiac theme, we move on to Capricorn Vertical Slum. The stars aligned for me on this one (is that how astrology works?) as I came across this cassette of an early Moon Glyph vintage (MG13 if you're a nerd) during some bandying about the state earlier in the year. The differences from Ivy Meadows are stark, but I always welcome differences into my tape deck.
In fact, the vibes fit well within the "that's my shit" zone. Buzzy, scuzzy, slob-on-the-outside/savant-on-the-inside hand smeared tunes. Probably a lazy comparison but Psychedelic Horseshit popped to mind, though CVS eschews the against-the-grain, "fuck you" petulance for a more eager-to-please beating pop heart. In particular, "Palatial Estates in Wallpaper" and "The Best Cocaine in the Canyon" are wisely indebted to Marc Bolan's bubblegum stomp and it doesn't take a lot of squinting to imagine a different version of rock history featuring a teenage T. Rex whittling away on his Tascam during the summer of 1989. Even the ballad on the b-side is really a well-formed change of pace in the bedroom genius mold. Eight good songs, zero bad ones, no time wasted, thumbs up. I wish reviewing music was always this easy.
And now for the bad news, according to Discogs, there hasn't been any new music from Capricorn Vertical Slum (or its single credited member, Colin Johnson) in eight long years. Basically, where the fuck is Various Portals & Sleazo Inputs Vol. 2? What gives, Universe?
You are in luck however, because these suckers are still for sale on Moon Glyph's website for a lowly fiver. Act on your impulse here.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Graham Repulski - Success Racist [Rok Lok]

As is plain to see, reviews have been on a downward trend for the past, I don't know, many years. This is not because I lack great music to write about, but because I'm old and busy now. And because I'm a loquacious blowhard who starts writing (and writing, and writing) a review and rarely gets around to finishing it before some life thing happens that requires my attention. I never seem to get back in the zone to finish what I've started. 

So many casualties litter the graveyard of half-written drafts that I'm scared to whistle past the place. Basically, I don't have the time to write a treatise on a twenty minute cassette like in my younger days. So that means I have to change. More specifically, I have to force myself to change. It will be better for everyone; more artists will get reviews and I won't feel like such an unproductive dirtbag. At least, if things go according to plan--which, in all honesty, has never been my strong suit. 

To focus my energies, I've created a hard and fast rule of 300 words or less for each review going forward. A rule to live and die by. A rule to never be broken. On my first try--this review you're currently about to read--I ended up with just under 500. Which I think is a pretty good start. Rome wasn't built in a day folks.

This is a tape I've listened to (and enjoyed) a lot the past couple years but it's proven quite tricky to write about, alas the radio silence. Success Racist sounds EXACTLY like early Guided By Voices. I mean exactly--this is some Wolfgang Beltracci-level artistry. And, just to be clear, this is not a pejorative statement. The production, the hiss, it's spot on. But the truly beguiling quality of the whole affair is the songwriting. The entire history of rock & roll is founded on out and out theft, so hearing an artist heavily indebted to prior forerunners is an everyday occurrence. If I had a dollar for every time I discovered that a band I thought to have an "original" sound had been beat to it 20 or 30 years earlier... well, you know what I'd be. All that said, I've never heard someone inhabit another songwriter's skin so completely and so triumphantly. I mean the only real explanation is science-fiction. Clearly, through a series of strange, forbidden experiments, Repulski has re-animated the corpus or corpse (if yr into conspiracies) of Bob Pollard from half a million beers ago. If not more.

Even the lyrics are suspiciously on point, the kind of idiosyncratic nonsense I've become so invested in after hours and hours of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes despite never having a clue what the fuck Bob and Tobin are talking about. Case in point, my favorite track: "James Run". I have no idea what the "James Run" is or means, but man, when Repulski sings "Where did you go? Where did you go in the 'James Run?" I really feel it. I couldn't tell you why but I do. Over and over again. Or "Crying Machine Shakes at the Moon" which, I mean just look at the title. The money shot, "And counting backwards from suicide..." just pops up into my head from time to time. And that's the special thing about this, most of these songs can stand shoulder to shoulder with just about any from the classic GBV era. So many of these songs have carved little homes in my brain just like the GBV records that came before them.

Things do go a bit sideways at times, whenever I hear the opening notes of "Elevator Tricks" my brain automatically thinks I'm about to be hearing "The Ugly Vision" from Alien Lanes and then realizes it isn't. Don't know if this is really a bad thing but it is a disruption in an otherwise seamless listening experience.

This is the only Repulski tape I've heard so whether this is a life-long commitment or a one-album experiment, I don't know. But it is a success, that's for damn sure.

Oh and Graham, what's a "success racist"?

The tape can be obtained from Rok Lok here (two copies left!) If you have a proclivity for compact discs you can get one from the artist himself here.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sea Moss - Bread Bored [Crash Symbols]

After grabbing my first Crash Symbol at a local cassette retailer (a nice tape by French cruisers Exotic Club) this cassette by Portland, OR duo Sea Moss showed up in the mail a day later, along with a banger by Charles Barabé and Ratkiller. I guess the universe just has my back sometimes.
I'm still a Crash Symbols neophyte but from the few I've heard it seems like they hop around between different sonic territories without skipping a beat which is certainly a favorite quality to find in a label.
The sonic territory Sea Moss fits into is pretty easy to peg in my mind. The duo of Noa Ver on electronics and voice and Zach Agostino on drums would have nestled in quite nicely among early 00s Load Records jammers like Lightning Bolt, Neon Hunk and Friends Forever. So anyone yearning for those simpler days ought to give Bread Bored a whirl pronto.
Sea Moss is at its best when Agostino's grooves swing thick and heavy as on the opener "Diurnal Enuresis" or the dance floor-filler "It's Pudding Time!" building a sturdy, funky trunk for Ver to provide some leafy color to with her electronic whatzits. Ver's heavily distorted and (I'm pretty sure) wordless voice forms the spine of much of her contribution in the duo as in the middle of "Wanna Sea a Trick?" but with her hands on home-made oscillators as well that's hardly the extent of it. Her electronics pump and pulse with abandon and at times it seems like they may be processing the drums as well. "Sea Section" kicks off a kind of Skin Graft-y skronk-punk vibe that seems to balance the three elements with relentless percussion, quivering synth melodies and feverish exhalations finding equal footing.
When it ends, Bread Bored's got me reaching for that Black Pus/Foot Village LP for another dose to keep the party going.
This isn't a criticism per se, but I will note that the tape is not particularly dynamic in its production or composition. Bread Bored sounds like Ver and Agostino doing their thump 'n squelch routine in real time in a dark, moist room somewhere in the Pacific Northwest--the kind of environment where moss thrives, no doubt. There's no studio wizardry here, bedroom or otherwise. The tape's designed to give you a hearty jolt of what it's got and nothing more, and considering Sea Moss is in and out in twenty minutes they do their job mighty well. File this one under the "In the Mood to Jam!" section of your library.
There is one (that's right! one!) copy left for sale so if you're interested hit up Morgantown's finest outpost without delay.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Auxiliary Out Radio Programme 2.0: Episode #3

Finally the long, long, long delayed episode 3 is up. This was put together months ago before catching on a technical snag that I couldn't get resolved before the holidaze hit home. The tunes sound even better in 2018 though.

On tonight's episode: whiz bang clatter and profound speech patterns. Enjoy!

"Realistic Binaural Haircut" Steve Flato Simulation of Another Thing [Tape Drift, 2016] (CDr)
"Sunken Wounds" German Army Diaspora of Intolerance [Dub Ditch Picnic, 2017] (2xCD)
"Communication" Charles Barabé Avant-Garde Avorton Romantique/Transrational Suite [Crash Symbols, 2017] (CS)
"Safari, Church Style ('I, the People, Cut Into Squares')" Me, Claudius Reasons for Balloons [Dinzu Artefacts, 2017] (CS)
"3 Points (excerpt)" Bent Pyramid Trio Split with Shouts from the Sea [Eiderdown, 2016] (CS)
"Side A (excerpt)" Bent Spoon Duo Fossils of Slumber [Holy Cheever Church, 2009] (CS)
"Mmória Doç (Intro)" Zarabatana Fogo na Carne [A Giant Fern, 2015] (CS)
"......" Invasive Species Invasive Species [No Label, 2017] (CS)
"Side B (excerpt)" Red Horse Red Horse [REL, 2009] (LP)
"Oliva #92/Oliva #121" Francesco Covarino Olive [Thirsty Leaves, 2017] (CD)
"C" Addleds Mottle [Weird Ear, 2013] (CS)
"Record Collecting" Joe Bussard No Title [No Label, ????] (CS)

Ordeotraipse Blog:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Interview with Raub Roy of Weird Ear Records

In addition to stitching together incredible, textured sound environments for over a decade as Horaflora, Raub Roy has been operating the Oakland-based Weird Ear Records since 2012. As the name suggests, Weird Ear is a one-stop shop for the best sounds the weirdo scene has to offer, from musique concrète concept albums to furious electro-acoustic improv to electronics-based micro-composition and much, much more. I chatted with Raub via email about the formation of Weird Ear records, his own work as Horaflora and his more recent project Scy1e, record collecting, bothersome USPS policies, touring by bike, and what the future holds for Weird Ear in 2018 and beyond.

AO: When did you start recording/performing as Horaflora? What was the impetus for the name?

RR: Horaflora began when I first started performing in a particular way, with an array of small self-contained sound makers, all spread around the room, each adding a little bit to the whole sound, in an immersive way. Hora Flora was a joke name that came from the ‘Horrific Flora’ that each separate item could be seen as, a microcosm amongst the macro, the closer one got, the more detail that could be sussed—like when you get real close up to a plant in your garden, usually teeming with life, little critters and textures, all contributing to the overall impression, but when focused on, each object is its own little world.

AO: The two Horaflora works I'm most familiar with are The Gland Canyon and "Glibbertone" from the 7" you split with Neil Young's Bromp Treb project on his Yeay! Cassettes label. They seem to be polar opposites in the Horaflora world, The Gland Canyon rolls along patiently for an immersive 80 minute ride while "Glibbertone" spits you back out after a scant 4 minutes. What were the creative processes like for these two?

RR: Ha. Well, The Gland Canyon was the first thing I made that I felt held merit, and it is essentially the culmination of years of field recordings, improv sessions with friends, and solo explorations of acoustic phenomena. That Yeay! 7” I recall having trouble pinning down something appropriate to the format, at the time, being more into long form works, but ultimately was able to come up with that track, which was made on an old iPod touch, using an app called ‘Gliss’. That was probably better considered as an early Scy1e track, but I hadn’t decided to delineate projects yet at that point.

AO: The Gland Canyon is quite an incredible and extremely long piece of work. You mentioned it being the culmination of years of material, was there any initial intention to create it (or something like it) from the get-go? Or was it more a matter of building something out of a palette you had spent years preparing for yourself to one day work from?

RR: More a case of the latter—I had been recording long improvisations/explorations of solo sound sources for quite a while, somewhat as ‘food’ for my sampler, but also with the almost subconscious intent to use these recordings as tracks to pit against each other, quite influenced by EAI and its ilk at the time. Long form recordings (like, 20 minutes to an hour) of dronier material were initially laid out as a bed on which to further build, and just kept adding and subtracting until the computer I was using at the time stopped working—so, the last render of my material became the album. It was finished for the most part anyways, but I think I would have gone through and cleaned up a couple more instances of me chuckling or whatever that had gotten into the render. (The raw recordings were made with deliberate silence or minimal tonal frequency, to allow eminent fixability, so lots of layers are actually happening at all times (even when it sounds like very little) and it was a bit of an exercise to chase down spots with mic bumps, throat clearing, or what have you, so there’s still a bit of that there.)

AO: The cassette reissue of The Gland Canyon you put out, seems like a sort of proto-Weird Ear release as it doesn't have a catalog number or, if I recall, the Weird Ear logo. Do you have any designs on issuing it again as a double LP in line with the subsequent Weird Ear release strategy, or have you moved on from that work at this point?

RR: Yeah, that edition, “WER-000” was conceived of as a test of the cassette manufacturing process, and was designed before we had the logo, I think. I would love to someday have it available on vinyl, though the HF side of the new Phinery, ‘Body Lag’, is sort of a continuation of that work, and at 36min, would lend itself a bit more readily to vinyl, requiring only a single slab, so more likely that would be the case upon the Phinery release selling out someday.

AO: When did Scy1e spring to life? What separates it from your work as Horaflora?

RR: Scy1e was born of circumstance—the daughter of the other Weird Ear, Dianne, came to live with us in Oakland, and the space we had used for practice became a bedroom, at which point I shifted from acoustic-object-based performance and recording to an in-the-box approach that required just a synth rig and headphones, and could be done in any room of the house, or elsewhere, see? The Scy1e project may be differentiated though, as a more purely electronic exploration of what Horaflora attempts to achieve via electro-acoustic means, an exploration of disparate rhythms and interconnecting systems, but by means of voltages as opposed to Horaflora's interdependent acoustic phenomena. Scy1e also deals in short form pieces more readily, as opposed to the average HF piece timing in at 20 minutes or so.

AO: Has the exploration of a different methodology as Scy1e influenced your approach as Horaflora? Or illuminated some aspects of it that you weren't previously conscious of?

RR: I realize that all in all, despite completely different working methodologies and instrumentation, they are still very similar, sonically, and dynamically. I have been trying to get out of the ‘whatever happens, happens’ approach to structure, and into something more deliberate, but so far have only managed this due to happy accident methodology, but continue to seek a breakthrough.

AO: You mentioned your recent release on Phinery, Body Lag/Craedle Calls, which is the first split that Horaflora and Scy1e have shared, correct? What was the process like developing that? Did you always have the idea that you were making two different sets of music that would eventually complement each other?

RR: The idea of the ‘Double Feature’ came of a fairly natural process, being that Phinery was planning on doing some more ‘new music’ type stuff on CD, rather than tape, and I had envisioned Body Lag as fitting on CD better than split over two sides of tape, so submitted it as such, but along the way, the decision was made to go with tape after all, and, rather than having the program repeat on both sides or be split over two sides, I submitted a matching duration of Scy1e material, most of which was culled from my Scy1e subscription Bandcamp page, but more curated than the ‘albums’ there tend towards.

AO: Weird Ear started in 2012 but you've been making music as Horaflora for a while longer than that. What inspired you to add 'label head' to your job description rather than being a musician only?
RR: I had started collecting vinyl in earnest around 2010, and Weird Ear was created to get us LPs from artists that had none yet… the impetus has since changed somewhat, but it’s basically a way for us to own copies of records that don’t exist until we make 'em!

AO: What were some of your favorite records you collected at the time that lead to the impulse to start releasing records?

RR: I believe that the first one I bought that gave me an appreciation for having a collection of my own was Bird, Lake, Objects by Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek, which I picked up at Aquarius Records in San Francisco, with my mom during a visit. We listened to it while making dinner that evening and I got this notion of a sort of sound that I wanted to have on vinyl as opposed to files. Ekkehard Ehlers's and Paul Wirkus’s Ballads was another I recall fondly from those early days of collecting. I think, though, that the impulse to release LPs myself did not come until after I turned a corner and just wanted everything on vinyl, which happened incredibly fast, between 2011 and 2012, living down the street from Amoeba SF, and then Amoeba Berkeley… I have since tapered my record buying, due to having completely run out of space… wanna buy a record?

AO: Your first release, WER-001, is Stand Up Comedy by Alessandro Bosetti which is quite an audacious beginning. What led to the decision to make the Bosetti album Weird Ear's first step into the unknown?

RR: The decision to have Alessandro become 001 was made for us, as he was the first to respond to our initial call (to specific artists) with a piece ready for pressing. When we first heard the material, we were not certain that we wanted such concept-heavy material to be what we put out, having hoped for material such as Her Name or Royals, but it grew on us, and is one of our favorite things that music and art can do, when one’s sensibilities come around to something previously found difficult or misunderstood.

AO: I remember when I first heard that cassette and I just thought what the hell is this? and had no idea whether I liked it or disliked it. It definitely grew into something that I really enjoy, particularly the first side, but it has maintained an inscrutable intrigue to me. Did Alessandro let you in on the conceptual inspiration behind the project?

Stand Up Comedy LP
by Alessandro Bosetti
RR: Well, I think that the recording describes its own context pretty thoroughly, which is one of the things I particularly like about it, as it functions as an explanation and performance/piece all in one, and says what needs to be said about itself, itself…! If much more was portrayed to me at the onset of our vetting of the material, I don’t recall now.

AO: Have you had this "Stand Up Comedy" experience with any other Weird Ear releases? Where some time was needed to fully process it before making the decision to release it?

RR: Well, the split LP with Trumpet Trumpet Synthesizer (and Horaflora) was a little like that, as the TTS side is some difficult listening due to extremely high frequencies that they employ in some sections, but the tensions created are well worth it, which we realized after just a couple listens. I think that having Stand Up Comedy be our first release made us scrutinize it a bit more than we have since, possibly, but more often than not, our releases are things that we feel could be played to people that aren’t as deeply involved in experimental music, and still be enjoyed and appreciated, differentiating us from some purely experimental/noise labels. We hope to continue to skirt trend, not only on the scale of the global scene, but within our roster/catalogue as well, which actually may mean we need another highly conceptual piece before too long, having put out a few collections of more song-form avant pop/folk more recently (Angela Sawyer, Hollow Deck, Owen Stewart-Robertson).

AO: Some of that Hollow Deck record is reminiscent of earlier Joanna Newsom to me and seems like it could garner airplay on "general" college radio without any trouble. However, much of the Weird Ear catalog is quite out there: long run times, strange sonic textures, bizarre concepts. Can you expand further on how you see Weird Ear as standing apart from other labels in terms of cultivating accessibility toward the less experimentally-oriented public?

RR: Ah, well—we have very little intention of cultivating accessibility, actually. We are specifically catering to those who may like the challenge of an acquired taste, or listen, in this case.

AO: In our private correspondence at one point you told me, "I truly am not one for Rock," though it seems like you are interested in other song-based forms as you mentioned, is it pretty much set in stone Weird Ear will never drop a rock & roll record or is there an outside chance the right band will come along and flip your lid?

RR: I suppose there is an outside chance, as we have a couple band-bands we like, but I generally feel that there are enough other labels that would/could be interested in that sort of thing that I wouldn’t feel the need to do it myself. I consider Beauty School to be about as ‘band-ey’ as I would care to get, though, I DO have an affinity for the Italian free rock scene, stuff like Sinistri, 3/4HadBeenEliminated, and Christa Pfangen… though, international artists are difficult to sell, due to the logistics of worldwide distribution, which we have yet to get ahead of.
AO: That Beauty School cassette is phenomenal and one of the first Weird Ear releases in the catalog was the Addleds tape, both are projects involving percussionist Jacob Felix Heule. How did you get hooked up with him?

RR: He lives across the building from us! He is a good self promoter, so pushes stuff on us in a way others here do not… just as well, too many folks here to put out all their albums if they all were as ready to go with stuff as Jacob is—We actually live in a building with a ton of Bay improv/experimental luminaries, members of Las Sucias, Blood Wedding, Voicehandler, Ettrick, Burmese, Jeweled Snakes, Sharkiface, Tarantism, Stacian, Cloner, Tainted Pussy, Foreskin Sashimi In Paradise, Glochids, Homoglochini, Nurse Betty, Foot SOS, Toppbrillo, and Midori Records… that’s my household shout out, so no need to ask for a household shout out now.

AO: What can you tell me about Waxy Tomb? It's great stuff but just about every label description of WT releases I've seen seems to avoid mentioning meaningful info about the project. Even the Weird Ear description seems deliberately obscure.

RR: Jules is looking for a label to release their newest work, at the moment, I can say that. The newest, GridDrip, has lyrics on the bandcamp page, maybe you can derive something meaningful from that? I believe that to decipher would run the risk of spoiling the intent to mystify…

AO: Apotheosis Putrefactum, by Andrew Quitter and Nick Hoffman, stands out as a far darker entry in the Weird Ear catalog than usual (though there does seem a similar ethos to Horaflora in terms of patience). What enticed you to release the tape? Does it indicate a direction for Weird Ear that you're hoping to pursue further?

RR: Well, times are dark. I could see that becoming more of an interest for our output than it had been in the past. In terms of releasing it when we did though, it has more to do with trying to not step on our own toes, fall into too much of a trend of our own output. I love labels that specialize in one particular kind of sound that I, like many, can’t seem to get enough of, variations of a similar aesthetic, Rastor-Noton, Orange Milk, birdFriend, all come to mind, but we are trying to sidestep homogeneous approaches across our artists and releases, when possible. We certainly have tastes that subjectively inform the choices we make, so it’s always going to be connected there (which could be said of any label), but we can pit our tastes against our intentions to not repeat too much, and that should keep us in check for another few years at least...!

AO: Both Quitter and Hoffman have been both making and releasing noise for a long time—Hoffman has operated various labels (Pilgrim Talk, Ghost & Son, Scissor Death) while Quitter operates Dumpster Score. Had you been looking for an opportunity to work with them for a while now?

RR: Well, Quitter was only known to me in a peripheral way, I had associated him with Chefkirk, and the Eugene-Scene, but until they submitted the album, had not looked as closely at his work as I had Hoffman’s. Nick and I have conducted some trades in the past, and he came to my attention probably back in 2008 or 09, through the EAI/experimental music forum ‘I hate music’, as he showed up on a lot of albums I was digging around then—group stuff with the Dotolim crew, the duo with Aaron Zarzutzki, and things that have since blended into a generalized memory of listening from that time.

Apotheosis Putrefactum really scratched an itch for us though, as we love that EAI, and recognize that a lot of friends really like a darker, dronier, doomier, sound than we really get into, so the marriage of those aesthetics was an immediate "yes" when I heard it. Those guys also have a great patience, I think that only the Angela Sawyer LP took longer to come out after it was proposed than that tape.

AO: The Weird Ear Bandcamp page features a label sampler which is a decent place to start for the uninitiated. The compilation culminates with two excerpts of great Bhob Rainey collaborations with Chris Cooper and Vic Rawlings, respectively, and I have always wondered, which Weird Ear release are they taken from?

RR: WER006, it was slated to be a split 10” of those duos… that one got lost in the sauce, for now, at least… we are leaving the CAT# open just in case we get back to it someday… I would relinquish any hold on it to anybody looking to release it for those guys though, already did some free promo via those CD samplers being sent to a few radio stations… get in touch, maybe someone wants to split that split…

AO: Scott Scholz wrote very astute liner notes about German Army curating labels in the way that labels generally curate artists—I know I've gone to their discography several times just to research the labels I am unfamiliar with. Did you approach German Army about doing a release or the other way around?

RR: Scott has some kind of amazing grip on the overall arc of that project, which is a feat in and of itself, but then to articulate it as well, that guy is potent. As for the approach, they wrote us to swap records, and an album idea was hatched from there.

AO: Where did the concept for the German Army dual flexi-disc release come from? It's very unique.

Taushiro 2xFlexidisc
by German Army
RR: It came about very organically; from an initially submitted set of materials which was going to be a tape, I requested more songs be added, as I like a good long listen when I pop in a tape, and at some point it occurred to me that since the pieces were individually so short, they could be split up onto flexi discs, which, since the infamous international postage hike of 2012, we had wanted to work with to be able to offer cheap shipping worldwide, and once we realized it would have to be multiple flexis, the idea to play around with the transparency came, and finally the specific idea about the decoder ring style layout of the titles and tracklist. Thom Dudley, the designer we work with from time to time (he designed the 7” piano roll/computer punch card for that Yeay! 7”, as well as everything for Stand Up Comedy, and numerous others in the catalogue) did an amazing job of creating a 4 stage decoder ring, which really works, amazingly!

AO: That is fascinating that USPS policies are influencing the formats that artists and labels are releasing music on.

RR: Yeah, in January 2013, I think, international shipping jumped from like $13 to $19 for a single LP, and hit independent labels in particular, pretty hard. Much ado was made, and some rickety solutions were suggested, in particular, some labels and distros tried to take advantage of media mail within the us, and suggested to international consumers that several orders from within the states could be amalgamated at one point before repackaging all together for shipment to their final destination (sweet spot is 5 LPs - like $30)… we tried to offer that, but the one fella that took us up on it in the last five years was a huge hassle to deal with, so we turned to flexi discs, which may be mailed for the price of a letter (under $3, intl.). So far, so good, but the funny thing is that most customers internationally are happier to just pay $20 for an LP than take us up on the suggestion of trying to amalgamate and save money, so maybe not as big a problem as seemed initially.

AO: Do you have a particular Weird Ear release that stands out as one you're especially proud of (or simply just your favorite)?

RR: I think I am actually most proud of Stand Up Comedy, actually, as it came about through a very interesting process of give and take between me and Bosetti, in which each of us had specific conditions, and in the hashing out of these, we ended up with something extra special that came of the process of the hashing out itself. So, more specifically, I believe he wanted a run of a certain amount, say, 500, but we had initially imagined doing very short runs, and so the idea to do a short run of an extra special edition (of course manifesting as the picture disc with the ‘lyrics’ running along the record grooves) was born! I have really been enjoying that process, when it comes along, but that first dip into labelhood really took the cake early on. Nothing like your first time perhaps..

AO: Weird Ear had it's busiest year yet in 2016 releasing several tapes, 2 LPs and another dual flexi-disc package by Tlaotlon, but it's kept quiet in 2017, is Weird Ear preparing something big for 2018?

RR: Actually, I had meant to release a few things by now, this year, and put the label to rest until after a big tour next year (of at least the East Coast, if not much more, by bike), but we spent much of 2017 in shock and disarray after the devastating end of 2016, with the Ghost Ship tragedy here, and the fuck in the oval office, as well as the general direction of the world, but have been slowly coming back to life, as it were—we started a bi-weekly event ‘Weird Ear Presents', after not booking anything for over a year, and have started playing shows again, as well as really pushing to get these releases out.

AO: So you're planning to do the whole tour on bike? Are you going to be living out of a backpack, gear and all? Are any other artists joining you?

RR: Well, we aren’t 100% sure yet, but the very first tour I did was the ‘Cycledelic Music Trip’, on bike, from Maine to Georgia, in 2008, with Kurt Weisman. This would be the 10 year anniversary of that, and, while we would love to have it go further, for longer, the logistics of such a trip are daunting, to say the least…! But, yes, would be with all our gear in trailers/panniers, hopefully with Kurt again, and Dianne plays now as well (in 2008 she was literally along for the ride), as ‘Nurse Betty’. We might do a partial drive, and then bike, then drive (like, [Oakland] to Maine, then bike down and somehow resume driving to get back to the Bay), but the East Coast is dense enough that we can do a bike trip tour without large gaps between shows, but once you start in on the rest of the country, it’s days and weeks between playable towns/cities (particularly considering the kind of music we are playing is simply not presentable in just any old small town!). I have been riding a recumbent bike the last few years, in preparation for this trip, though my rig for Scy1e is such that it wouldn’t be bike able in it’s present form—I hope to be able to split the difference between Horaflora and Scy1e performance styles for this tour, and am already preparing material and methods to make this a reality. We had blogged the trip in 2008, writing it all on a 1st gen iPod touch, and uploading at ‘internet cafes’, but since then, cell tech has obviously exploded, so we hope to do a more significant documentation this time out. There is a lot I could talk about regarding the changes between then and now, but may save that for a later time…

AO: What has 'Weird Ear Presents' been like so far? Which artists have been involved? Is it strictly music/audio art-themed?

RR: Well, it’s so far been music/audio themed, yes. It’s a free event at a bar, Darger Bar (named after Henry Darger), in which we have two or three acts play on alternating Tuesdays. We’ve presented [artists such as] A Magic Whistle, Gossimer, Andrew Weathers, Eric Glick Reiman, Dirgeslurry and Scy1e. Victoria Shen of Boston duo, Trim, and Oakland underdog Foreskin Sashimi In Paradise are both playing on the 19th of this month. In the new year, Matt Robideux and The Blues will be at Darger Bar on January 16th. We have generally had an enthusiastic response from the patrons, artists, and the bar employees as well… it’s a pretty small space we host it in, but in the current trend of small spaces in SF (and Oakland) going away due to so many factors, we are trying to do a little something to keep the flame alive, if you will.

AO: Weird Ear has featured some fellow Bay Area fiends like Glochids and the aforementioned pair of Jacob Felix Heule projects (Beauty School and Addleds), is there a specific push to document the local scene with the label, in addition to organizing Weird Ear Presents?

RR: Hmm, not especially, as we had envisioned the label in terms of sonics, live performance, and to have physical goods where none had yet been made available. Glochids was based in Arizona when I first became interested in his music, and I offered to put out his music because it was the only way for me to hear it, outside of one 3’’ CD and a minute of live performance on youtube!

AO: It also seems like Weird Ear might have a special connection to, or at least affinity for, Massachusetts with the Angela Sawyer and Hollow Deck LPs?

RR: I am originally from Western Mass, and we are focusing on a series of LPs by New England-based artists, co-released with Feeding Tube, but that was borne of being interested in the music, not to document the scene, and there was enough New England-based stuff to release that we ended up envisioning it that way and grouping it together. Foom/Foam LP and a Bromp Treb are still pending, the last two in the four part series.

AO: I'm happy to hear you'll be working with Bromp Treb again. You mentioned the co-release series with Feeding Tube Records, which has been one of the coolest, weirdest, most prolific labels out there for a while, how did that partnership come about?

RR: We both were interested in the Hollow Deck album, and I think that I sent 'em the other New England-based material we had lined up and they agreed to split all the releases with us! Feeding Tube, as an entity, seemed to show up just as I was leaving the area for SF, but we have had plenty of interactions since then, as their house band, Zebu!, has hosted here a couple times, and every time I’m in Mass, I buy a good deal of stuff from them, and have about 10,000,000 friends in common, so it wasn’t that difficult a partnership to have formed!

AO: Have any particular labels served as inspiration for the way you do things at Weird Ear? Either in forming the initial vision or currently?

RR: Not specifically, like, not the way I’ve seen other labels cite influences. We certainly have favorite labels, but nothing that I think of as inspiration for WER. Whenever I happen across another label that treats each release as its own thing, rather than the somewhat formulaic (though attractive) trend towards homogeneity in music or design, I feel a kinship, but didn’t start out with that intent, per se.

AO: If you're at liberty to share, what does Weird Ear have on the horizon for the new year?

RR: The Foom/Foam LP, which is another New England-based split with Feeding Tube, and is Arkm Foam and Chris Foom doing tape and turntable improv sessions which are crunchy, cloudy, and chewy by turns. An Attilo Novellino/Collin McKelvey collaborative LP shared with the Italian label, Kohlhaas, and another flexi-disc by Bay Area spaceman, Bran(…)Pos. After those, we will be taking a break from putting out physical goods for a while, as our living and financial situation is expected to be in flux sooner than later, which may see us relocating out of the Bay Area, and possibly selling everything to fund a long bike tour, before the environment collapses too much to launch such an expedition. I will briefly plug Bandcamp, as I have really enjoyed supporting independent artists on that platform, and their ‘Fan Collection’ concept has gone a ways towards fulfilling the collectors impulse, without accruing more STUFF. While on hiatus, we hope to support artists through purchases there, and looking into digital-only WER releases as well.

AO: Do you have any advice for fledgling labels or those folks out there mulling how to start their own?

RR: Start with smaller runs of things than you think you’ll be able to sell, then be prepared to focus twice as much energy on selling as you did on making the actual product. Finding distribution and getting things reviewed and into the public eye is hard, and without that, one may find oneself with back stock laying around for years… which, I always remind myself, is why we like to really take our time, so that we can stand by each record for years to come.

For more info on Weird Ear releases and Weird Ear Presents:
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