Friday, August 17, 2007

Slow Listener – Slow Listener [JK Tapes]/Non-Horse/Horse Head – Horse Split [JK Tapes]

Alright, so I’m excited to talk about these puppies cause they are my first puff of the recently formed and totally rad JK Tapes label run by Peter M. outta Chicago. Also, it’s my first slow listening of Slow Listener who is a combo from the UK who I have been hearing many good things about. Furthermore, it’s the second release I’ve heard from supposed sonic shapeshifters Non-Horse and Horse Head. And they are both tapes! So as you can see I have many things to be excited about.
First of all, I must make it known that this Slow Listener tape is wayyy too short. Now that’s outta the way... This thing flat out slays (Slay Listener is more like it, ha?). Twenty-three minutes of lovely zombie murk. I’m not sure what Slow Listener does to get their sounds or if it’s one guy or twenty but there are definitely plenty of loops going on, that I am sure of. Side-A starts with a keyboard-y type loop circling until it is united with a lightly whirring low frequency nudge. There are some tape-esque manipulations going on towards the end and the last minute sees a shift where a loud bright tone comes in (I’m assuming that it isn’t a new track but there isn’t any accompanying info so I can’t be too sure). Side-A is pretty subtle throughout, not minimal though. It’s slow gentle churn heads straight for your pleasure zone. These guy(s?) actually sound a little reminiscent of The Skaters to my ears. They are physically doing things way different than The Skaters operate, but they achieve that same kind of warm, fuzzy euphoria nonetheless.
The B-side rules too, and maybe a little harder even. There is a tad more open space and it’s got a real nice subtle beat that comes in and out every 12 seconds or so. It’s based around another keyboard loop with total murky shimmer (is that an oxymoron?). There is also someone working feedback swells, maybe guitar or pedal based, that snake around the original loops, rising, enveloping and lovingly cannibalizing them until, like the first side, there is a change up at the very last minute. Slow Listener likes to keep you on yr toes I guess. Again, I cannot stress this enough, straight to the pleasure zone. My fingers are crossed for a new Slow Listener 5 cassette boxset to drop from the heavens and into my hot little hands. Heh, a boy can dream right? Yes he can and will, this tape is already helping him with that.

Both of the “Horse” releases (Haraam, Circle of Flame and The Defeatist) I’d heard prior didn’t leave a huge mark on me, but certainly left me intrigued to hear more. So finally, I have followed my intrigue and, indeed, heard more. The result? Two thumbs up, one for each side. Non-horse’s contribution is a single 13-14 minute live recording called “Feggic Shoam”; with a title like that, I think it’s pretty obvious that you have no idea what you’re going to get. It starts out a little touch and go, echoing blips and cut-ups jumping around wildly. Not too long after, the track begins to find its legs and cohere. I like the second half of the track more I’d say, mainly cause it’s got this great sample/loop of an acoustic guitar that a bunch of sounds are built on top of. There is some new age droning going on, scratchy electronic sounds, a choir submerged in reverb, a pitch-shifted two note guitar loop, something akin to a harmonium, a really wobbly cheese synth/trumpet duet and even what sounds like a referee’s whistle. Pretty nutty sonics if you ask me. And totally live too, which is sweet. I’m still not entirely sure what G. Lucas Crane does to make his sounds, other than he uses tapes. I’m not sure if he records tapes himself to use or if he’s just really into cassettes and collects and samples them. Either way, he’s definitely the only guy doing whatever it is that he does.
Meanwhile on the other side, Horse Head back the tape with five tracks of weirdo boogie slop/romp/stomp. Originally, upon initial listen I picked Non-horse as the winner of the Horse match-up but I’m not so sure any more. The HH charm has been growing on me with each successive listen. It sounds like they’re operating in a trio format(?) Loping drums, jammin’ laze bass and a dirty axe. And vocals, with only the slightest hint of derangement. Each track has it’s own title and all that—well, to be honest, one is untitled—but I like the way they all lock into kind of one long five part track. Favorite parts are when the rhythm section gets groovin’ and speeds up/slows down at will, anytime the guitar takes a “solo”, and trying to figure out what the unintelligible vocals/lyrics are all about. I’m not that great with comparisons but this has a bit of that early 90’s slacker thing going on, as well as kind of a Wipers vibe but carefree and in love with life. Like if Wipers woke up on the right side of the bed every morning. So the Horse Split has what every self-respecting split release has going for it, two radically great sides that make you want to just flip back and forth without listening to anything else. Maybe next time around we’ll get a Non-Horse Head collabo tape, that’d really up the ante.
So, JK Tapes man. Two seriously great entries this early in its life, make it one to keep an eye on. Plus, Peter is super hardworking, dropping batches of twelve at a time, and keeping the prices insanely low (generally $3-6 postpaid!). Most of the catalog is sold out already I think (including that wicked Slow Listener tape which was gone in a flash) but I’d check around distros for copies of stuff. The Horse Split is still in action straight from the label but its ltd. to 100 so hurry if you want one. There are a bunch of other great looking things there too, like the JK double cassette comp and a Tan Dollars tape (a Horse Head side project of sorts) and so on. So anyway, seriously watch out for this one man wrecking crew/label cause he’s probably got a lot more up his sleeve that he’s not telling us about. I’ve got a batch of 3 JK cd-rs to still talk about as well.
By the way, the Slow Listener tape is packaged rather minimally but the A-side is sealed with wax which is cool. The Horse Split is packaged in one of those mini-Disney type cases with an insert with a drawing of a diamond, coins and a pipe and sprayed orange tapes with neat labels. Check ‘em out.


Chandler N. said...

You write unusually well-written reviews. :)

Auxiliary Out said...

Hey thanks a lot man. I do what I can. :)

peter friel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey ! try slow listener cdr on ruralfaune. rules hard !

Auxiliary Out said...

Wow, Peter you are making deals left and right! JK Tapes is the new name in great music AND great bargains. Thanks for the nice words.

Anon... I'll have to check that out. Ruralfaune is always quality. Thanks for the heads up.

noé said...

the new slow listener cdr on students of decay is beautiful too.Check it...
Hey ! good blog auxiliary ! More !!!