Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Blues - "Sings the Blues" Vol 5 [No Label]

Who love da sax, baby?
It's amazing how much the concept of the cassette tape has changed in the decade plus since I discovered underground tape music. At one point, a release like "Sings the Blues" Vol 5 used to be what you thought of when you heard "new tape release." A tint of green spray-paint and a hand-cut b&w text printout crammed into the spine. Now the assumption is pro-dubbed, high-quality artwork with a 50/50 chance it's shrink-wrapped. Neither is better than the other and the presence of both makes for a healthy tape culture. Still, it's nice to get a "throwback" once in a while particularly when it's as enjoyable as this.
The Blues is Marissa and Max and they both play saxophone. If you don't like saxophone--and nothing but saxophone--you will not dig this tape. The volume number suggests Marissa and Max have been at this for a while and I think it shows.
I love saxophone but even I am a bit apprehensive when I come across a homedub tape of a saxophone duo. It could be fucking great but it could also be a couple jackasses who can't play, squealing ad in finitum. Thankfully, Max and Marissa can play, and they can play together. Not sure if these are complete improvisations or semi-rehearsed but either way the duo seems to get each other. Sometimes they double each other, sometimes they spiral off in their own directions but they always find their way back. The style is certainly free but they're more Coleman than Ayler, pushing back and forth between consonance and dissonance, rather than basking in sheets of dissonance alone.
One of the unique features of the tape is there are bits conversation left in before or after they play. It's not meant to be funny or weird or ironic--with the exception of the tape's final moments. It's just brief bits of candid conversation, sometimes even about getting set up to record. It's nothing intrusive but adds some warmth and intimacy to the experience. Sounds to me like the material was probably recorded via handheld recorder (you can hear wind blowing by the mic at times) which furthers the sense of sound temporarily occupying an environment. Plus, the first track is titled "Our bodies are the Germs logo." You gotta love that!
Now, the real shame of it is, I have no idea how someone can obtain a copy or otherwise hear this. All my internet searches have proven fruitless and there's no contact info on the insert. This is a really great tape if you have the taste for it, so I recommend you snag it if the opportunity ever arises. If anyone has leads on how to track down a copy, contact me or leave a comment.

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