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