Jamie Levinson – Trouble in Mind Records Explorers Series Vol. 24
12.1.22 by Ryan Masteller
How long was I out for? It doesn’t feel like that long, but I guess a lot can happen in a year and a half away, which is how long it’s been since I last wrote about the TAPE SCENE. And it’s not like I was unconscious or in a coma or anything. I was just doing non–TAPE SCENE stuff, which, I suppose, is a much better use of my time anyway. In fact, I don’t even know why you’re paying attention to me right now, much less reading past this sentence.
Know what Trouble in Mind Records has been up to since the spring of 2021? Releasing TWENTY-SIX friggin’ experimental tapes under the Explorers Series banner, that’s what! The overlap is uncanny, but I have no idea why the label waited until I was gone to drop these bad boys. It’s like they didn’t want me noticing these awesome cassettes, even though “Explorers Series” is the EXACT kind thing to title a run like this and make me want to mainline the sound directly into my parietal lobe. That’s the hearing part of the brain, right? Who cares! JUST HOOK IT TO MY VEINS!
I’ve already forgiven Trouble in Mind, as well as Jamie Levinson, because Vol. 24, Jamie’s self-titled “solo debut” (get in on the ground floor, people), bubbles and reverberates an ever-expanding joyous repertoire, foaming to fill in the everyday emotional cracks and strengthen the perpetual vibe that keeps you putting one foot in front of the other. (Also because Trouble in Mind probably didn’t diss me on purpose; in fact, they likely weren’t even thinking of me.) Yeah, that’s right, Jamie milks that mana spring for all its worth, self-actualizing through restorative tonics and melodic oscillations.
On Jamie’s journey toward the inner reaches of the mind, the results meld with those of the host of other like-minded “explorers,” emptying into the great mesmeric void. I felt like I floated there, dreaming like a dreaming dreamer until I was awakened by my own sense of completed restoration. I felt the weight of my time doing other things leave me, freeing me to grab that true inner joy I’d misplaced, a joy that can only be triggered by synthesizers and electronic programming. Was my awakening an unnatural occurrence, a lie? Jamie, please! It was dead truth.
So in the end, yeah, maybe I missed a bunch of stuff, but it was worth it. Because now I get to come back and catch up on a bunch of amazing things, like Vol. 24 of Trouble in Mind’s Explorers Series! And the other twenty-three releases before it. And the two after it. What a time to be alive!
Tomomi Kubo and Camila Nebbia – Polycephaly
11.29.22 by Ryan Masteller
One time college me was playing Radiohead’s “Kid A” at the record store and these eight graders were like, “Whoa… what is this? They’re making such crazy sounds!”
I sniffed derisively like the jerk I truly was and said, “That’s Radiohead, and what you’re hearing is an Ondes Martenot, which the band is newly applying to their sound on this record. Olivier Messiaen used it in his compositions too. Now get the hell out of my store you little shits!” They ran like the wind and probably listened to Green Day in whoever’s mom’s car they came to the mall in.
I’m not gonna lie, Radiohead brought the Ondes Martenot to my attention, and I should have been nicer to those pesky little shits, but the past is the past, and Tomomi Kubo is the future – the future of the Ondes Martenot at least. Kubo and equally future-facing saxophonist Camila Nebbia here team up on “Polycephaly,” a fully improvised set of ingenious interplay that I can’t help but sitting here and listening to in wonder, fully taken by the grand statements and the delicate explorations, the ebb and flow of masterful collaboration by musicians at the top of their game. I’ve still got a bit of goggle-eyed little shit in me too, apparently.
“Polycephaly” is a condition of having two heads supported by a single torso, and this metaphor here is applied to the mind-meld undergone by Kubo and Nebbia during the recording process in 2021. The dynamic they create between two disparate instruments oddly coalesces into gleeful squiggles and joyful melodic conversations, a delight that can clearly only be accomplished when one person shares two heads (and also hands to help play the instruments). The pieces breathe, the sax runs dancing against the sparkling proto-electronics of the Ondes Martenot, sometimes vice versa as the Ondes blurts, bleats, or otherwise wavers upon Nebbia’s foundation, or sometimes even blank space.
Listen close, too, and you’ll hear mouth sounds or jittery speech for a little extra flavor.
So maybe I was wrong all those years ago to take out my insecurities on the less deserving. Maybe I should have been – heck, should be, in general – just a little bit nicer, encouraging people to discover new things for themselves, things that may even change the way they think about music or culture or even the world. At least I hope to encounter that benevolent sentiment, one of easy forgiveness and understanding, when I show up to Tripticks Tapes headquarters and demand to speak to whoever greenlit this awesome-ass tape. I’m really good at demanding stuff and getting my way.
Oh right, be nice! Gotta remember that.
Sunflower – Plain Sight
11.28.22 by Matty McPherson
There’s a singular quandary that every plunderphonic-edged beat tape has had to consider for a quarter century: just what does your soul look like? The beat tape is a soul searching endeavor, a maneuvering that can become a personal exploration of pleasure and philosophy. Truth is, they’ll rarely warrant the cross examination; a DJ is of a moment and capturing the mix to digital files or ferric HAVE to be insistent, sleek achievements. Is that what the Australian plunderphonic only known as Sunflower brings to the sound system with Plain Sight? It came out back in summer on the well-inclined Third Kind Records, a UK label that always has keen ear for globe spanning electronic in tantalizing packages.
Well more or less, Plain Sight eschews a dogged-street wisdom with a cunning sardonic wit. It features kicked out breakbeats, soulful horns and harmonica, amongst a litany of pop winks and nods (most notably, Lean Cuisine-frozen meal aisle radio staple, the drum fill of Toto’s Africa); it all oozes to asticky fondue perfection that’s brevity also begets replayability. Sunflower’s tracks are short microcasts–boogieable blips that literally aim straight for the jugular in pathos and insight. The way each track’s hot runtime and odyssey of sounds give it that feeling of old film prints of trailers striking a silver screen. Pulped out all the way through and a genuine fried out delight for bopping and grooving. So little music this year has been reveled as such.
Whether or not that aim was achieved through a crack commando of blunt-laden psychedelic and at times, vaporous beats, or samplicious vocal quips changed on a dime each listen I gave it; truly a tape that keeps on giving in the realizations each sample will give. What is clear though, is that Sunflower is probably the most dogged and righteously pissed plunderphonic since Nevativland burst on the scene with album art that featured guns taken to exorbitant levels. The tape’s samples and swagger has a running motif of gun violence, war on drugs, and American iconoclasm; all critiqued in various contexts functioning as an unabashed agit-pop statement. For its 17-ish minute runtime, that’s smokin’.
It’s no jam-con, nor a pre-emptive strike. Yet, Sunflower’s resilience and begging of this question feels less of an armchair argument. More a blunt attempt to expose fatal error (and reignite the shock of it!) found within a broken system. If a beat tape can be a soul search, then this is akin to a mirror exposing a cultural soul gone jive if not outright blank. One thing is assured that it grows more hollow practically each day as unfortunate exercises in Second Amendment freedoms land in break rooms, school campuses, community spaces, or wherever in this bloody country. A cyclical cycle. Perhaps one the tape knows well enough to have the full run pressed to the a-side and its backing.
Nirvana (1) – Sway (1) (self released)
Jeanne Vomit-Terror – Guileless (Desperate Spirits)
Nose Bled – Demo II (self released)
Synth Bard – Advanced Goldbox Renditions (Ephem Aural)
Warren Enström – Electrics (FTAM Productions)
YlangYlang – Full Moon Solo Piano (Phinery)
Bastard Noise & Merzbow – Retribution by All Other Creatures (Relapse)
City of Caterpillar – Mystic Sisters (Relapse)
T.J. Borden – Bob Hope Airport Train Station (Alien Passengers)
Himukalt – Conditions of Acrimony (The Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Weyes Blood – And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop)
Lou Reed – Words & Music, May 1965 (Light in the Attic)