Tabs Out | Sexual Jeremy – The Real Sexual Jeremy

Sexual Jeremy – The Real Sexual Jeremy

12.7.22 by Peter Woods

It’s easy to say that there will never be another band like US Maple. The Chicago quartet, in a lot of ways, broke the mold of what noise rock could be, sitting somewhere between the sensibilities of a long running free improv group and a classic rock band. US Maple always sounded like they were on the verge of collapsing, barely held together by a few key moments of coherence that would surprise again and again, even after repeated listens. How someone else could pull off this kind of tightrope act seems nearly impossible.

But that hasn’t stopped the entire Denton, TX scene from trying.

In what seems like a never-ending slew of new collaborations with the best band names in the world (Gay Cum Daddies, Bukkakke Moms, Big Hole, Cherry Garcia and the Bong Bongs, Chris Angel Mind Freak, I Hate Basketball, The Bozo Big Shit Garbage Band, … I can go on), the musicians that comprise Denton’s scene constantly pull from the same source material that made US Maple what they were: no wave, postpunk, experimental music of all strands, and a light sprinkling of the cocky classic rock attitude that all of these genres supposedly mock. And while Denton’s scene stretches into a wide spectrum of sonic territory, groups like Sexual Jeremy are not only showing that musicians can still inhabit the ground that US Maple broke so many years ago but you can expand, iterate on, and reimagine that ground as well.

On “The Real Sexual Jeremy,” the band’s most accomplished release to date (not to mention my favorite album of the year), Sexual Jeremy draws directly from the playbook that made Long Hair in Three Stages so quintessentially US Maple but filters it through a modern lens. Long stretches of meandering guitar noodles and tight drum explosions sit alongside heavy, angular riffs in time signatures that only God can calculate and underneath deeply odd lyrics that are sometimes spat directly into your face and sometimes growled at you like a dog and sometimes recited in a tone that can only be compared to a teenager being forced to recite the declaration of independence in their least favorite class. The vocals never mimic the impression of an old man dying that Al Johnson perfected over five albums, but it sounds just as a weird.

To jump to another set of references, the album sounds like The Conformists (another band that pulls from the US Maple playbook) listened to a lot less Fugazi and a lot more Load Records bands from the early 2000s. Sexual Jeremy doesn’t have quite the same angular sensibility as The Conformists, but it still peaks through while a whole host of other influences get moved to the foreground. The coexistence of the hypnotic and glittery polyrhythms of “Bowls of Fruit,” the frenetic (and nearly Mars Volta-esque) prog sensibilities of “Chloe from the Strange,” the almost thrash anthem that is “Hell and Suck,” and the jagged riffs plus even more jagged vocals formula that defines opener “My First Rodeo” speaks to the diversity and complexity of these tracks. Especially because these stylistic jumps don’t just happen from song to song but from section to section, refusing to ever go in a direction the listener might expect (including, but not limited to, returning to riffs you heard so long ago you thought they were part of another track).

The pinnacle of the album, however, is “Came,” a seven-and-a-half-minute behemoth of a jam that begs you to try air drumming along with it just so it can trip you up and laugh in your face in front of your friends. The song begins with a barely audible yet hypnotically repetitive two-note guitar riff, slowly gaining in volume before the bass and drums announce themselves with a swift kick to the stomach in the form of an angular, polyrhythmic, and barely comprehensible post-punk sort of riff that ends with a full band turn around that sounds like they pulled it straight from the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Free noodling ensues and then the riff kicks back in, but after one repetition the guitars just… sort of… speed up? But everything else is the same? And then they slow down? And then just start doing whatever they want? And then everyone is back together on that Looney Tunes thing. Then everyone is going wild but the turnaround comes back and then more feedback and noodling and then the turn around one last time before a new, quieter guitar riff begins that is, again, in some time signature that demands a TI-86 be used while figuring it out. Over the top of this comes howled and delayed vocals that sound like they were straight up stolen from an ONO record. And then THAT stops and a NEW two note riff kicks in that is so goddamn heavy and then a one-note riff that I’m pretty sure is in 1/1 kicks in as the feedback moves to the background and then the foreground.

Then it all just stops on a dime. And as the cutsie 4/4 riff that opens “The Quick Trip” starts up, all you can do is ask what the hell just happened before forcing yourself to just move on.

Not to belabor the comparison, but mapping this track reveals exactly how Sexual Jeremy can so easily tie into US Maple’s whole vibe without simply recreating their exact sound (even though they do sound like them sometimes). Writing out what happens in the song from moment to moment makes the whole thing sound like an absolute jumbled mess but when you listen to it, it all becomes crystal clear. Because at the core of Sexual Jeremy’s music (and the music of their predecessors), there exists an internal logic that can be felt and experienced but can never be fully understood or known from an outsider’s perspective. Sure, you can follow along, but only the people making the music can really understand (really know) what’s happening. And while that makes for highly cerebral music, the fact that it hits so goddamn hard makes you forget that part of the band in the moment. In turn, the album demands an endless number of repeated listens to pull apart and put back together the brains and the guts that can’t actually ever be separated in a sound like this.

But eventually, if you’re like me, you’ll just give up on trying to “figure it out” and let the album pull you back into it’s weird, encompassing, and enthralling world. Again, and again, and again.

Tabs Out | Jamie Levinson – Trouble in Mind Records Explorers Series Vol. 24

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!

Tabs Out | Tomomi Kubo and Camila Nebbia – Polycephaly 

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.

Tabs Out | Sunflower – Plain Sight

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.

Limited Edition Cassette 80 Only at the Third Kind Bandcamp Page