Tabs Out | Episode 189
We test Liz and Dwight from Crash Symbols knowledge of their own label and maybe play a few tapes.
Kouns & Weaver – Children of Cimmeria (Unifactor)
Mid Air! – Fucked Up Fish (100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company)
Acid Mothers Temple – split w/ ST 37 (Blue Circle/Sounds From The Pocket)
Charles Barabé – split w/ Ratkiller (Crash Symbols)
Luurel Varas – Riddles For A Machine (Crash Symbols)
Pumpkin Witch – The Return of the Pumpkin Witch (Deathbomb Arc)
Another Dark December – Anthropocene’s Apocalypse and Other Various Anxieties (Histamine Tapes)
Alex Jacobsen – Apartment 2021 / Commutes 2022 (Tymbal Tapes)
Wide Color – s/t (Oxtail Recordings)
Mallwalker – Danger (Tetryon Tapes)
Tabs Out | Ichiko Aoba – Sketch tour tape
Ichiko Aoba – Sketch tour tape
5.4.23 by Matty McPherson
Not too long ago a bizarre (in a complimentary way) video emerged. One featuring a young woman, Ichiko Aoba, playing a festival in Europe backed by the post-Ants configuration of Black Country, New Road. The entire thing looked like a fever dream, or in the case of rym denizens, a wet dream. For on one hand, this whole thing is baffling; a real case of 21st century internet communities having their cake and eating it in the form of a dream collaboration that only a select few even saw in person. Yet on the other hand, that this entire thing exists is undeniably pretty and moving. So few opportunities for something as otherworldly like this to exist happen; even with the connections of internet and new generations of tastemakers. Truthfully though, one’s choice in flannel or one’s adherence to trolling new music lists may long term create such circumstances that end up leading to any kind of western recognition and touring capacity for artists ranging from Aoba to Parannoul.
The resounding performance of Aoba, whose focus on acoustic guitar and piano keys, acoustic fables and stories outside of regular time and place (landing closer to a folksy ghibli world), lends itself beyond her immediate intimacy. This folk can scale with immense finesse if the right backing (chamber) band happens to present itself–as BCNR proved rather distinctly. When she played Big Ears at the St. John’s Cathedral to a full audience, the back half of her set featured four women on violin and other stringed instruments providing that sublime chamber energy. Watching Aoba with her backing band, I felt back in Escondido, watching bunnies leap over the greenery that’s emerged from a hectic el niño. There is something absolutely otherworldly about her capacity for naturalism the silent rumination that powers her work and converts a listener one by one.
It’s also known that because Aoba self-releases most her music and has an immense online fan community, her albums become hot collector commodities. Only Ba Da Bing has seemed to take any note of issuing her material in the US, and yet Windswep Adan/Adan No Kaze remains only a double LP on its 3rd pressing, with no CD or tape edition. Cool! Such things often end with me creating blindspots instead of downloading. So, when I walked in to see her Big Ears performance, I was not anticipating that she’d have a merch booth with a limited 500 copy “Sketch” tour tape. One that currently remains unlisted on Discogs, without a torrent on Soulseek, and only about 3 folks on RYM that appear to know it exists and have listened. Make me the fourth I suppose. And also let me put my hat in the ring here to join the chorus of “Ichiko Aoba makes fantastic music that we should cherish” with a resounding grin.
Taken in first during a delirious jet-lagged capacity coming out of SAW II looping, “Sketch” has quickly become one of my favorite listens of 2023. This is owed not as much to the exclusivity of the tape itself, as much as the raw power and trust Aoba has in her lo-fi set-up resonating an astounding everydayness to her recordings. The tape is split into two side long recordings: A side’s “sea horse” (she uses images for the release) is piano improv that seems to hint at a recording of “Seabed Eden,” a one-off single precursor to her 2020 release, near the end. Meanwhile, Side B’s “garden snake” actually features recordings of “hello” & “asleep among endives” and then another round of increasingly ethereal and warped piano looping and water noises. On paper, this 20ish minutes really could be nothing. Merely a stopgap or small holdover for the heads. Yet, Aoba really understands her space and silence, and uses the tape more or less to reintroduce her capacity for recording and just see what comes from a day of work. It is simply, music to stare out at the yard to; music to do the dishes to; music that you take in all the details of a room at 11:11 to. What a heavenly surprise.
As I sat with the release I’ve come to note that it reminds me of a staggering body of work. On one hand are Dan Melchoir or Ross Hammond, private press folk maestro’s that follow their thoughts to brilliant endpoints. The other hand includes Jessica Pratt and Wendy Eisenberg, who’s early recordings also treated the fidelity as a tool to presenting their own worlds and tales outside typical boundaries. Aoba is of her own accord as all these mavericks are, especially on the b-side. Her two originals recorded on this tape just feel like they could have been on On Your Own Love Again as a moment outside Pratt’s own lost wisdom. Still, as she moves beyond chord change improv towards loop manipulation that would not have been out of place on Pizza Night many moons prior. Her mic’ing that captures the patter of keys, the extra thump of pedal, and a voice that lowly croons knows exactly what the fuck its doing even if it wants to call itself a “sketch.” It evokes just how punchdrunk and out-of-body this kind of recording process, when treated as a sincere treat instead of a gimmick, can be.
What a resounding and deeply resonant sketch for spring, to say the least.
Find it at the next Ichiko Aoba show in Europe. Or on discogs in 5 months for exorbitant costs. Or on Bandcamp if and when it ever shows up.
Tabs Out | a robin sings at night – brood parasite & murmuration
a robin sings at night – brood parasite & murmuration
5.2.23 by Zach Mitchell
21st century connections are crazy. I recently posted on Facebook (a website I try to avoid outside of seeing what the 30 year old ex-goths in my life are complaining about these days) finally advertising my Tabs Out pieces and asked my 200 something strong friends list for a heads up on any tapes they might be releasing. The girl who headed up the photography department of my high school’s newspaper (where I was the award winning editor-in-chief) responded and linked me up with Ian Craig, who she met on a dating app. Both parties are happily married to other people now but still sorta kinda keep in touch through the magic of social media.
Craig was nice enough to mail me a literal handful of tapes, a true treat in the blogging world. Amidst the stack of lofi singer songwriter and campy horror themed garage rock (we love a diverse label!) one release stood out – a clear plastic case housing two tapes with the label “two guitars, semi-improvised” fixed to the back. Turns out that this is a reissue of the first two tapes from Craig’s project a robin sings at night and it’s just what it says on the tin – two tapes, brood parasite and murmuration, full of homespun, singularly voiced guitar duets.
What sets a robin sings at night apart is its approach to form over function. Both tapes feel like a punk rock take on American primitivism, featuring over 40 (by my estimation) short bursts of contemplative sketches. brood parasite is a sequel to murmuration but they were both created the same way: Craig would take one hour to create the initial tracks in the left channel and then give himself a half hour to come up with a response in the right. Craig varies his guitar playing through both tapes, taking on traditional finger picking, furious strumming, and what I imagine is the sound of him karate chopping his guitar. The conversational nature of the music, combined with the brevity, almost makes it feel like a madcap, instrumental reading of a diary. Every song captures a discrete emotion and an immediate reaction to it, warts and all. It’s hard not to feel charmed by this approach, even with its rapidly oscillating nature.
The range of ideas on these two albums is impressive for the creative parameters. Every nook and cranny of the concept is explored. Beautiful melodies are interrupted by noisy bursts. Lilting calls are met with joyous responses. As an artistic exercise, it’s impressive. As a listening experience, it’s invigorating. Craig’s guitar playing is easy to get lost in and the albums’ structure (including the lack of tracklist on the set itself) makes it hard to pick out any one moment as a standout, but that’s honestly to the set’s benefit. As long as you keep an open mind and are willing to let the 30 minutes of lightly improvised music wash over you, you’ll find something to love.
Tabs Out | Mute Duo – 5amSky
Mute Duo – 5amSky
4.28.23 by Matty McPherson
What time do the readers of Tabs Out wake up at? I’ve never asked that and I take the whole asynchronous thing with a whiff of serendipity. I imagine most people who read this get up sometime around 6-9 AM local time. 5:50 AM is just out of that range and too bloody early, but I used to pull myself up then, or at 5:07 AM and walk in darkness to the job site to either deliver pastries or brew a giant vat of coffee. I do miss the colors of those spring skies by the lagoon. Unfortunately, the color of dark twitter DMs at 5:30 AM don’t hit the same. Most days now, I wake up sometime shortly after 7 and if the house is empty, I fill the walls with sounds.
This morning is one of those fortunate mornings, currently being soundtracked by Mute Duo. Do you remember Mute Duo? They were a band that definitely existed pre-pandemic on a fledgling American Dreams. Skyler Rowe on Drums/Percussion/Vibraphone & Sam Wagster handling the Pedal Steel amongst a drum machine, using their tools and the warmth of a studio space as canvas to impart naturalistic, rugged Americana. The kind that shimmers rays of sunlights and shakes the bristles of its tree needles with it. Well, Mute Duo have had a rather busy reemergence this April. There are new compositions for American Dreams, as well as this most curious 34 minute pre-Pandemic (2/29/20) live realization at the Empty Bottle; Chelsea Bridge, Matthew Lux, and Andrew Scotty Young join as auxiliary members that turn the Mute Duo into a Mute Quartet encroaching on a particular jammy sunday I’ve come to admire over the past few years. A thanks to the Sea and Cake as well alludes to a greater lineage that Mute Duo themselves are chained to: intersectional Chicago jamming
5amSky is grounded in a pulsing motorik, the kind of a steel engine on a flat plane where anything can happen. Mute Duo, even with these added members, are steadfast to that particular kind of jam. One that parallels Jake Acosta’s Rehearsal Park or one of the many Unifactor pocket worlds, but with a greater sense of anthemia guiding it. It only takes about half of the rather acute side A to lock into its devious jam as Rowe provides a steady beat for Wagster to draw out all the curls of the clouds and deepest of blues that a pedal steel’s chords can provide. It’s fluffy music, complete with a footwork to its beat that begs for revelrous dance; I sure hope those patrons pre-pandemic did so. Although I must admit the outro’s sudden distorted twang and electronic honkery is more…an electrified rodeo than the piece’s first ten minutes.
Side B meanwhile brings in the whole auxiliary band one piece at a time, slow burn. The nearly 22 minute affair has a whiff of a heist being pulled off, the kind of heist that you always imagine Tortoise would’ve soundtracked in ’99 but were never afforded. It’s opening minutes focus intently on a minimal rattly drum beat, augmented by bass effect and actual bass dancing off it, while a cymbal skips over it unhurriedly. It soon moves to focus on the drones of the bass n’ pedal steel while introducing the vibraphone that doodles about and compliments the drum beat. Chelsea Bridge’s strings meanwhile create these dustbowl arpeggios (that soar) that help complete the piece and move it to its sleek final form for the majority of the run time. Suddenly, the mute duo have concocted a loungey chill out dance track; one rather based in Americana. A dustbowl disco (well, for the mind) if you could imagine that. One that actively integrates wind chimes and electronics (and even noise splotches!) like a DJ finessing live samples into the mix. The B side’s groove is a particular kind of revelry and dance character that has not been effectively considered in recent American tape releases. The kind with such a viscosity to its character! Even as it turns into a deep fried lazer guided melody burst in the final third and drones out Charalambides style.
There’s been traces of a cosmic Americana in the curation that Unifcator and the newfound Astal Editions. Although, I’ve struggled to use or consider the term to describe the loose happenings in these (mostly) midwestern folk music that has its ear turned to krautrock-indebted jamming. There is an incredible canon of work that the last three years of Moon Glyph, Unifcator, Astral Editions, and a few other scattered releases have been dialoguing with one another. Yet, even as these folks have shared bills or acknowledged one another, the capacity for outright trance has been inconclusive, or at least are grounds that are only starting to be really acknowledged. Pulice’s work with Powers/Rolin feels like a groundbreaking here, as does the Power/Rolin certified curation of Mute Duo’s 5amSky. For a recording that’s 3 years old and uncirculated until now, it feels of the moment; a perfectly encompassment of electronic intermingling in jamming that stays grounded to its roots and isn’t afraid to shake its ass. Consider it amongst the year’s best.
Edition of 200 Available at the Astral Editions Bandcamp Page
Tabs Out | Clan of the Cave Bear – Prove Youre Human
Clan of the Cave Bear – Prove Youre Human
4.27.23 by Ryan Masteller
With the intensely unsettling rush of guitar and drum histrionics from Cleveland’s most-pummeling-of-all-time psycho-death-math band (yeah I said it) fresh in my ears, I could barely begin to identify the Homo sapiens traits within myself that I once took for granted. That’s no small feat – I had been feeling the most person-like I’ve felt in a long time before I popped in “Prove Youre Human,” a cornucopia of DNA-altering bombardment at the molecular level, enacted through devious sonic manipulation by Clan of the Cave Bear’s John Delzoppo and Brendan Sedlak. But sure enough, and truly, by the time the tape locked on the finally empty reel of “Prove Youre Human,” I was questioning my own response to the imperative in the tape’s title, a response that transitioned all the way to “I don’t think I am anymore, actually.”
I was pretty disappointed in myself.
That’s what you get, I guess, when you’re bombarded with metallics steeped in radioactive goo, dried and corroded for maximum abrasion. And abrade the Cave Bear fellows do, as each second of “Prove Youre Human” hits with a force that seems utterly physical. It’s no wonder then that my body responded – nay, reacted – to the assault by breaking down at a molecular level, skin, bone, tissue, and organs ceasing to exist in easily defined states and seeping into one another until I attained a form somewhat resembling a cross between the Toxic Avenger and the Blob by the end of the tape. So the joke here, dear friends, is the challenge itself – once Clan of the Cave Bear finishes with you and demands proof of your ongoing humanity, there’s very little – if any – of it left to present on your own behalf. I sure failed the test quite miserably – damn you, you crazy slash-and-burn noise rock! I’ll never not say no to you.
Oh, and guess what? This is a lost album from 2012, released just now by Mistake by the Lake Records, so these chuckleheads have been planning our humiliation for years. Cassette edition of 100.