Ian MacPhee is taking quite the leap. Well, Already Dead Records is making a door more open, bringing him into the fray with a proper self-titled debut EP, Distance, set for the label’s calendar on 10/6. It’s a stark C30 that’s finessed the edges of last year’s Everything proof of concept cassette into a proper sonic roadmap of Simi Valley’s uncanniness; although don’t be surprised if flickers of Kankyō Ongaku tickle through your ears while listening. Distance returns to that same transient zone once more, finding greater sweetness out of MacPhee’s Line 6 DL4 & Yamaha Portasound set-up.. Material’s been tested until its become a sort of public utility, rendering each environment (the park, the garage) I’ve found myself in as some sort of sauna to the sounds; it’s a no-fuss ambient EP, amongst the year’s most comfortable with its sense of place. Featherweight DAW compositions, to say the least.
MacPhee’s been in the TBD orbit, enough that we’re co-premiering the video for Move, the fourth cut and lone single coming out on Distance. Desolate windy roads on late night drives to abandoned freeways; empty gated communities high under glistening stars; parking lots, the kind where the feel of a thick valley heat rubs off the lone suburban light in the otherwise vacant zone. MacPhee’s Move finds a joy in the emptiness of Simi Valley suburbia. His video as well, just a snapshot of places and out-of-focus zones, recall the quiet peace of the downtown lights.
Field recordings and his drone give that sense of a glistening emptiness, but it’s the few shimmering synth chords that he trickles into the mix that give a warmth and heart. The kind of joy from spotting a white poppy amidst an orange barrage. In live time, the darkness or starkness of its pre-dawn intro lights up akin to a sunrise overcoming those Simi Valley mountains. It just needs a sprinkler recording to remind you of the many green lawns that litter the town. Truly, a remarkable little gem I’m glad we’re afforded to share today.
Distance is out 10/6 on Already Dead Tapes and Records. You can Pre-Order at their Bandcamp
Arvo Zylo has been keeping me in his thoughts I assume. A couple years back, Ryan tapped me to consider ESCHATOLOGY, a massive 12 tape endeavor of 24 noise splits and subterranean rumblings. It’s an essential release of the 2020s if you have the $65+ to shell out and are deeply invested in the practicing of noise and the doctors who do so on a global scale. Zylo sent one my way, but the truth was I couldn’t review that; there wasn’t an in for me in a different listening mindset. I admired it immensely though, and it gave me an in to the world Zylo has sought to curate and network. And ESCHATOLOGY did make our 2021 list and recieved a nod on that podcast, because the efforts of Zylo & the No Part of It label should not go undocumented or unacknowledged; that truly is cassette art at its finest and only rivaled by a few releases this decade in terms of unabashed sincerity and dedication to the noise. Even as I sit 8 stories high overlooking the Coronado bridge, any No Part of It release reminds me of a subterranean world that is out there waiting for the architecture to collapse and a new dawn to rise out of the ashes.
It’s why when I received a new package from Zylo out of the blue, with no immediate warning, return address, or MO, I was both a bit caught off guard but deeply humbled. Something in Zylo’s wisdom had tipped him off that I’d had Amek Drone Ensemble’s Op. 1 on the boombox for sleepy time listening. Thus, Illusion of Safety’s Organ Choir Drone seemed like the next thing that was to be. Even finally listening to it months later, fresh out of the shrink wrap, I’m amazed by the project’s sense of time. Illusion of Safety is celebrating 40 years of unlimited noise potential; releases from Digitalis Limited to WFMU, amongst a long running partnership with Zylo’s No Part of This are just a few of the breadcrumbs on discogs. It all offers a steady directions of limitless directions to choose from, as long as you like it black as can be. While there were a period of 2010s “wilderness” years with no releases, Daniel Burke’s project has been slowly cranking out tapes and reconnecting with No Part of It for a proper cassette return since 2013’s Surrender.
Daniel Burke invite Zylo to work with him in putting together a new release. By “putting together” that meant a return to the catacombs of Burke’s audio dungeon. Combing what source material could either be degraded into the tracklist, or was already a finished soundscape–just in need of the “Zylo Treatment”. It makes for a particularly touching collaboration for the noiseniks; raw Burkian sound, Zylo touches of humid noise or breakneck bass. All the while Burke is able to reconnect to raw materials or moments of triumph, like Eurorack modular sketches from 2010, used for a late Spring 2011 performance.
Organ Choir Drone might be noteworthy for how much it promises and teases an organ drone, but opts to keep it out of the frame. The first two cuts, over 12 minutes, dart between screetchy-leechy eurorack stigmata, or low-flying ambient terror; with a low-end rumble akin to black helicopters over the compound. The brevity of these pieces make for tender snapshots; both Burke and Zylo were feeding off of each other, and what Zylo was opting to curate carefully around exploring all aspects of this blackened noise, especially considering 3 of the later cuts run over 10 minutes. By track 3, Organic Pistons, when we even are finally come ear to ear with a droning organ it lulls like hunchback bells. Rumbling with a furious low end that channels a lot of intensity under an incredible sullen, discomfortingly reverent organ drone. Waste of Civilization mends all 3 of the previous side A pieces together into straight up stalker-plasma. Flashes of light come through, amongst radio static silence and the haunting non-organ drone. Yet it’s truly haunted by a piercing sound, one parallel to ferric tape wailing–if you’ve got old Columbia or EG tapes you know the sound. Quixotic in the best of ways as a listener; an extra layer of immersion to the experience.
Side B comes back bigger and deffer. It opens with a literal piece called Black Helicopters! And it sure does sound like sky monsters scraping the sky, surmounting a steelworker’s drone even Norman W. Long would shed a tear towards. That it happens to features a processed guitar chord loop gives it dimension and a space to expand to and let take over, curling over the chord into a new liquid drone. Groundswell Horns seamless enters into focus, an all encompassing blackened ambient dub cut for it’s first dozen or so minutes. It wisely jettisons any real sense of motion; just crackles, subterranean bass rumbles, and a small growl of horns. It lashes in a thrilling, visceral manner as piece swells into alien noise generator tones in its final third. It won’t swallow you whole, but it’ll really unhinge your swagger. Enough for the detente of Blackout to land as both a blessed field recording sanctuary and a heartbeat-skipping claustrophobic closing to the C50. A baptism in Eurorack never felt so spine-tickling.
Edition of 100 Tapes Available Now at the NO PART OF IT Bandcamp Page
I want to start this review by giving a sincere thanks to Gosha from Skull Mask. I don’t get messages through certain emails or non-twitter social media channels often, but they are open. And Gosha contacted me very much on the fly internationally with a tape from a label I wasn’t aware of, but very much in the vein of what I had been desiring from Radio Khiyaban’s 2022 releases, Senyawa’s 2021 masterwork, or any of the kinds of long arching, droning tones that envelop and win you over. Back in April I knew immediately this was going to be a tremendous release but that I would need time with it down the line. Gosha, thank you immensely for the cassette that has been needed during this summer.
Skull Mask, which is often just Miguel Pérez (Ciudad Juarez, Mexico based if I’m to believe) on guitar amongst a litany of other players in his orbit, have been working on their sound dating back to 2007. They debuted with “Cassette 2007”, but the first major release on the bandcamp will date back to 2012′ Sahumerio. Improvisational drone guitar is a reliant stalwart to several releases in catalog, but it is one based in psychedelic tones akin to anything between eastern asian music or crunchy, lo-fi desert blues, or blackened yet reverent gothic noise gospel. Peréz’s project and collaborations thrive on the space provided to them, both live and in cassette format that has been shied away from for too long.
Now, the private press cassette, like the jazz vinyl, is perhaps at its peak form when it is utilized for two longforms. And Skull Mask’s curation of Iká of two performances is a massive invitation into both an absolutely tantalizing duo amongst a promising European tape frontier. The tape might be an investment for those domestic bandcampers here in America (it’s an import from Raash), but Iká sees Skull Mask in peak form. It’s near 23 minutes fire off akin to a sepia toned nitrate print of a desert film; atmospherics are the main sleight. Afterall, Skull Mask is rarely about the drums, but the fanatical tone that boils deep to its core. As Gosha Hniu joins on wheel lyre (AKA hurdy-gurdy; also he mastered both tracks), he strikes an immaculate, sauntering drone that Pérez’s chords dance off of amidst an apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a sturdy balance that offers a primo snapshot of their August 2022. Side A is a Cafe OTO performance from August 10th, 2022 is a tour de force of that has been a reliant barometer for the low simmering insanity local tropical storms, heat waves, and nights that sweat up and choke you. As that is what the piece truly must have felt like to that Cafe OTO crowd last year.
Side 2 picks up a few days later at the Supernormal Festival (8/13/22) where stately droning and chord dabbling is not the move. What ensues is an immensely exciting happening of Skull Mask realizing itself in the moment and adhering towards “Iká” itself, a true wind piece. The result is conciser, yet more hectic tonal re-mapping of side 1 (itself recoloring the piece as not just one of droning, but wind energy). Side 2 opens practically en media res, with Peréz’s stable junker chords while the hurdy-gurdy drone deconstructs itself; this time as a shrieking wind noise takes greater focus in the mix at first. But quickly, things settle into a slinkier pattern. Peréz’s chords bounce about, a great tour-de-force, while the wind sound never dissipates but grows with hurricane intensity. It creates a deranged crescendo of sorts that suddenly becomes a staggering steam whistle. The kind that shrieks like a siren and pulls out a deep, CHUNKY energy in Peréz’s chords that becoming intensely meditative listens. It’s a riveting performance; as if the intensity of the improvisation always stays above 100 Fahrenheit. Steamy, not sweaty, drone work that has been missing in rotation this summer.
I mentioned earlier that this release came out on Raash Records; a Talipot Industrial, Jerusalem, Israel based label with their own radio show and DIY happenings (amongst a big love for Memphis Rap at least by the prospect of one mixtape for purchase). . It’s a region of tape labels Tabs Out have rarely covered but owe more to. Keep an eye out for what Raash is releasing on vinyl and tape, and if you can, pick up Skull Mask before the tape sells out. Seriously, the O Card packaging of that bird is enigmatic as all could be, and the tactical liner notes on the J-Card is a packaging sleight for the ages.
Id M Theft Able – A Fish Jumping (self released) Ivan Cunningham’s Freedom Pie – One Eye Closed/One Leg Lifted (Bumpy) Lorenz / Reis – Horizontal Hold (Bizzaro Warrior) Averse Reaction – split with Stickboy (self released) Angels – Voices from Heaven (Ongaku) Traysh – Shady Favorites (Husky Pants) Lucas Abela, Rully Shabara, Ramberto Agozalie – Gagu Improvisations 2010 (dualpLOVER) Smokedog – Drinking Under The Table ( \\NULL|ZØNE//) Michael Potter – Garden Portal Almanac (Already Dead) WUUUN – Live 20190112 (self released)
It must have been 1974 when my dad made the mobile. A series of aluminum rods, bent and dictated into 5 perfectly balanced three dimensional…squares? wheat thins? DNA modules? I’ve never known, but it’s the kind of object that looms over the family and reminds me of an underlying rigidity and focus that must’ve been instilled in me by ways of family history. But right now (in the recent past), it’s early June. Dustin Wong is showing me and my buddy, Thomas, the mobile that bestows the cover of his latest, Perpetual Morphosis. In case you haven’t heard, today is August 4th, 2023, and Dustin Wong has returned to Hausu Mountain with his latest, Perpetual Morphosis. Dustin resettled in LA a handful of years back and has slowly woven himself back into the LA Floating event scene here post-COVID. He’s just now coming off of a spring residency put on by Floating that’s blossomed into a collaborative release with Brin for Leaving Records rather shortly.
Anyways, Dustin is showing us that mobile (it is about the size of a small medal). And no, it’s not AI generated, but a legitimate object that exists on Dustin’s desk the same way my dad’s exists above the hi-fi where most releases are reviewed. His just happens to be made from paperclips, brightly colored and a potent reminder of the day & age. At the same time, Dustin is waxing poetic about the recording of the album, discussing the unique set-up of his LA apartment and the otherworldly intersection he finds himself at. The kind of intersection that sees a jumble of noises colliding with astronomical consistency, like his mobile. It all reveals it to be an effort much more based around a sense of place than anticipated, more than anything that can be artificially generated.
Our conversation with Dustin will remind me of a couple crucial things. Firstly, that Dustin is perhaps the most undersung individual to come out of Baltimore 00s scene, itself one of the more psychedelic American regional scenes. He’ll recount warehouse parties and playing with Dan Deacon, as much as the days in the undersung Ponytail (no word on a reunion…yet!); all of which should remind you that his music has a hazy jank that many attempt but few can ascertain like Dustin. Secondly, that Dustin’s methodology of creating music came with the advent of computers. He learned to loop a chord the LONG, PANIFUL way before playing guitar proper. As such, he’s concocted a particular flavor for texture, tension, calamity, and drone bliss that’s become only part of his bag of tricks. Thus, Dustin became something of a journeyman for those who sought out particular digital trickery that could detach and deconstruct the guitar into a loop-finding electronic production.
Perpetual Morphosis is his first proper in the 2020s, subtracting a handful of appearance or his Deathbomb Arc loosie from a couple years back. Dustin’s always evolving though and tests the limits of his electronic production to bring a new element into focus . What Perpetual Morphosis proves is that Dustin was able to internalize the shifting tectonics of LA against his recording and mixing set up into a situated sonic roadmap of the region; neighborhoods that sprawl out, intersections that ram into each other, the noise of a vaguely functioning, but underutilized metro. I’ve vaguely to this with Andy Loebs’ last two cassette releases, both of which gave samplepedic overload noise rigidity and motion need to define “goo core” open zones; the kinds that had nods to the real world but were of their own accord somewhere outside here. And Dustin Wong, arguably the loop-oriented “goo age” guru has been tackling that for quite a while across the 2010s. Still, Perpetual Morphosis does feel like the first time since Norman W. Long’s 2021 Hausu Mountain effort that a roster artist has been actively engaging in sonic roadmapping. And Dustin’s happens to be a dense, brightly layered variant that deftly reveals just how much we’ve missed music from him.
Note the quivers to the loops of Pegasi. The small quippy voices that pop under the Audhumla Thaw’s dub-damaged bubbles. The way Elegant Stumbler’s Atelier well…stumbles like you collapsed down Angel’s Flight on the way to whatever $20 sandwich is at the LA Public Market. There’s similarity and sequential consistency to Wong’s compositions. But each one pervades and spreads out on its own accord! Dustin’s palette often coming to bring a hi-hat or bright “pop” & structure that maps the ways a loop can spiral into that mobile on the cover, or an LA neighborhood can tangle itself into a ball. It should be noted that Dustin’s low-end on several tracks is majestic and thoughtfully expansive; especially on centerpiece “Memory River – Future Composite”. Those massive “CRASH!” keys that cause a 1000 ft drop echo the same way a car in an empty parking structure or a fireworks beckons off into the night. Dustin revels in these compositions, and it’s amongst the most joyous work of his career, let alone an LA artist in recent memory.
Limited Edition Cassette Now Available at the Hausu Mountain Bandcamp Page!