Tabs Out | Nyokabi Kariuki – FEELING BODY
Nyokabi Kariuki – FEELING BODY
3.10.23 by Matty McPherson
I had to call out sick to work last Saturday. I genuinely don’t like doing that, but for about the past year I’ve been having repeated bouts of Sciatica in the lower left side of my body; I was limping out in socks at 5pm and straight up unable to bend down and pick up a King of the Hill DVD I dropped later that night. When you are 24 years old, this shit wrecks you. Trying to pinpoint the triggers that start the cycles, the recovery routines that work, and the mobility patterns that uphold stability have become mental focuses crucial to my ability to navigate the world; the feeling of what’s going on and what could happen in the span of a few hours can mean the world to me. One thing that I know works is the hot water and jets of a jacuzzi. Water revealed a talismanic quality in that it seems to loosen and shift my joints in the worst bouts.
About this time last year, I found myself suddenly tuned towards a rather unique EP release from Nyokabi Kariuki. There were numerous reasons why I found something to latch onto with Peace Places: Kenyan Memories. Firstly, Kariuki was born the same year I was and has lived a completely different, spatially omnibus life; one cut between family in Kenya and the US east coast. The title alone was enough to reinforce this, the sense of a different space from my own. Secondly, the EP had a strong sense of personhood that was less reliant on synthesizers than traditional instrumentation and field recordings. Kariuki was legitimately moving beyond just merely recording utilitarian spatial music and seemed to be breaking the fourth wall to deliver a personal truth, a situated knowledge that this style of ambient often waves and hints at but often fails to deliver. Kariuki had an incredible mastery of analog elements that sought to inform a listener “you can escape your Leibnizian monadic lifestyle if you take stock of the surroundings around you.” And it really liked water!
Kariuki’s sudden turnaround–this time for a “debut album” on cmntx records, FEELING BODY, solely released on tape right now–struck me hard when I heard it last month. As far as C32s run, this is a brutally efficient, deeply precocious open book listen (and yes, there is a book edition shipping with the tape). Returning to Peace Places after listening to FEELING BODY, what strikes me is the space, the open zone quality to these field recordings, often tied together by water. She is building off of the immense space and vagueness of that enticing release, but Kariuki has turned deeply inward.
There is a small, but burgeoning reaction to long COVID showing up in a handful of releases on Bandcamp. When I talked to Paul Dickow (Strategy) last fall, Dickow revealed that he had been working through long COVID and the fatigue the onset produces. Dickow’s latest Strategy releases have not quite responded to this temporal fatigue if only because they were developed over the last decade before this disease existed. FEELING BODY makes it rather clear in its Bandcamp notes that this is a long COVID album–and Kariuki has recovered from it to a manageable level. This shift inward is a purposeful reaction to trying to pinpoint the resonance, the feelings of a body in a moment of catatonic chronic illness. Documenting that is a radically vulnerable task, as much as an incredible display of finding healing in novel capacities; cycling for the right sounds, the necessary mantras, and the otherworldly spaces that a mind can imagine outside the pain it finds itself in.
FEELING BODY is not much different than its predecessor. 6 tracks running slightly longer, albeit this time the title track is a whopping 12 minutes; instrumentation is less regionally diverse, but still focuses on a chamber set (from bass to violin and now trumpet) amongst delicate vocal harmony that radiates its own unique ambience. It’s a greater focus in classical composition that allows Kariuki to tell her story in manner while experimenting Opener “Subira” is built off of those vocal harmonies and glacial pauses akin to a breathing exercise. One that welcomes you while coming to terms with a deft truth “your recovery may take longer than you think.” Yet, herein lies a promise of recovery and a shift to a new understanding of the body.
The 12-minute title track that follows is amongst the most adventurous compositions so far this year. There’s a return to the motif of water that shifts in pace and tension throughout the piece; yet the quality is that of a drippier, more hypnotic texture. There’s a subconscious dive across the track. Her vocal production leans towards that of ASMR-defusion and immediate focus. If it can drift peacefully, it’s amongst faint clouds of vocals that sound akin to harmonic engine whistles. Yet, there’s a stress and tension to the opening fourth; tightrope strings that want to collapse on themselves. It culminates in one moment Kariuki considers the dissociation of how her body may feel for a while. It’s enough to create a beckoning, fleet feeling in its back third; radiant horns and bird sounds amongst the harmonic chorus, a euphoric spring.
Side B’s “fire head’ recalls recent text-to-speech works of Lucy Liyou. Kariuki fucks with the voice as if to prime the listener to a buzzing, not-quite temporally tuned mind. The repetition becomes a storm in itself, lashing and gaining a BPM as Michael Denis Ó Callaghan’s horn races to an unsettling, sublime climax. “quiet face” is a duet between the violin and its feedback and Kariuki’s haunted, dissociated voice that seems to wander across in search in the silence. When it finds itself out of that black hole, “folds” creates a sense of stately dread from what seems to be an insect rustle, that Kariuki defuses with an operatic lullaby and clarinet; it feels of a narcotized pop that’s been missing dearly, especially as her voice approaches a vaudevillian dream. Its low drone, functions akin to a detente, disarming all the while.
“Nazama” (“I sink” in Swahili), the only other track capitalized outside the opener, reintroduces the water motif. One that returns faintly but noticeably at the end as Kariuki seems to surrender into the water and its potential for healing. It ends the tape on an empowering note that reveals a pertinent resolution.
Edition of 100 Available at the cmntx Records Bandcamp Page
Tabs Out | What’s Up With Island House?
What’s Up With Island House?
3.10.23 by Matty McPherson
I’m not on Bandcamp’s Tape Label Report. In my opinion, the whole thing exists as a ghetto to allow a handful of writers to say “wow look at this label” without really ever getting into the meat of the whole thing. It’s publicity for small endeavors, which is always a good thing I believe, although it also feels like you’ve got writers taking a nominal fee to either a) tell you a label with 400 releases is “really cool” (see Marc Masters writing about Already Dead, which seriously dismayed me in how it boiled Muave down to far too few words with a limited perspective) or b) tell you a label with 5 releases and a barely defined aesthetic is “the next big thing.” This is borderline windowshopping “scene celebrates itself” shenanigans I see all the time in San Diego beer journalism, except it is online on the Epic Games owned website that’ll now have a radio station in Fortnite. As such, I rarely feel like i’ve learned anything at the end of the day or found a new salience. Why do these labels being highlighted…matter?
In truth, move beyond my my finger wagging and bellyaching above. If you want to figure why something matters, well you should go out and find for yourself! Such was the case I found myself with Island House. Self-described as “a little label based on a little island in the East river,” run by a cool dad who’s a self-described member of the post-wook revolution and has released to this day…9 releases.
But it is with a light heart that I can say the 9 releases are THAT terrific; against the grain, what Tim McManus is curating has legitimate heat and stakes. He “started [the label] in 2022 at the behest of his guitar teacher and online friends,” which again perhaps explains how Island House probably made some absolutely insane mogul moves so early on. Getting Steve Rosborough of Moon Glyph to do art on your first release is a power play. Having M. Geddes Gengras, Jeff Tobias, and Jen Powers of Astral Editions write liner notes are also huge net gains. He has European Distribution for select titles. At release 5 Island House did a comp where 37.5% of the material was just German Army cuts alongside Andrew Weathers land art + Prana Crafter “going psych mode.” Like pretty much all he needs is just ONE Patrick Shiroishi tape by the year’s end and Island House officially acquires the “American Tape Label Triple Crown Hat Trick” award good mother of god. Maybe Joe WAS right!
Now, I was able to share a lovely phone call with McManus back on Sunday 2/19, as he stepped out of one room where he was staying in the Hudson Valley that weekend, to talk shop about the label. McManus has had quite the past 3 years, both through new fatherhood and slowly taking account of both local rumblings in New York City & the Hudson Valley; he had moved from a tiny apartment in Roosevelt Island out to Harlem when an opportunity for more space presented itself. There were quick, snappy mentions of a new Kent Ave space, 411 not 285, where David Watson’s Shift has taken up space for eclectic arts, as well as the Pit, a space run by Jim McHugh from Sunwatchers. McManus has been going to these shows, clocking names and faces, partially thanks to one extroverted conversation after another started by Zack Hale; all while even jumping into amateur DIY gig booking that included a rather successful donation gig.
McManus’ ties to both the DIY rumblings in NYC and the Hudson have been crucial in garnering the courage and gumption to go deep into his own label. At the moment, Island House would not exist without the immense support and keen ear of people running from those who are booking at the spaces above, Mr. Hale, Ryley Walker, Jeff Tobias, Mike Horn, numerous Twitter mutuals (including one Aquarium Drunkard writer in the city), amongst many others have all played a role in McManus taking the label to this current stage; it’s an era of mutual help and the strength of weak ties being played to its fullest. There’s a wealth of information and resources these folks have tapped into, reinforcing a belief both McManus and myself share, the kind that “any kind of experimental scene that’s not from your normal…that’s where im happy.” McManus is humble though, repeatedly emphasizing during the call “I’m just trying to get the music out there” working with the goodest of good goobers he can afford. CDs may be coming soon, although vinyl is a pipe dream; the expense and sourcing right now is too hard to make the calls for. Oh, and he’s a stay at home dad wrapping up a college degree; I can attest to brief blips of that struggle!
So in 9 releases, as a result of these connections & reception, the label has actually been able to position itself at a stronger advantage than other tape labels I’ve noted. Most notably (and centering everything), there’s the tape j-card art. While the Steve Rosborough design of IH-001, a Seawind of Battery release, was a one-off (planned to be reissued to match the current aesthetic), McManus quickly sought inspiration and design aesthetics from Astral Spirits. As such, Island House quickly sorted out a design that allows for artists to submit their own art, while also keeping a uniform “peachy” label. Such is going to standout, especially when Island House has taken the bold steps to garner European, Australian, South African, and even Japanese distribution in varied capacities (one tape even made it’s way to Palace Music HQ). Tapes down there that quickly? Well, McManus is going a day at a time though, as he considers which release is next on the docket, who’s to pen the liner notes, and just what kind of local community he wants to spring from Island House. The roster right now stands as a result of a web of connections and admiration; for example, it was J. Moss of the Modern Folk who was the one who shepherded that aforementioned compilation to the label for last year. Two releases down the line set for spring are to feature…vocals! McManus is wagering they may have a stronger reach than the instrumental folk sounds the label has chased so far.
As such, it explain how Island House has been able to practically blast off in under 9 months. A wealth of connections, ample good will, and most necessarily, the space and (personal) time to take on this endeavor have given McManus’ label a chip on its shoulder. To me, Island House is the timeless story of DIY being played out in the best of ways: someone realizing they can be their own curator and documenter, using a web of connections to jump into the fray, and going one release at a time. We’ve lost some great labels over the past two years: Ingrown Records had to shut down due to life changes, FTAM finally decided to close up shop as Peter Woods moves across the pond to teach in academia; meanwhile, Garden Portal’s terminal hiatus doesn’t exactly inspire hope for what the Athens, GA maverick’s trajectory is. Yet, what I’ve listed above gives me ample hope that McManus has picked up that torch and will hopefully continue to ignite happenings around the Hudson, NYC, and far around the globe for as long as possible.
Anyways, here’s 3 quickies on the January, February, and March releases.
David Cedolin – Ligurian Pastoral
Genova, Italy-based Davide Cedolin brought Island House into 2023 with Ligurian Pastoral, an acoustic guitar release with the harmonic potency of sounding akin to being nestled up in the guitar. Half a world away, Cedolin has been settling into the Ligurian region, and Ligurian Pastoral is a tribute to that “tight and bent strip of land between the Ligurian sea and the Apennines mountains”; you could call it a mediterranean climate. The 7 cuts are simple instrumentals that unfurl with brilliant grace; a small drone or reverberation here, a touching astral projections from Seawind of Battery on cuts 2 & 7 there, a gorgeous litany of rustic harmonies at every turn. For a Pat Metheny head, you’d probably find a smidgen of jamming here too! Everything works to create a situated response and mapping of Cedolin’s current homestead, while also leaving an incredible amount of space for pondering and considering. This tape is autobiographical after all, refractions of daily routines, faces, and landmarks that words often falter when attempting to explain the gracefulness of; the vibe is something that you make of it. This winter, San Diego county has had a bounty of storms this winter. Ones that which our rapidly disappearing (see the word “aridification”) Mediterranean climate glisten back to life for brief spurts. When I listen to this tape, all I see are outside are a rainbow of greens, my own pastoral that that this tape gives me thanks for.
Emergency Group – Inspection of Cruelty
The quartet of Robert Boston (keys), Andreas Brade (drums), Jonathan Byerley (guitar), and Dave Mandi (bass) sat down on November 2nd, 2022. This is what followed. And what was that exactly? A 46 minute krautjam rock sesh, one held together by motorik drumming and an absolutely free-wheeling sense of open armed love and magic. Of the three releases spotlighted here, Inspection of Cruelty, is the deepest of deep zoning sessions the label has provided to date. The two parts of Inspection of Cruelty are ample enough to work on their own without the connecting piece, yet taken together you have an ample piece that sees each member figure their own aura. Over the course of the 46 minutes, each player is offered ample time to excel at a solo moment as their brethren tune down and lower their instruments either to a one-track mindset or fade out entirely. What results is a fully-fleshed, breathing document of the Emergency Group. In its best moments, Mandi holds down a bass groove, Brade locks into a cymbal rush or lays down a new fill-line, and Boston cranks out key noise or Byerly takes the guitar and wails. Or…they just enter that Autobahn cruise mode where you ride a riff out because it just sounds so goddamn pleasing and flush with flavor. Inspection of Cruelty is not going to create any new krautrockheads, but more or less just confirm how deep of one you already are if you’ve made it this far.
Joseph Allred – For the Fallen Dawn (to be released… soon!)
A tape of acoustic guitar (not quite, there’s more than one stringed instrument)? Takoma school indebted (perhaps, have you seen his CV)? Featuring a poem by Jen Powers (they’re label alum after all)? Are we sure this wasn’t an Astral Edition?! No no! For the Fallen Dawn is a continuation of Joseph Allred’s slick guitar acoustics and natural ambience that have been featured from Garden Portal to Scissor Tail and even Feeding Tube; he’s not exactly a celebrity, although you garner the sense Allred’s style is “discogs bait price” worthy as many of his tapes have become collectables. For the Fallen Dawn has the same pleasure that I found when I was deep into Ross Hammond’s brilliant cassette for Full Spectrum last year. Over 36 minutes, Allred plays to the night sky and ambience of the local crickets and rustling critters in the bushes. 8 cuts are split between 2 modes: short snippets, duets meant to bring in space for the ambience to fulfill and counter, amongst wild sprawling 7-9 minute guitar epics that contain all the stoicism a mighty fine 10 gallon hat can afford. The pleasure are simple and ample, overflowing even as Allred unites strains of country and folk into a sprawling psychedelic vision of his own accord. Ladysthumb and None Are Born or Die are favorites, cunning moments where he launches into an acoustic freakout that sends a jolt to my system.
Tabs Out | Multiform Palace – New Form Harmony
Multiform Palace – New Form Harmony
3.8.23 by Ryan Masteller
With all this talk of defiant jazz, I can’t help but thinking that Brooklyn’s Multiform Palace is riding the crest of the wave into eternal success. You can’t fault anyone for doing such a thing; you grab a hook, you make that hook work itself into everyone’s subconscious, until you’re just walking down the street one day and every jerk on the block is humming the hook you came up with. It’s an absolutely foolproof, solid gold, #1 business plan for the aspiring musician to follow. Can’t fail. Eternal success.
Multiform Palace feels like the perfect conduit for a defiant jazz typhoon. Cutting and pasting (which is called “sampling” to those of you who venture beyond Microsoft Word) from generously hooky sources (none of which I’m at liberty to divulge, if in fact I knew what they were), Multiform Palace slow-cooks a head-nodding jam sesh and lets it marinate in the tape deck in the sun. What results is a generously basted and righteously smeared kaleido-topia, famously crackling with the sharpest beats. It comes off as something that SHOULD be on the 100% Bootleg label, right next to the latest Mid-Air! joint.
Adding a little EXTRA defiance is the fact that Multiform Palace got “voices, ideas, and inspiration” from The Guerilla Art Action Group’s 1970 action interview on WBAI radio (which has actually been released on vinyl). Read a little bit about their works “Blood Bath” and “And Babies” in protest of the Vietnam War and the MoMA board’s complicity in and ties to companies involved as proponents of it. As our friend Dr. Peter J. Woods is fond of saying, FTAM! (I think that means something against art museums, and there’s a bad word in there somewhere.)
Tape out on Specious Arts – what are they gonna bring us next?
Tabs Out | Genital Shame – Lion Piss + Arm Vulnerability
Genital Shame – Lion Piss + Arm Vulnerability
3.6.23 by Matty McPherson
There was a point before my decent headphones broke and the holidays happened and it was suddenly the middle of February. It was a sunsoaked November day before Thanksgiving and I had to leave the house; I needed a book I had spotted a week earlier in Berkeley that I knew was only a bus trip away. I had been on something of a Scarcity kick around that time, with a burgeoning interest in Aveilut’s symphonic characteristics that often pushed the music out of black metal and into straight gothic industrial noise scowling. There was a thought line and even immense nods to downtown music that I was inkling with more than approaching it from straight black metal tropes. It reinforced a personal belief that the fidelity and speed of the tape are second to the pure underlying riffage and unique displays of intensely carnal visions. That is when I mend with black metal in the present.
I was a bit dazed I’ll admit, especially when I had finally taken a dive into Genital Shame’s Lion Piss + Arm Vulnerability cassingle/EP type beat. When I heard it back then I was gripped by the ambience, a different intensity outside of immediate black metal sound aesthetics that gave me something to grip on to. For, West Virginian Erin Dawson and her C15 is a concise, deft batch of homespun cuts that display a sound palette that is not so much as going full into black metal, but seeing it in a larger tapestry that connects to varying intensities of Dawson’s own endeavors in her life. To make this music is a personal project and approach it from this manner can be seen as a critique, but that can often miss reveling in the noise of a singular entity so esteemed and precise and Dawson.
Her sound is still perhaps assuming an evolved form beyond what we have been left with today. This is not appalachian folk-tinged black metal, nor symphonic black metal, nor blackened pop metal; Dawson’s 3 cuts err closer to though to the revolutionary “last flag standing” apocalypse worlds of Constellation Records. The emphasis on acoustic guitar (specifically during the final cut) put it more towards Mt. Silver Zion’s somber soundscapes, with tingles of the raw catharsis that has always defined Efrim. However, both Gnostienne and Ego non sum trust-fund puer recall the work of the sorely missed Lungbuter–not exactly a metal outfit mind you, but an absolute wonder trio when it came to fuzz. And across those swift blast beats and moments of jagged droned out ambience, there’s a lotta fuzz on the hi-fi. And yet, these 3 cuts all retains a carnal, jagged vision that also entices and invites comparison towards code-breakers (Liturgy), agnostics (Sprain), and revolutionary spirits (Agriculture) without playing to black metal trope adherently. Needless to say, it fits well with that weird lineup of Flenser tapes I’ve started to amass, and is quite pretty as the newest Pink Tape in the collection.
The tape sat in a holding cell without much of a second consideration of when to revisit or WHY NOT revisit it daily. I’ve re-opened the tape for the first time in a few moths and I’m still entranced by it’s simplicity. More than a mere proof of concept, Genital Shame’s “Lion Piss + Arm Vulnerability” is a staunchly gripping introduction to Dawson’s work. From its snarled swagger to acoustic vulnerability, whatever she’s cooking with down the line is to be of consideration.
Limited Tape Available at the Genital Shame Bandcamp Page
Tabs Out | Episode #186
hyphyskazerbox – Manic In Your House (Suite 309)
Mid-Air! – MP3 From Space (100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company)
L0-Tek Larry – 500 Beats (100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company)
Cocaine Apartments – s/t (Moon Myst Music)
Erang – Prisonnier du rêve (Dungeons Deep)
Sungod – Starscape (Crash Symbols)
Skin Prisoner – Separation (Soft Antagonism)
German Army – Already in Existence (Phormix)
Nick Stevens – Catching Falling Knives (GALTTA)
Midnight Minds – Angsty Bodies (Tone Deaf Tapes)
N. Hertzberg – Jazz Hands (Personal Archives)
Mustat Kalsarit – Yö (Cudighi Records)
Snitz – Tales of the Rat 1 (Strange Mono)
V/A – Another Minute C1 Compilation (Breathmint)