Tabs Out | MANAS – Alone We Are Alone As Far Down As the Sediment, Novatron – self titled

MANAS – Alone We Are Alone As Far Down As the Sediment, Novatron – self titled

11.15.22 by Matty McPherson

To put it forth simply, we need rollicking snapshots of bros being dudes. Preferably ones with the drums and guitars and whatever noisy cacophony they want to make. Personally, I find these recordings to be revelatory listens, taking all of the energy that the crescendo’d end of post-rocking has to offer and imbuing it with a life force that will go out kicking and screaming. There is nothing stately about the mosh pit when it hits with an endless, tumultuous energy of drums and guitar blowing up on top of each other. This is what the pre-and-post exclamation point change GYBE collective has championed for decades: a sound of buildings collapsing as a cacophony of tangible excitement.

I could use this to describe a couple handy releases from this year. One of which is the MANAS tape, Alone We Are Alone As Far Down As the Sediment (ft. N.R. Safi), from earlier this year that captures a 28 minute, 2019 performance from Asheville, North Carolina. Tashi Dorshi and drummer Thom Nguyen’s vision of free-jazz is that kind of raw catharsis that has a clearer lineage in between Bill Nace and Lightning Bolt than jazz, but also that’s why when they come together it has a blasting concept. Heavy in-the-red with crunch, the duo and Safi strike like lightning. An endless barrage of noise–the kind delivered like its a m60 being fired until it goes click–is streamed from the ferric directly through the headphones and to the brain. It’d be too unnecessary to describe it much further, maybe outside a comparison to the great 75 Dollar Bill–if Che and Rick gave everyone speed at their Ornette Coleman closer cover they perform and then proceeded to let it rip, that is. That the tape itself had to be split across side A and side B is perhaps its only egregious error. Yet such is a minimal critique. For Radio Khiyaban, a Netherlands based label specializing in “underground transmissions on arts culture centered around the greater SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) region,” the tape is another huge play and curatorial boon. The peerless, situated works the label is pulling out of Europe will peg it a label to watch in 2023.

The other release that has been recently receiving a huge burst of enthusiasm on the hi-fi is Novatron’s self-titled recordings. It comes out of Berlin-based Kitchen Leg Records. Limited edition tapes abound of cut-n-paste j-card aesthetics; nothing can be as seems even if a “weirdo” label may be hiding at the edges of a many Bandcamp pages. Anyways, Novatron is the dupo of Tatsumi Ryusui (gtr) and Itta Nakmura (drums). The duo take a garage-fidelity approach to creating massive valleys and peaks of crashing undistilled noise rock goodness. The promise of this tape’s ability to travel “to the infinite and back to your seat” is indeed with merit. The a-side sputters and refuses to let up its tenacious energy, as endless guitar drones and solos firebomb the mid-frequencies; its raw energy the source of about five different genre classifications from drone to acid psych, which make it such a versatile front half. Meanwhile, the ever-stable drumming of Nakamura, is a bellwether for the low end. Amongst a litany of delay pedals, help terraform the rollicking garage sound into an almost-techno frenzy of “Not Yet”, the kind of noise machinations that anyone could rack an infinite wombo combo out of. It’s the kind of energy that side B further warps and processes into the longform “After Break.” Of anything it sounds most similar to, it’s shockingly Nick Zanca’ Cacerolazo III. That was a piece based around a drumsolo’s delight going to the heavens, and for the entire 16 mintues, Ryushi and Nakamura team up to move themselves towards to no. 1 spot in heaven. Just a slow cymbal rush steadied by motorik impulses–until it becomes glitched out glimmers–as guitars layered over and over bask in the glory through a processed, warped tone. At some point, it will sound like a Sonic Youth bootleg from 1985 and you will be thankful.

When you enter the working world, you’re given a government mandated lunch break of 30 minutes. You simply just cannot ascertain or listen like you want to. It’s perhaps why I’ve had such a liking to shorter, longform oriented tapes and listens. At a certain point, Im caught in the piece and Im feeling the rays of a low fall sun glide over my hair, and just letting my mouth remain ajar. Novatron hit like that and they could for you as well.

Tabs Out | Sentry – Perfect Blue Bubbles

Sentry – Perfect Blue Bubbles

11.10.22 by Matty McPherson

We turn our attention today towards a Brooklyn “Mostly Electronic Cassette Label” upstart, Jollies. I’ve been paying attention to Jollies here and there throughout the past couple of years, as the label has slowly built a catalog of vigorous brainy zones amongst visceral pleasure. African Ghost Valley and Geomag are both easy highlights. In the span of about 3 years, the label has logged on with 16 endeavors for the hi-fi, and Sentry’s Perfect Blue Bubbles might just take the cake for the premiere zone from the label to date.

Now Sentry is no first time caller, long time listener. The Sheffield, UK-based Jonathan George Fox has been releasing tapes under this moniker (amongst Aches, Foundling, j. Fox, and Power Therapy) for a bit, most often through his Flight Coda label. Perfect Blue Bubbles might as well be a prime entry way into Fox’s world of sounds. Ambient synths as a baseline for distinct club-oriented beats, hi-hats, and bass thumps. It’s not an earth-shattering template: “UBLVBLHD” is the platonic example, working as icy-clean four-on-the-floor that chills accordingly. Yet, this is definitively a rip-roaring good time, especially thanks to small left-turn details. You’ll notice that on your first go-around, where “Citiopolis” drops its rhythm out and lets the synths gently levitate until hi-hats are called back for a sudden dance floor bop; how “Boiler Person” keeps one foot tuned to an ethereal amalgamation of acid-house and another foot in abstract industrial-dance patterns, until it suddenly merges the two and a flood of zany, jammy gamer synths rush through; high BPM energy like “Donut 2″ that revive the fervor of an R&S 12” while maintaining those airy synthesizer melodies that keep your body gliding.

And that’s just the first side. In fact, I’d make a gander that Fox was using all that energy as build-up for a more abrasive “knock-you-on-yr-ass” back half clap back (at least the one minute Good Clean interlude suggests he could go even further). “Arc” thumps with a the quaking power of a giant. “Chance” follows building off those Arc drums, with a corroding liquid synth squiggle. “Is This Real?” isn’t a rhetorical question for Drew Daniel, it starts at a subterranean level and brilliantly moves it sound palette through murky and clear channels like yr traversing different soundproof chambers of a warehouse rave. A lot of this energy does culminate in Workcitipoly, which perpetually is going haywire with vocal samples, sudden synth cut outs, and the best THUMPS that four on the floor muster. It’s a rollicking finale, and there ain’t much more to say but that.

Limited edition tape with full color double sided j-card, professionally dubbed glitter cassette with body print, is available at the Flight Coda bandcamp pages

Tabs Out | Steve Long – Code Talker II

Steve Long – Code Talker II

11.8.22 by Matty McPherson

My greatest achievement all year may remain sharing Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Playthroughs with two dozen individuals, and finding out that about two dozen people indeed quite enjoy the process of a long sustained drone. Now since then though, I’ve had hunger pains for a longer, more singular drone. And don’t get me wrong, we’ve had an incredible Pipe Organ drone piece this summer with Living Torch. Yet that is one for the CD heads & at half an hour, still feels TOO short! I need thick C60 with not two, but ONE single piece stretched out over that hour.

I suppose Astral Spirits has understood that need succinctly. The label has spent the past two years refining its capacity for what a free noise label can entail; often at the cost of a lot of jazz vinyl overshadowing what was for a time inconsistently released, yet meticulous fascinating noise tapes (with greater global curation). I honesty haven’t reviewed any of these batches because personal words and situated reports elude me, as well as a shift in personal tastes that honestly err closer towards Astral Editions (with its own upcoming tape batch that has caught me hook, line, and sinker). Yet, there’s always a joy to opening the Bandcamp email and being giddily surprised, and in the best of cases outright transported. Right now, with Steve Long’s Code Talker II, I’m legit being transported out of the tasting room where rick rubin produced strokes is blaring, and towards a 4th dimension that seems to collapse the five senses into a blank slate. I am as much a part of the piece as it pervades over the sound system.

Code Talker II is 56 minute and 30 seconds, with two samples available on bandcamp. It features Steve Long on Pipe Organ and Henry Fraser on Double Bass. If you added a minimal drum beat to this, you’d be a Kompakt techno piece from 2k2. If you added a moody synthesizer, you could probably accidentally fake yourself into thinking you were listening to an Ohio komische tape circa 2k9. If you added a litany of bird sounds or field recordings, well then you probably actually are listening to a Pauline Oliveros composition from the 1980s. Long and Fraser’s lockstep constitutes an honest to god immaculate template for a drone, faintly rising in volume over the near-hour, scratching out a hypnotic sine-wave. Not quite brooding, not quite fully reverent (until that final stretch where all cards are on the table), but damn near precocious and fleet! Code Talker instills a utilitarianism in listeners. At its peak you have a cocoon of lightly crushing, yet positively healing come-down tones reverberating. And the longer you fall into the cycle, naturally the more precise and ecstatic the tones reveal themselves to be. A radiance really starts to circle around in the 35 minute mark that swaggers to the closing. Yet all the while, this remains a rather personalized breathing exercise that never loses sight or cheats you out. It is a radically honest execution of a drone.

If Long’s piece strikes you as a featherweight spell or a talismanic sleight, I would not be surprised. Long is a native Brooklynite that teaches at the New School, in between guest lecturing prestigious high school music & art programs and grant-writing his way to checks from the City Artist Corps. He’s been tinkering with the Code Talker series since 2019, envisioning small glimpses of the music as far back as 2005. It appeared in recorded form last year on Nat Baldwin’s TripTicks Tapes in an edition of 60 cassettes. A third variation with Fraser and John McCowen is to be premiered this fall, with an additional two pieces adding towards a quintet in the works. This second variation on Astral Spirits may be the best encapsulation of the piece’s pertinence. Long has dutifully noted that the name is a reference to the “code-talker paradox” which is a reference to the work of linguist Mark Baker’s analyses on WWII Navajo code talkers and the “paradox in which language can both assist and hinder communication”. He personalized it, considering the ways in which as a gay man he has to contemplate his own presentation of language within various in-groups. Considering the sonic touchpoints I brought up a paragraph above, the piece casually yet inspiringly hits that mark. And as a result, it does ground and frame any space that it is beamed out of over a hi-fi audio system. It’s an act of sanctity and spatial purification; not a containment but a reclamation and honest hope to provide such spaces where words and barriers can collapse.

Shockingly very few tapes I’ve heard this year have tried to endeavor themselves to this lofty of goals. In fact, really only the work of Eris Drew and Maya Bouldry-Morrison’s T4TLUVNRG dance tapes (Beige’s undersung AMEN! Vol 1. and Maya’s own Love Hypnosis Vol. 2) have hit this peak, albeit from a contextually different angle. It puts Long in tip top company though, and stands as one of the finest drone releases on tape in 2022.

First pressing of 200 copies. Available from the Astral Spirits Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Burning Plastic Blues Band – Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time

Burning Plastic Blues Band – Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time

11.7.22 by Matty McPherson

Unifactor’s Fall 2022 Batch arrived quietly in the night with a graphic redesign emphasizing a special blend of rudimentary geometry that suggest electronic sleights and dimensions. As ever, Unifactor remains a majestic stop n’ shop for the latest in “the noises people make out in the midwest area writ large”. The network of alum that sprout out from Jason Gercyz’ label always know to use their Unifactor release wisely as a liminal zone to hash out a newfound MO or let loose with jam logic outside their own canons. Noah Depew is sort of label alum–having designed j-cards for the spring 2020 batch right as COVID hit into high gears. He’s done bips and baps of solo tapes amongst time in solo configurations. But, this is his time to prove his one man show, The Burning Plastic Blues Band. Even if a noisenik like Noah Dephew may not be a household name, the passion is tenacious and is a radical act of serious leisure He culls together a incandescent vision on Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time with a new slight thematic endeavor towards electronic noise and irradiant synthesizer wonders that feel homespun.

Now with a name like that and a title “Peculiar Refractions in the Fullness of Time” (amongst the track title “Boomer’s Discotheque”) you’re probably wondering, is this guy opening for 2k22 Stereolab? Sadly, no (the other lads are a talented crew though). His release though is an absolute colossal one guy setup: 80s Korg synth, couple nice gtrs, Eurorack, 5U custom modular system. Lotta ideas in those bad boys that I imagine the groop could salute. For in the hands of Dephew, he makes some absolutely warped, almost-pop acid-logic jams. Side A is the rapturous, if not wonky, side. Refracted’s mass of synthesizer arpeggios, galactic bass, and swizzling ephemera introduce us to Dephew’s knack for pacing. Looping swirly baselines and synthesizer twirls coalesce and interlock on each other jamming out. Yet, that brief aura of exhilaration and transcendence slyly suggests that he isn’t content staying in one position; motion must be activated. When it fades back in, Splinter Cycle opens with a beguiling arpeggio bleep-down and rollicking movement, that begins to de-emphasize the bleep-down in lieu of wonky alien-green bass goo. Those kinds of eerie sounds follow on the anti-lounge of Compulsion, as well as Acceptance; the latter piece in particular finds a generous helping of unnerved haptic flickers being cooed into gargantuan bliss via synthesizer patch layering and near-voice digital harmonics until its just a bubble bath.

Side B is the “jammier” side, a sort of 4-part suite. Although calling it that still detracts from the austerity of its ambient tones and uneasy feelings that arise. You might wonder what such an environment entitled “Boomer’s Discotheque” entails, as its crystalline yet oh so icy-synths recall ammonia sterilized sanatoriums more than ancient dance-floors preserved like fossils in amber. It vaguely begs a question of 20th century social spaces and why they hold such a reverence even as the energy flashes and libido have all but left. When it fades out, it wildly shifts towards the slow and steady tropical synth arpeggios of Shattered Crystal 77, a jam of spidery webs and connect-the-dots rigidity. Eventually though, for two minutes Dephew hits a blissed plateau with the mineral water stillness of Blue Delusion. Closing with Avenue of Peace, Dephew mends the most spacious and ample of this open zone sound design. As weightless as the piece may starts, as soon as he dials into his univox, he unleashes a droney and vivid guitar solo. At first, it skips across the speakers, before lashing and sashaying about like a moment of weightless radiance–nothing in Unifactor catalog has quite sounded this blissed since the 2019 High Aura’d tape. A well warranted panorama of Dephew’s talents, and a bonafide high point for the label’s curation

I spent a solid month with this tape only because I really could not quite untangle the words I wanted to say here. Peculiar Refractions’ cyclical logic, itself the result of that Stereolab-name drop worthy sound design and technology, just happens to fulfill a rather particular realm of deep listening ambience that has been missing in the tape underground this year; the kind not of lost futures, but of possible musics. Perhaps you might think so as well.

UF052 is available as a Limited Edition cassette and as part of the Unifactor Batch #17 Bundle at the Unifactor Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Natural Dice – s/t

Natural Dice – s/t

11.4.22 by Matty McPherson

Dan Melchoir is a phenomenally busy type of guitarist. Releases of any and all calibers have popped up across an underground network with striking consistency on the annual. Yet, Melchoir’s most accomplished releases of the decade have been time-aversive ruminations. Cudighi’s one-two knockout of Odes and (the even more warped) Other Odes presented an image of a guitarist decades into his career contemplating and grieving with guitar and 4-track lo-fi karaoke machine recording offered candlelit, insular paeans. That he opted to let the pieces linger and simmer for years, avowing them of one context and thrsuting them towards another, suggested a new process of songwriting that could be fleshed out in the future. A year of instrumental guitar tape trading with Jason Henn presented such an opportunity with their self-titled tape under the Natural Dice moniker back in March, released on Radical Documents.

The tape j-card doesn’t tell you name of these cuts across the C36. The Bandcamp legitimately just separates the tracks as two side long pieces with 5 songs for the front side, 4 for the back. But I don’t really think we need to know names here. For, the process of the overdub is really quite simple. One gentleman graces one style of guitar chugging and the other gentleman responds with his style of choice accordingly. For both individuals, the goal is both to either maintain a drawling, lucid rhythm OR entertain the possibility of upending their partner’s riff with their own slick left-turns (noise, organ, angular guitar chord). For both, this presents itself with a myriad of possibilities that do not quite stick to one definitive style. As a result, Natural Dice has a gracious, personable characteristic. We really are just hearing two guitar brethren send each other messages and try to see what might be referenced or contemplated, and from there what is “realized.” The tape may be dated back to early spring, but it’s carries with it the gusto of a low-winter-sun that’s so appealing right now.

It’s a style of playing that probably evokes a greater realm of sounds somewhere between 90s New Zealand guitar tinkering (think Roy Montgomery’s Kranky releases or Drag City’s essential I Hear the Devil Calling Me 7″) and doom metal. It only takes a few minutes of Side A (Inorganic Shuttlecock) for this approach to unleash a drone folk and noise jam freakout that proves that rather well. Wisps meanwhile, hushes down to a just Mark Hollis’ “play one note well” approach as one of the duo loops a singular chord that sounds of Runeii in acetate demo formation. “Convenient Amnesia” is borderline Labradfordian, with a droning organ invoking wide desolations as one chord being strung producing an affect akin to hearing a train cross the tracks. Schweik, which closes Side A, in particular captures both guitarists chewing on a classic doom-laden drone that gives a metallic bent to the dusty folk.

Side B’s more precocious and graceful. Underneath a low-end stuttered rhythm, edges of reverb produce melodic, sun-drenched tones through “The Genesis Restaurant.” All the while, a spoken word sample flickers as if its coming from a nitrate film print one room over. Definitive highlight “Dailies -> Song for Snacks” follows next, a raucous, bluesy 75 Dollar Bill-style guitar piece of two mavericks clashing. Each taking their respective halves to construct an exponential realization that ruminates and chews the scenery when it’s not in the nitty gritty downtime. It’s that middle spot that suddenly sees saloon piano keys enter across the edges of the mix and the drone become stretched to jumbo size, evoking High Aura’d. Final closer, “The Speed Bag Bible” legit could have closed Gonerfest 19, a perfect jam and victory capper to the litany of sounds offered up.

Edition of 100 Limited Edition Cassettes available at the Radical Documents Bandcamp Page