Tabs Out | groffic – Bad Luck Comparing Hands

groffic – Bad Luck Comparing Hands

6.14.23 by Matty McPherson

Don’t anticipate to find much information on groffic currently. A twitter that indicates a presence between Texas and Oklahoma with work that dates back to 2021, a groffic gorilla logo by Jordan Kelley, and a bandcamp page that ponders “Does it think of me as much as I have given thought to it?”. All is mystery to my eyes, but the truth is that Bad Luck Comparing Hands, the groffic debut cassette self-release, untangles the mystery a bit. There’s a picture of a friendly looking individual inside, someone who likely haunts the country fauna of the Texas plains. It was mastered FOR CASSETTE by none other than Angel Marcloid, whom is thanked alongside glitch[dot]cool, God is War, Semantix, Little Mountain House, and a few other artists that possibly suggest a semblance of a scene–part meatspace, part digital–of likeminded individuals working together in realms of “hyper”-glitch, high-pitch jitterbug electronic listening music, and deconstructed rave textures.

If those genre labels sound enticing (or you like early PC music), well Bad Luck Comparing Hands, is likely going to be an incredibly smooth soulful listen. groffic’s thirteen tracks are giggly, bubbly romps; illuminating synapses in the process that construct a pathway out of the club and into the psychedelic tropics of that j-card. A lot of which is the result of groffic’s pacing across the 13 cuts. Tenacious and high-wire like Orange Milk or Hausu Mountain sleights streamlined into a full fizzled DJ mix stuttering on command. Tracks sort of collapse into each other, united by a whatever thread was last on the mix: a vocal texture, a fizzling high bpm drum, or a synth line that keeps the eye on the prize. The result is that downtime on Bad Luck Comparing Hands becomes a rarity, but its not to be treated a luxury; groffic’s one-track mindset is such a draw itself that the tape’s consistent punchy textures and dopamine jackpot deconstructions. It’s other worldly big sounding music. Less focus on the low-end package, with a greater emphasis towards vocal frys, metal sounds, and hyperrealist urban blights in mid-end that wake one from a pre-conscious slumber. You’ll seem to have a greater realization of where you are as you hear the tape.

As such, it makes natural sense that groffic didn’t just do a cassette release. There’s still a handful of “DIY VHS includes the entire album accompanied by visuals for each song which combine AI visualizations with other video”. These kinds of releases are rare–calling back to Already Dead’s release of Muave from early 2023–but I cannot help but endorse the release full stop. groffic’s tunes at their best moments on the tape carry that kind of potency of wearing the “THEY LIVE” sunglasses, realizing everything around you isn’t what it is. To marry that to new images, like the one suggested on the cover, only seems to hint at where groffic is further taking the music towards.

Edition of 100 tapes and 10 VHS tapes are now available at the groffic Bandcamp page.

Tabs Out | I Love Your Label: Raegan Labat of Tough Gum

I Love Your Label: Raegan Labat of Tough Gum

6.13.23 by Zach Mitchell

Welcome to I Love Your Label, a new column on Tabs Out, where Zach Mitchell interviews the heads of tape labels about their labels and artists. For the inaugural entry, I spoke with Raegan Labat of Tough Gum, a Baton Rouge, LA tape label specializing in left field, colorful, home recorded punk. You may also know Raegan as the bassist in the live formation of Feel It Records artists Spllit. Check the label’s tapes out over on Bandcamp, and their video series over on YouTube.

ZM: How did Tough Gum initially start?

RL: Me and Ryan [Welsh] started this music festival and we ended up collaborating with this other band Loudness War. We called it WarFair. We would try to bring in bands that we didn’t get to see here a lot. I did this twice, maybe? I was like “I really don’t have my name on any of this shit and I kind of want recognition.” I was already wanting to get press passes to do photo stuff at concerts, so I was like “I’m gonna start a blog.” I already had a name, but I didn’t know what it was going to be. I hadn’t started it yet because I didn’t have a clear vision of what it was, and that’s kind of what it became. I just started to describe it as a file folder of things I was doing. If you look back on old [Instagram] posts you’d probably see playlists, festival content, photo diaries, and I was also booking shows under the name. Then the pandemic hit. I knew I always wanted to start a label but I didn’t know how, so I just started following – just like everyone else in music scenes – DIY labels and seeing people make more tapes. Somehow, a live video series and a tape label started to form. I got a tape deck and it just happened.

ZM: Thematically, what do you think Tough Gum really is? Is there a Tough Gum sound you’re looking for or is it just whatever strikes your fancy as it comes across your plate?

RL: I feel like it’s more whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t feel like a curator, I just have my tastes. I was booking a lot of energetic punk shows. I was bringing the kind of stuff I wish we had in Baton Rouge but just wasn’t happening. That was me being self-serving, but I knew it was really fucking cool and I wanted people to get into it. People did get into it! No one formed punk bands after that, but, y’know, people had a great time. With the label, I had similar ideas and wanted to bring interesting sounds and stuff that I really loved to the audience I already had. I think the Tough Gum sound is definitely per my taste but I’m looking for new and unique sounds that really energize me and make me feel like I really want to help share this person’s stuff with people.

ZM: It seems like a lot of the Tough Gum output is pretty regional to Baton Rouge. What’s the Baton Rouge scene like these days?

RL: During Covid, it really dissipated. It became disconnected. People weren’t doing a lot in person, obviously, and I don’t really recall a lot of stuff being put out. After that, it was very slow to pick up as a committed scene. The Baton Rouge scene has always been very eclectic. There’s a mix of sounds and individual crews doing whatever they’re doing. They all come together for live shows, it’s pretty cool.

ZM: I want to talk about your history with cassettes a little bit. Have you been a cassette lifer or did you pick up collecting them at a certain point in your life?

RL: I really don’t know! I remember my first record, how I started collecting, and what I started collecting first but with tapes, I don’t know. You know me and physical media – I have an addiction and an appreciation. I’d imagine that it ramped up at the same time [as Tough Gum starting] for me. It’s always the cheapest thing on the merch table, at least compared to the records. Ever since I got an actual player I started getting more and more. Before that, my only memory [of tapes] is with my dad. He used to run a nightclub in LaPlace [Louisiana] of all places – like an alternative, new wave nightclub. He was the owner, bartender, and DJ. He made mixtapes for it and that’s kind of the sentimental aspect of cassettes. I cherish having those and seeing the designs and how he curated stuff.

STEEF – POST F

ZM: With Steef, everything on it makes sense together but it covers a lot of genre ground over 16 minutes. There’s zolo stuff, straight ahead punk stuff, and a really funny dance song on there. Which one is that?

RL: “Get Uglier.”

ZM: There’s also a silly element to it, which I hope you don’t find insulting.

RL: Sounds like Stevie [Spring]! I feel like this and the Fake Last Name record are really similar in that there are, like, 30 different genres attached [to those releases]. But yeah, I remember when Stevie sent [the album] to me. I was on Side A and I was like “sick, I’m so excited for this.” On Side B I was like, “what’s going on? This record completely changed!” It sounded like a lot of his solo stuff. He’s, just to put it out there, a pop master. He’s XTC’s biggest fan. I feel like he has this pop sensibility and just loves to sing. He’s also good at making “Ableton Punk,” which is just bizarre, freaky sounds. He creates his own world.

ZM: I was surprised at his pipes, honestly. I feel like a lot of vocals in bedroom punk stuff just end up being an afterthought and are buried in the mix. Dude wants to croon a little bit.

RL: Yeah, with the harmonies and everything! I feel like it makes it more unexpected. The melodies and sounds on that album are kind of a strange vibe.

Urq – Stop Mania/Scrapped Ideas

ZM: Urq is probably the closest to Steef in sound, but it’s a little more straightforward. You released a cassingle, which is cool. I think you told me you only did a cassingle because you bought the wrong tape, right?

RL: I misordered the Steef tapes! I’m also obsessed with singles and I love a good b-side. I had a lot of good ideas for singles but Matthew [of Urq] ended up having the energy to come up with an idea for how to use the tape. He has other records that aren’t as straightforward, like stuff that’s more into the strange, Residents-y world. Very strange, weird voice alterations and characters. For his single, he sent me two options and this is the one I picked. The other was a mega-song that would be split and you’d have to flip [the tape], but I didn’t think it would make sense for the format. I just loved the guitar lead on side A. It’s all about sugar addiction. He started performing live as a one man band and I think it’s everything me and his friends have wanted to see him do.

ZM: That’s what I liked about the single, I could tell it was kinda the poppier end of what he wanted to do with this project.

RL: I agree. His record The Castle Has a Backdoor is also very poppy. This leaned away from that garage sound and more towards the stuff that he’s good at. It’s still the Ableton sound. He’s still in there slicing and dicing. But even this single has a strange B-side that was kind of an “ok, that’s what we’re doing?” moment like Steef’s b-side. He also likes to write pop songs.

Fake Last Name – It’ll Happen Again

ZM: This one breaks the mold of the other two a bit. It’s still very homespun but it’s spooky.

RL: To have started my label with this is so important to me. [It’s] not only because Ronni has been such a dear best friend to me for 10 years, but everything about it is what’s important to me and important to running a label. It’s all home recorded. It’s got field recordings in it and it’s kind of experimental. It’s so vulnerable in the lyrical content. Just knowing the artist and the way they work – I dunno. I just respect it so much and love the sound of it, everything it’s about. No one really knew how to talk about it and when they did talk about it it was so different from everyone else. It was cool.

ZM: That’s how I felt about it too. I definitely liked it but I dunno. I felt like I shouldn’t have been spooked by it but there’s definitely a “someone whispering from around a corner” element to it.

RL: Those recordings were born out of lock down and getting fired. I don’t know if any of the themes of getting fired made it into there, but –

ZM: There’s one song on there.

RL: “Service?”

ZM: Yeah. I don’t think I got fired vibes from it but I did get very “I am worried about my employment and the impact it has on me” vibes which, again, is very pandemic related.

RL: For sure, there’s a lot of sensitive and vulnerable themes on that record, which is admirable to me. I don’t write or make my own music currently. I just love it with all my heart. It was recorded on a four track!

Time Out Room – Tight Ass Goku Pictures

ZM: This one isn’t punk but still kinda falls in line with the homespun bedroom pop sound.

RL: This one is back to the four track vibes. I think he altered his voice by pressing on the tape and wiggling it. Only recently did I learn that all the drums were from a Casio keyboard. I just remember listening to it and when I started hearing these old sounds of where my record collection started I got a little jittery and excited. I fell in love with it immediately but I just kept listening to it over and over again. It was unlike anything I’d put out before but it was still very unique. He’s local, so it fits in in that sense. It wasn’t a question [of if I should put it out], it was just a question of the details.

ZM: Most of the other tapes from your label are all from the Spllit family of artists but this one is from outside of that. I was wondering how that came about.

RL: What’s crazy is that he was just in a rut and Stevie told him if he did something I might put it out. He just had that in his head. He apparently locked himself away for two months and fleshed out this album. I moved to Baton Rouge for college in 2013. At that time he had either just moved or was moving [from Baton Rouge] to New Orleans. He was in this scene way before I got here. He was in a band called Melters. They were this garage, pop-punk sort of thing. I wasn’t around for that, but I’ve learned that it was Taylor [McCrary, the artist behind Timeout Room] writing pop smash hits for them as well. There’s just something warm about this release. I loved the way it sounded.

ZM: There’s something really nostalgic to it, especially with all the little interludes that are kind of like weird radio transitions.

RL: I’m sure when I first heard it I was like, “do we need those?” but I’m not the artist. It grew on me. It’s also silly. It all fits together into this wholesome vibe I must be drawn to.

Look out for new releases by Spllit and Fake Last Name out on Tough Gum soon!

Tabs Out | Nesbitt/Brown/Groven – Play Symbiotic Instruments

Nesbitt/Brown/Groven – Play Symbiotic Instruments

6.7.23 by Matty McPherson

There are those Tuesday night dinners, the ones that reek of mundanity. A Monday dinner can be mundane, but the expectations are low enough as is no one will signal to you otherwise. But the tTesday dinner…well there’s something about microwave leftover pasta bake and a re-run of Chopped that sort of signifies a rather a white flag has been waved with an utmost lack of contempt. Then again, these dinners are nice if you find yourself tuned into the whole chopped game trying to brainstorm yourself another dinner, or just enjoying the company and breezy weather.

Of course my mind always imagines what are the basket ingredients of today’s tape? Think for a second, if you’d been given: Blue marble shell. Paper o-card with a plastic protector. Drums, piano, and double bass. & finally, “symbiotic, cermaic instruments.” Exactly what are do you craft here budzo? It all smells of an early pandemic era endeavor sneaking its way into the world! Wouldn’t you say so judges?

Yet, Roxanne Nesbitt at least claims that the endeavor, an ask into “how abstract instruments can make music in combination with drums, piano, and double bass,” had been brainstormed out previous to the outbreak. The whole experiment just happened to adopt easily to asynchronous recordings with Ben Brown and Marielle Groven over the following year. Both Nesbitt and Brown take composition credits on three and four cuts, respectively . The kinds of cuts that intermingle smoky almost-ambient, almost free jazz with outside ceramic rumbling, tumbling, and downright haptic illusions. “Play Symbiotic Instruments” is one of 2023’s more unexpected jazz delights. That kind of odyssey focused on the rollicking downtime and interplay on the fringe of what constitutes jazz and free downtempo beat crafting or wind chime spiritual dirges. It finds am immense level of return in how Nesbitt and Brown take to defining their own respective tracks that incorporate this “ceramic instrument” basket ingredient to its fullest potential.

The ceramic instruments themselves are akin to bowls or percussive instruments that seek to be bludgeoned or mistreated with the finesse of a preschooler on a little tots set or a seasoned xylophone maestro. Both Nesbitt and Brown have particular quirks to their respective pieces that present that. Brown emphasizes haptics and start-stop spurts; moments to test where an improv is going to scurry towards. Often jagged and tumultuous in their rumbling, as “Chauffeur” reveal, if not wind-skipped and floaty, as the spacious “Symbiotic Blues” starts before unfurling back towards the former. Meanwhile, Nesbitt cares about delicacy in the atmosphere. On her side A compositions, “Blues Seas” and “Tangent” Touch, the two are illustrious in their mood; utilizing strings and bells amongst the bass and ceramic keys to create a silky balance. A serenity emerges that feels akin to stepping into a dimly lit jazz lounge jam or almost-dub; all smoke, no mirrors. Both have approaches give the tape a legitimate sense of replayability to its sequencing, as both Nesbitt and Brown’s own respective cuts execute the usage of the ceramics with such opposing outcomes.

Side B sees the trio hitting a particular resonance, with them seeming to come together and lock into genuinely spirit raising rhythmic jamming. You can hear this quite well on “Wild Bell No. 3,” the kind of jam that sounds like a wind gong, or symphony of chimes being clamored at a steady pace by the wind, while a prickly key motif winds itself up every few seconds. That intro to the piece is the kind of atonal music that a toddler (well, at least this toddler) was attracted to making and trancing out to, although with sharper ears these days I could bluff myself into thinking it was a Cage Prepared Piano tribute; it even carries a sharp metronomic tap and reverb to it. “Pitch Police” almost approaches chamber-punk songwriting as its drum fills crash like twenty foot waves (or sawed off shotgun double barrel blasts) against the fickle keys and featherweight ceramic chimes, almost into a pop structure. Our detente, “Bowls,” meanwhile moves to haptic “plop!” mode with snappy rhythms that suddenly gain brass treble and become a hypnotic paean to the exercise of playing Symbiotic Instruments.

Edition of 200 tapes shipping from the Small Scale Music Montreal Bandcamp page!

Tabs Out | Dinzu Artefacts June 2023 Trio

Dinzu Artefacts June 2023 Trio

6.6.23 by Matty McPherson

I’ve found myself finally coming out of a bit of a crunch period, recovered and back to hearing esoteric sounds with gusto once more. Being in touch with label pals also helps, but the recent era of Dinzu Artefacts has been notable for its consistent peaks and tantalizing potential that the batch promises. Unifactor used to hold this power more so, but I truly cannot anticipate what Joe’s curation with the artists he’s working with will happen to build off a mental crumbs or notions of what dedicated tape label curation can afford us. For the 2023 June batch,m Dinzu Artefacts calls to certain “otherness” found within geological accidents, both manmade and of natural evolution, ending up with a definitive era peak.

Mattie Barbier – This is What People Think Mountains Look Like

San Diego’s marine layer was in full force during the month of May. Enough so that it appears to be staying into a traditional “June Gloom”. The kind that imparts a morning mist, rather unfavorable laundry drying conditions, and a long standing call for the slowest of cinema. Your “El Sur”s and Leviathan (2012, although 2016 is upstanding work). Mattie Barbier has successfully concocted the kind of drone akin to the diving rod of the former, as much as the camera cinematography of the latter, within this one outstanding piece, This is What People Think Mountains Look Like.

40 minutes of sustained trombone drone is going to seem like an appetizer when you’re coming off of 3 hours of pondering just whether or not Spring Does Hide Its Joy. But over recent evening, I’ve come to desire keeping this in rotation. Barbier’s recording, dated from June 2021 a the Tank Center for Sonic Arts in Rangley, Coloado, is an unequivocal production dream. It also just happens to reflect a fragment of 20th century Americana repurposed into something beyond this mortal coil; a futurist silo of sound. What could have been turned into scrap metals, saved by a consortium of local & east coast composer and deep listening music enthusiasts, has become an “impossible sanctuary of sound on Colorado’s remote desert, perched atop the oil fields about 90 miles north of Grand Junction”.

The Tank itself has a lovely website listening many of the activities, although I suggest further reading the AP web piece which provides many other insights. This space can be a mecca for the artists that with which the famed underground Cistern of the Deep Listening Band is unattainable. And to think in its local history of the Rangley area, its history as a sort of pilgrimage site for teens and ne’er do wells, before becoming the venue that it is today, feels eternally cool.

Anyways, Barbier’s trombone is just beyond engrossing. There’s a majestic, stately tone to a few of their early blasts, the kinds that mutate and swirl in a quixotic blend until its alien garble. It’s sets up the 41 minutes that follow as Barbier pushes towards metallic textures and slight tonal changes and strange rattlings that make the heart skip a beat. It sounds of garbled radios or giant locust crushes; insect buzzing and rocks tumbling on the high desert. It’s a type of drone that in spite of its naturalistic title, both the sound and tape cover reveal Barbier’s underlying rural psychedelic approach to the mountains. Perhaps that’s why coming off an early Plotkin cd and the FSA/Roy Montgomery collab, this tape hasn’t left the boombox so easily. Heady trance depths indeed, especially on side B.

David Donohoe – Fen

The dirty little secret about freeform radio? We’re suckers for a good hour of field recordings. And when we have none to offer, the computer is loaded with bird sounds. The Dublin, Ireland based sound practitioner, David Donohoe likely would feel the same way just based off his latest surprise treat for DA. Fen opens like a podcast, as Donohoe takes his Bandcamp liner notes and recites them directly to the listener. It’s a nifty act of priming the listener for what the tape is to hold: “Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler (both Summer migrant breeders) and Snipe (resident breeder), alongside tuned percussion and synthesizer textures,”. Donohoe is earnest about seeing an otherness and eerie factor to these birds that mimic 20th century developments in editing. He chose these particular birds noting their capacity for exceptionally alien sounds; the kinds that human electronic music of the 60s and 70s happen to mesh with splendidly with low synthesizer bass rumblings and percussion noise.

Thus, if you come to Fen with a particular desire not for bird sounds, but to see how Donohoe fuses it into a soundbath, then you have likely come to the right place. These are the kinds of songs I imagine the Birds of Maine in Michael DeForge’s latest donate for their library system–both wholesome and uncanny yet wit. There are periods of actual bird sound and environmental rainstorms that practically call to the immense pleasure of having something outside typical time conditions. Although, the tape is best for pitch black level listening, appreciating the timbres ability to create electronic esque tones. As the tape goes on though, greater focus on Donohoe’s electronics do take shape. Yet, the birds remain precarious and reveal how well Donohoe has achieved matching his sounds to their frequencies.

Merzbow – Hatomatsuri

On Hatomatsuri, Merzbow fetches the bolt cutters.

Tapes Now Available at the Dinzu Artefacts Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Episode 189

Episode 189

5.30.23

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)