6.1.13: 2013 MID-YEAR LABEL ROUNDUP
You can get anything on the internet. Music that hasn’t even been recorded yet is probably on someone’s blog ready to be downloaded. Or, if you got that Twitter-hype, it’s currently streaming on Pitchfork. Couple that with recent US postage increases and you would think that no one would bother doing a cassette label anymore. That obviously isn’t the case. Through all of the hurdles and hiccups, most notably the Mayans coming after us with all they had, there are tons of cassette labels. True, some aren’t worth their weight in unspooled tape, unless you are the kind of person who digs something dubbed on a cassette found in the library dumpster and packaged in a used Whopper box. But stacks and stacks of tapes are being released by people putting mad amounts of time, thought, creativity, energy, and moo-la into them. Enough that we at Tabs Out thought we would take this half-way point of 2013 as an opportunity to go over a few that we think have been straight multi-level destroying it as of late. Out of all the cassette heads out there doing sick things, we narrowed it down to nine of our current favorites. Here’s a few thoughts on them and a sampler of their offerings. Enjoy.
THE CENTIPEDE FARM
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Back in 2007 Charles Hoffman (or Chuck if you nasty) started using the name The Centipede Farm to put on CDr releases for his solo material and band’s he was involved in like Distant Trains, The Cactus Rats, and Radio Dramamine. It was just last March that he gripped a 1-to-3 Telex Copyette from Workerbee Records and started releasing cassettes for other artists. The first non-himself jam The Centipede Farm released was Mascara’s “Budapest/Chicago” and now the Des Moines, Iowa label has about 20 cassette releases under it’s belt. Centipede Farm cuts are limited (like 25 or 35 copies) and can be snatched up for $5 a pop. They’re a self-described “DIY homebrew cassette-loving music label & distro” and put out rad tunes but don’t take themselves super serious, which can be pretty refreshing. The Mahler Haze “Lupus Dei” cassette from late last year (now sold out) is a perfect example of The Centipede Farm’s dedication to awesome audio zones and, judging by the artwork (which I love), being a totally laid back operation. Full disclosure: theyrecently did a tape for Dave’s project Vales.
The quote “What’s she gonna be? A shoe salesman on a centipede farm” is on the top of TCF’s site. A quick Google turned up references to the movie Catch Me If You Can so I asked Hoffman if that is where the name came from.
“I sometimes claim it is, but even though I had seen that movie before picking the name, I didn’t remember that line of think of the movie when picking the name, and only came across that later. I think I did come across the phrase “shoe salesman on a centipede farm” in some other context though in the meantime, on some business blog. But the way I came up with the name was that my old house up in Waterloo had a lot of these house centipedes crawling around in it, those creepy brown ones, you find them in basements and stuff — we had them like crazy, and they would get really big and fat too. I’d been repulsed and fascinated by these things since I first saw them probably at high school age, and I started researching them online. Turns out they feed on things like spiders and termites, and termites were a known issue in our neighborhood so I got this funny idea that someone could raise these centipedes and sell them as termite control, which led to me joking that we were running a centipede farm. I was at one point going to call the label/blog/whatever Spider City, but Centipede Farm seemed like a cooler twist on that.”
Abortus Fever “Injury Metabolism”
“I’ve got another Moulttrigger album that needs to get out soon, and have been thinking of putting out some guitar duo improvisations that a couple of my friends recorded in 1995 as Cottonwood. Also being planned is an interesting and fun release for Captain 3 Leg and a split tape between a new project by the guy from mhz_ and someone called oqsk.”
DOG DAZE TAPES
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Portland’s Dog Daze recently popped up on the Tabs Out radar when they released a s/t C41 by a project called Twins. Twins is the brainchild of Cole & Shane, the masterminds behind the CGI Friday label and the tape was packaged to mimic a VHS copy of the classic Schwarzenegger / DeVito film of the same name. side note: I had a similar idea for the duo I (Mike) do with Dave called Roped Off where we would recreate the cover of Twins dressed up and posing like Arnold and Dan, but this is way better (and they actually did it). After checking that tape I dug into Dog Daze and was sorta taken off guard as to how legit they were. Not that spoofing 80’s cinema isn’t legit, but that and the animated dog putting on sunglasses logo (a take on the “Deal With It” meme) sorta had me expecting to see similar goofballitude going on in the DD ranks. Not the case. The label’s inaugural release from 2010 was a C55 from the Brooklyn experimental unit Excepter called “Maze Of Death”. They have also released two cassettes by Marnie Stern including the tape version of her massive LP/CD on Kill Rock Stars “Chronicles Of Marnia”. Benjamin P Parrish, the man behind the controls at Dog Daze, interned at the Kill Rock Stars offshoot 5RC back in 2003 and started working at KRS in 2005 doing art/web shit for the label.
It should be noted that the Twins tape wasn’t just a glitch in the Matrix. Other shit gets mucho-weirdo around these parts, and if you need proof, jam the recent Cotton Candy “Off-The-Hook & Out-Of-Control” tape (“Salad Shooter!”),
Marnie Stern “Chronicles Of Marnia”
Occasional Detroit “Down South”
“nothing i can announce at the moment…”
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There’s a ton of new shit happening right now that I’m excited about. There’s also a ton of new shit happening right now that I’m NOT very excited about. What else is going on? Don’t know… There’s a ton of shit happening right now that I don’t know about. Some of it I would probably like to know about. Some of it I would rather not know about. Some of it I would probably kind of want to know about but I would regret knowing about it later. Some of it I would probably tell you I don’t want to know about but I’ll go home and Google it later (shout out to looning). Now that you know that I know about some stuff, and like it, or dislike it, or don’t know if I like the things I don’t know about, here’s a little something about one of the things that I do know about and that I am glad I know about: Eiderdown Records out of Seattle WA.
Headed by Adam Svenson, this label started back in 2011 but was just made known to me this year thanks to a few super bangers that came our way through the Tabs Out mail bag. I took a couple of those bad boys home on looks alone (wouldn’t be the first time, gents) thanks to the stunning eye popping art by Max Clotfelter, who handles all of the art at Eiderdown. The covers are perfectly silk screened with Clotfelter’s artwork, which could be described as a mixture of Chris Pottinger (Tasty Soil) and Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt’s styles, saturated with color. The sounds didn’t disappoint either. In fact they blew my brains out all over the floor and chair. They currently sit at the tippy top of my list of top tapes this year and I really don’t see them being knocked off. They are like the short fat kid that shows up at the playground to play king of the mountain. Once he gets up there, just pack it up and go home cause he isn’t coming down till dinner. One of the tapes in particular is a husky, red-headed mother fucker with a spaghetti stain all over his Batman shirt. Which tape you ask? Well, there are certain things you know, and there are certain things you don’t know. Some things you want to know and can’t, other things you don’t and can find out, and there’s also things you can and can’t. I’ll probably tell you at the end of the year though on some sort of list or a series of names or other items written or printed together in a meaningful grouping or sequence so as to constitute a record. So a list. What I’m saying is that we’ll probably make a best of 2013 list and Eiderdown will rep for sure.
Ecstatic Cosmic Union “XCU”
Planets Around The Sun “Cosmic Job”
“Endless Caverns (solo guitar by Matt Lajoie from Herbcraft), Half High (ambient ghost voice creep from Australia…project of Matthew and Lucy from Naked On The Vague)”
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I talked a bit about Field Hymns in the May Tape Of The Month feature so some of this may be a bit redundant, but totally worth it, because they are quite the exceptional operation. In the last four years Portland’s Field Hymns has deployed just under three dozen jammers of the cosmic variety, including a tape by Bastian Void that we humbly thought was the most exciting tape of 2012. Dylan McConnell has a penchant of tickling the eyes and ears with his releases. His artwork is a geometrical space race of shapes, colors, and extreme attention to detail. The recent Cremator tape (FH034 “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard) is a solid starting point to get what I’m saying (pictured here). Notice the tiny little astronaut floating about? Yeah, me too. And for whatever reason it makes me so happy.
In addition to the amazing synth stylings of Cremator, their 2013 output also includes The Cats’ Orchestra “No Keys”, Regular Music “Ruins”, Black Hat “Covalence” (the aforementioned tape of the month), and PLVS VLTRA “Yo-Yo Blue” with plenty more on deck. Oh yeah, digital download codes come with each tape if you wanna digitize the analogs. You know, for the person on the go.
Black Hat “Covalence”
Nodolby “Aftermath / Inception”
Bastian Void “Fluorescent Bells”
“Giant Claw, Oxykitten, Lazercrotch, Mattress, Holy Sons, Black Unicorn, Cane Swords”
Field Studies is the baby of Chicagoite… Chicagoin… Chicagoinian…. this dude who lives in Chicago named Eric Hanss. The first releases on the label I gripped were a split between Eric’s project Floating Gardens and Ben Billington’s (drummer from Tiger Hatchery) solo endeavor Quicksails and a C20 named “Arrival” from Athens, Greece cosmonaut Lunar Miasma. Both the sounds and look of the tape snagged my attention big time. The super-clean appearance is totally remarkable in it’s simplicity. The covers for Field Studies tapes are basically unaltered (except for the occasional horizontal white line or small amount of text) pictures from 1970’s science textbooks. The spines are consistent with their minimalism as well with only project name(s) in the same font (Garamond Bold Oblique to be specific). If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it was mentioned back in March when the Alan Gesso cassette “Obliscence” was named Tape Of The Month. Other than the Gesso jam, the only tapes that have been released in 2013 from FS were from Lee Tindall’s project Zerfallt and a Daniel Wyche C20 called “A Judicious Observation Of That Dreadful Portent”, but they are both beasts.
It’s not a numbers game over at Eco Purity HQ, the home base of the Field Studies. Or, you know what, let’s call it the Hanss base just to be funny… Unless that’s not funny… Okay, home base it is. Like I was saying, it’s not a numbers game. It’s quality over quantity. Even though Hanss has only dished out a baker’s dozen, he keeps the oven hot. Out of the three cassettes released on 2013 two of them were on our Top 25 of 2012 list (#3 Brett Naucke “Home By Now” and #21 Bil Vermette “Archives I”). That’s an intense average.
Alan Gesso “Obliscence”
Bil Vermette “Archives I”
Zerfallt “Ritual Systems”
“Releases from Lens, Journey of Mind, Kyle Landstra, Tholian Web, and a Golden Donna/Floating Gardens split (all on tape) are all slated for 2013, more in the works.”
La Cohu is a fresh one. Started just last year by Charles Barabé and based in Victoriaville, Quebec, this dude wasted no time at all dropping bomb sauce all over my ear burritos. We’ve played a few of their flying saucers on the show including Ala Vjiior and a cut from Charles Barabé himself called “Taches” that I’m still recovering from. La Cohu has my vote for most beautiful label aesthetic, maybe ever. (put some pictures here. and don’t type text that says “put some pictures here”, but place some actual pictures of La Cohu tapes in the article. you typed all of that out, didn’t you?) See that red strip on the left hand side of the cover where Charles Barabé is written? I fucking love that strip. Wanna know why? Cause it comes off! There are separate pieces of paper on top of the Jcards that wrap around like those Obi strips on Japanese import CDs. It includes the front, spine, and back flap. A removable spine of sorts. It’s an idea I’m jealous I didn’t come up with. Too late to steal it. Oh well.
Seven of La Cohu’s 14 releases have come out this year and include names like Jean-Sébastien Truchy, Mor†, and ALA VJIIOR. Editions are small. Somewhere in the one to two dozen range, and all soooo worth grabbing up.
So that’s all I got to tell you. Now you know those things. Now go do yourself a solid by visiting your local noise tape super center and grab some shit from these fine labels in the freezer section.
Charles Barabé “Taches”
Dr. AQ and the Nurses “Satanic Stones”
By Sid “Blutigen Berges”
“Sunny Dunes, Vales, Chapels, Forming…”
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Even if you only occasionally listen to Tabs Out then you most likely have heard us gushing over this label. Seth Graham and Keith Rankin started pouring the Orange Milk three years ago and their 2013 productivity has put our brains through a Breville 800JEXL Juice Fountain Elite 1000-Watt Juice Extractor (or similar product). A half-dozen batch started off the year with releases from Weather Exposed, Piper Spray, Dozens, Foodman, Henry Dawson (Seth’s project), and Lafadki (the tape that kicked off our Tape Of The Month series). Their aesthetics, executed by Keith Rankin (also known for this Giant Claw alias), is absurd. Keith’s visuals mold elements of 70’s and 80’s video game art with what people in the early 90’s thought the late 00’s were gonna look like. Think The Lawnmower Man and the cover for Berzerk for Atari and you’re half way into the visual cortex of dude’s dome.
The artist selection going down at this bi-city (Brooklyn, NY / Columbus,OH) operation will make your head spin. Some seriously intense synthesizer music, astral drone, and vapor wave cuts are all making the rounds. I remember when I first heard the Pajjama tape calling up Joe B to play it for him over the phone. It obviously didn’t translate, but I was so excited and couldn’t hold out. The latest two from Orange Milk are cassettes from CHASMS and Joe Bastardo’s (Bastian Void/Looks Realistic) solo project Homeowner, which should probably take home Jcard of the year if anyone decides to assemble such a list.
Oh yeah, They just made up shirts that none of us here at Tabs Out could pull off (maybe Dave, but not in public). They look super tight though, so you should probably grip one up. *note* in the few day
Teamm Jordann “Champion”
“Phork, Cream Juice, Pajjama, Christopher Merritt, Ventla, Luxury Elite, Ryan Emmett, Jerry Paper”
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One of the most active and heady labels in this, the year of the snake, is Germany’s SicSic. Head honcho Daniel Voigt has been running the label since 2009 and has released just over 50 tapes. As of late it seems like at every turn they have a new batch available, and they aren’t just pumping them out for cassettes-sake. The dozen releases they have dropped thus far highlight some dazzling, talented artist without a whammy in the bunch. Some personal highlights include the brilliantly designed and executed double cassette from Pierrot Lunaire titled “This Love Of Mine” (packaged in those double high Norelco packages we love so much), the Cray “Digest 54” C62 that is getting constant plays over here at Tabs Out HQ, and a jaw-dropping glacial slider from Former Selves. It’s one of those labels where releases don’t hang around, so if you wanna grip, ya gotta grip quick.
SicSic doesn’t just present the adeptness of audio artists, but also utilize the talents of some of the awesome visual craftsters. Every release has it’s own look and feel. Whether it’s the Expressionist work of Christian Schoppik seen throughout the catalog or the M. C. Escher-through-gelatin-glasses cover for the Motion Sickness Of Time Travel’s “Oust” by Marko Martini, The Jcards are a good time. They are also hand numbered if that’s your thing.
In addition to the drones and groans on tape, SicSic is dubbing freebies called “SicSic Recipes – A Kitchen Tape Series” that are thrown in when people preorder full batches. You can find out more about them in a feature we did a few weeks ago called Meals On Reels.
Former Selves “Calico Sunset”
Cray “Digest 54”
Pierrot Lunaire “This Love Of Mine
(from a recent Facebook post)
sicsic055 – Asio Otus / Innercity – Split
sicsic056 – Headboggle – Hillboggle
sicsic057 – Space Habitat – Rising Interiors
sicsic058 – Suspicion Breeds Confidence – Grafamen
sicsic059 – Afterlife – Sensory Overdose
sicsic060 – Buchikamashi – Superbrain
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Tranquility Tapes is no stranger to lovers of new-school synth chillers. Since 2010 the brother/sister duo of Franklin and Caroline Teagle have been involved in producing some beyond-spectacular sounding and looking cassettes from way to many to list, including their own Afterlife and Imperial Topaz ventures. The uniform artwork for the label is some of the best in the game. Hand drawn, abstract sketches glossed with bright colors and gradients make an impressive appearance on all of Tranquility’s output. Who does the artwork, however, is shrouded in mystery. That’s a joke, it’s Caroline (check out Episode #24 if you wanna “get” that) and she had this to say about her process of creating the designs.
“Sometimes I listen to the artist before I start drawing patterns or sometimes I just start drawing lots of different ones and decide later which feels most evocative of a particular artist in a batch of releases. I draw everything with pen which gets scanned in and manipulated in Illustrator and in Photoshop where I add the color. My stuff often looks sort of brutish but I spend a really long time on these little drawings. There are a lot of little lines and it becomes sort of an obsessive thing for me. They’re usually a little bigger than the actual Jcard size but not by a lot, I just scale them down.”
The first half of 2013 has proven to be a stellar one for the Teagsters (that’s what I call them, I call them the Teagsters) with nine tapes, and another batch around the corner, already seeing the light of day. Jean-Sébastien Truchy, Adderall Canyonly, Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, Dads Against Vietnam, and Emuul being part of that rad pack. The “Duets” C100 that came out last year was one of the best tapes of 2012 (#2 on our Top 25 of 2012 list) and follow up (“Duets II”) is on the way. All Tranquility Tapes are pro-dubbed and normally triple digit editions, but still tend to fly out the door. Everything is out of stock from them, but you can track down bits and pieces through distros.
On a non-cassette related note, late last year Tranquility Tapes hosted an 11-day event at John Zorn’s venue The Stone in NYC that Dave and I (Joe B bailed, duh) played and had a blast. Franklin spoke a bit about it in an interview we did last December on Episode #16.
Kyle Landstra / Subtle Body split
Jean-Sébastien Truchy “L’amitié”
“V/A – Duets II, Roped Off – Roped Off Lifts the Invisible Tile, Afterlife – Afterlive”
note: The tape game don’t sleep, y’all. In the time between these fine labels letting us know what the future held for them, and us getting this up, some of those releases have come out. Hot new batches from Orange Milk Records (Phork, Christopher Merritt, Cream Juice, Maharadja Sweets, and Pajjama) and Tranquility Tapes (The Rainbow Body, Mr. Matthews, Parashi, Xanthocephalus) available now.