New Batch – Obsolete Staircases

5.28.19 by Ryan Masteller

April was a good month for Obsolete Staircases, that bastion of Louisville, Kentucky, out-there-ness that outdoes even the way-out-there-ness of the most way-out-there Derby shindig. That’s not to say there aren’t any good hats or anything around OSHQ – I mean, I’m sure there are couple really great ones with huge brims and outrageous colors. But the Derby was on May 4, and we’re talking April, and why it was a good month. It was a good month because there were tapes, oh lordy yes, some tapes distributed from the Obsolete Staircases camp that had yours truly humming like a roided-up jockey offering handfuls of coke to his prize mount. Let’s dig into those and forget all about that sonofabitch Maximum Security and how that equine miscreant cost me a cool grand. (This was a TRUE story.) (But not about me.)

TYRESTA – Circles Back Around

I needed this to come down from that rage boil I was building up to there. See, not only does Tyresta, aka Nick Turner, “make music with the intention of creating a context in which people can slow down, breathe, and connect with themselves in others,” being of course “heavily influenced by [his] Zen meditation practice,” but “Circles Back Around” also happens to be part of OS’s “Stillness Series,” no. 2 in it, in fact. And we can get very, very still while listening to Tyresta! Utilizing a variety of synthesizers, Turner creates meditative passages perfect for zoning in to the center of your being and pinpointing all the nasty junk that’s gathered there, allowing you to cleanse spiritually and mentally without all the nasty peyote that shaman was trying to convince me was good for me. But this isn’t about me – this is about suggesting that Tyresta could easily fit on Inner Islands, an equally personal-health-minded label bent on deep self-discovery. After five dreamy tracks of differing tone and timbre, Turner goes all in on side B, a 29-minute mind wipe called “Seasons of Existence.” It’s like the greatest introspective jaunt you’ll ever embark upon.


I don’t think Tim Barnes necessarily has my best interests in mind, not like that nice Tyresta up there. No, Tim’s on a whole ’nother trip, man, and it’s a bit on the squirrely side. “Ketil” is a seven-and-a-half-minute red herring, a fizz of electrodes and synth tones that spreads itself across the digital canvas. But then the shift – that’s not what this is gonna be like, not really. “Temperance” introduces scuzzy rhythms and flitting tones, jazzing me all back up again after that comedown. From there all bets are off – there’s fourteen tunes here, scattered across the stylistic spectrum like errant waveforms from forgotten misfit projects. Almost all of them are built upon warped electronics and weird samples and loops, but everything’s really just all over the place. And maybe that’s just it – that’s the key to realizing that Tim Barnes maybe DOES have my best interests in mind, because he’s so generous with sharing his vivid imagination with all of us. He’s not just a spirit guide in all this.


You guys see “Homecoming,” that weird mystery/sci-fi show with Julia Roberts and soldiers returning from combat deployment? I did. Binged the heck out of it. If YOU did, you know what I’m talking about, and “Titanic II” plays a role in the show. I won’t spoil you. You should watch it, it’s a good one. This “Titanic II” is a liiiiittle bit different, because this “Titanic II” is a live improvisational performance by the superbly named Flower Power Synth and Woodwind Ensemble, a trio made up of Will Hicks, Eve Maret, and JayVe Montgomery. “Titanic II” is also exactly as advertised by the ensemble’s name, as Hicks, Maret, and Montgomery play various synthesizers and samplers, etc., and Montgomery chips in some tenor sax. Got it? Good! The tracks are broken up oddly, mid-performance, in the digital files, but the tape treats everything as a seamless whole, which is the better way to get into “Titanic II.” And just like the captain of the ill-fated second boat, whose comical “Here we go again” and shrugged shoulders and upraised palms foretell yet another incident of iceberg-rammage (honestly, maybe that’s not what they should name the ship), Flower Power Synth and Woodwind Ensemble is going to accompany us as we slip beneath the waves, playing us out in their gurgling experimentation to ease the panic. This whole thing feels like a cartoon though, there’s no panic. Just deeply concentrated musical excavation on tape.