Summer Covid Quickies

7.21.22 by Matty McPherson

It’d been six months since the booster rooster bit me on my cute little butt, and next thing I knew I had a tickle in my throat and couldn’t sleep. Then came the hot sweats, the chills, and the fatigue. Look, I’m young and this whole virus is kept at bay via one(1) Gatorade a day (I like the cucumber melon green flavor best but sometimes you gotta settle for blue; blue never fails). Nevertheless, it’s a small and welcome bout from clerk work that offers enough time to offset the neverending backlog of great batshit music from around the globe. Some of these tapes have been sitting out for half a year. Some of these are practically old friends I listen to on my government mandated work breaks. Some are new challengers. I thought you should have a quick glimpse into what I’ve been listening to.

Alex Cunningham – Two for Olivia

OH ALEX! The midwestern violin maestro of unending tension and unnerved unease, always reliable for cassette releases under the 30 minute marker. He respects our time in this economy. Two for Olivia has a strong “straight to tape no fuck up” approach that differs from his previous two releases back in 2021. Here, two pieces for the one known as Olivia, “the resident dog of Bird Cloud Recording, who has slept through the recording of almost every album [Cunningham has] ever made” saunter and waggle. Side A’s piece (Olivia) is tenacious. It features rollicking syncopation–made out of either actual violin chords or Cunningham’s masterclass chopped and screwed approach to the violin. It casually subverts the violin solo with blistering gusto. Side B’s performance (Amps for Olivia) starts with classic “Cunningham Concrete”–low quippy noises that practically bleep and bloop better than any glitch recording. Although, its not without its sudden shockwave noise blasts that hijack the stately affairs for a noise solo that quickly becomes the whole enchilada of this side of the tape. It’s a technicolor delight, bopping and weaving out tidal storm wave level blasts of freakazoid noise. You WANT to do backflips and parkour moves to this. You’ll be so moved you will call up Harmonix and tell them “GET THIS IN THE NEW ROCK BAND NOW!” because this solo makes Wolf Eyes look too wimpy.

Woof indeed.

Cyanide Tooth – Tentative Identity

Erick Bradshaw, aka Creamo Coyl of Spin Age Blasters on WFMU, has been in my pile of tapes for a while. I refuse to classify or file away his Cyanide Tooth project, the kind of weirdo music that seeks to continually shift and expand its horizons. Tentative Identity is big brain hours for Bradshaw. Caught between mis-jangled drum loops bops (Slow Dance the Abyss’ pulsing frenzy is one for the ages and clubs), library synthesizers from hell (Banishment Park), and free-flowing debris (Are We Here Yet?), every track here is a chance to revel. Bradshaw’s biggest strength to match and dial in these disparate ideas is via the edits. Many of these cuts are accentuated by brief interludes that help to push one idea to the next. It’s club ready, which I haven’t been able to say about other Cyanide Tooth or Maximum Ernst releases before.

Jeff Zeigler & Dash Lewis – Eraserhood

I miss bike riding. Naturally, I understood how necessary it can be as a mode of transportation for urbanites of all stripes. So, when the opportunity arose to help Dash Lewis with repairs in exchange for tapes I was quite ecstatic at the chance to visit different incantations of his work as Gardener. There’s an impassioned, ever-shifting energy to his works, with his Trouble in Mind explorers series tape hitting a specific batch of bliss.

However, perhaps the most exciting tape to dive into was Eraserhood, a collaboration between him and Jeff Zeigler, released at the end of 2020 for Atlantic Rhythms. Zeigler and Lewis recorded the tape as one of the last projects at the old incarnation of Zeigler’s Uniform Recording studio, itself in the Callowhill (or “Eraserhood”) neighborhood of Philadelphia, where gentrification has eroded the post-industrial aura that became a framework for Eraserhead. The tape is split into 4 mongo longforms (it’s the heaviest tape in terms of weight Im talking shop on here) evoking deep listening practices. They also draw out their crescendos. Quite a value!

Truly though, the tape really just boils down to motorik rhythms and synthesizer noise–the two are besties that go hand in hand when it comes to invoking trance states and longform listening. On Side A, I give the edge to Popcorn Ceiling. Minimal drum machine and wailing synthesizer alarm noise glisten around the edge. Yet, the guitar tuning, what I can only describe as dreamy yet longing, practically defines it as a lost Cocteau Twins piece. It would’ve been an excellent bridge between Victorialand and the Moon and the Melodies had it arrived on 4AD in January ‘86. When it pops the fuck off on the final third, it pushes the reverb and drum machine stomp to full blown trance mode, while bringing in delicate synthetic strings. Was this made for deep listening or the chill out lounge?

For Side B, it’s a genuine bloodbath to choose the designated favorite. Observatories has strong “late 00s Kranky” energy that fits between an Atlas Sound demo that never got off the blogspot (with EXTRA lazer guided drum melodies) and a Cloudland Canyon bliss journey. It’s an urban beat that swells and swells its way to a triumphant transcendence (never quite hitting the red but definitely crushing). To say it is begging for a TikTok dance would be an understatement. It needs a whole festival and ceremony. Rumored Jazz may be too out there for Astral Spirits, but Zeigler and Lewis follow a synthesizer drone thoughtline to its conclusion. Along the way, they traverse a wilderness that grows more foreign and calming, without ever becoming hushed. There’s always a sense of movement within these accomplished pieces.

Late Night Cardigan – Life is Bleak and It’s My Cheat Day

I have talked to Zach about music and beer a lot. He is a “talented drummer” in Gonerfest certified Big Clown, and an unwieldy good archivist when it comes to Memphis punk. He made me an excellent mixtape of Memphis Punk and sent me Late Night Cardigan, a quartet he drums in. Their 2022 self-released debut, Life is Bleak…is one of the best slabs of timelessly great sounding indie pop I’ve heard in a hot second. The kind of release you’d find trolling the Captured Tracks discography in 2012 and say “damn this shit is effortless.” Because well damn, the 10 tracks on the cassette are damn near effortless.  

The instrumentation is sugar sweet, with Stephen Turner (also of Big Clown) conjuring up a cuddly twang, Jesse Mansfield goes groove mode on bass, and Zach well uh…Zach does cymbal rushes and tempo touchdowns (these are made up phrases to counteract me not knowing how to say anything more than “drums real good”). Seriously you hear this instrumentation and find yourself wondering why this isn’t on Sirius XMU.

They’re also a precise buffer for Kacee Russell’s punchdrunk gobsmacked vocal delivery. She holds no bars and takes no prisoners. SIde A and de-facto album closers–B-Movie and Slow Motion, respectively–are the definitive highlights of the output here. The former’s tenderness is a trojan horse to whip smart lyrics of self-doubt of being perceived as a super villain (“Can you imagine a girl 5 foot 2 dealing PAPERcuts?!”). The latter’s slow balladry is a wistful admission of once living life like it’s a movie; suddenly though, a turn-on-the-dime tempo change that kick-starts a cathartic capper to the album. 

Oh yeah and there’s a riveting cover of Pixies’ Gigantic exclusive to the tape.

Peter Kris – No Vision

Eventually, we will as a society realize just how giving the German Army/Peter Kris/Germ Class releases truly were. I’m a latecomer to the whole spectrum of releases, only knowing an occasional nugget here or whiff there. Yet, just a whiff of the mile wide catalog brings new depth to the ambivalence brought upon by late stage life as well as what it means when I say you’re “being industrious”. Because the German Army will not stop recording and we should be so thankful they do not. Peter Kris’ No Vision tape for Never Anything (the 4th Peter Kris release for the label!) continues a Durruti Column by way of Labradfordian jangled-out hunt for any signs of life in snake oil desert towns and derelict gallows. At times it is a sublime masterstroke, just the kind of aching beauty you WANT out of shimmering jangle guitar work. Side B does subvert the outright jangle though, letting unfathomable noise and jangle inversions blur out the radiance of Side A. Yet more or less, this is a steady slab of bliss.

Seth Kasselman – Analogous Fools

It’s been a joy to watch Seth continue to shift over the past two tapes (themselves encompassing the end of the 2010s right up to the pandemic); lowkey favorites of mine from the past two years. Well, the Kasselman is back, with his most “this is what I’ve been up to” set of recordings to date! Analogous Fools (recorded late 2020-2021) finds himself building off of the aquatic synths and musique concrete approaches that comprised his previous efforts. The recordings here are tighter, less on the longform side. They’re employ a newfound brevity and inquisitiveness that were not always apparent in his previous works. Ambient soundscapes evoke the eerie but never quite mend with the weird; these are zones that you wander through via your own routinized living conditions. The liminal spaces where unwinding is often a double edged sword.

Analogous Fools is Kasselman’s most single/track driven recording to date. It’s a cohesive longform listen, but I feel as if for the first time I have single cuts I WANT to return to. The Governors’ bubbled out pulses take the ambient synth piece to a new zone that calls into question how time and space function. How Did You Get Into This Line of Work? goes “gamer mode”, with each blip and haptic “bap” platforming its way through secret collect, as pastoral synths illustrate blue skies. Breaking in Real Time’s invocation of domesticity (via a life recording) is taken to a blissful extreme, as slightly nerved synths scatter about like polka dots–until a sudden intruder present themselves and turns this into a horror film. Ambition Can Bleed Your Soul is a chilling finale, worthy of a desert dust storm. Josh Kasselman provides a blistering harmonica as Seth wanders the ambient wastes, with just a bell chiming and a lurching drone. A career highlight in my eyes.

White Suns – Dead Time

I’ve been out of the Orange Milk loop for a bit–it’s more a me thing than a Seth/Keith thing. The curation is popping and the fashion is high-class. I just haven’t found a release in my q-zone recently. Thankfully though, they put out White Suns’ Dead TIme EP. It’s not everyday that Orange Milk HQ is going to bat for a noise-damaged synthpunk release like this, but White Suns are clearly worthy of the patronage. The trio’s 13 odd releases straddle that fine line of unclassifiable and “oh I know this way too well”. What you realize listening to the 4 tracks making up this C-20 is that the lads can’t stop “being industrious”. Dead Time has been in rotation besides Cabaret Voltaire’s Live at the Lyceum and TG’s Mission of Dead Souls–two essential live documents of genre forefathers who could weaponize noise into any shape necessary.

This is exactly why Dead Time fucking rules and is a welcome introduction to White Suns. All 4 tracks present are en media res zones that each allude to a different strength or territory this act can occupy. “xenobiotics” really puts the “now” in “no wave” by amping up the guitar feedback and synth blips into a carousel of clown pain and bad-acid detritus until being swallowed whole by the noise. “palermo catacombs” gave me a whiff of early Pop. 1280, but its stripped any of that act’s libido. Cavernous drums (rewarding good speakers) are the star of this track, until they take a backseat to the slow, steady build atop their noise-coaster. Is there a drop? You’ll have to find out for yourself! “night pours in” is the closest to a rocker we find ourselves with on the tape, as the trio find themselves in lock-step summoning a 747 jet engine for the ages. Finally, we end with “melnais balzams”, the gothic atmospheric track that relays a dream state worthy of Ministry’s own dream song. Bells toll, pistons wheeze, and guitars slash themselves into a fury. Needless to say, I’m all in hook, line, and sinkler for the White Suns.