Orange Milk August 2022 Batch

8.2.22 by Matty McPherson

Orange Milk has reengaged with the idea of releasing three tapes at once in a month. Just not quite as a bundle. A summer trilogy? Or, three short stories microtargeting the three types of Orange Milk Music Enthusiasts (lappy 486 users, lint lickers, and sour beer drinkers)? I needed to confirm for myself to see where they all landed. So, I spent summer session (a couple of the west coast-adjacent variants of Oberon) with the latest in Orange Milk sonic advancements. To say I pondered what’s going on out in the midwest would be a bit of a fib; these releases grab and tug the heartstrings.

goo age – Open Zone

At the start of the year, Keith Rankin casually dropped a new genre term “GOO CORE.” It was intended to describe an outpouring of noise music that was bubbly/playful like pop, but “without the structure.” Naturally Mr. P of TMT immediately started replying with Orange Milk artists and friends abound; it is literally a string of music TMT championed for a decade. Even Keith did as well. It all sorta felt like the classic “spiderman pointing at spiderman” image come to life. Take this blog post as a 7 month late reply to the tweet, as I’m sitting with goo age’s GOO CORE opus Open Zone–perhaps the release that kicked that conversation off to begin with.

Adrian Wright’s (aka goo age) honed in on these zones between 2019 and 2021, after a smattering of Bandcamp self-releases. goo age performed in basements and houses of Tabs Out certified favorites like Marsha Fisher. In the blurb for Open Zone, Keith recommended having a hi-fi stereo or big brain headphone for the 12 tracks on the tape. Indeed, they are variably open ended ambient adventures that emphasize precise synthetic textures. As singular tracks go, they’re often amalgamations of elements that intend to incite shocks as much as soothe. ASMR-indebted quips n’ chirps, percussive conundrums, “sine-wave bass” and synths, amongst occasional wind instruments; all operate in a humongous space where any moment of silence is less a moment of clarity and more foreshadowing sudden shifts in pace. When you hear a track in real time, the effect of tracking the elements is akin to constructivism. Two elements that should not match clearly creating an exponential sum of part, no matter how subtle. Sometimes it is almost-ambient pop (qnpLUB) or dance (froglside (refraction))–tracks that have an inscrutable movement slipping from your fingers. Other times it is just capturing the hyperrealism of our modern era (how far we’ve scrolled), letting texture that the wheel over structure.

The result is that goo age’s Open Zone abstractions become uniquely immaculate mood music. Yet, it ain’t anything like wallpaper even if it functions as its own insular world. There is an earnest sense of deep engagement being asked of the listener; a track like “shakuhatchling” lets its synths evaporate to seep in various textures. The further you let goo age take over, the more you’ll come away with the same sense some bro would’ve given their ECM or Windham Hill cassettes in the 80s. In fact, this really is just another absolute bonkers inversion of those labels. Don’t enclose this zone. Keep it open.

Andy Loebs – Flexuous Vertex

Andy Loebsheads have been clamoring for a bonafide tape release from the Philadelphia maverick for over four years. That’s how long it has been since we learned just a crevice about Loebs on Terry Tapes’ About Me. Loebs overflowing bounty of available music could be abstracted to two oversimplified words, “cute midi.” Keith Rankin would insist on classifying Flexuous Vertex in three hype-sticker-worthy words, “quintessential OM style.” Neither label is mutually exclusive. Flexuous Vertex‘s C34 is practically a cocktail of Orange Milk magic–Loebs’d out and re-Leobs’ed. It’s a wickedly ecstatic release built on nailing seamless genre pivots into a quirked out white boy funk. It makes the whole listen akin to super sized bouncy castle. Please just take your shoes off before stepping in.

So as such, expect Flexuous Vertex to discombobulate and reshape on command whenever it so pleases. Second track, “In Praise of Unlearning,” isn’t just on the nose–it’s a MO to the entire direction of this cassette. Within four minutes, Loebs casts off a litany of IDEAS; big midi band jazz, “progressive” goo core, commando-lunged out footwork, and hell, quirked drum n’ bass. And nothing about it feels heavy handed or a miscalculated set of casio samples. The ideas just simply flow succinctly, enough that you can quickly forget that you’ve warped 3 tracks down the line. “Touch Configuration” takes all the elements of Castlevania Symphony of the Night map and squishes it into one omnibus room, complete with nu-metal guitar thrashing and lashing!

It can seem dizzying. Still, Loebs’ tracks are meticulously mapped out. “Humidity Vertex”‘s sense of movement, guided by a rollicking drum n’ bass rhythm and ambient synth pulses, seamlessly conveying the plotting needed to succeeded at a dexterous rail shooter. “Living Under a Rock”‘s blithely midi-pop briefly stumbles into an ambient secret zone before a giving way to a “wub-wub” boss battle complete with a Weather Report style jazz beat ’em up. Quite frankly, Loebs; Flexuous Vertex is flush with sounds that make you gush. Zones that cease to repeat the same effect more than once, arriving with novel sonic design.

Bloodz Boi, claire rousay, More Eaze – a crying poem

The recent round of Mari and claire’s releases have been exercises in concision as much as world building. Both are pop omnivores looking for the precise sound to leverage their consistent shifts and expeditions. This time around it comes in the form of a voice from halfway across the world. a crying poem, a collaborative engagement with Bloodz Boi (featured on their last Orange Milk tape), honestly carries 0% fat. The lean C15 of 6 cuts finds the three in a bittersweet lockstep; acoustic and ambient pop for the dusk smoke break, the late night slepless woe era, and even the back of open-air markets in all their compounded loneliness.

For claire and Mari, their instrumentation continues to develop their signature room tone ambience with a greater emphasis on post-slowcore acoustics (and measured amounts of autotune). Lethargic guitar strumming paired with ambient synths/strings feel like a sister unit to the rooms of rousay’s tape with Patrick Shiroishi from last year. It is the kind of space where Bloodz Boi’z poems can amply chews the scenery. His endearing delivery is enough to quickly find yourself mumbling in sync to and swelling up in heartbreak with (even if you don’t know the lyrics). It marks BB the perfect lead vocal across the EP–this is really a release that emphasizes his vocal delivery above Claire and Mari’s. It’s openly telegraphed on opener, 忧伤的贡多拉 – Sad Gondola, where BB takes center stage as claire’s spazzy bright autotune and Mari’s reserved dronetune function as a greek chorus. They’re more there to counter and deftly expand the harmonic range of the track for Bloodz Boi to throw down poetry.

It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees in the subtly of the this release. claire and mari’s soundscapes feel decisively more ethereal than usual; a mist that sort of cocoons and surrounds Bloozd Boi. When this approach to instrumentation & Bloodz Boi’z delivery hit their peak, the result is a cut like 打火机 – The Lighter, the pinnacle of the tape. Incredible smooth synth blasts practically reimagine Blue Nile’s “Lets Go Out Tonight”; the former’s stoicism rendered obsolete as woozy synths and delicate guitar strums turn it into a 2 AM fucked up anthem. 阴天 – Overcast, the only track to cross the three minute mark, brings in strings that can practically swell a grinch’s heart. Another fascinating development this month in emo-ambient.

Needless to say, all three cassettes are available at their respective album pages under the Orange Milk Bandcamp.