Open Letter to Thrill Jockey + Body & OAA, Sam Prekop n’ John McEntire, and the Soft Pink Truth

12.27.22 by Matty McPherson

Dear Thrillist Jockiest,

I’d like to formally congratulate you on making greater strides when it comes to providing cassette releases to the general public. I understand this has been going on for a bit during the last decade–please note that chrome Circuit des Yuex tape in the image above! However, I know the label’s portfolio was never designed around cassettes. So much so y’all licensed a bunch of titles for the Polish cassette market with Sound Improvement at the end of the 90s/early 00s. The 94diskont one is pretty high quality ngl. I use it often when I’m editing my radio show to maintain a steady work flow state.

Anyways though can we bring out those pull-up chairs have a serious talk here? I’ve been fascinated by the more frequent and recent dives into limited, borderline-private press runs of recent releases on CD, but really cassette. I’ve been taking note. They’re pretty nice nuggets, but why the limited promotion and pressings of these releases? Im pro-major indie labels releasing new and repressing old titles on tape, irregardless of whether they’re tied to a subseries (like Trouble in Mind’s curatorial goldmine the Explorers Series). I just don’t understand why y’all are A) not outright promoting them in such a manner that implies exploration and B) opting to let it stay OOP instead of fostering this further into a real deal. At this point, an artist isn’t gonna do a 7” as a promotional teaser, the delays just aren’t going to warrant the timeliness. Although an 8-12 minute cassingle? Huge opportunity right there.

Forgive my tone if I sound salty, condescending, or trite; this letter comes from a privileged fella who has the time to go on Discogs and watch tape markets and thinks to themselves “a 12 minute Sam Prekop/Mute Gospel tape shouldn’t ever be hitting the $35 range. Seriously though, if one of these is going to nab an 8.3 BNM AFTER the tape is sold out…exactly what is the deal here? I do sincerely believe people want to buy physicals that aren’t vinyl; there are dozens of us and yes, we are built different. People (myself included) would also probably shell out some hard cash to revisit canonical Thrill Jockey classics on cassette without having to sign a DHL order from Poland every time they wanna shell out big dollars.

Truth is though, I don’t understand the economy of running a label like Thrill Jockey; I don’t live in Chicago and I will never bullshit my way to being a premier customer that walks down to the Thrill Jockey HQ to shake someone’s hand and pick up an order. I just enjoy tapes and I like this label enough to spend time typing this out. Please know, it’s a godsend that this institution, which makes such alpha dog moves like putting Oval and Liturgy on a split because it CAN, does these things in the first place. You all taught me to use my ears bigly and I needed that for this absolute stampede of three recent tapes I found exceptional in the year. So I attached brief reviews below. Much love in 2023!

– <3 cmm

The Body and OAA – Enemy of Love

The Body have easily one of my favorite promotional photos taken. Two ripped dudes with shotguns. Great! I don’t care what it sounds like I just know its gonna hit like a sledgehammer. Such was the case when the Body hit the road and found a nice power noise fella, OAA to tag along and collab with. The duo’s been voracious collaborators between Thou, Uniform, Full of Hell, Lingua Ignota. What makes them such a consistent collaborative outlet with all these fellas may come to that the Body are rather blunt practitioners of sonic exorcisms. This is always going to be an “at’s states end” world and with OAA, it’s just like being crunched up and sizzled. If you fuck with 30+ minutes of that heavy and just appreciates “guys being dudes with their loud noises”…well “Enemy of Love” was exactly the calling card for the year!

Sam Prekop and John McEntire – Sons Of

Of course, not everyone though wanted “guys being dudes with their loud noises”, which is why Sam Prekop and John McEntire’s “Sons Of” was an excellent breadcrumb excursion. Prekop’s synth work has been fascinating to watch in the past two years; perhaps most extensively when I caught him in Chicago opening for Luggage and spent half an hour, deep in the process not looking at the audience. My friends, who miraculously came through in spite of having no idea of Sam Prekop, were incredulous, and I was texted “when’s he going on?” just as his set finished and Prekop left the stage to smoke an American Spirit outside the Empty Bottle. That set though, was a pretty good framework for “Sons Of”. For a few, it is just literally two long-time musicians who love gear, letting a little maverick energy and quiver about for 53 minutes. Sam continues to tease out and meticulously move the melody, entrusting the process as John tinkers with drum machines in search of the proper beat to carry the sound forward. It’s not rave nor chill-out though; it’s just exceptional Sunday morning cleaning music. The kind that consistently reorients itself and POPS to life in unexpected ways, just without trapping the listener. No one asked for this, but also it gives me everything I love and seriously piques my interest with just what these two mavericks are teasing down the line.

The Soft Pink Truth – Was it Ever Real?

Going back to my early notion of “early release as trailer”, well crack commando mr. Drew Daniel just did that with his long running, sonic treatise of a project, the Soft Pink Truth. Remember in 2020 when Daniel made a bonafide indie gospel classic with Shall We Go on Sinning So That Our Grace May Increase? I did, I own a CD. And then he decided to pivot back into making house with floor stomper “Does it Get Any Deeper Than This?”. It’s a good question that warranted a rhetorical clapback, “Was it Ever Real”? The C22 itself ends up being a well-warranted expansion of the album’s palette and focus. The Dark Room mix of “Is it Going to Get Any Deeper Than This” is cunning. “You Don’t Know (the Full Rose of Dawn)” features a simmering, seductive bass under a gaslit kick drum unfurling into glistening keys and legit euphoria. “Was it Ever Real?” skirts n’ skitters without ever losing its welcoming, sauntering chords and keys. There’s also THAT cover of “the Anal Staircase” that goes far beyond any worship, homage, or mere forehead. Daniel’s work (including Matmos) has always given queer identity–such as music n’ idols–a dimensionality; flippant playfulness, opulent tomfoolery, communal revelry, and even cloying ASMR sinisterness all convey more than tragedy. And at once, a cover of Coil’s wickedly righteous pop bop becomes all those things; a vivid document of club hedonism. No tape, not even the actual LP, had that this year.