Michael Cormier-O’Leary – Heard From the Next Room Over

6.23.23 by Matty McPherson

Lily’s Tapes and Discs has been a quietly upstanding outpost in Rochester, New York, deep in the heart the Hudson Valley. The region’s mass migration (a result of COVID, at least on a secondary level) and ample space has seen it begin to flourish into a real regional community outside NYC happening across the past few years. From the new sounds of Island House to longtime experimental maverick movers and shakers like M. Geddes Gengras and Ben Seretan making it their home (Seretan also recently became Basilica Hudson curator), alongside venues like Tubby’s having successfully navigated COVID era restrictions to hold down a five year festival party. Yup, it’s sort of a powerhouse in new, regional American musics.

Yet, Lily’s Tapes and Discs has been fighting the DIY fight long before, at times circling and encroaching on a variety on gumshoes and mavericks that keep their nose to the 4-track recorder and work on home recording apparitions and sleights. The label sent Tabs Out a handful of their Fall 2022 releases, which came off of a lovely summer 2022 that included the Natural Park Service’s latest slowcore sleeper masterstroke. And as such, I’ve been sort of keeping the tapes quietly to myself and my boombox in the wee-hours when applicable.

I do love Lily’s Tapes and Discs strangely uniform design: a font that’s not quite “grouper helvetia” or “drongo new roman” (some of my other favorite fonts) but often reflects a humble, imperfectly scurried font; color palettes that often employ earth greens and hand drawn drawings that recall crayola tuesday at the elementary; a j-card that folds out to reveal a whole other half of a paper finessed into liner notes; amongst a gold foil on the tape shell. There is a smell that comes with this type of uniformity in tape design, a smell of woodland oak and fine pine wine to be exact. The rustic homemade psychedelia of Lily’s Tapes and Discs can do that to one, I suppose.

Such is the case with one of the best DIY-tape modes that I’ve been a bit privy towards recently: the homespun rehearsal tape. Michael Cormier-O’Leary’s “Heard From the Next Room Over” is one such tape, a sudden spurt of January 2022 recordings that seemed to just drop out of a hat and into a C25. I was drawn to the tape by merit of its title, which almost seemed to become a daring desire of how to approach these tunes. Up close with headphones, and well yes you’ll be especially attuned to the pedal clamps, the studio set-up sounds, and the small quivers that each key provides. Tune it out and play it over the hi-fi, in another room over or underneath whatever anime boxset you have out that the library will let you keep for half a year, Cormier-O’Leary’s keys become a sound bath, if not just fulfills a sort of utilitarian purpose its title promises. Really there is not a lot I can emphasize about Cormier-O’Leary’s playing or MO on this recording besides that each cut carries a velvety finesse and familiarity. It happens to reflect a particularly strong day of piano rehearsal.

The mode that tapes like this provide, from Tara Jane O’Neil’s 2021 sketches for Orindal or Ross Hammond’s guitar practice tape from last fall on Full Spectrum, is one of both intense listening as much as a window into the past. A strong day of rehearsal can sometimes just summon such stirrings. The kinds where my minds recedes towards when I lived with a piano. Its sound filled the house and its hallway. Was it pleasant? I suppose so, especially at the age of six. Do I wax nostalgic for it really? Well it never was delivered with the delicacy that a six year old can provide. At least nothing that Michael Cormier-O’Leary could not have found with the dazzling key changes and cooing haptics of a rehearsal well spent.

Edition of 75 pro-dubbed gold foil tapes. Packaged with full-color j-cards with artwork by Francis Lyons (circlechange.net), numbered and assembled by hand at LTD Headquarters available now!