Tabs Out | Creatian Heap – Domains

Creatian Heap – Domains

12.7.2023 by Ryan Masteller

Wipe that crud from your lips a second, cyborg mercenary! Take a moment from ingesting that chemically enhanced dietary packet and listen here, because what you’ve heard of Creatian Heap is truly not a myth, I hereby tell you. The duo of Philip (one “l”) T. Walker and JJ Creatian are indeed spinning the tales of your existence, writing your history and your future simultaneously as you struggle in the postapocalyptic landscape in which you find yourself. I get that maybe you’ve been experimented on and cobbled together by the evil corporations who used to run this planet before the great wars, but perhaps they were not the ones you should have been going after and upon whom you should have enacted your vengeance. Seems like a couple of puppet masters are behind the actual curtain, the veil of reality, and you should put aside your petty local squabbles and go after them instead.

Can’t you hear it on the desolate wind?

That’s right, Walker and Creatian have really blown everything out around you, placed you right in the middle of “Planet Dangerous,” which just so happens to be the title of side A, or “Domain 1,” of Domains, their most recent recording for Bummer Punk Records. But let’s not dwell on those details too much lest we’re yanked from the narrative: “Planet Dangerous” was Earth all along! Or something like that. At any rate, the near future finds cybernetically enhanced humans occupying a postindustrial wasteland decimated by disaster. The sound of this wasteland isn’t unusual – it begins with the existential dread and synth pulse not uncommon in a Wolf Eyes track, plodding toward its inevitable tragedy. It blooms a bit, but only in that Tangerine Dream-y way that suggests acid rain – the burny kind – blanketing this neo-futuristic nightmare in sinister arpeggios. And “Debris Field,” aka “Domain 2,” doesn’t even have the courtesy to suggest a way out of this – the grimy downpour is forever, and always!

And that’s what we’re left with – a sad aftermath, with nothing for nourishment except tasteless dietary packets, enhanced by life-maintaining chemicals, with no future.


These red-shelled beauties were dubbed in house and released in an edition of 50. Buy all 50!

Tabs Out | Ronnie Martin – Holiday Fable

Ronnie Martin – Holiday Fable

12.05.2023 by Ryan Masteller

It’s easy to get cynical around this time of year. Your Thanksgiving leftovers are long gone, and you’re back to poking at wilting salads and nibbling uninspired sandwiches as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. The family gatherings have dispersed, and you’re on your own again, aimless, listless. Don’t even talk to me about work – how can you possibly even bring yourself to get out of bed when the sun doesn’t even break through the cloud cover until noon (if it ever even does)?

But guess what: I’m here to tell you a secret that will surely spark an ember in your heart, one that may just fan to a blaze and get the old internal furnace of hope pumping again. It’s almost Christmastime!

But we’re not there yet – we still have a couple of weeks to go, so we have to figure out a way to get there without going absolutely crazy. I’ve personally got a bit of a nostalgia streak that runs through me, so there are some traditional milestones we hit along the way, spurred not insignificantly by my wife and twelve-year-old son who, dare I say, are even more in tune with the holiday spirit (to say nothing of my youngest brother who keeps a Christmas tree trimmed year-round in a spare room). And when we perform the traditional tasks, it’s also tradition that we kick on a highly curated holiday playlist. It’s a very good one at this point.

I’m here to add another album to that playlist – but this time in cassette tape form!

Speaking of nostalgia and tradition, Ronnie Martin, he of Joy Electric fame (also of all the other ones: DanceHouse Children, Morella’s Forest [the original one], The Brothers Martin, Rainbow Rider, etc.), dropped his second holiday album in as many years last week, Holiday Fable on Velvet Blue Music, following last year’s Bells Merrily. And to fully inject my past into this whole thing, I actually saw Joy Electric in concert once when I was in college, and there wasn’t a mixtape I made for an object of affection around that time that didn’t have “Sugar Rush” on it back then (yes, yes, I know who the song is for).

So it’s great news to have a Ronnie Martin synthpop Christmas on deck. And while that may sound crazy (it’s not – look at the history of 1980s Christmas songs), the songcraft truly evokes all the best parts of the season – the magic is there! Snow twinkles and glistens, firesides radiate warmth as they crackle, bells ring out (merrily, I might add), and we’re all dressed in soft, warm sweaters, drinking hot chocolate spiked with a naughty bit of whiskey (don’t tell Santa!). It’s a reminder that the Human League or the Pet Shop Boys also probably bundled up and wore some cool scarves and hats as they trucked their rigs door-to-door for a little caroling. Or at least that’s the revisionist history Ronnie Martin is hoping to convey.

The compositions are all originals – somebody’s making their own new traditions! It’s really a baroque-meets-Breakfast Club vibe throughout, blanketed in white, a refreshing new experience. And really, for the heads, all you’d need to do to make this a Larry Wish/Macula Dog/Cop City | Chill Pillars holiday album is tweak the vocals a little bit, pitch em down, make em weird. “The Alpine Lodge” is that close! But for most of us, trying to shake that downer vibe before we get to see our distant brothers and sisters and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles again – or hop on Zoom with Jamie, Joe B, Matty, and, sure, Mike for our annual Tabs Out holiday party ritual – look no further than this crisp ray of sunshine brightening up the boughs of holly in the interim.

Tabs Out | Emergency Group – Inspection of Cruelty

Emergency Group – Inspection of Cruelty

11.16.2023 by Ryan Masteller

I honestly came into this one blind – I had no idea what I was getting into with “Emergency Group” or “Inspection of Cruelty,” no sense of where the Play button could possibly take me. Were they a moonlighting band of EMT professionals? Were they gumshoes on the lookout for human rights violations? Were they masked vigilantes? None of these questions would be answered for me, but Inspection of Cruelty, on the New York label Island House (whose enviable catalog also includes releases from Joseph Allred, Seawind of Battery, and rootless, meaning I have to pay attention to another tape imprint now), answered probably the most important one: Is this thing going to be awesome or what?

Most certainly.

Two sides, two halves of a forty-five minute composition called “Inspection of Cruelty,” and the first thing outta my brain as I immediately jammed out was, “Oh my gosh, this sounds like it’s coming right out of Miles Davis’s fusion period.” There’s definitely a Corea/McLaughlin vibe all over the place, and while there’s not horn to be found on this thing (does that mean it’s even jazz??), the guitar, keys, and bass melodically interlock and play off each other in such profound ways that it doesn’t matter. So I got hooked immediately, drawn in – gotta do some research now, or else I’m going to be woefully underprepared if end up writing about it. (We’ll see if this actually posts.) Good news on that front: the Bandcamp (RIP) description pretty much says, “Miles Davis fusion period,” “Chick Corea,” “no horns.” I’m either psychic, incredibly intuitive, or good at spoiling myself.

Don’t be an idiot when choosing which one of those to believe.

One thing I did learn is that the band’s name is a riff on the Tony Williams Lifetime’s Emergency! album, which featured Davis players Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Larry Young, so really the circle is fully complete. The Emergency Group allows this amazing history to seep into their playing, while perfecting their own brand of psychedelic jazz-rock. The quartet – Robert Boston on keys, Andreas Brade on drums, Jonathan Byerley on guitar, and Dave Mandl on bass – reaches out telepathically to connect on far-out vibrations, somehow warping in and out of nebulae in one moment and hooking into cryo-stasis tubes in others, always in perfect sync, always up for exploration, always of one mind. But the playing is also intensely grounded – it’s one thing to drift off into space metaphors and quite another to appreciate the astounding musicianship on display. It’s almost like we don’t expect this anymore, as if it’s of a time long past, a movement no longer worth getting angry about.

But you’d be dead wrong about that. The time is always now.

Inspection of Cruelty blazes new paths in your mind, leaving fiery trails in its wake. It’s a massive live-take dopamine rush that is endlessly relistenable – that’s why it’s on tape, so it can auto-flip and play constantly to soundtrack your entire day. Sadly the edition of 75 tapes is sold out from the source, but you can still set digital files on repeat, right? Also, and I don’t think this is hyperbole, but I have an inkling this thing’s going to place high on the Tabs Out Top 200 Tapes list, the most important year-end list you can peruse. Check back in December.

Tabs Out | Navel – Im Norden

Navel – Im Norden

11.13.2023 by Ryan Masteller

Astral ambient folk duo Navel has been around longer than you probably realize, dropping a self-released CDr called Neill back in 1998, when most of you were still wearing short pants and stumbling over your stumpy toddler legs. (I was in college.) Of course, all that time’s just allowed them to marinate and perfect their imaginative stargazey meditations, and in 2023 we’re lucky to have a new tape, Im Norden, out on the massively excellent Stuttgart label Cosmic Winnetou, run by one of my favorite ambient artists going, Günter Schlienz. And while “Gage” and “Floyd” are the driving forces behind Navel’s guitar/piano/synth krautrock experiments, decidedly on the mellow tip, those aren’t their real names. Without spoiling the secret, I’ll give you a hint about one of them: Im Norden is out on Cosmic Winnetou. The rest is up to you.

Navel itself had taken a little break, with its last releases Ambient 2 (2019) and Gnome’s Pond (2018) predating the pandemic. The time, then, for Navel is NOW. And it couldn’t have come at a better moment for me, personally, as I needed the great reminder that I could throw on a pair of headphones and get lost in something whose motto is “there’s more space in northern nights, you can even see it in the flaring lights.” I don’t know what that means, but I love it! The keywords, surely optimized for search engines – “space,” “north,” “night,” “light” – strike all the right epic post-band chords, predicting the cavernous sounds and extended notes Navel traffic in. Take “Tune Into the Nautical Dawn,” for instance, a fully ambient-ized atmospheric creation with wooden creaks and staticky spoken samples interrupting hazy tonal drift prior to light breaking in the predawn east.

I sank most completely into side B, whose “Point Sirius Observatory at Mornings” – seriously, the language of the track titles! – pairs energizing synth billows with strummed acoustic guitar to fully encapsulate the exact aural accompaniment to anything called “Point Sirius Observatory at Mornings.” And observe I did, my own mind and aura, as “The Lighthouse Fair” and “Tenebris Lux” (darkness light) expanded upon these feelings and transcended me to somewhere I could only float, touch nothing, and expand from within. It had me thinking to myself stuff like, “Ah, of course, breathing is easy!” as if I’d never put that concept together before in my life. I don’t even think about breathing normally!

Chalk it up then as another win for Navel, as another slam dunk for Cosmic Winnetou, as another grand slam for my soul. Ferro tape, home-dubbed in real time, edition of 50.