Tabs Out | Leaver – Hands Like Cages

Leaver – Hands Like Cages

11.30.20 by Ryan Masteller

Oh no you don’t. Don’t go slinging that “singer/songwriter” nonsense my way. I won’t have it. LEAVER won’t have it. I mean, sure, “Hands Like Cages,” the new tape on Amek from the duo of Angel Simitchiev and Daniel Donchov, has singing, and presumably the words being sung had to be written, but when you think of “singer/songwriter,” what do you think of? Joni Mitchell? James Taylor? Cat Stevens? That is NOT what Leaver is about, not even a little bit. Leaver is postapocalyptic ash and rot. James Taylor sings songs to himself about being a baby or something. I can’t be 100 percent sure, I haven’t paid that much attention.

Leaver plays long, slow, masochistic dirges that cause you to question your very actions at this very moment. Seriously, put on this Leaver tape, let it make you feel really bad about yourself, and then what’s this drawing you’re working on? Worthless. You trying to organize your stuff? Don’t bother, nothing matters. Attempting to write a music review about a duo called Leaver. You, sir, can fuck right off – ain’t happening. The guitar-and-ambience crawl here is a leaden weight on your soul, a black-magic pall of disappointment and disappearance, a spell to make you slink back into the hole you crawled out of. I don’t know if that’s Leaver’s ACTUAL intention, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had a similar reaction to them that I do.

Leaver allows this outlet for Simitchiev and Donchov, this ritualistic exploration of pagan sounds, and it also allows for a more poetic release from these two experimental electronic musicians, swimming as they do in the broad emotional deep end of dark ambient and cosmic synthesizer music, Donchov as Non Photo Blue and Simitchiev as Mytrip and arbiter of Amek Collective. Together they rally around different sounds, different ways of recording, and come at the process from an intensely different direction. No “Sweet Baby Angels” or “Sweet Baby Daniels” here … just longing and loss. But really listenable longing and loss!

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Tabs Out | Introducing … superpolar Taïps

Introducing … superpolar Taïps

11.17.20 by Ryan Masteller

And then there were two. And by two I mean two far-out tape labels in Cologne (Köln), Germany (Deutschland), the first, of course, being Tabs Out favorite Strategic Tape Reserve, although I feel that it’s disingenuous to simply call it a “Tabs Out favorite” because it’s more than that. It’s everybody’s favorite. It keeps you and your loved ones safe, warm and nourished. But upon STR’s recommendation, I’m here to chuck superpolar Taïps’s hat into the ring, the upstart label blasting through the murk and gloom of 2020 with some truly uplifting and uncynical stuff. I probably need that right now, like a whole lot. You probably do too. 

Ball Geographie – Live at Budokan

Isn’t the whole “At Budokan” thing a code for unutterable bloat? You think of Cheap Trick, Dream Theater … consider the “Foghat principle” if their fourth album (the “double live” one) had been at Budokan. But Ball Geographie’s putting one over on us, I think. Imagine a midtempo electronic artist on stage at the famous Nippon Budokan, hunched over a synthesizer or two, a laptop, some effects pedals maybe. Not the same kind of vibe. And you know what? That works for me. I don’t want Ball Geographie to have to try to fill the joint up with chill vibes. (They can fill the “joint” up with some other “chill vibes,” if you get my meaning!) At once swaggeringly confident and nerdily proficient, Ball Geographie makes the perfect theme music for you, no matter what kind of situation you’re in. Gotta look tough in front of your minions? Ball Geographie has you covered. Got an insane deadline on art project? Ball Geographie’s on it. Gotta hit the mall, look fly, and rock out? Yessiree, let Ball Geographie do his thing. Well, you can’t go to a mall right now because of COVID, but you know what I mean. Point is, I have a million things to do, and Ball Geographie’s gonna soundtrack every one of em.

bleed Air – “bleed Air”

Purportedly a mixtape of sorts, but how can a mixtape such as this exist? Pretend like Umberto and qualchan. did something together for the latest Aaron Moorhead/Justin Benson sci-fi thriller, and you might be onto something, but instead of dying all the time (and over and over), there’s a way out of the confines of this screenplay for your central character. Because the central character here in this techno-noir is you! From weird city to weird country, machines and otherworldly entities speak through bleed Air’s Omnichord OM-27, neither imposing their will on the storyline nor imposing their will upon it – they’re just all happy to be there, watching you as you race time to the edge of civilization to find the one and only thing that can still save you from the self that you’re becoming. Love? No, you’re not finding love out here. You’re finding a duck pond. You’re finding peace. Peace in the face of oblivion or annihilation or apocalypse – something bad. But bleed Air is there to take the edge off, to allow you to inherit the stylized repose you’ve worked so hard to attain. And by golly, on “bleed Air,” attain it you have. 

More (not too much more, these are part of a C5 cassette single series, each limited to a scant 10 copies) from Tiger Village, The Master Musicians of Dyffryn Moor, and Harald Sack Ziegler awaits you on superpolar’s Bandcamp.

Tabs Out | Lucas Brode – Vague Sense of Virtue and Other Dreams of Mundane Profundity

Lucas Brode – Vague Sense of Virtue and Other Dreams of Mundane Profundity

10.27.20 by Ryan Masteller

Chuck your stupid synthesizers and electronics gear into the river, you experimental goofuses! Here’s where the real forward thinking is: guitars and drums. Now I know what you’re going to say – actually I don’t, because I think you’re an open-minded bunch in general, and your embrace of traditional instruments is fairly wide. But here’s the point: I don’t think you’re going to hear any synthesizers or computer music on “‘Vague Sense of Virtue’ and Other Dreams of Mundane Profundity” by Lucas Brode, unless of course I’m being really thrown off by a “guitar” or “percussion” setting on somebody’s Casio keyboard and I’m leading you into a trap. But I’m pretty sure I’m right about everything I’m saying here.

Lucas Brode watched a LOT of David Lynch and listened to a LOT of Paul Motian as he came up with the framework of “Vague Sense of Virtue,” and the result might be as you’d suspect: moody, cinematic jazz pieces with percussive flourishes (courtesy of drummer Kevin Shea). Surely these pieces wouldn’t feel out of place in “Fire Walk with Me” or “Mulholland Dr.,” and you can almost envision Michael Anderson’s diminutive “The Arm” backwardly rubbing his hands together in glee as if we were about to feast on some creamed corn garmonbozia as something like “You will be remembered simply as an idea” plays over the scene. Or “How many layers further into flow?” Take your pick, honestly – there are seven good options here.

Utilizing Pauline Oliveros’s concept of “deep listening,” Brode and Shea took stock of their environment and played directly to it, injecting a little “ambient” into this whole thing. They play the room, letting the sound interact with the walls and themselves, letting it alight on their bodies like those floaty sentient seed pods (or whatever) from “Avatar.” And while David Lynch is no James Cameron, he definitely knows how the (literal) tone or timbre of a scene works as an immersive experience. Lucas Brode has now proven that he also knows how to do that. WithOUT a synthesizer.

Cacophonous Recordings pressed a cool tenth-grand (that’s 100) of these, with a nice 8-panel glossy cardstock j-card.

Tabs Out | M. Geddes Gengras – Time Makes Nothing Happen

M. Geddes Gengras – Time Makes Nothing Happen

10.21.20 by Ryan Masteller

Alright Gedheads, get hip: M. Geddes Gengras has another slab of Hausu mayhem all ready to cram into your ear canals. Just sit still, right there – we’ve got the industrial-strength crammer (comes with every tape) (not really), and the sooner we get to work on this, the sooner the unpleasant cramming part is over and you can sit back and relax and listen to “Time Makes Nothing Happen” as if it were meant to be a part of your body, as it now is. 

Wait a sec – you haven’t fashioned a cassette-playing niche between your ears by which you can have the sound encoded to spools of formulated ferric oxide pipe directly into your prefrontal lobe? 

Yeah, me neither, I was just checking to make sure.

Still, the sounds from this Ged burner FEEL like they’re going straight to my brain, like a pint glass of champagne that you chug through a straw in your nose. The master of synthesizers flits over a bunch of crazy patches, melding rhythm, and melody in a free-for-all of juiced fantasy, a pixilated cartoon memoryscape in the color palette of a bag of assorted Starburst. Listening to it is like witnessing false-color animated gifs of nonexistent animals. My brain sort of feels like it’s been run over by a dump truck made out of Pop Rocks.

Yeah, I hear you, I know exactly what you’re saying! What is the dude who made the absolutely majestic but oh so ambiently taffienated “I Am the Last of That Green and Warm-Hued World” (also on Hausu Mountain), not to mention “Icon Give Thank” with Cam Stallones and the Congos and various other outer-space zoners (my introduction to Ged’s work was the first Voder Deth Squad tape on Stunned), doing in such a sugary place? I can give you a hint – who cares! Turns out M. Geddes Gengras is a bit more than a one-trick … er, thirty-trick pony, isn’t he? He’s got room for a thirty-first trick. “Time Makes Nothing Happen” is the thirty-first.

Still, there are some very Duppy Gun–ish dub workouts in here. That’ll probably always be an inspiration for the solo material.

“Time Makes Nothing Happen” drops on Hausu on November 13, so depending on when you’re reading this you’ll either be preordering or regular ordering. 

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Tabs Out | Nandele Maguni – Plafonddienst

Nandele Maguni – Plafonddienst

10.14.20 by Ryan Masteller

I can be sneaky too. I can be doing something, like emptying the dishwasher, and then all of a sudden, when you’re not expecting it, I’m doing the worm across the living room! Totally surprising everyone in the vicinity with my bodacious moves, just highlighting how quickly I can turn on a dime from inconspicuous activity to heightened all-star dominance. You may be wondering, “How’d you drop right into the worm without any music playing?” to which I’ll answer, “How do you know there isn’t music playing? And if there isn’t, why can’t it be in my head?”

Why can’t it indeed.

Nandele Maguni is master of the shift, the subverting of expectations. The Mozambique-based DJ and producer steers from lengthy, low-impact samples as introduction to beat-heavy soundscapes that somehow manage to balance ethereality with density. Like me with my low-concept repetition of clinking cutlery and crockery before busting some righteous moves, Maguni builds up in his mind the swirling strands of narrative before bounding headlong into the main event. And when he gets there, you should probably be gripping something pretty tightly, because Maguni’s work is nothing if not sonic representation of temporary-outdoor-dwelling fornication: fucking INTENTS. 

(I of course mean “intense.”)

So come for rhythm and melody, stay for all the left turns and paths to the unexpected. And sure, you too can worm right out to “Plafonddienst” – it’s actually what I was listening to when I was doing the dishes to begin with (in case you hadn’t figured that out). Tape wildly available in an edition of 100 from Already Dead.

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Tabs Out | Bodies of Light – Petrichor

Bodies of Light – Petrichor

10.8.20 by Ryan Masteller

I made a few Little League all-start teams in my time, because I was pretty good at baseball. My game was pretty well-rounded – I could hit for average and power, I was fast, I could field. So they lumped me in with the other “best of the best” kids, and we held exhibition games against each other. All that talent in one place, under one banner – it was pretty amazing to be a part of, and probably to witness. Just ask any of the dozens of shrieking parents present for those games – they’ll tell you.

Bodies of Light is like an all-star team, except instead of baseball, it’s an all-star team of experimental electronic drone music. Sort of the same, but not really. Instead of nine participants, Bodies of Light has only two: Peter Taylor, of MAbH (aka Mortuus Auris and the Black Hand) and yama-no-kami fame, and Nicholas Langley, showrunner of Third Kind Records (and Tabs Out celebrity) and solo musician/participant in such groups as Erm and Nickname and Vitamin B12, among others. But they don’t need an additional seven people to make the wonderful magic that they do, to prove to their hysterical fans that the wait was totally worth it.

And they’ve already sort of worked together – Nicholas has released Peter’s music after all. But in a fully collaborative environment, even though it’s virtual (London and Brighton are separated by a 60-minute train ride, but these are the days of COVID), the two shine brightly. “Petrichor” is chock full of the deeply personal environments that Peter and Nicholas are so good at creating on their own, and the synthesizer sweep of the tunes, peppered with spoken samples and other accoutrements, like the delectable piano loops of “Screen Memory,” serve to block out any external interruption. This is the stuff to get lost in, to listen to on headphones and absolutely escape. Taylor and Langley are at the top of the game with this stuff – they have few equals.

And of course, any really good team has to have a really good coach, and Peter and Nicholas have found one in Muzan Editions. Well, by coach I mean label to release the music, but you get the idea. If it’s Muzan, it’s quality! That’s no joke.

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Tabs Out | Ryan Wade Ruehlen – Nervous/Splintered/Circular/Breath

Ryan Wade Ruehlen – Nervous/Splintered/Circular/Breath

10.6.20 by Ryan Masteller

We’re all in the same boat. Everybody’s been stuck inside the house during this unprecedented time of isolation, so we get it – we understand each other. We’re all still in our pajamas; our hair is way longer than it should be, and don’t get me started on the beards. Oh, the beards! If your face is anything like my face, then you wake up daily going toe to toe with a follicular nightmare that barely registers as anything other than a crumb-filled bath mat. You could wipe your feet on my face.

Ryan Wade Ruehlen is one of the lucky ones, because he got outside – he made it, like he was busting out of jail and hopping the first train to anywhere other than here. Of course he had his saxophone and laptop and effects pedals and whatever else he’s using all tucked away in his hobo bindle – surely he wasn’t planning on artistically expressing his frustrations with our current situation without his primary tools. He also probably needed to bring a generator or some kind of apparatus that provides electricity – the desert doesn’t have any outlets.

Yeah, he did this from the Sonoran Desert and Tucson, Arizona. Got his sax and his gear all out in the middle of nowhere. Then he cooked up some serious pieces for what he’s calling the Decentralized Sonic Quarantine Network (DSQN), livestreaming the whole thing, then taking the audio from the stream and presenting it to us here. The cool thing is that it’s an ongoing project! But the tape in my hand is a finite object, so I guess I get what I get. Which, thankfully, is a lot! The four pieces are all damn long, ranging from almost nine minutes to over twenty-four. And there’s a LOT to chew on – Ruehlen starts with saxophone, utilizing circular breathing techniques, and adds on his electronic and loopy accoutrements. The result is sort of noise, sort of electroacoustic, sort of jazz, sort of modern classical, all experimental excellence.

Somebody’s gotta keep us sane throughout this pandemic. Might as well be Ryan Wade Ruehlen! The tape is available directly from the artist under the imprint Desert Spell Recordings, which I imagine is his own thing.

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Tabs Out | Bill Orcutt – Warszawa

Bill Orcutt – Warszawa

10.1.20 by Ryan Masteller

Bill Orcutt played about forty minutes away from my house not that long ago (pre-COVID), but I missed it. Actually, I didn’t so much miss it as I just didn’t go, considering that the show was going to end just past my bedtime at like ten o’clock or so, and then I would have had to drive that forty minutes back home. So really, because it’s my own fault and all, you really shouldn’t feel too bad for me. Not that that’s what I was going for with all this, but still, there it is. 

I guess in the end this is a terrible story considering I’m spending all this time telling you what I didn’t do. I could lie and make something up, I guess, but you’d see right through it. So I’ll just have to live vicariously through this tape, then, “Warszawa” on Endless Happiness. The two sides contain two live Orcutt pieces, just the man and an electric guitar, onstage at the Avant Art Festival, Spatif, Warsaw, in 2019. And if “Warszawa” is any indication of what I missed when Orcutt passed through my neck of the woods, then I blew it big time. This is some straight up fairy magic we’re dealing with right here. 

Orcutt lays the groundwork for his playing with some lovely pastoral improvisation (think William Tyler but wilder, more windswept), then lets it rip. You know how it goes: Orcutt lulls you into thinking you’re just going to lay on your back and watch clouds wisp across a clear blue sky all day, but he intersperses these sublime moments with arpeggiated jags and surprise twists and turns, then lets you lay back down and try to do it all over again. Each side is sixteen minutes long. He does this for thirty-two full minutes! It’s heavenly, and it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

Truly one of the modern guitar masters, Orcutt has another winner here with “Warszawa” – 50 with a blue shell (sold out!), 50 with a gray shell (not sold out!). And yeah, I’ll catch him next time around (vaccine permitting!).

Tabs Out | Mid-Air! – Catch Me If You Can

Mid-Air! – Catch Me If You Can

9.24.20 by Ryan Masteller

Horn makes jazz! But so does sampler?? 


To paraphrase my friend Ferris, life sometimes can come at you a little too quickly for you to be able to grasp what’s going on, even when it’s right in front of you. So when our favorite sampledelic maestro Mid-Air! dropped the alternate soundtrack to the Leo DiCarpian smash hit “Catch Me If You Can,” I didn’t know what to expect. First, I expected it to be an alternate soundtrack to that excellent award-winning film, and that proved to be a mistaken assumption. Second, I expected all the jazz on this tape to be made by a horn, and maybe a piano and some drums. I was only half right on that one!

Mid-Air! does make some jazz on “Catch Me If You Can,” but if you thought that one-person outfit was going to play all of your favorite instruments all alone, you’d be mistaken. In fact, you’d be so mistaken as to make me think you were high on something. Maybe glue. Alternatively, Mid-Air! does what Mid-Air! does best: sample the crap out of some cool sources. In fact, the idea for “Catch Me If You Can” is that it’s “meant to sound like an expert group of musicians, unaltered, without frills.” So Mid-Air! plunders some phonics from all sorts of super jazz records and strings them together in this 23-minute EP. He doesn’t do the boring jazz ones at all – everything here is groovy and awesome, like you were some swinging sixties guy and this was your background music. Smoky lounges, bourbon drinks, cool mustaches – it’s all here.

So I guess you CAN teach an old dog like me new tricks, especially when it comes to listening to music!

Mid-Air! succeeds incredibly in this rewarding experience, even though that whole “unaltered, without frills” is a bald-faced lie (I can hear the sample seams in some of these, and sometimes the music changes speed and pitch! Oh, that’s intentional? Well, carry on…). Still, this is one of those tapes that I’ll be coming back to again and again whenever I want a hyper-stylized representation of the intended era. Also, I’ve just smashed a bunch of my jazz records since I won’t need them anymore – 23 minutes of this on repeat is how it’ll have to be!

Cool, sparkly texturized O-wrap cover, no case from Mid-Air’s 100% Bootleg Cassette Tape Company! Streaming link for one track from Soundcloud!

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Tabs Out | Reid Karris – Cynical Nihilist

Reid Karris – Cynical Nihilist

9.22.20 by Ryan Masteller

We all know how exhausting being a nihilist is. But add cynicism on top of that? You’re likely to fall into a coma! Then you’d have to at least believe in the paramedics or you’d be dead before you knew it. Although with all this COVID, going to a hospital might not be the greatest thing in the world either, so there’s that.

Who knows what’s going through Reid Karris’s mind or what he believes in, but he sure isn’t exhausted or lazy or comatose. In fact, “Cynical Nihilist” is a restless percussive adventure, not content to float in a pool or drown in a bottle of liquor. Karris uses guitar, skatchboxes, and other rhythmic objects to trigger an entire tape’s worth of freeform energy, the one-man jazz/noise virtuoso coming off like a human electroacoustic performance. It is like a room filled with objects and a metal floor was somehow electrified, and the current manipulated so that everything moves and shakes and shudders against each other while Karris records it from behind a two-way mirror. You don’t want any of those objects or instruments seeing what’s going on back there.

While “Schadenfreude” and “Phantasmagoria” each play out their fifteen minutes of kinesis (program repeats on each side!), you have to wonder what other kind of Big Lebowski references we can fit into this review. How about “Nice marmot”? Sometimes Karris’s recordings mimic the restless thrashing of an animal in a bathtub. Or “Wouldn’t hold out much hope for the tape deck though”? I have a feeling that if you left this tape in too long, it would totally mess up your tape deck with all its moving around. Or maybe “I like your style, dude”? I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory, actually.

Only three left of the original run of 20! Please contact Tribe Tapes and bug them until they give you one.

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