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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Tabs Out | Edwin Perry Manchester – A Hidden Doorway to the Past / Your Fears Are Real

Edwin Perry Manchester – A Hidden Doorway to the Past / Your Fears Are Real

9.21.20 by Ryan Masteller

Of the many moods of Edwin Perry Manchester, these are two of them. “A Hidden Doorway to the Past,” released in October 2019 on Black Ring Rituals, and “Your Fears Are Real,” a relatively fresh batch of sweet “tunes” that popped into existence in June on TapeGoblin, swing open that titular door of the first to expose the mind of one wacky home skillet. As Manchester sets up his electronics table, surely he’s constantly dreaming of the day he can set it all on fire, all while it’s plugged in and feeding back or whatever, the sound of the inferno forever imprinted in the spools of a cassette tape.

Until that day, though, he’ll have to make a “virtual” inferno with the sounds his gear makes. “A Hidden Doorway to the Past” is the harsher of the two, a putrid wail of nasty signal broadcast directly from the butt of a farting quasar. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as track 2 of this thing is called “Frank Silva,” a tribute to the late actor who portrayed the stringy-haired BOB on “Twin Peaks.” If you think of “A Hidden Doorway” in relation to the Black Lodge denizens and BOB acolytes the Woodsmen, then imagine their “Gotta light?” inquiry blown into sonic molecules and repackaged as cassette-based artistic statement. The growly white-hot static and radio melt will surely blast open some doors with that intensity.

I would’ve loved to consider “Your Fears Are Real” as the friendlier, more-ready-to-chill manifestation of Manchester’s personality, but hey – you don’t call something “Your Fears Are Real” without getting to the heart of whatever matter you happen to be pursuing. And if you’re getting to the heart of “fears,” then maybe it’s only up to the brave and the well-prepared to dig in and really sink some teeth into this thing. Still, the obvious synthesizer material includes tendrils and wisps of playfulness that come off as less dour than “A Hidden Doorway,” but it’s still an uncompromisingly in-your-face set. Also, it ends on a track called “The Pain Goes On and On,” so there’s that. Not really playful at all, actually.

Two copies left (of an edition of 25) of “A Hidden Doorway,” nine left (of an edition of who knows) of “Your Fears Are Real.” You should probably stop waiting?

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Tabs Out | Siihhi – Totallo

Siihhi – Totallo

9.17.20 by Ryan Masteller

I keep getting tapes in the mail, and I have no idea how this USPS thing is going to shake out, but maybe if they keep treating my packages like this, it’ll be good riddance to them! [Note: I do not feel this way.] I mean, if a tape’s going to get here without being properly temperature controlled, there’s no point in even listening to it, is there? Take this Siihhi tape for instance – “Totallo” showed up in my mailbox after festering in a hot mail truck all day, so of course it’s gonna come out sounding all wobbly and warped. That’s just what happens when plastic gets too hot – it melts.*

Wait, what? “Totallo” is SUPPOSED to sound like this? Well, that’s a whole different story, and I apologize to the fine men and women and non-binary employees of the Postal Service who are doing their job perfectly and without reproach. In fact, “Totallo” is such an intriguing and unusual listen that I might just tip my mail carrier the next time I see her. Because, from what I understand, you shouldn’t shoot the messenger for bad news, but you should totally shower them with credit for good news. I mean, I guess I should laud Siihhi, the artist, as well as the label Cudighi Records a little bit too. Siihhi being the creative and all, and Cudighi ponying up the dough to fire this off into the public. So, kudos guys – well done.

Originally released digitally in 2017 and dubbed to physical cassette in 2020, “Totallo” is a wonderland of loops and melodies presented as worn diary, the pages disintegrating the moment the last word is read. It’s a hissing, warbling lesson in leftfield exotica, and its charm is virtually impossible to ignore. Add to the fact that if it does indeed arrive in your mailbox damaged it’ll probably still sound cool, and you have a winner of a release on your hands here. And its dense, humid beats-and-samples makeup could only originate from … Finland? Is that right? Oh well, I guess they have volcanos or something in Scandinavia. Iceland anyway.

*This melting thing wasn’t my idea – I stole it from Tristan Bath at the Quietus.

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Tabs Out | Bridle – Forward Motion Plus Volume Three

Bridle – Forward Motion Plus Volume Three

9.14.20 by Ryan Masteller

I’ll tell you one thing about this Bridle fella – when he makes a tape, you know EXACTLY what you’re listening to. There will never be any confusion. So even if somehow you smash your Norelco case to bits and accidentally drop the lovely transparent j-card into a paper shredder and scratch off the adhesive label from the face of the tape with whatever machete-type instrument you have at hand, as long as the tape itself is still playable you’ll hear the following at the beginning of “Current Collector” opening up side A: “Bridle, Forward Motion Plus Volume Three.” How’s that for forefronting your brand? It’s right there at the beginning of track 1! (And track 3.) (And track 6.)

You might also simply recognize Bridle from the music – this is volume three after all, and if you’ve got volumes and two at hand, you’ll be prepared for the action of this new entry into the series. The Texas electronic artist specializes in downtempo, the chilled atmosphere of the “Forward Motions” perfect for laid-back evenings spent with a glass of hand-cut and mulled sangria, an ornate pipe filled with exotic tobacco blends, and an old-timey newspaper filled with articles about mustaches and bicycles. Well, that’s what I do with my time anyway, and Bridle works for that. You might be doing something else, but there’s a lot of activities this can cover. 

What really matters is that “Forward Motion Plus Volume Three” is easy on the ears, an immensely enjoyable minimal techno ice skipper with goth melodies and a healthy sense of self-doubt, perfect for everybody who’s erected thick emotional walls and wants nothing to do with their classmates. Nostalgia meets future/present in the tunes, and my recommendation is that everybody should grab a copy of this tape to help them center – in a groovy way – every once in a while. Too bad it’s sold out. Discogs, here I come! (Oh wait, it’s not on there yet either. Jamie? …)

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Tabs Out | Takahiro Mukai – Fusty Stuffy & Wyndham Research Institute – Interim Report no.57

Takahiro Mukai – Fusty Stuffy & Wyndham Research Institute – Interim Report no.57

9.10.20 by Matty McPherson

Mystic Timbre is having a fire…sale. The label, which may have been best known for its dungeon synth, racked up an uber-prolific run of tapes from artists around the world in such a short time. Last month, MT decided to head into an indefinite hiatus, clearing inventory with $1 tapes until all stock is cleared. Tragic, as I was ready to make Mystic Timbre my Saturday night thing after having listened to two terrific tapes from artists on the label, one from Takahiro Mukai and the other from the Wyndham Research Institute.

The former, Mukai’s Fusty Stuffy is supposedly his big half-centennial release, which he celebrates in style by introducing 7 live improvisations on an unsuspecting tape deck near you! Side A sounds like a cascade of failed analogs, bludgeoning and sputtering out noise. Yet, whether or not the noise can be harnessed into a laser weapon or a power incantation is revealed on Side B. On #449 Mukai’s improvisations take on the lifeforce of a blood thirsty vulture, backed by a drum beat that sounds like a motor piston, on the (metaphorical) dance floor, while #453 features a cryptic, morse code-like transient noise burst. The result is at once, incredibly danceable and mind-expanding.

The latter (SOLD OUT), the Wyndham Research Institute’s Interim Report no. 57: lo Transmitter sub-committee, is a new series of clues from the mind of J.G. Sparkles, a “Sweedish noise orchestrator” (which is how 7.3% of Sweedes have been garnering a living for centuries). The “unclassified report” from the lo Transmitter sub-committee contain no words, only sounds-and these must be sounds of great scientific achievement, like a spaceship, if you ask me. Across the seven transmissions, Sparkles practically soundtracks standing at the bridge of a lone space vessel (Notes VI & VII), while still having enough time to document the inner workings of this ship’s warp speed drives and pulse emitters on abstract notes like II, III, and IV. The result is a treat for fans of hearing Black Mesa’s sirens wail ad nauseam, as well as those that still have dreams of radiophonic spaceships delivering us to territories unknown.

Yet these are only a fraction of the choices still available from the Mystic Timbre catalog of sounds. You’re still here eyeballing this instead of grabbing those tapes?! 


Both from Mystic Timbre, Editions of 100

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Tabs Out | Various Artists – For a Better Tomorrow

Various Artists – For a Better Tomorrow

9.3.20 by Ryan Masteller

Do you have a kid? I mean, of course you don’t – you outsiders couldn’t procreate if you were the last people on earth. But hypothetically, if you had a kid, they would have to go to school, right? And wouldn’t it just be great if that kid could go to school in a COVID-free world, or at least in world where we had a vaccine for COVID? Alas, kids are going back to school en masse, the little petri dishes just primed to spread whatever disease they can get their hands on. COVID? Duh, that’s the big one right now. But what about chicken pox, measles, typhoid fever? Absolutely, especially if their vaccinations aren’t up to date. And parents, it’s up to you to make sure your kids are vaccinated. Because if they aren’t … well, they’re the ones who are going to get all these diseases. Not my (hypothetical) kids.

But this is about COVID, and school is just one of the many institutions that the pandemic is wreaking havoc upon. Communities are being ravaged, and it’s somewhat of an understatement to say that we’re not getting a lot of help from our elected leaders to bail us out of the worst of it. I mean, I’m sure there are SOME things those in positions of power and influence can do to help out the people affected most by our present reality. But since the measures are ineffectual at best, it’s up to people like Michael Potter, who runs Garden Portal (and NULLZ0NE), and organizations like Mutual Aid Athens to fill in the gaps. Or chasms. Or crevasses. The terminology all depends on where you live (although it goddamn shouldn’t). 

Think about that – a guy that plays guitar in a band with a guy from another band called “Bleachy Asshole” and who runs two underground tape labels cares more about his community and is thus doing more for it than the people who are actually supposed to be running the joint (I’m assuming – there aren’t many politicians who have a good look right now, so apologies to those good ones I’m overlooking). So let’s applaud Garden Portal for bringing together a heckuva collection of the best the label has to offer, like Joseph Allred (seriously, this guy has to be on the must-see live music list once we have a vaccine, right?), Patrick Shiroishi, Jacob Sunderlin, and Potter himself, among many others. The Garden Portal MO is transcendental acoustic music (Potter’s got a new tape himself with the Electric Nature – see previous “Bleachy Asshole” comment – called “Trance Music” that pretty much is exactly what the entire label’s about), and For a Better Tomorrow does not disappoint in that regard. Plus, 100 percent of all digital proceeds go to Mutual Aid Athens, specifically helping community of Athens, Georgia. Buy or just donate – up to you.

So no matter how COVID is affecting you, and no matter how effective your local (or higher) government is, know that you yourself can actually and actively promote health and awareness in your community, and that you can even help others out directly. Isn’t that awesome? All you have to do is look to Garden Portal for inspiration, and the sky’s the limit. Now, if I could only get away from these friggin’ children at the indoor bounce house and pogo in peace …

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