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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Tabs Out | Permafrost AC – Skärmtiden läker alla sår

Permafrost AC – Skärmtiden läker alla sår

9.1.20 by Ryan Masteller

Ol’ Krister Mörtsell sure has his thing. Not only does he run the väldigt bra Do You Dream of Noise?, a massively cool ambient/electronic/post-rock label out of Sweden, he also performs as Permafrost AC, whose output varies from massively cool ambient to electronic to … I dunno, probably not post-rock. But still! Pea meets pod, or pod creates/cultivates/signs pea (to contract), and the rest is history, with Permafrost AC releases dotting the DYDON discography, and the discography of other labels. Including Lamour Records, which is what this one is on!

I have it on good authority (Google Translate) that “Skärmtiden läker alla sår” means “The screen time heals all wounds,” which I don’t understand in the slightest, so I’m not going to give it a second thought. (Translation programs don’t often get what I’m REALLY trying to say, you know? There’s an idiomatic blind spot to them.) What I do know is that we’re all wounded in some way, and we’re all striving to heal those wounds. Especially these days, these remarkably dumbshit, disappointing, and disconcerting days. Heal me, oh Permafrost AC, with your shafts of synthesizer light, with your gleaming cubes of EBow’d guitar!

And there they go – my wounds are fading. There’s something environmentally and psychically friendly about this kind of ambient music, the minor keys layered in the atmosphere, like you’re at the top of a mountain looking out upon the landscape and watching the clouds roll in. It’s not the kind of music that gives you an easy way out, emotionally, but it makes you think, contemplate, consider deep down how you’re going to approach everyday life hereafter. So it gets inside you and becomes part of you, and now you’re a serious thinker with an eye on making the world a better place. Wounds, begone! Now we heal your wounds.

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Tabs Out | Moth Bucket / Bridges of Königsberg – split

Moth Bucket / Bridges of Königsberg – split

8.28.20 by Ryan Masteller

As antisocial as it gets. Moth Bucket and Bridges of Königsberg, together at last, for the first time, for the last time. Or maybe not the last time. I have no idea if they’ll hook up again, or even if the individual collectives (Moth Bucket is the duo of Kevin Sims and James Searfoss; Bridges of Königsberg is Christopher Burns, David Collins, and Peter J. Woods) will be able to share the same room in the near future. Who’s to say with all this self-isolation? I haven’t seen another human being in months.

Still, these are antisocial times, and this split is filled to the butt with antisocial antimusic. Moth Bucket gets it though – “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Jazz!” is their track, and I can’t believe it either. Horn is supposed to make it jazz, right? Moth Bucket plays horn, and reeds, and it’s not jazz. It’s a long lament of being stranded somewhere where there’s no human interaction, like a desert island. Like my house is right now – a stucco desert island where I try to drink my own tears for sustenance. (My wife keeps trying to get me to drink water from the Brita pitcher, but I’m not convinced she’s even there.) Horn just breaks up the electronics and sampling and “Fun Machine.” It’s noise, guys. It’s noise. Maybe it’s in my head.

It is in my head! Bridges of Königsberg makes certain of that with their side, a little something called “The Curse of the Second Act.” I had no idea I was in my second act (is that what middle age is?), but heck if I don’t feel cursed right now. And the trio just rolls over me with a mélange of processed electronics that crush my brain and my sanity, and then they just continue on their way. That this thing lasts for eighteen minutes is a testament to how much intensity I can tolerate at one time. Moth Bucket was eighteen minutes too. I might be dead at this point?

Orbit Orb Tapes’s site and orb-grab one of these 50 orbs (tapes) beforb they’re orb (gone)!

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Tabs Out | Bary Center – Guide Me Through the Hills of Your Home

Bary Center – Guide Me Through the Hills of Your Home

8.4.20 by Ryan Masteller

Friends, we’re gathered here today for a somber occasion, one for which fanfare may or may not be appropriate (I haven’t decided yet). See, Mark Williams, the man behind the beloved Bary Center brand, has decided to hang up his spikes, as it were, and walk away from the moniker he made so popular, thereby burying it six feet underground in the cemetery right outside this chapel. See? A somber occasion. 

But it’s also one for joy! Sure, there’s the whole “Let’s remember Bary Center fondly and celebrate his career” thing, but there’s also the fact that he’s dropped one last BC tape on us before he rides off into that big old ranch in the sky. (My metaphors are all over the place today.) Not only that, he’s back at it with Brighton superlabel Third Kind, which is releasing it as catalog number 50 – a milestone! We sure do love our round numbers around here. [Ed: That number isn’t funny at all.]

So do you see my predicament? I’m not sure I can balance the emotions on this one. Maybe we’ll just ask our organist to play “Guide Me Through the Hills of Your Home,” chock full of beautiful psalms, and revel in its delight. Oh, our organist, Peg, is under the weather, so we have a replacement organist for the day. And I’m now seeing that he brought his own, much larger organ.

Or, uh, his own, much larger tape deck.

As you can hear from its synthesizer euphony and delicate rhythm patches, “Guide Me Through the Hills of Your Home” is a clear-eyed journey into what’s next. Meditative, contemplative, reflective while also looking to the future, Bary Center’s mood here is of the universal variety, one that anyone can slip into and out of whenever they need a moment of relief from whatever’s happening to them at whatever time. And of course, Bary Center and Third Kind simply fit together as kindred spirits – Williams and label showrunner (and awesome musician) Nicholas Langley previously appeared together under the four-way Third Kind split “Puzzle Time,” itself a glorious celebration of timbre and tone.

No circus music or plates smashing on the ground or whistles or anything of the kind involved at all. Just good, old-fashioned delight. 

So let’s give a proper goodbye to Bary Center, and a hearty “Best wishes!” to whatever’s on the horizon. And cheers to Third Kind on catalog number 50. This IS a joyous occasion!

“C60 housed in a black card box, includes three double sided photograph cards and a quality A4 print of Kate Tumes unique embroidery piece ‘A Benediction.’ Box edition strictly limited to 70 copies.”

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Tabs Out | Benjamin Vraja – Anthology

Benjamin Vraja – Anthology

7.14.20 by Ryan Masteller

Sometimes treasure is real. Not the pirate kind of treasure that lies in heaps in caves on deserted Caribbean islands, known only to those who possess the right maps and compasses and things, and maybe a dash of magic or a sprinkle of prophecy, but the everyday kind, the kind that unearths itself in the cleaning out of a closet or a garage or a space beneath a bed. Well, that’s not to say it can’t be the pirate kind, what with the preponderance of obviously sunken vessels that litter our eastern seaboard, filled to the brim with Spanish doubloons or jewels or artifacts or, say, Nazi gold bricks. In fact, there’s probably so much treasure at the bottom of the ocean just waiting for scientists and explorers to get to that we could probably eliminate poverty as we know it. Now, let’s get in our diving bell and get down there! 

I got off track there a little bit. I’m actually NOT here to talk about pirate treasure, but treasure a little more within our grasp. See, some of us are already flush with treasure, even though we might not know it. I, for instance, have a lot of clearly valuable baseball cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s, not to mention my stupendous and unmatched cassette collection. I’m one of the lucky ones, completely aware of the value of my collections as historical artifacts and cultural signposts. But others, like Matt Vraja, don’t know what they have until they “clean out the family estate.” 

I’m going to avoid telling the whole story, one you can read on the inside of the Jard of Benjamin Vraja’s “Anthology.” Yes, Matt and Benjamin are two different people, I didn’t introduce a typo up there. Matt is Benjamin’s nephew, who never actually met Benjamin before his sudden death in 1996 – Matt had just heard stories of the eccentric musician his uncle had been. But one day, in 2014, he actually came across his uncle’s recordings, and in matching the anecdotes to the fascinating and forward-thinking sounds he was hearing, Matt realized he had to introduce his uncle’s work to a wider audience. 

That’s where “Anthology” comes in. The tape captures recordings that Benjamin made in the 1970s and 1980s, at various studios and academic institutions, and with various equipment. Focused mainly on synthesizers and other proto-electronic gear, Benjamin experimented the hell out of what he had in front of him, and the results are never less than fascinating. Imagine finding lost Don Buchla tapes, or recordings by Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, or Ray Manzarek. Benjamin Vraja compositions might not fetch the millions of dollars these other big names would, but maybe that’s because he’s still a hidden … treasure. He doesn’t have to be so hidden anymore with this release, which should now be a must-have for anyone interested in early synth experimentalists. 

Honestly, though, sometimes it’s literal pirate treasure that turns up. You really never know.

You can grab this self-released beauty on Bandcamp. Edition of only 45. Truly as rare as gold! 

Tabs Out | Amek Drone Ensemble – Op. 1

Amek Drone Ensemble – Op. 1

7.3.20 by Ryan Masteller

So many things are getting canceled anyway, we may as well cancel 2020 in its entirety, am I right? Every public event, unless you live in the southern United States (which I do … sigh), is going right out the window, gatherings of people banned because we’re all disgusting petri dishes made of meat that live to sicken the others. This includes, among a vast array of other activities, sporting events, church picnics, hang gliding classes, and musical concerts. I’m here to rant about my newly hang-gliding-lesson-free calendar.

I kid! This site’s for music, not hang gliding.

Among the COVID-related event casualties was Sofia Drone Day 2020, and if you, like me, were like “That sounds awesome!” upon discovering of that day’s existence and then immediately crushed that (a) it was canceled and (b) Sofia is a city in Bulgaria and you weren’t going to make it anyway, you might be surprised and potentially thrilled that Bulgaria’s own Amek Collective has you covered. Sort of. See, the Amek Drone Ensemble, made up of label vets Linus Schrab (V I C I M), Angel Simitchiev (Mytrip, and Amek honcho), Margarit Aleksiev (OOHS!), Ivan Shentov (krāllār), and Maxim Mokdad (OOHS!), were probably planning a pretty sweet 2020 set when the cancellation occurred, so they had to react fast. And react they did, releasing their Sofia Drone Day 2019 set as the ADE on cassette to tide you over. Tide you over till what? Till everything gets back to normal, that’s what.

So now we have Op. 1, a thirty-minute improvised glowing, hovering, rippling sphere of synths, loops, guitar, etc. that morphs and re-forms itself over the course of its gestation. The players absorb the spirit of Drone Day like it was belief in some sort of dark wizard Santa Claus, translating that faith into wave upon wave of thickly defined sound. Listening to Op. 1 has me thinking that maybe the quintet has set their gear up somewhere near the event horizon of a black hole, but then I realize how silly that is, because none of that gear would sit still enough to play. Still, this is some heavy, heavy drone.

So don’t feel too bad that you missed out on Sofia Drone Day 2020 (because you were anyway); feel good that you can wrap your mind around Sofia Drone Day 2019, because, you know, drone is timeless that way.

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