Tabs Out | M. Sage/Liven Martens – Riding Fences, Zander Raymond – To Have Several Lives, & M. Sage/Z. Raymond – Parayellowgram

M. Sage/Liven Martens – Riding Fences, Zander Raymond – To Have Several Lives, & M. Sage/Z. Raymond – Parayellowgram

9.26.23 by Matty McPherson

When my brother visited last month, he was coming to finally partake in the LA Art Book Festival; such an endeavor required a day off, a token of support as much as a vacation for myself. From my view, the LA Art Book festival happened to be a triumphant celebration of cassette as much as FeelsLikeFloating. If you were on the floor you would have been able to pick up a kinetic variety of radio mixtapes, works from kranky alum Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, rare collectables from Masahiro Takahasi, amongst a collection of punk VHS tapes and zines. It sent a shock to my system, a certain realization that the LA Book Art Fair catered to just about any interest, including my own. Alas, there is no zine covering rare titles or connecting the dots on happenings across labels. “There is always a place for your voice to insert itself”, I realized over a bowl of ramen after leaving the event, hopefully destined to one day offer my own print documentation beyond the digital glow.

Meanwhile, noted wiz-kid/tactical event planning guru, Noah Klein, had taken Friday (amongst the weekend) to assemble a smattering of individuals tied to the FeelsLikeFLoating, exemplifying and displaying just how far the series has come in two years. “Cameos appearances” from Dustin Wong and Jordan of Mutual Benefit on the floor grounds were cherries on top, it humbled me to say hello to two individuals of deft compositional prowess. Yet, it was terrific work from Takahasi (a US Live debut if we’re getting the facts right), Diatom Deli, and even M. Sage, who’s role and connections to Klein have traveled over several labels and states. Sage was present early, cooped up at the merch table. He offered ample ear to my conversation while unstuck in time with goods from the past, present, and future of everything he’d slowly worked up to. “Ambient Americana” tropes was on my mind, but I contend that Sage was unstuck in time, having played a long game with a recent string of collaborations and curatorial endeavors. He’d seen the cycles and was just another in a long line of American Mavericks continuing a dialogue that was started decades ago. Only now it was being codified into something that folks like Sage weren’t aiming for, but just happy to keep carving out their own path within. What Sage told me was akin to what the great 18th letter had once emphasized: “Don’t Sweat the Technique”, more or less.

And really why would you sweat the technique? Time hasn’t caught up with Sage, only now it seems to finally understand where he’s been traveling towards. Sage’s 2020s era work has been ever-kinetic. On one side you have Fuubutsushi’s LPs that reveal his potency for digital connection within blissful jazz textures that had been percolating within him. Meanwhile, his LPs for Geographic North and RVNG have seen him skillfully warping the vapor trails and “ghosts” of synthesizer works from before towards a chamber palette akin to Town & Country for hearty celebrations of boating, creek paradises, and the duality of Western living amongst becoming a domestic father. It’s still essentially M. Sage mightily mustering Patient Sounds, but composed to soaring, dizzying heights. “Here’s three and a half minutes of wiggling air. Maybe it’ll tell you a story” is what Sage told me back in 2021, and he’s truly never departed from this open-hearted MO of exploration.

In his collaborative tape from last year with the Belgian Lieven Martens entitled, Riding Fences, Sage perhaps offered his finest entry point to the duality that comes with exploration. That is, where exploration becomes replication of tropes “more truthful than the actual”. Riding Fences’ sense of Western is one teetering on Full Spectrum land art, amongst almost-Hank and Slim desolation from the places Hali Palombo draws out, and with a dash of Steve Roachian Dust to Dust for good measure. The west out here is is comforting as much as it is dissonant, riding on acid logic as the recreation devolves into fogged out mood maps or science experiments. The tape’s titles are like prop directions or movie script locales, kinds that you would find in Monte Hellman films shot in Utah at the bottom of an artificial lake. Except everything has been preserved, waiting for a golden sunrise to light up the floorboard with quantum properties. Low synth drones close to an organ gospel. Piano keys that echo in a barroom. Field recordings & sample that Sage has continued to move to the forefront of the palette. Martens is a crucial partner to the endeavor, himself coming to terms with what it means to explore “western” by way of replication and performance, defusing the exoticism in the process. Nothing to fear, nothing to doubt.

Sage had let it slip that he did have a new collaborative tape, closer to Paradise Crick, coming with Chicago-based Zander Raymond. Raymond had been a alum all the way back in 2020, but it wasn’t until I was cleaning my tapes that I had properly remembered his debut on Sound as Language from last year. Raymond works with modular synthesizers, focusing around ambient textures that ebb and flow naturally. Last year’s To Have Several Lives, isn’t a series of epiphanies from this process, more or less following in an archtype of “indoor plant life” style pieces that defuse a space or seek to push the attention away from the music, but towards the space. Pieces stretch to five or six minutes, or appear as a flickering neon for just a couple minutes. It makes for aggressively focused room cleaning room as much as a gentle reprieve from the early morning sleepies or rain storm. It also warranted a beat, a collaborator, a direction to tie itself to outside just being well crafted tones. One that arrives on Moon Glyph in the form of Parayellowgram.

Parayellowgram is the kind of platonic cassette release that you’d hope from Sage, Raymond, and Moon Glyph. Its a C40 composed of four 10ish minute pieces, continuing a streak of Moon Glyph erring towards longform adventures and deep zoning on their curation (a wise move giving the label’s releases their own sense of character and liveliness off each other). The two’s pieces haven’t stretched like this outside live performances, and the recordings more or less mend Raymond’s ear for non-linear texture patterns and Sage’s “anything goes” exploration towards a most verdant flavor. The kind closing towards a lost strain of early 00s max/msp-aided post-rock as much as the latest iteration of minimal ambient texture magic between americana and “is that ECM enough for ya?” I wouldn’t be shocked if Sage and/or had been looking back at Claire Rousay’s haptic adventures, which itself is another space that the duo find themselves building off of in ample spades.

“It Is Isn’t It” opens like a mending of one of the two’s own previous works, plenty of keys and bleeping abound! Then halfway through, it finds a bass melody to loop, a jazzy drum pattern to swing to, and a smattering of baritone guitar, robust and saintly. Yellow Against Blue’s underlying drone pegs it close to a misbegotten loop-finding jazz record instrumental, only then using bass and bleeps to build up a sonic cocoon perfect to guide one to dreamed out bliss. Rhythm/Stipple concocts a haptic revolution accelerating skyward with motion, with a particular texture POP near the end that causes a jumping jolt. Closer, John Emerson’s ‘Parayellowgram’, meanwhile steals the entire tape, and gives both performers a display of their collaborative muscle. They work to stage the clattering bustle of a railroad station or even a cattle auction via percussive traps. Yet, Sage and Raymond always finds themselves pushing towards the synths and keys in the mix, glistening and stretching to the blue horizon with a clarinet and strings for good measure.

The beauty to the compositions mark it as one of the year’s most assured ambient excursions full stop, engrossing and giving to the listener. It might be Sage’s best cassette release arguably since Rife With Typo, his original “effort” for RVNG that found solace within Orange Milk. But make no doubt, the lessons of that vaporous age have found themselves transplanted in these compositions today, but Sage and Raymond’s work feels the most timeless both have achieved for the ferric format.

Riding Fences is Sold Out at Edições CN’s bandcamp (but perhaps M. Sage has a tape or two left?), To Have Several Lives is available at Sound as Language’s Bandcamp, and Parayellowgram is available at Moon Glyph’s Bandcamp.

Tabs Out | Westelaken – I am Steaming Mushrooms

Westelaken – I am Steaming Mushrooms

9.18.23 by Matty McPherson

Recently “slowcore” found itself on my mind. It’s a personally loathed term for genre, especially when bands purposely find themselves rigidly seeking to fit the codification. As a “sonic context” used to explain and document certain sonic phenomena, it actually becomes an incredibly valuable tool. Basically, the question imo should never be “is it playing slow to this set of rigors” but “why is it playing slow? who caused this and for what?” Resulting, this summer, I’ve seen myself taking a greater joy in the Blue Nile’s Hats! and Meshell Ndegocello’s Bitter. Neither of these albums would ever get shaken down as slowcore releases, unless you came looking at a larger context willing to accept that artists working in adult contemporary sonic modes also…could write flatlined, heartbroken compositions that resonated with the day to day mundanity. On some level, slowcore is about chewing the scenery and the effective disconnects between yourself and things around you. These artists could do that and probably deserve greater dialogue at the table, or more actual acknowledgement for providing new ways to bring new resonance out of the slow. Perhaps that’s why so Ethel Cain did so well.

Anyways, Westelaken is a four piece in Toronto, Canada. They’re not adult contemporary. They happen to write extremely knotty, twisted country rock compositions; the kind where everything is dependent on the red wheelbarrow filled with water. It has ancillaries in 90s post-rock to certain degrees and Drive By-Truckers to other degrees. Although, certain strains of folk songwriters that aim for this music inadvertently wander into making music that hits the slowcore marks but really finds a joy and energy in chewing the scenery with a steady upbeat midtempo. The pace can be glacial, but it’s the serendipitous joy of the lulls and the come to transcendent moments that make the music so much more situated, personable, and (powerfully) relistenable. About a handful of people have heard their music. If you are reading this, you’re probably one of them or about to be.

This is all a long way to say I am Steaming Mushrooms their 3rd and latest long playing cassette, is utterly terrific. It immediately reminded me of the quirky intimacy nestled within Tenci’s under-sung 2020 effort and the soaring desire to find purpose of Caroline’s 2022 debut. Both records felt lived-in, full of points that invited listeners in to share a common cause or experience, catch up and savor a moment of the world. I am Steaming Mushrooms is doing that too; it feels fit for somewhere between open highways and half-empty barrooms where everyone knows your name.

That sense is immediately enshrined with near-14 minute Ozzy’s Palace. It takes a minute for that open-tuned guitar to crash in with open arms. Backed by barroom piano keys, a lumbering bassline, a def drum beat, and the heaviest of tape fuzz it become apparent immediately that’s it come to pay homage to a one of a kind space the only way it knows how: to sprawl and explode in sudden, charming bursts. The drums’ lack of straight time, more or less hammering on beats that dodge immediate time signatures, and more or less sound like shots knocked back on a mahogany oak bar. Occasionally it crashes into catharsis, but more often than not, it sprawls and beckons you to listen closely to the beat of that drum. It’s one of the year’s most confident opening cuts.

Rob McLay’s drum is essential to understanding how Westelaken keeps such a streak going. Mid-tempo & ruminative, it really guides the album as Jordan Seccareccia perks up his wistful drawl filled with detail and desire keen to these beats. He is a terrific everyperson on this release, and while the lyrics aren’t published, they did arrive on folded postcard; there is serendipity and wonder to this exchange and power. His voice under instrumentals, built atop Lucas Temor’s killer piano and Alex Baigent sly, almost dub-trodden bass, convey and match the reserved performance. Across Side A this all comes in to play. The pit-pat piano rumblings of Pear Tree, that builds to a wry, small epiphany. Fixed Up By an Orange Light finds incredibly potency with guitar, key, and string interplay under absolutely gob-smacked potency in crashing frill breaks; a particular noisy syncopation with backing vocals is so raw, so warm. Annex Clinic & Pharmacy reinforces those queitLOUDquiet synctopations, as well as that grit and balance key to the tape.

In fact, at times I damn well had to clean my ears to confirm this wasn’t some misbegotten blog rock stray or Sub Pop one album wonder that was too witty for its time. It’s too twee, too unkempt, too pertinent and realistic; where cuts are disarmingly heartfelt and still summon a five-alarm warning system off in your head. Side B makes that clear, with Ribcage’s banjo strumming majesty & the bass n’ drum thump of hard knock rocker, Polar Bear. Yet, its the knockout penultimate of Fossilhead and closer I Can Hear the Highway. Both cuts are premiere Westelaken snapshots: Fossilhead stretches for ten minutes, bathing itself clean in piano arpeggios, a low bass hum, and a kick drum that strikes down to a molten level, resulting in a quiet blessing; I Can Hear the Highway sees the band’s foreplay and sonic palette in robust effect. They hit a chorus with the impact of a sledgehammer, amongst the delicacy of an oil painting of sunset in the country; with all the pear trees and rolling hills detailed out. Seccareccia ends humming us out like he’s hitchhiking his way to the next adventure.

It’s remarkable how that works. it’s also just a bloody miracle that in 2023 this album exists, and it’s swaggering confidence and homespun jerks mark it amongst the finest of the year, and a real “eureka!” (some rights reserved) for modern indie folk. All the dead oceans americana could learn a thing or two from these Canadians.

Edition of 100 Tapes available at the Westelaken Page; Comes with a Free Postcard of Lyrics.

Tabs Out | Track Premiere! Ian MacPhee – Move

Track Premiere! Ian MacPhee – Move

9.6.23 by Matty McPherson

Ian MacPhee is taking quite the leap. Well, Already Dead Records is making a door more open, bringing him into the fray with a proper self-titled debut EP, Distance, set for the label’s calendar on 10/6. It’s a stark C30 that’s finessed the edges of last year’s Everything proof of concept cassette into a proper sonic roadmap of Simi Valley’s uncanniness; although don’t be surprised if flickers of Kankyō Ongaku tickle through your ears while listening. Distance returns to that same transient zone once more, finding greater sweetness out of MacPhee’s Line 6 DL4 & Yamaha Portasound set-up.. Material’s been tested until its become a sort of public utility, rendering each environment (the park, the garage) I’ve found myself in as some sort of sauna to the sounds; it’s a no-fuss ambient EP, amongst the year’s most comfortable with its sense of place. Featherweight DAW compositions, to say the least.

MacPhee’s been in the TBD orbit, enough that we’re co-premiering the video for Move, the fourth cut and lone single coming out on Distance. Desolate windy roads on late night drives to abandoned freeways; empty gated communities high under glistening stars; parking lots, the kind where the feel of a thick valley heat rubs off the lone suburban light in the otherwise vacant zone. MacPhee’s Move finds a joy in the emptiness of Simi Valley suburbia. His video as well, just a snapshot of places and out-of-focus zones, recall the quiet peace of the downtown lights.

Field recordings and his drone give that sense of a glistening emptiness, but it’s the few shimmering synth chords that he trickles into the mix that give a warmth and heart. The kind of joy from spotting a white poppy amidst an orange barrage. In live time, the darkness or starkness of its pre-dawn intro lights up akin to a sunrise overcoming those Simi Valley mountains. It just needs a sprinkler recording to remind you of the many green lawns that litter the town. Truly, a remarkable little gem I’m glad we’re afforded to share today.

Distance is out 10/6 on Already Dead Tapes and Records. You can Pre-Order at their Bandcamp

Tabs Out | Illusion of Safety – ORGAN CHOIR DRONE

Illusion of Safety – ORGAN CHOIR DRONE

8.25.23 by Matty McPherson

Arvo Zylo has been keeping me in his thoughts I assume. A couple years back, Ryan tapped me to consider ESCHATOLOGY, a massive 12 tape endeavor of 24 noise splits and subterranean rumblings. It’s an essential release of the 2020s if you have the $65+ to shell out and are deeply invested in the practicing of noise and the doctors who do so on a global scale. Zylo sent one my way, but the truth was I couldn’t review that; there wasn’t an in for me in a different listening mindset. I admired it immensely though, and it gave me an in to the world Zylo has sought to curate and network. And ESCHATOLOGY did make our 2021 list and recieved a nod on that podcast, because the efforts of Zylo & the No Part of It label should not go undocumented or unacknowledged; that truly is cassette art at its finest and only rivaled by a few releases this decade in terms of unabashed sincerity and dedication to the noise. Even as I sit 8 stories high overlooking the Coronado bridge, any No Part of It release reminds me of a subterranean world that is out there waiting for the architecture to collapse and a new dawn to rise out of the ashes.

It’s why when I received a new package from Zylo out of the blue, with no immediate warning, return address, or MO, I was both a bit caught off guard but deeply humbled. Something in Zylo’s wisdom had tipped him off that I’d had Amek Drone Ensemble’s Op. 1 on the boombox for sleepy time listening. Thus, Illusion of Safety’s Organ Choir Drone seemed like the next thing that was to be. Even finally listening to it months later, fresh out of the shrink wrap, I’m amazed by the project’s sense of time. Illusion of Safety is celebrating 40 years of unlimited noise potential; releases from Digitalis Limited to WFMU, amongst a long running partnership with Zylo’s No Part of This are just a few of the breadcrumbs on discogs. It all offers a steady directions of limitless directions to choose from, as long as you like it black as can be. While there were a period of 2010s “wilderness” years with no releases, Daniel Burke’s project has been slowly cranking out tapes and reconnecting with No Part of It for a proper cassette return since 2013’s Surrender.

Daniel Burke invite Zylo to work with him in putting together a new release. By “putting together” that meant a return to the catacombs of Burke’s audio dungeon. Combing what source material could either be degraded into the tracklist, or was already a finished soundscape–just in need of the “Zylo Treatment”. It makes for a particularly touching collaboration for the noiseniks; raw Burkian sound, Zylo touches of humid noise or breakneck bass. All the while Burke is able to reconnect to raw materials or moments of triumph, like Eurorack modular sketches from 2010, used for a late Spring 2011 performance.

Organ Choir Drone might be noteworthy for how much it promises and teases an organ drone, but opts to keep it out of the frame. The first two cuts, over 12 minutes, dart between screetchy-leechy eurorack stigmata, or low-flying ambient terror; with a low-end rumble akin to black helicopters over the compound. The brevity of these pieces make for tender snapshots; both Burke and Zylo were feeding off of each other, and what Zylo was opting to curate carefully around exploring all aspects of this blackened noise, especially considering 3 of the later cuts run over 10 minutes. By track 3, Organic Pistons, when we even are finally come ear to ear with a droning organ it lulls like hunchback bells. Rumbling with a furious low end that channels a lot of intensity under an incredible sullen, discomfortingly reverent organ drone. Waste of Civilization mends all 3 of the previous side A pieces together into straight up stalker-plasma. Flashes of light come through, amongst radio static silence and the haunting non-organ drone. Yet it’s truly haunted by a piercing sound, one parallel to ferric tape wailing–if you’ve got old Columbia or EG tapes you know the sound. Quixotic in the best of ways as a listener; an extra layer of immersion to the experience.

Side B comes back bigger and deffer. It opens with a literal piece called Black Helicopters! And it sure does sound like sky monsters scraping the sky, surmounting a steelworker’s drone even Norman W. Long would shed a tear towards. That it happens to features a processed guitar chord loop gives it dimension and a space to expand to and let take over, curling over the chord into a new liquid drone. Groundswell Horns seamless enters into focus, an all encompassing blackened ambient dub cut for it’s first dozen or so minutes. It wisely jettisons any real sense of motion; just crackles, subterranean bass rumbles, and a small growl of horns. It lashes in a thrilling, visceral manner as piece swells into alien noise generator tones in its final third. It won’t swallow you whole, but it’ll really unhinge your swagger. Enough for the detente of Blackout to land as both a blessed field recording sanctuary and a heartbeat-skipping claustrophobic closing to the C50. A baptism in Eurorack never felt so spine-tickling.

Edition of 100 Tapes Available Now at the NO PART OF IT Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Skull Mask – Iká

Skull Mask – Iká

8.20.23 by Matty McPherson

I want to start this review by giving a sincere thanks to Gosha from Skull Mask. I don’t get messages through certain emails or non-twitter social media channels often, but they are open. And Gosha contacted me very much on the fly internationally with a tape from a label I wasn’t aware of, but very much in the vein of what I had been desiring from Radio Khiyaban’s 2022 releases, Senyawa’s 2021 masterwork, or any of the kinds of long arching, droning tones that envelop and win you over. Back in April I knew immediately this was going to be a tremendous release but that I would need time with it down the line. Gosha, thank you immensely for the cassette that has been needed during this summer.

Skull Mask, which is often just Miguel Pérez (Ciudad Juarez, Mexico based if I’m to believe) on guitar amongst a litany of other players in his orbit, have been working on their sound dating back to 2007. They debuted with “Cassette 2007”, but the first major release on the bandcamp will date back to 2012′ Sahumerio. Improvisational drone guitar is a reliant stalwart to several releases in catalog, but it is one based in psychedelic tones akin to anything between eastern asian music or crunchy, lo-fi desert blues, or blackened yet reverent gothic noise gospel. Peréz’s project and collaborations thrive on the space provided to them, both live and in cassette format that has been shied away from for too long.

Now, the private press cassette, like the jazz vinyl, is perhaps at its peak form when it is utilized for two longforms. And Skull Mask’s curation of Iká of two performances is a massive invitation into both an absolutely tantalizing duo amongst a promising European tape frontier. The tape might be an investment for those domestic bandcampers here in America (it’s an import from Raash), but Iká sees Skull Mask in peak form. It’s near 23 minutes fire off akin to a sepia toned nitrate print of a desert film; atmospherics are the main sleight. Afterall, Skull Mask is rarely about the drums, but the fanatical tone that boils deep to its core. As Gosha Hniu joins on wheel lyre (AKA hurdy-gurdy; also he mastered both tracks), he strikes an immaculate, sauntering drone that Pérez’s chords dance off of amidst an apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a sturdy balance that offers a primo snapshot of their August 2022. Side A is a Cafe OTO performance from August 10th, 2022 is a tour de force of that has been a reliant barometer for the low simmering insanity local tropical storms, heat waves, and nights that sweat up and choke you. As that is what the piece truly must have felt like to that Cafe OTO crowd last year.

Side 2 picks up a few days later at the Supernormal Festival (8/13/22) where stately droning and chord dabbling is not the move. What ensues is an immensely exciting happening of Skull Mask realizing itself in the moment and adhering towards “Iká” itself, a true wind piece. The result is conciser, yet more hectic tonal re-mapping of side 1 (itself recoloring the piece as not just one of droning, but wind energy). Side 2 opens practically en media res, with Peréz’s stable junker chords while the hurdy-gurdy drone deconstructs itself; this time as a shrieking wind noise takes greater focus in the mix at first. But quickly, things settle into a slinkier pattern. Peréz’s chords bounce about, a great tour-de-force, while the wind sound never dissipates but grows with hurricane intensity. It creates a deranged crescendo of sorts that suddenly becomes a staggering steam whistle. The kind that shrieks like a siren and pulls out a deep, CHUNKY energy in Peréz’s chords that becoming intensely meditative listens. It’s a riveting performance; as if the intensity of the improvisation always stays above 100 Fahrenheit. Steamy, not sweaty, drone work that has been missing in rotation this summer.

I mentioned earlier that this release came out on Raash Records; a Talipot Industrial, Jerusalem, Israel based label with their own radio show and DIY happenings (amongst a big love for Memphis Rap at least by the prospect of one mixtape for purchase). . It’s a region of tape labels Tabs Out have rarely covered but owe more to. Keep an eye out for what Raash is releasing on vinyl and tape, and if you can, pick up Skull Mask before the tape sells out. Seriously, the O Card packaging of that bird is enigmatic as all could be, and the tactical liner notes on the J-Card is a packaging sleight for the ages.

Tabs Out | Dustin Wong – Perpetual Morphosis

Dustin Wong – Perpetual Morphosis

8.4.23 by Matty McPherson

It must have been 1974 when my dad made the mobile. A series of aluminum rods, bent and dictated into 5 perfectly balanced three dimensional…squares? wheat thins? DNA modules? I’ve never known, but it’s the kind of object that looms over the family and reminds me of an underlying rigidity and focus that must’ve been instilled in me by ways of family history. But right now (in the recent past), it’s early June. Dustin Wong is showing me and my buddy, Thomas, the mobile that bestows the cover of his latest, Perpetual Morphosis. In case you haven’t heard, today is August 4th, 2023, and Dustin Wong has returned to Hausu Mountain with his latest, Perpetual Morphosis. Dustin resettled in LA a handful of years back and has slowly woven himself back into the LA Floating event scene here post-COVID. He’s just now coming off of a spring residency put on by Floating that’s blossomed into a collaborative release with Brin for Leaving Records rather shortly.

Anyways, Dustin is showing us that mobile (it is about the size of a small medal). And no, it’s not AI generated, but a legitimate object that exists on Dustin’s desk the same way my dad’s exists above the hi-fi where most releases are reviewed. His just happens to be made from paperclips, brightly colored and a potent reminder of the day & age. At the same time, Dustin is waxing poetic about the recording of the album, discussing the unique set-up of his LA apartment and the otherworldly intersection he finds himself at. The kind of intersection that sees a jumble of noises colliding with astronomical consistency, like his mobile. It all reveals it to be an effort much more based around a sense of place than anticipated, more than anything that can be artificially generated.

Our conversation with Dustin will remind me of a couple crucial things. Firstly, that Dustin is perhaps the most undersung individual to come out of Baltimore 00s scene, itself one of the more psychedelic American regional scenes. He’ll recount warehouse parties and playing with Dan Deacon, as much as the days in the undersung Ponytail (no word on a reunion…yet!); all of which should remind you that his music has a hazy jank that many attempt but few can ascertain like Dustin. Secondly, that Dustin’s methodology of creating music came with the advent of computers. He learned to loop a chord the LONG, PANIFUL way before playing guitar proper. As such, he’s concocted a particular flavor for texture, tension, calamity, and drone bliss that’s become only part of his bag of tricks. Thus, Dustin became something of a journeyman for those who sought out particular digital trickery that could detach and deconstruct the guitar into a loop-finding electronic production.

Perpetual Morphosis is his first proper in the 2020s, subtracting a handful of appearance or his Deathbomb Arc loosie from a couple years back. Dustin’s always evolving though and tests the limits of his electronic production to bring a new element into focus . What Perpetual Morphosis proves is that Dustin was able to internalize the shifting tectonics of LA against his recording and mixing set up into a situated sonic roadmap of the region; neighborhoods that sprawl out, intersections that ram into each other, the noise of a vaguely functioning, but underutilized metro. I’ve vaguely to this with Andy Loebs’ last two cassette releases, both of which gave samplepedic overload noise rigidity and motion need to define “goo core” open zones; the kinds that had nods to the real world but were of their own accord somewhere outside here. And Dustin Wong, arguably the loop-oriented “goo age” guru has been tackling that for quite a while across the 2010s. Still, Perpetual Morphosis does feel like the first time since Norman W. Long’s 2021 Hausu Mountain effort that a roster artist has been actively engaging in sonic roadmapping. And Dustin’s happens to be a dense, brightly layered variant that deftly reveals just how much we’ve missed music from him.

Note the quivers to the loops of Pegasi. The small quippy voices that pop under the Audhumla Thaw’s dub-damaged bubbles. The way Elegant Stumbler’s Atelier well…stumbles like you collapsed down Angel’s Flight on the way to whatever $20 sandwich is at the LA Public Market. There’s similarity and sequential consistency to Wong’s compositions. But each one pervades and spreads out on its own accord! Dustin’s palette often coming to bring a hi-hat or bright “pop” & structure that maps the ways a loop can spiral into that mobile on the cover, or an LA neighborhood can tangle itself into a ball. It should be noted that Dustin’s low-end on several tracks is majestic and thoughtfully expansive; especially on centerpiece “Memory River – Future Composite”. Those massive “CRASH!” keys that cause a 1000 ft drop echo the same way a car in an empty parking structure or a fireworks beckons off into the night. Dustin revels in these compositions, and it’s amongst the most joyous work of his career, let alone an LA artist in recent memory.

Limited Edition Cassette Now Available at the Hausu Mountain Bandcamp Page!

Tabs Out | TRAYSH – Shady Favorites

TRAYSH – Shady Favorites

8.3.23 by Matty McPherson

So just what is it about Husky Pants and cassette tapes? This is no longer a flirtation but a fixation, if not olive branch, towards the format fulfilling a strange curatorial impulse that’s caught in a lineage between a small bounty of jam-oriented, free-sprawling musics. That’s partially why when Ryley Walker releases a free jazz trio, it not only makes sense, but warrants as much attention as an Astral Spirits vintage. And for good reason! Have you seen the name of the Traysh trio? Daniel Van Duerm, Andrew Scott Young and Ben Billington. These aren’t just ten dollar (triple) names that warrant major billing on the tape releases and any fairgrounds where the ringling brothers once set up, but names rooted deep in Chicago musics. From Billington’s Quicksails to Young’s long collaborations with Walker, amongst Van Duerm’s time in AAVD Trio (who’s 2020 Orb Tapes remains one of the label’s strongest off-center noise curations); Traysh might as well be moonlighting as the Chicago Underground Trio for this era Chicago tape watchers.

And like good ECM warpers and second hand shop sound snatchers, Traysh’s debut Shady Favorites is a twisted left-field ode to the crate digging and scene watching. This is the kind of rollicking musician muscle for the jazz fan with both one hand on the 70s Miles jamming and another on Lounge Lizards/Saccharine Trust’s idea of a jazz for the punk basement. If Emergency Group hadn’t the rigid restraint and adherence to the motorik impulse on their February effort, it’s possible we would have seen territory akin to where Traysh goes. For there is a familiarity in the warming tones Van Duerm hits at with his ever reliant electric piano melodies and grooved out organ solos; as is Scott Young’s bass lines or guitar licks that reinforce the groove and let it sprawl or keep steadfast hustle. Yet Billington has a capacity to keep a normal time, or invert with sporadic frills and sudden solo sleights to upend the tiro’s almost-lockstep; or even with a synthesizer of his own to force everyone down their own crooked paths. Sick With Experience, their pinnacle jam, might buoy others with its true commitment to each member hashing out their own crooked sonic shapes. It comes together in harmonious deposits near its first third and finale that toy with silken noir theatrics, but a tumultuous middle section reinforces an underlying punk dissonance.

Their side B pushes up the hazy psychedelia. Van Duerm’s electronics adding snippets of otherworldly eerie aura, while Billington’s drum strike up claustrophobic, centripetal space. Meanwhile, Young’s guitar on Paint Sink is closer to the wooze of a pedal steel, while his bass plucking is akin to a marijuana cigarette wrapped in an American Spirits slowly spinning out. It’s our only buoy before the absolute technocolor storm that is the free jazz breakdown. Sutra Baths (“a great place to visit” – me) saunters and swells amongst that finger picking and synthesizer wail, natural crescendoes before coming back down to a Billington break that’s got the sweat of paranoia thick on it. Ever Over, the most pulped out cut, pushes the synth drone that’s sort of been suggested in the previous 4 cuts to the foreground, bellying into a massive hurricane with the organ before sputtering to a fine dandy conclusion.

Limited “spooly” Tape now available from the Husky Pants Bandcamp Page. The tape stops at Ever Over, but the gang were kind enough to include a digital bonus that surmises the veracity of this session.

Tabs Out | tondiue – Harvest

tondiue – Harvest

8.1.23 by Matty McPherson

There are several blue rooms that we encounter in our lives from time to time. Take for instane, the AT&T Blue Room, a streaming application that you could watch coachella through with 2k9 state of the art internet! Or how about The Orb – Blue Room, the 40 minute maxi single with Jah Wobble on bass and a Top of the Pops appearance in which a friendly game of chess was played. I’ve returned to the later a lot during spring and summer, partially because I find Blue Room’s sequencing to have an expansive, composer-oriented idea of what it was to accomplish: a water walk for ravers, basically. Such things are quite giving.

It’s Tuesday morning and I woke up to 2 notifications, one of which from a gentleman in Europe imploring me to look at the cassette(!) Resident Advisor just reviewed. And immediately based on the “Side A Continuous” & “Side B Continuous” mixes of tondiue’s Harvest, it seemed like a given that a lot of early 90s Orb energy was being summoned into this 60-minute tour-de-force; one as giving as that water walk perhaps. tondiue’s Harvest is a particular creative beast comprised of 2 ~30 minute longforms that terraform their way through their 3 parts. Cameron Kelley, a Pacific Northwest soundsmith and clubber based up in Seattle, is the producer and composer of these gargantuan pieces. They were both of which were written and performed for the 2022 Ground Hum & Active/Passive festivals in the Pacific Northwest, which might be a bit of a key giveaway to the general pacing of these pieces and their regionality. However, I genuinely do not see eye to eye with the resident advisor’s review of this piece’s influences, especially because so much of what Harvest represents is early 90s Mr. Modo catalog.

It’s a credit to Kelley that Lilypad purposely wants you to spread out and sprawl through the reef of its first dozen or so minutes. There’s more in common with Pacific Northwest stalwarts PJS’ sense of stilted atmospherics and vibes than outright rave noise or an endless spiraling crescendo found here. There’s walloping arpeggio and flexuous vibratos that give the sense of a close encounter with a galactic entity, but it’s only a few hazy reverberations away from full on rural psychedelia. By the piece’s second progression, watery percussive, akin to well…lilypads, and slight alien noise begins to give a form and retracts the ambient sprawl into a forward momentum. Suddenly, we’re in that final third, slinking and shimmering our way to the finish. It’s here where Kelley really hits on the pulp quirks that makes early Orb still such a delight to turn to. Bleeps, ray gun sounds, random voices wailing or sprawling out…it’s a giggly kind of psychedelic dance that beckons to you to come in without ever devolving to insular headphone music. All neatly tied to a bow as in its final moment it recalls the piece’s opening vibratos into a kickin’ breakbeat that quickly evaporates into liquid komische.

Koye almost preserves that liquid komische state at the start, just now as a radiating drone; massive EQ’d frequencies rising and falling as synthetic bass chews the sides of the scene. It’s effervescent, lucid dreamscaping for that first dozen or so minutes, only slowly introducing a beat that sounds akin to synthetic bowls being manipulated. Eventually by its middle mark, tondiue has revealed a drum pattern & ambience akin to the work of Bill Laswell’s Material of the early 90s or the Towers of Dub themselves; if you know Material’s Mantra (the praying mantis mix done by the Orb), then a lot of the piece’s tribal techno/”is this O.Rang?” codifiers and energy snap into focus. Seriously, by Koye’s second half, tondiue is full-blown in an Astralwerks Excursions in Ambience revival mode straight gunning to get on a theoretical volume 5. It’s to its credit that he doesn’t reach for the overbearing psychedelic overload, but stays grounded to the floor with the synth noise and that ever-shifting dubtronic beat. By the track’s close we’re borderline sampling the organ of Ride’s Leave Them All Behind and turning it on its side into a legitimate mantra before reducing itself to an electro state and bowing out. Although you could just put it on repeat and get lost for hours.

Limited Tape Available at the Sym Sym (Mor Elian & Rhyw’s Fever AM sister Label) page!

Tabs Out | mioriii – Nature’s Way

mioriii – Nature’s Way

7.31.23 by Matty McPherson

Linger around bandcamp pages long enough and you’ll come to repeatedly see a peculiar supporter with an avatar akin to the Husker Dü logo. Except it has a fourth line intersecting & has been rotated 90 degrees to represent two Hs–for Hush Hush. KEXP DJ Alex Ruder has kept Hush Hush as a reserved tape outpost over the past several years, often times engaging with music far outside the continental scene and as such, importing in high quality foreign artists and sonics for domestic enjoyment. The kinds of releases that quickly appear and then disappear by the time the word’s run amok.

There’s a lovely new continuation of the ever-stable PJS aesthetic currently available from the label right now, but today’s attention is squarely around mioriii’s ambient downtempo pop EP debut, Nature’s Way, which literally came out 2 days ago and took up a sizable amount of Sunday and this morning. It a five songer, the kind that runs as a ~C36 with each 18 minute side repeating the tape in full. That’s a summer walk listen or porch coffee drinker if I ever knew one. I also should mention that it is not exactly mioriii’s debut per se–the Japanese musician’s 2018 Ms. Indie Pop EPs are hiding amongst the crevices of the internet (and yes, mioriii is a voracious pop obsessive). Although you can be certain that Nature’s Way is an assured introductory statement.

It would be easy to simply listen to the 18 minutes and pick up on a series of loosely connected sonic threads. Nature’s Way is not mixed to transition from track to track, and when an idea suffices it bows out. However, it was sequenced with a clear direction in mind; both the opening title track and Echoes feature faint vocals and restraint akin to Lucy Liyou’s most precious moments at the piano, and they recall the way Nyokabi Kariuki layered and mapped her tracks discussing long covid on Resonant Body. The affect is arguably purposeful, as Bandcamp liner notes do indicate mioriii recorded this music on the cusp of a surgery/recovery from a strange fatiguing ailment that she has been working through over the past few years. Multiple listens, routinized and thought over, reward Nature’s Way’s slight palette that digs deep into what it wants to convey.

Specifically the middle 3 cuts where mioriii starts to twist up shapes of typical synth ambience, hitting the ear favorably. Her bookend cuts feature more “piano key” textures and vocal poems that provide a window to her world, but in the middle we find the dreams and desires. Those middle cuts are grounded by their fleet, effervescent flourishing textures, and they reach for actual pop heights as soon as they take a brief deviation from that path. “Annual Rings” incorporates slinky noises and minimal pulsing beats; the kinds that keep looking forward admits the synth noise’s catatonic wailing. “Mossy” starts from 1000 yards staring above the ground in the skies, with expansive synth patches akin to Drowse at his most uplifting or the urban twilight night-watching found on Aria Rostami & Daniel Blomquist’s Floating Tone; it then adds a cello and rain sounds, immediately finding an introspective somberness that with a minimal beat can saunter the hours away, the clear highlight of these 18 minutes. Finally, “Under the Sun”, the most outright ambient pop cut, limits its movement and twists simply to enjoy a moment in the Sun. As I’m uploading this, it’s a strangely grey, almost thickly humid morning to cap off July. But maybe this will bring out the sun for the park by late afternoon.

Limited Edition Cassette EP now available at Hush Hush Records’ Bandcamp!

Track Premiere! The Exit Bags – At Least I Know Now

Track Premiere! The Exit Bags – At Least I Know Now

7.29.23 by Matty McPherson

It’s been a grueling July. The heat is the giveaway, “hottest month recorded in human history”, after all. But it is in the details of the heat that therein lies the strangely cruel magnitude. Not too far from my house is an asphalt road. It was poorly paved over an underwater creek bed. Every winter shower, it bubble over and runs amok. The city nor the county chose to maintain the road. They let a stream of water spend the last 6 months gently dribble down and create algae debris and a litany of the most colorful weeds this side of North San Diego county. Well the heat proper finally dried that asphalt creek riverbed up. The magnitude is small, but the feeling lingers.

Anyways we turn our attention up towards Edmonton, Alberta, where my observation feels like naive, wishful. There’s more than 10 dozen fires currently raging up there. The magnitude of that destruction doesn’t escape me one bit from my time spent in Isla Vista where 2017-2020 burns imparted a new wariness amongst students of all ilk. And it rings in my head while in the thick of Michael James’ return to “The Exit Bags” moniker. Back in 2021 Michael came to Drongo with a tender, lowkey effort, Tower of Quiet. We premiered a track then! And now, James returns to Drongo with a new release, Our Sun Will Clean its Holy Wounds, out on September 1st. And he comes bearing a humid, thick bass-grounded slow burner of a cut that might as well be the soundtrack of the late stage summers from here on out. Here at Tabs Out, we (well, myself!) are getting out of our summer funk with a track premiere of The Exit Bags’ second single, “At Least I Know Now”. You’ll find the video & Bandcamp stream above and the image of album artwork below.

It’s an exceptional refinement of where Michael James’ slowcore-tinged palette was in 2021. There’s a humid THICK crunch to the sound that rushes to the red. The result of those pulsing drums and lurching bass that make up the bulk of the track proper. but also fragile quietLOUDquiet bursts that run amok towards the end. It all culminates in the kind that sounds both unwieldy expansive yet conveys the summer heat, if not personal anguish, bearing down on you. Whatever James is mining at here on “At Least I Know Now”, it’s conveyed with utmost deftness that defines the personality of each Drongo Release