Tabs Out | Low End Activist – Airdrop

Low End Activist – Airdrop

3.30.24 by Matty McPherson

There’s two ways you might want to try and grapple with a crash course in 90s rave/techno/”music you get sorted for Es and Whiz”. The first way is to become a crippling eBay slot machine addict waiting for a lot of techno tapes to emerge from the depths of one’s digital garage sale. They can show up and due to what I can only say is a lack of buyer imagination/desire to chase after these sounds, you can haul quite the lot for a 50 to 75 dollar bill if yr a smart cookie. You’ll end up with a lot of breadth, to say the least. Though what happens next is you end up hoarding tapes you forget to listen to (source: I got 30 of these I couldn’t even get myself to walk over and drop in the deck reading Raving over a couple dedicated sessions).

The second way is by making a wise move and studying the sonic roadmapping on Airdrop, the latest release from Low End Activist. The tape comes from Peak Oil, a vital dance LP oriented outpost, occasionally rearing its head towards the tape format when the time strikes (see 2022’s terrific euphoric sleight from Strategy). Brian Foote’s curation has always had an edge to it. After all he is a certified vet of a 90s midwest scene someone (other than Michaelangelo Matis) should write a book on. His work at Leech is tip-top in certain quips and hat-tips back to that time, but always quite of the current moment. It bounces back in the curation that chases after albums that both recall that time and place, while placing it distinctly in the now, crossed between full blown dance euphoria and full out electronic listening music. The 5am comedown of Strategy’s Unexplained Sky Burners; last year’s Purelink, a lost transmission from a dormant Black Dog Productions moniker that got trapped in the ether 25 years prior for being too ambient. Low End Activist meanwhile has come out with a smattering set of rave ghosts and pinpoints to happenings across England’s storied dance locales of the 90s. Another UR signal airdropped to yr aerials or the ferric.

It’s a nifty MO that gives Low End Activist real breadth and spine-chilling depth over the 41 minutes. The press release Foote sent indicates “the cuts take cues from key heroes of the “where were you in ‘92” set – Tango & DJ Ratty, Top Buzz, DJ SS, DJ Seduction, Dr. S Gachet – then fling them to the four corners”. Brief journeys to their discogs only made it abundantly clear how little of their sound was being imported to America via Profile or Sonic Records rave comps that have ended up in my bedroom. Would Low End Activist have fit snuggly on one of those comps of the era? Truthfully, he’d have stood in opposition there; perhaps finding a home somewhere snuggly on the Psycoustic Dillusion Conception 1. A killer 1993 comp from the UK that sees the continuum on the precipice of jungle but not quite ready to trade the airhorns for the bpms, the dub influence brimming all over.

Dub truly is the most important element to Low End Activist’s cuts on display. This is not paced like a set, but the dub process is stiff glue (I would reckon he’s got the Soul Jazz Box of Dub), precisely the thing that takes these cuts out of the past and into a 2024 deconstruction. These subtractions and echoes flows in and out without ever calling attention to itself. There’s a malleable feeling that results, the kind scratching an itch that doesn’t dissipate after you realize how well Airdrop nails its lockstep between 150 bpm mania and a softer, synthetic rave-psychosis. That kind of entanglement defines the C41 and its seamless directions to sprout from, enacting its own splatters of k-time. Every cut’s subtitle that indicates place in a way, sometimes the particular density of the room, the bpms, or some inbetween character of madness in the present trying to put yourself there. The title itself already implies a beam in.

The opening ten minutes, Waterstock and Yarnton Rd 2 Cassington, are reflections of space building in its ambient form. They leave in the synths, or a stray drum rhythm stay in; it’s close enough to feel the ghost or the pulse of the room, but at that eerie distance Strategy was catching on Fountain of Youth. Mayhem on Barton Hill brings out the ravier end of dub dimensions. There’s two types synths: dead-eye dubby synth strobes and even an airy footwork bridge, amongst layers of quixotic breakbeats and chase-laden vocal euphoria n’ airhorns skitters that leaves you shadowbox juking. Squeeze Your Lemon explores mix dynamics with vocals and a breakbeat cutting right in your face, but often hiding behind the fog of those airhorns or a radio-jammed vocal wub leaving you gobsmacked.

White Horse Hill is almost seamless transition, as much as a rhythm shift. Choppier on the dnb breaks to create a different syncopation. It tumbles down off that hill with another airy synth dive. Praha Hardcore is not entirely in jest, leaving a clear hardcore synth rhythm with meager percussive oomph and lotsa atmosphere. It’s just hefty bass bopping and weaving into a clear catalyst zone. Tango Skit is such the catalyst, itself the most rollicking, with an ample 150 BPM pleasure dome kickboxing to sprout. Hinksey Hardcore is a far more liquid outing than its Praha sibling, synths surfing under alien noise and machine clanking straight into a lost Rez boss battle. That trio leading up to the finale might be the true sleight of the tape, although I err towards the Cortina Outro as my favorite. After all, it is the most outright “dub rave”, laid back on its vocal sample imploring movement, yet ever building in its focused burst of intensity. It feels sinister and less an invitation to listen in than to truly get moving. That’s about all I’ve been capable of doing for the last 40 odd minutes, skittering into a rhythmic pulse.

Tape Sold Out at Peak Oil…check out distros and retailers.

Tabs Out | Phil Geraldi – AM/FM USA

Phil Geraldi – AM/FM USA

1.05.24 by Matty McPherson

The designed in France (made in China) We Are Rewind cassette player is the object Santa and his merry elves imagined I would need most in 2024. For the record, I used to use a Walkman WX-197, then swapped to an early 90s SX-F39. I quite fancy those late 80s/early 90s Sony models (especially sports) on account of the auto reverse, radio, and timer features. Terrific situational value, especially the radio on account of the static-laden presets you can find solace in.

I suppose though, that We Are Rewind believe that a 2020s portable cassette player should sacrifice those elements in lieu of one boxy-ass rectangle designed to elicit nostalgia with the charging battery potency of a 2012 iPod touch. The single side tape head is clean though, and it can record a mixtape (not that it has the microphone necessary for bootleg live performances). It would be a tremendous paperweight if not for its lone saving grace: connection to bluetooth headphones/speakers. Wow! Now I can listen to analog golden age classic Paid in Full on the shitty speaker Cox Communications sent my family to appease us for not cutting the chord! I will contend, it can be revelatory to take insular listening habits and move them towards bluetooth connection.

Such was the case on New Year’s Day, boozed up after a couple $5 pints and fiddling with the bluetooth, lamenting that lack of radio transmission. When suddenly, San Diego-based cadaver and “iterant journeyman” Phil Geraldi came through the speaker with a well-timed, well strung out answer to my wish; static and washed out pedal steel with the cadence of channel hopping on my dead walkman. AM/FM USA is one of the few tapes dropping from the ever-omnivorous Not Not Fun label’s 1/5/24 batch, and is an immediate standout, potentially even an epiphany. To call it a “cassette’s cassette” would be meaningless, but Geraldi is at one of the most intriguing crossroads of underground American sounds and tape fidelity I’ve genuinely heard writing about tapes for 42 odd months here. He’s made tapes for the format dating back to 2009, but this is really top shelf ferric.

AM/FM USA is a two-piece longform tape of “radio static, pedal steel, crickets, and great plains haze, the music moves between lost highway melancholia and truck stop concrète”. I was quite thrilled by that last term and what it seemed to imply, especially when the Wire took time with Geraldi for their Dec/Jan double issue to really go in the weeds about what makes someone come up with that lil’ turn of phrase. It’s rare that I hear about a San Diego (transplant) artist making sound quite like this. And Geraldi, a mixed-media artist, has been around in a storied capacity of his own way supplanting off of odd jobs, the open highway, and noise; sometimes all in the same mode that AM/FM USA takes to lucidly.  There’s a consistent melody or rhythm, ever droning in and out of range. Both pieces slide, never not foregoing omnipresent feeling of right now, as a result of the wavy gliding tactic and serendipitous shifts.

An idea for this release seems to date back a decade plus or more back during his time as the cathode noise project Mystics in Bali, coordinating shows at the Arcata Mex N’ Wow. A 2014 interview, one of the rare communiques from the illusive Geraldi, discussed a project entitled “Radio America”. The project was visual as well, quite industrial and terror driven while “using only AM/FM radios as source instruments,” that Geraldi resonated with. He cited “the inherent right-now feeling which grounds it as moldable source material in an interesting way, and attaches to it an odd feeling of social comfort,” planning to “bend it [that distinct social comfort] into a meditative, minimized version of itself.” Geraldi website, filled with a decade’s worth of art videos, surveillance portraits, and other ephemera, is invoked through the way the AM / FM USA can suddenly tip into those bleak zones. It’s the truck stop concrète in action.

I’ve heard other radio tapes from folks like Bridgette Bardon’t & Lia Kohl, but none havever given me the immediacy that I had on my first listen; from fiddling with a bluetooth speaker as if it was a radio tuner, itself granting a parallel, if not uncanny feeling. Although, AM/FM USA is bolder and more encompassing in the feeling Geraldi harnesses from the static and dead air atmosphere, perhaps the most pervasive work I’ve seen giving tape-label americana music a proper link to Hank & Slim. Yes, there is quite a bit of pedal steel that absolutely aches. The whole thing has a cohesive, lo-fi veneer that repeatedly crests and yearns for the highway while also acknowledging exactly what it feels like. The space of suspense radio static, as much as the invocation of the truck stop/gas station can be, if only for a glimpse; a universal happening of USA highway culture. So much of the tape itself is washed out in that static it sounds like tires on asphalt, creating waves of endless terrain to lumber through until its pure heartland anywhere at any time at all; melancholia trying to fade away in the advert for this year’s truck model. Perpetually sepia toned, in peripheral blur. A trance odyssey for certain, in how it begs to ponder time not as an imagined past or a destination to get to, but that inherent right here, right now.

I suppose we could stop here, but I suppose this tape has me worked up because of excursion in music from last year. In the realm of “2023 advancements in identifying and codifying” music, ‘ambient americana’ became something of a vague buzzword and area of forensic analysis many folks I talk shop with online were attuned to. I was a bit surprised, mostly because like with ‘ambient jazz’ about two years prior, there had seemed to be a strange lack of immediate music forum/rym discussion regarding genre forefathers (Windham Hill & ECM) and current tape scene players (Full Spectrum, Astral Editions, Island House,  Patient Sounds, Cached, Moon Glyph, amongst basically every German Army & Peter Kris release known to man, et al) have been dabbling in. I’ve asked folks about their feelings on this term and they both are at similar points: this is a long, ongoing conversation that they are just merely taking part of, and to codify what they (amongst any other artists really here) are doing as a scene mistakes the trees for the forest—especially when field recordings, haptics, and a personal imagining of a space (and the emotions you take from it) feel so much more tantamount to what this realm of music can come to champion.

And it’s extremely easy to as soon as you find yourself playing the umpteenth ambient pedal steel recording, to want to bludgeon yourself with the tape deck or speaker box. Codification and typecasting to that realm of these works doesn’t continue this conversation that’s been quite lively already over the past 4 decades; the one attuned to “sonic roadmapping” that anything from dub techno to flickered out Americana can tap into. Geraldi’s AM/FM USA is able to get there, often by not pushing pedal steel to the foreground, just letting the static become desire lines that spread out across the big sky voids lends. It feels like a real eureka for what sounds labeled somewhere between ambient X Americana could be striving for; melancholia trying to let go in the radio bump for this year’s truck model.

Edition of 50 Sold Out at Not Not Fun; Check Their Midhaven Distro or Discogs

Tabs Out | yara asmar – synth waltzes and accordion laments

yara asmar – synth waltzes and accordion laments

12.22.23 by Matty McPherson

Over a shepherd’s pie dinner yesterday evening, my uncle lamented the state of the southern Virginia shopping malls. Many are talking about this, mind you; it’s an American tragedy! Every giant closed space (except Virginia Beach’s!) seems to have died sometime around 2005 and remained in a decaying, decrepit undead state. It is only here where the remaining organs American mall seems to find its own bizarre afterlife, not as a horror level or YouTube video you stumble into 2 double cognacs deep, but as yet an almost-bazaar. More a collection of functional dollar table of junk and records, rented out by suburban dead stuff collectors. “Eclectic” nor “hectic” describes the waltz one makes inside these near-squats; records and memorabilia of a local populace, not farmers nor urbanites, are the echoes on display here. It was only here, did my uncle seem to find himself looking at himself 30 odd years prior; a photo of a blue honda taken from a track meet. He could not verify it, but even if he could, why would I call out the man’s gumption?

The puppeteer, yara asmar, had a more reverent variant of this experience earlier this year, relayed in the liner notes her latest brilliant release, synth waltzes and accordion laments. In March, the Beirut based artist found herself at an artist’s residency in Black Forest, Germany with her grandmother’s green accordion. Originally, it belonged to her grandmother’s brother, but he was not one to play it much; thus the instrument took to her grandmother, before then the attic of the family house. Only in the past decade had asmar taken to the accordion, amassing a library of elliptical “Home Recordings”. Frugal recordings interweaving synths, decommissioned music boxes and toy pianos, amidst life recordings. After being informed the accordion was only made minutes away, in the town of Trossingen, asmar soon found herself staring directly at an old ledger revealing a date of manufacturing and shipment in October of 1955; two green accordions, one headed to ‘Libanon’. A score for unexpected genealogy.

As much as a remarkable antecedent. One that tugs at roots and the sense of place that can bring you to staring at an image of yourself decades prior, if not jittered out of jet lag in the middle seat of purgatory. Her attention to the instrument, to this point, has imbued it with a level of love as she moved (due to intrusive rent costs) around Beirut finishing the recording of her second cassette release. Much of the result is dedicated to Beirut, as much as her family surrounding her and their own enclaves and objects. A brilliant ode to family as much as a deft presentation of beauty.

asmar has not modified her overarching musical orientation: Pauline Oliveros inspired deep listening accordion zones, augmented via a fair licking of pedals and synths. She is a tinkerer first and foremost though, focused on extracting a synth sound, slotting a life recording, or discombobulating a toy music box to affect her own accordion drones, if not create their own isolated worlds. Disconnected from this immediate plane and suggestive of a premonition beyond. That notion of place, especially from the story relayed above, is culled into a crucial sixth sense to this release. asmar’s zones start to evolve over into their own dazzling, patient enclaves.

Track titles convey that, sketching out a stream of conscious logic; a private journal ruminating over itself briefly considering what led it here and whom to thank. Often her accordion drone is one of precocious warmth, only augmented through few elements like voice or bells that point to directions or apparitions outside the space. It’s those fusions the drone is just transcendent and a synth (or music box) burrows underneath, as asmar’s utter simplicity and ear for detail takes over, we find her embellishing her own form of SAW II’s bliss zones–her’s are the kinds that ECM’s New Series regrettably shy away from but feel intrinsically compatible with classic Windham Hill Cosmic Pastoralism. The reverent “from gardens in the city we keep alive”, the highlight is magnitude of different feelings at a magnitude of different volumes, times, and places through chimes, a whistle, and the way a pedal can just make any sound wave into a sunset.

To great measure, this is achieved without ruminating or fussing over the placement of these tracks. Her intuition, or the low stakes of home recording, on the curation gives the tape a real sense of immediacy and familiarity, shifting like the body. It’s a pondering kind of warmth; one that nudges you to consider just why you haven’t watered those poinsettias during a frigid sunrise. Or finds you staring back at yourself decades prior in a mall. The waltz and lament of life finds one naturally, if not eternally, as this tape would argue. And at 5:00 PM with nothing to do, it calls to you as well.

Tape Sold Out at Bandcamp! But Boomkat might still have copies…

Tabs Out | Video Premiere (!) Fantasma do Cerrado – Anhangaretá

Video Premiere (!) Fantasma do Cerrado – Anhangaretá

12.05.23 by Matty McPherson

“Holiday Time” is an official designation that you can sort of prescribe to what’s going on right now in America. Cars with blood red noses and fuzzy faux reindeer horns, fake plastic trees, post-cyber monday deals, and (this year) a suspicious lack of snow and Mariah Carey music. Perhaps because the local Mall’s Nordstrom closed leaving Target the last real player in the game? Leaving the ghosts to have taken over the other outlets?

If there’s anything to take note of from my ramble, it’s that the Tabs Out gang is still slowly chipping away at our giant list. I’m crossed between a stack of digitals and a pile of 2023 tapes that continue to push me to my own outer limits. All the while, I’ve been taking Fantasma do Cerrado’s Mapeamento de Terras a Noroeste de S​ã​o Paulo de Piratininga for spins once more. A silky smooth blurring of the lines between field recordings, travelogue, and psychedelic folk showed another side to “barely known villages of the São Paulo State inlands”. It too, has ghosts that’d make the average American mall’s poof up.

Well, in a stroke of wonderful timing when Rafael Stan Molina, the artist behind the project + the Municipal K7 collective, hit our line with this novel gloaming of a video/field recording into to the world of Mapaeamento de Terras! You won’t find Anhangaretá on the cassette, but its presence feels natural and like a spectre to the entire tape. A welcome epilogue, or asynchronous extension from Rafael that only furthers the power the No. 3 best tape of 2022 had last year. I was more than overjoyed to have a chance to bring this out to the Tabs Out audience as an invitation to ‘Termas de Ibirá’, a district of the city of Ibirá, northwest of the São Paulo State.

Front of the abandoned hotel on the cover of the first album at an eternal 3am during recording session, Rafael nails the elliptical uncertainty of dread. The kind that flowed like water from the best experiments of early 2010s Marble Hornets in the SE United States. If you appreciate the crunch of that era of youtube walking videos, there’s a real ominous dread that Rafael captures here. Filmmaker Natália Reis ( helped realize the final edition featured here.

From Rafael about the title: The name ‘Anhangaretá’ roughly means ‘Many Ghosts’ in Tupi language (the language of the branch of natives that inhabited the region). To be perfectly honest I couldn’t be sure if the term is precise, but looks like. I’m sure that ‘Anhangá’ is accepted for ‘ghosts’ (even though the use of the natives look like for some specific ghost, there are different versions about which ghost) and ‘etá’ is ‘many’, and the construction of the word feels right.

Indeed Rafael. And with that, a gentle reminder to pick up one of the last 9 copies on the Municipal K7 bandcamp

Tabs Out | Drążek Fuscaldo / Thymme Jones – Wings Dipped in Fire

Drążek Fuscaldo / Thymme Jones – Wings Dipped in Fire

11.09.23 by Matty McPherson

They say that first love can be sweet, the kind with “craft” tacos and cassettes on the go. It’s where I met with Feeding Tube records, the crate digging record shop with ties to one of those Forced Exposure zine writers who never stopped writing about tapes (Bryon Coley of course, is always a joy to skim and take note of within the Wire). Anyways, Feeding Tube had been out over summer porting a 2022, polish release of a 66 edition vinyl of jazz happenings from Chicago. One featuring their old pals from Mako Sica. Meanwhile I was into dipping fish tacos (with strawberries) into borrego broth. We wouldn’t be equals anywhere else but under the low hanging ceiling and halloween decorations. What was this desert serenade? One lost in its own dream?

Mako Sica–a trio, now recording as a duo–Przemysław Krys Drążek & Brent Fuscaldo have been long standing practicioners in the free noise wold. Astral Spirits-co release LPs, Galactic Tape Archive pressings, amongst a smattering of long standing psychedelic jazz type works. Including the delectable Ronda with Hamid Drake! There’s less of a running theme to these endeavors as much as a long standing mindset. A true passion to letting one note chord progressions and drones document vast hinterlands; the kinds of High Aura’d or Serpent Season in years past, sprawling along the time limitation of a vinyl, adeptly adapting to cassette.

Wings Dipped in Fire is a deft, patient introduction to their world of jazzy outsider ambience of what Drążek & Fuscaldo (fka Mako Sica) are capable of. Recorded at Chicago Electrical Audio, the duo team up with Thymme Jones. Credited with walkie talkie, melodica, trumpet, drum set, & organ, Jones brings about beguiling, layered details to these tracks. Their minimal, often based around a “one-note better than two notes at all” approach that capturing the sly shifts that can come when one element steps out and another steps in. With Jones as a third, the perchance for groove and depth perk up. On Side A’s Inner and Outer Demons, Fuscaldo’s bass dominates the groove, but it is Jones’ melodica that provides a buoyant force to deepen it. It helps that the instrument functions as a disarming dissonance from Fuscaldo’s lyricism and tales. It reappears after Drążek’s nocturnal trumpet solo against his own organ drones and Fuscaldo hypnotic bass, itself drone to the tenth degree, as if to summon a bridge to the astral, gothic energy that dominates the terminal third.

A peaceful desolation marks Side B’s Veil is Thinning. The kind of territory that Ben Chasny’s Six Organs seems to fall into during flashes of the hexadic era in particular. A lulling classic guitar motif that practically collapses in on itself; foggy kind of melody. One that Fuscaldo happens to chop through. Drążek’s horn elongates and practically loosens to the stars as if to call for Cosey Fanny Tutti, while Jones tinkers with walkie talkies calcifying the distance to this desert dimension. It’s a dimension that contains drums as much as the minimalist dread of Seventeen Seconds in its downright dancable terminal third. When they let as loose as this, the tape itself feels as revelrous as a wedding. Considering Drążek Fuscaldo’s (& Jones’) approach to sound, it’s hard not to see it as such.

Edition of 200 Tapes Available at the Feeding Tube Webstore! Digital on Bandcamp below!

Tabs Out | Coach Campa & Aaron Arguello – Weekend Satanists

Coach Campa & Aaron Arguello – Weekend Satanists

10.22.23 by Matty McPherson

“Texas is a landlocked state” once mused an individual who was so wrong, that they now have 21 million Spotify listeners and social media run by “management”. But as the days go on, you do have to wonder if yes, on some metaphysical level, the state of Texas is indeed landlocked in its own woes and rough and rowdy ways. But that does not stop the entire state, itself a giant interconnected series of tubes and dive bars and stray stages, from concocting its own vicious brand of noise that with which the tape underground can find stray whimsy from.

Thus we turn out attention today towards San Antonio-based Ethan “Coach” Campa. Coach Campa is a frequent San Antonio drummer turned collaborator, that seems hellbent on finding peace of mind in a middle zone between Astral Spirits free noise, early 00s NYC noisenik shenanigans, and 70s Electronic Deutschland Musiks. Partnering with tactical synthesizer warfare guru Aaron Arguello, and their Weekend Satanists cassette on Already Dead Records (a return for Campa and introduction for Arguello) happens to present a complete psychedelic kaleidoscopic vision of jazzy speculative fiction for the hi-fi. It’s a rainbow blast of punk as much as a throwback to early Astral Spirits when free noise reigned supreme and felt akin to a backyard all ages show, not a jazz club.

A majority of the tracks aren’t in a template per se, but do have a sense of jamming and parallel tracks of thought: Campa finds a furious drum frill, or a cymbal rush that’s gotta be shaken LOOSE; Arguello hunts for 70s synthesizer horror shlock keys or knob twiddling cryptid themes that JUST HAPPEN to repeatedly collide with the spectacle of a demolition derby, but none of the fussy mess. Campa’s drumming is buzzing, close in spirit to the buzz of a fly who found itself saved from a spider web. It shines through and beckons to the noise freak while Arguello can often pursue a reserved mode of droning or quick bleep sensations. In the tape’s finest moments, like Santana Shoes Stay On, you can end up with the punkier, krautrock indebted sibling to Nala Sinephro’s Space 6.

Yet, it is side B’s A. Enter Sandman Pt. 2/B. Nothing Else Matters that truly captures the Campa x Arguello spirit. For both, it feels as if they’ve swapped roles. with Arguello making a most insect-esque drone buzz akin to a chainsaw as Campa’s cymbal rushes feel akin to flow state bleep sensations, finessed and bristling with radiance, not pummeling or rushing. When it finally bows out for that back half, it’s terraforms into blistering frills searching for a way out amongst a blackened drone morphing into arcade noises coming to swallow it whole. Within the 8 tracks across the tape, it’s the welcome longform that doesn’t overstay its welcome, engrossing adventure and trial for the two that suggests that they themselves may have a real match in heaven.

Edition of 100 Tapes Now Available at the Already Dead Bandcamp Page

Tabs Out | Truculent – A Worker’s Guide To Transfiguration

Truculent – A Worker’s Guide To Transfiguration

10.17.23 by Matty McPherson

“Workers assuage their resentment of laboring for our “corporations” with the belief that we (the worker) are “good” and rise above “evil” (the corporation) spiritually. Economic stoicism loses all importance when you eliminate the temptation of an “afterlife”. Corporations never die, they just rebrand…”

That’s an excerpt from the thick j-card liner notes of Truculent’s latest, A Worker’s Guide to Transfiguration; not a tweet or excerpt of a thread left in the wake of the (likely full) gutting of Bandcamp Daily from yesterday’s news. It called to me through the evening as one tweet or discord ping after another signaled a new breaking point for this centralized network of left-of-center, curiosity-oriented music writing being taken away. Platforming under that banner and the legitimacy of the Daily blogging machine meant something to the long tail niche audience that I’d be damn surprised if it didn’t include anyone currently reading this. People want this stuff and it’s the only way to document an omnibus of sounds that never will cease to come.

Dan Timlin’s dense j-card package struck a nerve with me while on the hi-fi yesterday. Itself a small (socialist-leaning) manifesto, a personal treatise based around “the four imprints” (Eagle, Lion, Bull, Angel). Itself seeking to codify 4 species to correspond to hostile or friendly anger and strength, and present a theory on “living insiding them, while simultaneously being centrally detached from them” towards healing, mindful human interaction. It’s denser than your typical call to action in a cassette.

Yet, within one based around American Primitivism guitar pieces that feature a strong roots-oriented calling card to their swaggering sound, the treatise matches to the music. It’s a sound that itself embodies living within anger and strength on hostile or friendly terms. Cut names reference the animals as much as images of either blight or boon, religion and mythology, amongst the dallies of increasingly absurd life. Many tracks prioritize brevity, snapshots of these 4 co-existing in a mindful balance, where this MO could theoretically play out. As much as recalling spaces of communion, from railyards and backroom bars to the streets of South Philly’s Point Breeze. Amongst caterwauling finger picking and devious dirges, there is a white hot intensity even in Tomlin’s restrain over these 16 tracks.

Strange Mono, a benefit record label, founded in 2021, out of Philadelphia, has been prioritizing these kinds of “bespoke” limited run cassettes and unlimited digitals. There is still work to be done on a mastering level for the format, with Timlin’s delicate finger at an ever-steady presence in the red, it’s tempo slightly run up from the digital’s more clarity-oriented master, lending a jank and zippy character; all courtesy of a Sony CCP-2300 being utilized and pushed to its limit. Yet, there’s a warming quality that comes from such accidents, giving Timlin’s cassette release an unkempt level of quality akin to unpolished Smithsonian Folkaways materials. It’s the kind of crate digging that still calls to me and reminds me that at heart, the blogging never dies, the sounds never die, we just pack up and begin the begin once more. And if there’s any time for a Transfiguration, well Dan Timlin’s tape is right on the money.

Edition of 50 C40s. Clear Shells, Extended J-Card With Liner Notes, Dubbed on a Sony CCP-2300. Now Sold Out at Source

Tabs Out | Tongue Depressor/John McCowen – Blame Tuning & Old Saw – Country Tropics

Tongue Depressor/John McCowen – Blame Tuning & Old Saw – Country Tropics

10.5.23 by Matty McPherson

For longer than I’ve realized I’ve been thinking about Henry Birdsey. The Vermont recording engineer that has quite the capacity for taking the lap steel out of blues and folk zones towards new dispatches of noise. Sometimes this is akin to home composition, like with 2021’s Half Dragged that approached creating texture with the lap steel that were somewhere between disintegrating sound and harmonious silence. Other times it imbues itself in the most open-armed ways, as his work under with the Old Saw collective. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks chewing on a digital of that 2021 Old Saw tape, Country Tropics; it was regretfully never reviewed on the blog and yet now two years later I’m coming to it on recommendation as one of the underground’s most upstanding works of “cosmic americana”. And oh goodness, how this collective’s compositions dazzled, dismantling all tension into long drawn out sighs of lap/pedal steel, banjo, pipe organ, resonator/nylon string guitar, fiddle, and bells.

Over 37 minutes, Birdsey, Bob Driftwood, Ira Dorset, Rev. Clarence Lewis, Harper Reed, and Ann Rowlis enact their own creation of a particular kind of rural, pastoral zone. It’s somewhere between dusk and dawn, perhaps, a most bright and vivid sense of reverent harmony underpins all the instrumental decision. Yet, it’s the limited sonic scales, the necessity of repetition–from guitar finger picking to organ harmonies–beget what is essentially a dense trance. You can sit and take apart all the folk trimmings and cross-intersections of style that happen to come through, but Birdsey does find a particular space to bring out these dimensions to his steel that yearn and drone into the stars. The 4 compositions are amongst the most romantic in Birdsey’s catalog that has often been on the flip side in other collaborations and appearances.

That with which earlier this year I happened to stumble into with Birdsey & double bassist Zach Rowden’s work as Tongue Depressor, which seemed to cull its sonic identity from centuries past as much as immediate happenings in the stretching of the americana term. If there was a flip side to the cosmic americana Birdsey has found himself entangled within Old Saw, Tongue Depressor is the apt project of choice. Perhaps others would option Birdsey’s collaborations with Turner Williams Jr. as Trespass Field, itself an onomatopoeic, psychedelic sensual overload taking the lap/pedal steel towards feedback-laden stoned drone metal; itself leaning towards a more opening trance akin to Old Saw. But Tongue Depressor is in step as Birdsey’s Half Dragged and the world of Crazy Doberman that both he and Rowden too have come from. Both aren’t just the “autechre of a ‘shared sonic language that references western swing, gothic americana, and the spectralist avant-garde'”, they’re reliable collaborators that beckon to bring others fellow travelers into their world and run amok.

For Blame Tuning, their April 2023 c46 release on land art cassette mecca Full Spectrum Records, the duo bring contrabass clarinetist, John McCowen, into the fray for a 1/4 inch reel-to-reel session. Mustered on the moment, without much rehearsal, it’s a dense kind of under-the-knife listen. Caught between dark ambient raga, blues inversions, and straight punk noise, the trio create that particular kind of visceral, cathartic noise. Always in a lockstep buffalo stance, though, the trio prove they’re smooth operators.

Side A sways and shimmies, turning into a the saw blades of a lumber mill amongst a compost compactor with its frequencies. Spectral drone is the piece’s underbelly, a dense ocean built to buoy the duo’s capacity for raw noise (a biproduct of Rowden’s bass) and McCowen’s reserved contrabass clarinet. That this is “organic” comes off as disarmingly alien. Their sound lurches like tree branches in the wind, but as if it was as if the tree branch’s were steel lightposts clawing against the side of a building. It often gives it’s own wicked images and impluses to the sonic space. There’s a sense of industry, humid with tension, being documented and summoned within this noise. Side B ups the claustrophobia, starting with and staring down at a reserved drone in bird’s eye view as if it was…well, a drone. It’s lumbering and glacial, beaming down at first before quickly upping its swells and low listening hums into a cryptid’s call or snarling set of teeth that quickly takes the bulk of the sonic space. There’s a series of swift guillotine stabs acting as a tumultuous percussion. Then there’s that aching back half, the kind of drone noise sounding cross-eyed and chilled, drenched in dread beating down on it. It’s where the elements of raga & the sense of blues tradition, completely warped to a crisp, create a most “inviting”, or lively, frequency on the hi-fi. An omnibus, overpowering kind of noise, mirroring and bouncing off of the clarinet to an almost vocal dimension. Granted a sultry character by the playing of the bass, almost towards a sense of bastard chamber music that Birdsey’s pedal steel suddenly finds a ghostly melody to ride off with. It’s an engrossing climax to the B side as its swift detente settles in and packs up. To where Tongue Depressor goes next one can only follow.

Country Tropics & Blame Tuning are both sold out at their sources. Digital reigns supreme, in the mean time.

Tabs Out | Nandele & A-Tweed – Xigubo

Nandele & A-Tweed – Xigubo

9.28.23 by Matty McPherson

Jollies, the Brooklyn “mostly electronic” tape label, which has slowly shown curatorial prowess and a defiant streak of consistent left-turn in honing in on its sound that’s begun to show off a display of engrossing techno sounds and sleights for those deep in the bleeps. With a new EP, Xigubo, from Nandele & A-Tweed having arrived at the start of summer, the label might have just released their most esteemed release yet that’s worth the hi-fi listen as much as one heavy in the headphones.

You may recall, Nandele Maguni the star of a terrific early 2022 Already Dead release as a part of a trio, Muave. The Imaginary experience was a tripped out textures, often coming back to trap as a raditating baseline and connecting to a lineage of electronic forms as much as a “colonial resistant” spirit and warrior energy. Xigubo is an even stronger, more blunt dosage. Dialing back the sprawl (and a bit of the trap), Nadele’s work with A-Tweed this go around is a sees both continuation of what Muave’s synths and ambience suggested, amongst rawer industrial catharsis.

In fact, the EP opens practically en media as such: blasting ndustrial techno mutates towards with underwater reverb reverberations and 90s computer synth alleyway chase outIt’s always a thrilling set of left turns that give a sense of real space. A perfect pop loop, jarring string noise akin to close calls with brick walls. “Floresta”, the piece’s name, is a true 8 minute distillation of their best foot forward, as much as revealing just how easily the following pieces can slip through forms.

In fact, it might make Nandele’s current work such a perfect distillation of illbient spirit as well–no genre, just a DJ, ever moving through their sound. Naja and Machava, rounding out Side A, both argue this via skill synth production and a supreme low end. Naja’s a quick wham-bam!, a frantic, rattling jitter that imagines tight-wire movement across treetops. Machava twitches amongst the blunt impact of its gunpowder beat. It summons a reverberating drone that almost gives it a conga characteristic, amongst a real sense of alien dread, the kind a Metroid handheld specializes in. It feels of a kind of alien hieroglyphic, a music that you can decode into a playful dance (for the legs as much the mind).

If Side A’s trio of tracks was anti-sprawl, then Side B’s Intensidade returns for an hair-raising slow burn. It’d be amusing to dub this a 180 inversion of a chill out room, but it’s closer to be on the bridge of a spaceship on the fritz of terminal nuclear implosing. This piece deconstructs itself into complete smoke and mirrors, via a hair-raising, sizzling synth line that suggest complete all-encompassing spectral dread that dominates the piece. Haptic quips and ghostly echoes find a home here, almost acting like a computer system desperate to save itself and fight for a future. This is not a build that completely overtakes the system or implodes into crashing beauty. In that final minute, it finds a solace and rescues itself.

Professionally dubbed red cassette with white body print available now at Jollies.

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.