Wires Crossed – Ephem Aural vs Auralgami
7.19.16 by Mike Haley
There is a legion of labels and weirdo jammers releasing cassette, with new names popping up every single day. With those staggering numbers it can be easy to mix em up, get confused, or form loose associations. Wires Crossed will take those Corey Haim/Corey Feldman and Oprah/Uma situations and figure out just how similar they are.
Aural means “of or relating to the ear or the sense of hearing.” So what is the meaning of your label’s name?
Ephem Aural: The label name was my attempt at a pun. When you say it fast, it comes out “ephemeral,” which I think is an endearing part of cassette culture. You have all these people spending their time and money releasing these really thought-out tapes in editions of 30 or 50, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. I think there is something really beautiful in that.
Auralgami: A cross between ‘AURAL’ and ‘ORIGAMI’ / crafting shapes out of sound. I came up with the name years ago mixing music in my dad’s basement. My little brother was and still is obsessed with origami. He’d bring me a crane or a hummingbird or some insane dragon and kinda hang around and listen to the sounds I was making. We chose ‘SOUNDS’ instead of ‘RECORDS’ or ‘TAPES’ simply because it was broad, and we weren’t entirely sure which kinds of media we’d be releasing.
Where are you located?
Ephem Aural: New York City
Auralgami: I [JC Denison] live in Louisville, KY, and Matt is located right across the river in New Albany, IN. So far all of our artists have been based out of Louisville, although we are starting to branch out.
Without checking where do you think Auralgami/Ephem Aural is located?
Ephem Aural: Auralgami reminds me of origami, which I feel like would be a big thing in Seattle. Because it’s so rainy and people need solid indoor activities.
Auralgami: Somewhere floating in the ether, filling in the cracks, patching the holes, tickling ears all over.
Ephem Aural has released tapes by Spaghetti Blacc. Auralgami has released a tape by Cereal Glyphs. So, which is better? Spaghetti or cereal?
Ephem Aural: Cereal.
Auralgami: I definitely eat way more cereal than spaghetti. Andy from Cereal Glyphs makes ice cream from cereal at the restaurant where we both work, so it’s very versatile. But goddamn I love spaghetti! They both invoke a lot of nostalgia, don’t they?
How much control do you like to have over the artwork for your tapes?
Ephem Aural: Early on I was pretty lenient with the designs, but now I’m following a stricter template because I like the continuity that offers. These days I have the musicians send over the picture for the front cover, and maybe images for an insert. Sometimes I do everything myself. The main design I’ve been using for the last 4 or 5 releases actually came from Jake Rowland, a guitarist and visual artist I produced a release with last year. He did the entire design for his album himself, and I liked it so much I asked him if I could use it for future releases.
Auralgami: We typically leave that up to the artist unless it becomes an issue of releasing art that is lacking in quality/definition. I’m constantly amazed and inspired, though, by labels like Umor-Rex and Orange Milk who take a much more hands-on approach in designing some fucking elegant and exquisite packaging. We wanna get to that spot for sure, at least in the sense that we want to be able to fix problems and suggest visual ideas that we can actually execute ourselves. But for now we’ve, I think, put out some really cool looking releases designed by a very talented handful of visual artists.
What is the best thing about running a label?
Ephem Aural: The whole “arts and crafts” aspect of it. Except for the imprinting, I basically do everything from home. I’m surrounded by computers all day at work, so it’s kind of nice to spend the evenings dubbing tapes and putting J-cards into cases.
Auralgami: Listening to all the music we get sent.
What is the worst thing about running a label?
Ephem Aural: Finding space in my apartment for unsold tapes.
Auralgami: Listening to all the music we get sent.
If you had to pick one current cassette label that really stands out to you, who would it be and why?
Ephem Aural: That’s a super hard question because there are so many good ones. At the moment I would say Constellation Tatsu because I recently got their spring batch and it kicks ass.
Auralgami: So many good ones right now that I am way into following including Umor-Rex, Spring Break, NNA, Patient Sounds. Damn so many fine cassettes coming out daily!!! But I think Matt and I can collectively agree that Orange Milk is ruling the fucking school right now. We’re both into dance music and warped electronic shit and insane MIDI stuff and they are killing it with all that. That Giant Claw/ Guerrilla Toss record is one of my favorites to come out all year, in any genre. And Keith’s artwork and aesthetic are truly marvelous.
Coffee or Tea?
Ephem Aural: Coffee
First words that comes to mind when you hear the following
C10: Not a fan.
C10: Short but sweet
Norelco: Clear but black is nice but clear but black but… My electric razor???
Generally speaking, how many copies of a cassette do you make?
Ephem Aural: Always 50
Auralgami: 100. But we did just do a 2nd edition of Insect Policy’s “Wolf Brick River Dirt Train Moon” in an edition of 50.
Who was your favorite band in 8th grade?
Ephem Aural: White Zombie. I still like them.
Auralgami: The Offspring. Or maybe Guilt (from Louisville). I guarantee you Matt’s answer would be way cooler.
If you had to compare your label to one of the planets in our solar system, which would it be?
Ephem Aural: I’ve always been into Neptune.
Auralgami: Pluto I think. Is that still a planet?
How many releases are you currently up to?
Ephem Aural: 15
Auralgami: Around 20. The first 5 or 6 releases were by a project I started called A7A and it’s a little foggy as to how many there were. Rob Collier’s “Ten Simple Pieces for Piano” was AS020, so… We are about to release our 12th cassette, ‘FIELDS’ by Psychic Skin.
How many of your releases are not tapes?
Ephem Aural: 1 CDR release, though another one should be coming.
Auralgami: Not counting several CDr’s and downloads I released as A7A, we have 2 proper CD releases, “The Golden Autumn and the Afternoon” by Another7Astronauts AND s/t by Curio Key Club, as well as one vinyl release so far, “Sand in Your Mind” by Softcheque. So 3.
Releases from your catalogs that jump out at me are the Synth Bard and Bodycocktail tapes. Can you give a little backstory of them?
Ephem Aural: Truth be told, I’m Synth Bard. The music on that album originally came from the old “Gold Box” PC games I used to play as a kid. I figured out the intro music to each game and based the synth jams around them. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve been really flattered with the response. For the next release I’m going to jump ahead a few years and use some early 90s digital samplers I have. It will still have a strong retro-fantasy element, but with all original music this time around. So more Synth Bard to come!
Auralgami: I love the Bodycocktail tape. Zan Hoffman is sort of a mythic figure in the cassette collecting/cassette label world. I’d always seen him from a distance at bars here in Louisville (he doesn’t drink, just dances). We got to know each other and struck up a friendship and I started hanging at his house once or twice a week while we slowly began culling material from his 200+ CD’s he’d released as Bodycocktail between 1996 and 2015. I thought it would be a hell of thing to treat cassette folks and younger folks in Louisville to a best-of collection by an incredibly prolific artist. Together we picked all the songs. He sequenced Side A, which has some more obscure, older tracks; I sequenced Side B, which contains some newer stuff, a lot of which is pretty dance oriented. Watching Zan perform live as Bodycocktail is a fucking treat and I hope we captured some of that energy in this collection. It jumps out for me too!
Do you have any “fuck, that wasn’t supposed to turn out that way” stories with the label?
Ephem Aural: Yeah, embarrassingly for the first two releases I designed the titles on the spine the wrong way. I could fix one release, but the other was sent to a printer, so I was stuck with it. A total rookie mistake.
Auralgami: In a way, that is kind of the story of the label. We had planned to start very gradually and be quite casual with it. But things picked up quickly, at least locally; once we started putting out things by Cher Von and ATOMO, similarly-minded artists quickly started knocking on our doors. Matt and I both work full-time jobs; also I play in several bands and he has a family, so we’re never able to dedicate as much time to the label as we’d like or as much as it needs. So in short we’re way busier with it than we anticipated at the beginning but completely surprised and excited about that very thing.
What is your favorite robot from a TV show or movie?
Ephem Aural: Bender.
Auralgami: Johnny 5. In fact I called into Talk of the Nation several years ago when they were discussing this very subject! I got through and talked to Neal Conen live on-air while I was prepping food at the restaurant where I used to work.
Do more of your releases stem from demo submissions or artists you contact?
Ephem Aural: Actually the “Noise de Figaro” release is the only one that came from a demo submission. The rest of the releases have been from friends I have here in NYC or friends from college. In truth I don’t get many demo submissions, and many that I have received I wanted to produce but they fizzled out for various reasons. Send your demos
Auralgami: About half and half. And just as many stem from our friends here in the Louisville music community through casual dialogue that turns into concrete ideas. We play at or go to a lot of shows. Louisville is a late-night drinking town. This is where a lot of ideas begin.
What is your Monopoly token of choice?
Ephem Aural: The crusty old boot, because it makes me feel like I had humble beginnings.
Auralgami: Car. Was there a cat? I may go with cat at this point in my life.
Do you have any cassette pet peeves?
Ephem Aural: Printing. I think I’m spatially impaired or something, because it seems like half the time I put the j-card template into the printer the wrong way.
Auralgami: I love extras, but I kinda get bummed when I get a tape in the mail and accompanying it is what seems to be just a bunch of trash. Sometimes less is more. With that in mind, I won’t list any more pet peeves.
In five words or less, describe the type of music/sounds you release.
Ephem Aural: Experimental and underground music.
Auralgami: Louisville. Experimental. Electronic. Garage rock. Minimal.
Does your car have a tape player?
Ephem Aural: I don’t have a car. Sometimes I take an old Walkman on the subway though.
Auralgami: Yes. It is a 2003 Honda Pilot, so it was made at a time of flux regarding car audio. It has CD, cassette, and DVD players. BUT, speaking of that Bodycocktail tape, I was driving around listening the test cassette of that album, and when I got home and tried to eject it, it got stuck. Determined to get it out and inside so I could listen to it on my home stereo, I started poking and prying with some tools and broke the whole stereo. Patience is not my strong suit.
What is your favorite Bill Murray movie?
Ephem Aural: Ghostbusters.
Auralgami: Damnit. Gotta be Groundhog Day, right? Yeah, I think so. Honorable mentions to Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation, and Rushmore.
Are you wearing shoes right now?
Ephem Aural: No.
Auralgami: Yes. Socks, too.
Do you play that Pokémon game on your phone? Why or why not?
Ephem Aural: Nope. I only got a smartphone like a month ago, and I already spend too much time on it.
Auralgami: No. I don’t play it for a few reasons, none of which have to do with any sort of disdain or disapproval of the app. Mainly, I never played as a kid and don’t really even understand what the hell is going on with this phenomenon. I went on a short tour with my band, and when we got back to Louisville last week it had completely taken over my neighborhood. All my coworkers were talking about it. I just got out of a band meeting at a pizza place and everyone there was actively playing. It’s insane, but I’m not sure I have the time to even process it.
Do you own more MP3s or tapes?
Ephem Aural: A few years ago I digitized all my CDs, and all of my wife’s, so we could get rid of them. So I have way more MP3s.
Auralgami: MP3s. Matt and I both DJ out around town and at a local FM radio station. We both do a mix of MP3 and vinyl. I like music in any format, and I have a lot of stuff on my laptop that you just can’t get on cassette. I’ve thought about dedicating a chunk of my show, ClifTones, to only playing cassettes, but typically I just play the digital versions of the cassettes I buy for ease and flow during the show.
Paper, Rock, Scissors?
Ephem Aural: Rock. Nothing beats rock!
Auralgami: Paper, of course.