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Spool's Out

Spool's Out: Tape Reviews For July With Tristan Bath
Tristan Bath , July 26th, 2017 10:29

Tristan Bath returns with July’s best new music released on tape, including the latest compilation from Gazelle Twin’s imprint, Northern Noise from Bridget Hayden, Tasmanian avant garde, tape-hop, and more...

Spool's Out Radio #109: Mirrored Lips' Russian Playlist

Mirrored Lips are a free-punk trio from Russia's fifth largest city, Nizhny Novgorod. Earlier this month, and in celebration of their newest tape recorded in Gateshead during a UK tour and out now via Cruel Nature Recordings, the trio curated a playlist of Russian music for Spool's Out Radio, ranging from punk to pop to beats to I-have-no-idea-what-this-is from the the largest nation on Earth.

Head over to spools-out.com, or the Resonance FM website to find out more about the show. This episode and others can still be streamed in full via the above, as well as via podcast.

Various Artists - Annual General Meeting Record (Vol. 2) (Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)

The second in an annual charity tape series compiled by Gazelle Twin and friends, this one's contributing all money raised to Refugee Action. The music feels more worn down and moody than last time - perhaps due to everything that's 'happened' since February 2016 - but in contextual isolation this would most certainly stand up as a fabulous collection of electronic pop and darkness. Rosemary ❤'s a Blackberry - the project of Diana Burkot from Russia - is a master of downbeat reverb-rinsed pop in the vein of pre-Coachella Grimes. Elsewhere rotting decomposed electronic instrumentals permeate the record, such as Jez Bernholz's (Gazelle Twin's husband and live show collaborator) ebbing samples of voices and old jazzy bands sounding like James Leyland Kirby on a dodgy acid trip, Gazelle Twin's own murky contribution of doomy keyboards and distorted rhythms, or Bristolian producer Nick Sutton's closing track of watercolour synths disappearing into fog.

Vocal specialist Anneka has previously collaborated with the likes of Forest Swords - and perhaps more importantly put out her debut solo EP of emotionally heavy songs on Anti-Ghost Moon Ray in April - and here she provides one of the most compelling tracks in the form of 'These Lands'. A wordless hymn augmented with dabs of reverb and electronic tones, it's of such pure and intense beauty it could bring tears to even the red-white-and-blue eyes of a heartless fucking leave voter (I'm not suggesting that the song is a eulogy to Great Britain, but with that title it bloody could be).

It looks like Anti-Ghost Moon Ray is starting to grown this year, with pre-orders already up for Rosemary ❤'s a Blackberry's debut. Going by the strength of this set of flawlessly compiled sounds, it's going to be well worth keeping your eyes on the label, wallets at the ready.

Bridget Hayden - Incantations From Yin Valley (Fort Evil Fruit)

This tape by former Vibracathedral Orchestra / Sunburned Hand of the Man member Bridget Hayden is red raw cry from one of the northern noise scene's finest. Hayden's previous efforts have often made use of guitar (admittedly often unrecognisable as a tool of rugged rough noise generation), but here Hayden backs up her distant cosmic vocals with yearning netherworld drones and murky gyrations from a beautifully imperfect Clef kit synth. The release is lo-fi to say the least, sounding like a 20th generation redub, and both sides comprise single long tracks compiling different takes. Hayden's in a lamenting mood with little silly joy in sight throughout Incantations From Yin Valley - but the music does wield an exceptionally strong ability to bore its way into you and bring a black sort of nocturnal peace with it. The Clef tones lap your ears like a cool breeze, while Hayden's indistinguishably vocal chants loop their way siren-like over a body of oily water. Ultimately you'll suddenly realise your chest-deep in it too - but by then it's too late.

This tape's reportedly coming out ahead of a solo and duo LP apiece later this year, which considering how potent this one is, should get prescribed to cosmic noise heads everywhere post-haste.

Monologue - SPAZIO (Hylé Tapes)

Delicate is truly the only way to describe this set of compositions by Monologue (one of the noms de plume of Florence-based artist Marie e le Rose). Her music sounds like well-lit empty rooms, wide open gallery spaces, pleasantly cool city apartments; full of well planned voids and climate controlled air flows. Monologue's ability to well organise physical expanses is even cited in the name of the album, named after the Italian word for 'space'. The depth of her sound design is uniformly lush and spirited, most songs comprising minimal numbers of voices but exploring moods to their deepest most depths. It's all certainly done with far too much compositional intent to deserve that 'furniture music' ambient tag, although it does admittedly drift and float around you, free of bars and staves like musical incense.

11-minute opener 'NOMADE' is a warm and soft sonic blanket, ready for you to sprawl across it in your back garden or on your living room floor. A single shimmering tone hangs in the air while a breezy pad slowly traces hints of a chord movement drifting from left to right in the stereo field, and some glitchy glacial imperfections gradually come into view. 'OSSESSIONE' follows with some sparse keyboard melodies pin pricking a night sky, later met with some deeply thoughtful electric guitar. Musically it's a natural cousin to Loscil's most minimal work, every track playing with a relatively basic handful of textural and musical ideas within the confines of its dreamy 5-11 minute window. 'RIVA' breaks from the rest of the record to close out the tape with five-and-a-half minutes of chiming happy synth chords pulsing, but it's a fitting end to an album about empty space, like stumbling blind through the dark until your fingers finally come into contact with some warm, familiar texture to make you feel safe on solid ground again.

Olm - 10 Hours Best Relaxing Music For Stress, Health, Sleep, Dream, Love (Grey Matter Productions)

That lengthy album title is a haphazard sleight of hand littered with misnomers and bon mots. For one thing, this music is not going to relieve stress or health, or express feelings of love and relaxation for the majority of the population. For another, it's some nine hours nineteen minutes and forty-six seconds short of hitting the ten hour mark. But from his home in the Tasmanian state capital of Hobart, Aussie artist Olm (real name Patrick Flynn) certainly does concoct music that speaks an emotional language all its own, deserving of such wordiness. Previous efforts have also dived into deep emotive organ noise, oddly abrasive ambience, plus a foray into (extremely) alternative hip-hop with Aussie rapper Feet in 2016 - but 10 Hours is by far Olm's most compelling and affecting work to date.

Recorded entirely using acoustic instruments and Olm's own vocal gyrations, the single 40-minute track is a prickly sonic beast of rubbed piano strings, tinkling cymbals, moaning groans, and creaky bowing amongst other indecipherable source material. The work seems to have been impeccably collated into a single free-flowing piece, tension irregularly building and releasing, textural themes appearing and disappearing over time. Many of the sounds seem to dispute the artist's claim that this all began acoustic (what is that droning at 19 minutes if not electronic?), but it's all part of Olm's ability as an arranger. He is somehow the DIY avant-garde version of a Brian Wilson or a Gil Evans, pairing a plonked nylon guitar and out-of-tune piano with scraped metal, erratic atonal guitar bowing, and the artist's own coughing and weeping to create something sonically far more than the sum of its parts, yet somehow logical and even oddly symphonic in its scope.

Ligeti would approve of this music's open space and massive use of extended techniques on acoustic instruments - but then again so would Nils Frahm or Max Richter (check out the lush layers of piano some 25 lonesome minutes in). A nerve shredding blast of garbled sounds most likely destroy your eardrums near the end, but other than that the piece just teases your limbic system, even during the uncertain beauty of an odd closing fugue for squeaky guitars. This music may be full of imposing darkness, but Olm always keeps that light at the end of the tunnel firmly in sight.

SUNC∆T - (self-released)

"What is that you're listening to? It's been the same thing for quite a while now…"

"It's one of those ambient tapes I review, just sit next to me and relax I think you'll enjoy it."

"Is it going to be like this the whole time?"

"I think so. Maybe. Yeah."

"..."

"..."

"I think I hear a new bit coming… yeah there, listen…"

"It's another organ I think. Look, here's the cover."

"I love it, it's really cool! Definitely looks like the music sounds: going round in circles."

"So do you like it?"

"Yeah, I mean, it's a lot like some others we listen to. But I think I like this more than normal. It's very pretty and… hmmm… consistent? Or what do you… oh, you're asleep…?"

"No. I'm just resting my eyes. I can't concentrate on this music if they're open."

Mark Dicker / Left Hand Cuts Off The Right - MNFN #002 (More News From Nowhere)

The second split tape of one-shot sidelong live recordings. Recorded on a single night in January, this one pairs two Londoners in the form of Mark Dicker's monochrome abstract synths on side one and Left Hand Cuts Off The Right's more prickly mix of field recordings, electronics, and looped East African instrumentation on side two. Dicker's is a patience-testing cave of slowly evolving synthetic textural phrases and electronic bleeps, resembling the whalesong of deep space cruisers. The strands of sound slowly get longer and larger, the undulating waves of noise flowing higher and higher as his apocalyptic poetry enters, mired in Vatican levels of ceremonious reverb. The sense of doom is fuuucking palpable by the closing five minutes.

Robbie Judkins's Left Hand Cuts off the Right project is inevitably more flecked with earthiness (acoustic instruments and field recordings will do that), but the sheer patience and coating of course electronics over all of his flute playing or recorded bird song make side every bit as much a trip into the cosmos. In fact there's moments with more than a passing resemblance to that Sun Ra & Merzbow release from last year; all birdsong saxophones trying to punch their way out from behind an avalanche of Japanoise. One player uses machines to generate tones to soundtrack the apocalypse, the other uses machines to remix folk instruments and earthly recordings into apocalyptic soundtracks. A killer document from London's current noise underground.

Dopecal & Ghost McGrady - The Garden (Meraki Tapes)

First things first, this tape column has pretty sorrily ignored the artists releasing rap and hip-hop on tape of late. This release via a brand new imprint from Nashville pretty much singlehandedly got me listening to beat- and rhyme-tapes again after a couple of months off down a drone-hole, and it's all down to the sheer clairvoyance between rapper Dopecal (real name Cody Allen Lewis, hailing from Inland Empire, California) and LA-based/Florida-raised producer Ghost McGrady. Ghost McGrady's production is thoroughly matured after a few outings, full of masses of colour somewhere between the lush soundworld of Madvillain and more dreamy (and contemporary) vaporwave moods from the bandcamp-verse. It should be full of musical potholes for Dopecal's rhymes to fall into, but he navigates them like McCoy Tyner locking horns with Elvin Jones. Check out the dreamy textures and chiming samples either side of the irregular strolling march on 'Supersonic Stroll' - Dopecal effortlessly weaves some slippery rhymes and sung phrases around the jagged unwieldy bed. The song's a dense stream-of-consciousness list, taking in death and Curtis Mayfield along the way, locking into place with every stride like the endless Californian urban sprawl these two call home. Dopecal's got one great singing voice to boot - check the sung chorus of 'The Lowest High'. It brings to my mind the hallucinogenic over-produced rap-soul of Young Fathers, though encased in Los Angeles weed smoke and smog.

'Respect My Dope' goes a bit further down the vapor-hole at the tail end of the album, confusingly slowing down a few short verses of Dopecal rapping before a final code of murky instrumental beats. It's someting of a relief, considering the sheer onslaught of images, samples, and differing moods the album goes through. Tape-hop doesn't often come as fully formed as this fantastic collab. Both artists are real naturals - not to mention pretty young (Dopecal's just 21 years old) which hopefully means there's more to come.

Nate Scheible - Fairfax (ACR)

Named in honour of the town in northern Virginia where Nate Scheible found a tape in a thrift store sampled heavily throughout the album, Fairfax is a work of gentle genius. On said tape, an anonymous woman keeps an audio diary telling her deepest thoughts with a distant lover, and Schieble soundtracks chosen snippets to formulate a moving narrative of longing for a distant lover, and the ups-and-downs of human relations. Scheible's woozy pallette of tape-manipulations and decaying loops is augmented by his own wordless singing and keys, not to mention various guest instrumentalists adding dabs of vibraphone, euphonium, sax, and double bass.

Our leading lady's attempts to connect with this seemingly distant lover - whether she's reading motivational quotes from a book of 'daily meditations', telling him about letters that have come in the post, or about getting soaked through to the skin during a heavy rainfall - it's all a reminder of how deeply meaningful the banal moments in life are to us. The smallest responses from another human being can be so huge in making us feel meaningful in the colder moments. Scheible and his ensemble seem to musically muse on the recordings, such as the wordless vocal duet that mirrors the first moment our lady mentions her lover not having replied to her correspondence for a while, or the moody bass and wisps of keyboard that prelude her most heartbreaking confession: "I sure would like to be made to feel special…"

There are so many moments when the story seems almost too sad for words, but our anonymous lover's deep honesty and candid emotion is utterly beautiful to hear, augmented impeccably by Scheible's sensitive blend of textured synthetic ambience, decaying tapes, and acoustic instrumental melodies. "I can dream about tomorrow," she says halfway through the final track. "There's nothing that says I cannot dream."

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