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Spool's Out

Spool’s Out: August's Good Stuff On Tape
Tristan Bath , August 29th, 2017 07:11

Tristan Bath takes you through August’s best noises released on cassette tape

ACR is a London-based experimental and ambient tape label run by Slovakian artist Adam Badí Donoval (aka Mt Accord). To date it’s documented a string of beautiful and jarring releases, including two compilations. Earlier this month Donoval put together a mix for Spool’s Out Radio, introducing you to the label’s dreamy soundworld, music from Nico Niquo, Melquiades, Seki Takashi, and more…

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.

No UFO’s - MPC Tracks Vol. III (Nice Up International)

Normally, Vancouver-based musician Konrad Jandavs produces anything but hooks under his No UFO’s nom de plume. Having already turned a few synth-heads with the cracked kosmische of his Soft Coast LP via Spectrum Spools back in 2010, a lengthy time-out ended with the aptly titled NU Lp for RS , released on Root Strata this year. The latter erased what little standard musicality remained in No UFOs’ music, jettisoning keyboard melodies in favour of incidental atonal noises from Jandavs’ apartment and gear. The noise life, however, can most definitely be a taxing one - hence the need for Jandavs to relieve stress with the bouncy beats captured on the third in his own MPC Tracks series. Compiled by No UFO’s "after receiving an unsolicited set of 'magical' disks containing more than 4 GB of unlabelled samples, from the stone-classic to the vexingly unknown", MPC Tracks Vol. III is an only semi guilty pleasure for the artist, shamelessly straight-forward hip-hop beats flowing over two 18-minute side-long suites.

Though mostly put together as a "stress-reliever" (in the artist’s own words), the set is still flawlessly compiled. Snippets of golden age hip-hop interviews and chitter chatter get collaged over golden-age funk rhythms, hitting that Dilla-esque high for 35 solid minutes. No ground is broken, but by beat tape standards this is perfection, and every beat and every sample is snipped up and allotted to total perfection. It's also pretty interesting to consider to what extent having the sense-making rhythmic outlet of the MPC tapes actually aided the creation of No UFO’s uncategorizable and otherworldly main body of work on LP.

Bear Bones, Lay Low / Régis Turner - Cheesy Dreamin (Zamzam Records)

This split between Belgium-based Venezuelan musician Ernesto González (aka Bear Bones, Lay Low) and French artist Régis Turner offers up two distinct approaches to hauntological synth music. Bear Bones, Lay Low has over a decade of underground releases behind him, often deploying moody mixtures of subdued drum machines and aleatory synthetic sounds in drugged-out atmospheres. His side mostly keeps that up, inserting itself into a lo-fidelity tape-delay cosmic soundworld akin to BBC Radiophonic Workshop sects. ‘la joie des astres’ could easily be the incidental music for a Clangers dinner party, while the more choppy noises parrying against a brooding drone bed on ‘el lenguaje liquido’ veers into more nightmarish territory. The nine-minute ‘apaciguando’ (‘appeasing’) is more musically direct, nearly tribal even as it adds distant chants behind a gently cycling synth arpeggio and hypnotic rhythm. The overall effect is exceptionally woozy - even by the standards of the Bear Bones, Lay Low back catalogue. The vintage sounds never feel contrived either - a fate that increasingly befalls the kosmische and Carpenter-esque synth nostalgia categories.

Régis Turner’s flipside is far more melodic, more user-friendly, less dominated by mood, and overall more tightly composed. The hooks on ‘plastic jewels’ and ‘see you in my dreams’ are fat and memorable, backed up by old school organ presets behind some analogue fog. The mood flits between slow-mo horror chase scene (‘à toi je pense’) and saddened emotional blowout (‘rdv secret’), Turner’s simplistic and sharp organ tunes weaving in and out of each other. The closing tune’s called ‘rolling credits’, implying some (perhaps inescapable) film soundtrack roots for Turner’s side - but the melodies are strong enough to render scene-setting and throwback aesthetics unnecessary. His rougher and less sexy organ timbres give Turner’s music its own sound, distinct from the growing heap of shiny synth wielding underground bros. Easily the most essential split tape this column’s come across in 2017 thus far.

brb>voicecoil - Reconfigure Moments and Containment (muza muza)

First established in 1995, Newcastle-based label Muza Muza was next to inactive for the some 18 years, only starting up full activity again last year. brb>voicecoil is the latest iteration of label founder Kevin Wilkinson’s project Big Road Breaker (so the brb’s nothing to do with "be right back"), which has always been on the fringes of non-musical sound and creeping atonal noise. These two tapes belong together, the implication being that the untouched field recordings on Containment form the bed of the manipulated compositions on Reconfigure Moments. Despite comprising little more than a microphone setup to capture some outside sounds at an undisclosed location, Containment feels as if it’s capturing some environmental black magic, presumably around the wild North-East. Wind rushes constantly past the mic, while clicks from the recording device itself, distant shouts, odd metallic clunks, and some creaky rustling are in the foreground. It’s not actually anything like as hands-off as it’s possible for field recordings to be - the tracks are all pretty short and deftly chosen snippets, and it sounds like the artist himself interferes in the environment a lot (the final track includes what sounds like some stacked shopping trolleys getting banged together) - the lack of context make it uncompromisingly raw. Most field recordings love to imply that a choice of location or exotic travel habits imbue the sounds with added power - not brb>voicecoil though. This is simply what it is.

The reconfigured sounds allotted into four much longer tracks on Reconfigured Moments are, if anything, less user friendly. Sparing effects are added, turning the sounds into gently buzzing devices inside small reverb chambers. ‘Recast’ sounds truly like something NASA would pick up and sweep under the rug, a violent alien transmission in some mandible-borne language. 12-minute closer ‘Refine’ contains the most action, adding delay and overlapping myriad noises into an aleatory mess, ever so slowly building into a noisy finale of gunfire-like sounds puncturing their way through radio static. Sound experiments don’t get much more sonically straight-forward and mindfuckingly brutal than this. Not for the faint hearted.

Art Of Burning Water - All Obedient Beasts Worship (Tapes Of Wrath)

London’s Art Of Burning Water are a hardcore punk-metal outfit with a few grindcore tendencies, but this self-issued effort documents a Merzbow-ian dip into plunderphonic remixing. Wayne P and Goatface Thrilla (whoever they are) rejigged some Art Of Burning Water headbangers into these six harsh outings, disseminating the chugging riffs into wobbly tone beds, reducing the drum beats into mostly cymbal crashes, and gutting the strangled sound of lead vocalist Geith Al-Robei into even more disturbed cries of anguish.

When the ancient Babylonian demon god Pazuzu possessed Regan in The Exorcist, it turned a 12-year old girl all-American girl into a scarred demon spewing more cunts and fucks than a drunk Aussie at the rugby. Considering the starting point on All Obedient Beasts Worship was an already rough and angered punk-metal outfit, this Pazuzian possession and retooling of this music, bastardising the instrumentation and adding inexorable power electronics makes for some gloriously OTT listening any exorcist would have a tough time taming. Closer ‘A Gift From Me Means Goodbye’ resembles the slowed drum track experiments of Neu! 2 channelled into a satanic ritual. It’s only an EP of toe-dipping experiments, but the results are bubbling with potential for something much longer.

Razor Kunts - Nature's Pocket (Kitchen Leg Records)

Razor Kunts describe themselves as a riot grrrl duo, but that doesn’t quite capture the sound and fire of Nature’s Pocket. Cello punk might be more accurate, but then again the focus content-wise is exclusively on funny-yet-angry feminism, to which that term would do a similar disservice.

Based in Berlin, both Ambika Thompson and Jane Flett scrape cellos, bang percussion, and sing-speak through these 11 noisy and supremely entertaining tunes. There’s more than a dose of cabaret to their performances (and don’t worry, that’s not in anything even vaguely resembling an Amanda Palmer like way), with vignettes of spoken word and cello noodling giving way to heavier riffage and bashed-out no wave drum patterns, but the entire thing is buoyed by punk energy and humorous delivery. Even when they’re singing tunes with titles like ‘Die Die Die (Patriarchy)’ and ‘Tampon Mouth’, or singing lyrics such as "I’m not your damsel in distress just because I wear a dress" the duo keep the album’s mood breezy and bold rather than heavy or bitter. ‘Tampon Mouth’ is one of the moodier tracks, diving into minor keys and chants much closer to a war cry than elsewhere on the record until it disintegrates at the tail of the album into screams. Cellos shoved into a the album’s lo-fi punky setting seems thoroughly refreshing too (though The Ex and Tom Cora did vaguely similar work back in the day) happily filling in for both guitars and bass all at once. Like similarly aurally imperfect and good-humoured outfits such as The Frogs or Half Japanese, the seriousness of Razor Kunts’ social commentary - that is to smash the fucking patriarchy and teach thick people to stop assaulting girls amongst other things - is only emboldened by the fun energy and rough delivery. Brilliant!

Creeping Pink - A Parliament of Trees (Magnetic South)

On A Parliament Of Trees, Indianapolis-based musician Landon Caldwell expands his Creeping Pink solo project into a full band, and hit upon a golden ratio of improvisation, repetition, amplifier grit, and space rock psychedelia in the process. Unashamedly indebted to the UK’s peak acid rock era in the late-80s/early-90s and the likes of Spacemen 3, Loop, Flying Saucer Attack, etc., Creeping Pink are still nonetheless distinct in multiple ways. The slow march of their rhythm section - the bassist mostly sits on one or two notes per song - is far too contemplative to be called anything nearing ‘motorik’. Caldwell’s voice too, rides above the delay effects and acid riffs, sounding… well… happy! The songs don’t last too long either, mostly staying below the four minute mark rather than any extended work outs, and keyboard drones and feedback are mostly utilised like broad dabs of watercolour rather than blunt instruments. Tunes like ‘Old Phrases’ add in a post-rockian ambient vibe to the proceedings, blaring upbeat chords into a massive delay pedal chamber. Closing track ‘Under the Haloed Moon’ is utterly intriguing and weird too, rejecting the last semblances of krauty repetition and wig outs for a sort of sludge pop song; Black Sabbath fronted by Avey Tare if you will. Acid rock has been eating itself for a while, with modern London pumping out decreasingly interesting copycats, and the readily available sound of 10-minute guitar jams losing some of their punch in recent years. A Parliament of Trees takes idea from the genre into newer directions, with much more compositional complexity going on between the amplifier distortion and repetitive rhythm section. For the project’s first outing into the full band format, A Parliament of Trees overachieves.

Tocci - Aircntrl (Human Pitch)

While Milanese producer Tocci’s approach to rhythm is certainly erratic, it remains logical and instinctive enough to feed the beat centres of the brain by the bucketful. The resultant mix of sounds both bangin’ and deranged is a beautiful mess, like leaving half a dozen YouTube tabs open only to find the sound to all tessellate perfectly. The many beats and sampled stabs sound periodically like cracked Jungle music, strewn into a patchwork dirtied by mumbled vocal samples, and all kept in precarious balance by well placed snare drum falls or bass notes. The likes of Planet Mu alumnus Yearning Kru or Warp’s patten have tapped into a similar multiphonic, multi rhythmic aesthetic, but while the former uses it to shape murky atmospheres and the latter molten techno, Tocci’s productions offer themselves up for dissection - or better yet physical response in the form of actual dancing.

A drum & bass break is snipped into a wonky anti-rhythm on the title track, constantly stop-starting and short circuiting, yet remaining for all intents and purposes danceable (you’ll more than likely catch yourself nodding along). ‘The Bottom Line’ is melodically softer, yet even more erratic as its rhythm wrenches itself from its foundations to wander around a crescendoing mesh of glitching synth notes and bouncy bass, interlocking in a variety of groovy ways. ‘Swiffer’ ends with a less funkified set of glitchy tones, a monstrified vocal sample, plus a saxophone line all collated over a snappy kick. There’s so much happening on every track that it felt pretty lucky that Aircntrl was only an EP. I’m not sure my brain could dissect a full album yet.

Solpara - QTT6 (Quiet Time)

Strangely each edition in the Quiet Time series of tape releases comes as an extravagant double cassette package, with two identical versions of the same tape - "one for you, one for a friend." The latest comes from a co-founder of Montréal’s Booma Collective, Solpara, and is the darkest and freakiest yet, taking the light and breezy ambient sounds into new territory.

While others in the series have leaned on slicker beats or moodier atmospheres, Solpara’s stream-of-consciousness productions are emotionally and musically askew, offering little in the way of riddims or conventional melodies. Digital notes creak around each other, like the metallic scraping that opens side A, segueing into stuttering bleeps. There’s building blocks here for some bleak techno or arpeggiated synth score, but Solpara elects only to sew the most important pieces together, ejecting musical furniture from his productions to craft much darker zones. The closing jam, ‘Dodokéhidra’, is a sugar sweet treat for anybody who makes it through, ushering us out via a coda of lush keyboard chimes.

Project Mycelium - Mundane Behaviour (TVEI)

London-based duo Project Mycelium compose their music in the loosest sense. On paper, it’s easy to infer something melodic or soppy from a piano and cello duo releasing on tape - a fractured chamber music, or perhaps a willfully complex academic music. In practice though, this is far more surprising and unpredictable, emotionally washed out and texturally exploratory beyond expectations in a casing of fucked up found sounds and voice samples. The digitally garbled voices and other unidentifiable snippets evoke a skewed vision of the mundane (omg, hence the title!) and the everyday as blasted through a breaking prism - while the creak of cello and watery piano chords captured in pin drop quiet variably soundtrack proceedings with an ambient heavenly stillness or impending doomy dread. ‘The behaviour of Japanese people on elevators."§ adds more glitches and imperfections to the source material, warping French speech into a nasty robot. Fans of Jan Jelinek, Fennesz, and Esmerine will all find something familiar here.

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