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Spool's Out

Spool’s Out: Your Cassette Tape Release Roundup For November
Tristan Bath , November 21st, 2018 19:05

For your tapedeck (and bandcamp) delectation, the finest new cassette releases, including the best Japanese producer you never heard of, the modern sound of the trombone, the early work of Rangers, and some postindustrial Northern primitive guitar

A recent episode of the weekly Spool’s Out radio show on Resonance FM featured a guest selection put together by Qualchan, a multidisciplinary artist based in Cascadia with tapes out on a variety of imprints across the land… His selection on the show delved into Italian gialli scores, presenting a widescreen alternative to the show’s usually slight scope (we are a tape show after all). 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.

Details are muddy surrounding Japanese artist Sofheso, although First Terrace Records make it clear that the “prolific yet unsung noise-maker” has been making music for “at least the last decade”. This two-tape retrospective culled from the artist’s reportedly extensive archive isn’t a cohesive album statement – it’s massively unwieldy and chaotic, as universe-building is wont to be. 28 tracks, spanning more than two hours, show off a vast array of approaches to electronic music. Beats wash in and out of the picture, themselves ranging from four-to-the-floor techno pulses and banging jungle, to dull abstract thuds and deconstructed concrète bashes.

Sofheso’s all-encompassing approach to modern electronica does away with all sorts of key genre signifiers across its monolithic length, ironically by touching upon them all. The second track has chopped-and-screwed snare hits straight from some Drukqs outtake; the ninth track (they’re all just numbered) focuses polyrhythmic dissected samples in the vein of indefinable producers like Giuseppe Ielasi; the seventh track on the second tape adds heavily distorted breakbeats to the arsenal. The disparate sounds just keep on flowing, rather like with Lee Gamble, dissecting Sofheso’s constructions like architectural works yields massive fascination. The musical building blocks are often right there on display – such as the short-circuiting eighth track on the second tape – its respective pieces audibly fucked on their own but miraculously danceable when rightly aligned. This is a staggering introduction to a mysterious talent, and it instantly get you wondering what else lurks in the artist’s archive. Sofheso has the makings of Japan’s own Aphex Twin.

Dedicating this one to his beloved mother, producer Pal+ (aka Fernando Silva from Faro, Portugal) crafts inviting lo-fi synthstrumentals that overflow with a loving warmth. The tape’s cosier vibe is even preshadowed via the lovely family photos adorning its J-card. What’s more, Portuguese imprint OTA is generally one of the more pleasant enterprises I’ve come across on the tape scene. They stick each tape they issue straight up for free download, and often issue mysterious works by close friends and buddies. No pretension, just lush sounds and homemade experimentation. With all this in mind, one goes into kinetic dreams feeling a familial embrace.

Sonically, this tape is vaguely dubby, vaguely ambient, and massively melodic in its construction. Silva deploys lovably naive preset riddims below hefty keyboard washes, marbling in synth strings and echoey piano tinklings through things on the title track. Practically polished enough to be a Beach House backing track, ‘nostalgia’ is arguably the highlight, ushering in a decidedly pleasant tune that could happily cycle on for ten more minutes without getting old.

Austin, Texas outfit Rangers – an outlet for Joe Knight – has been at it for around a decade by this point it seems. Pan Am Stories was his first album issued by the wonderful Not Not Fun label, way back in 2011. While that represented arguably Rangers’ first artistic peak – synthesizing tape fuzz aesthetics and psychedelic riffing into technicolor lo-fi pop extraordinaire – Rangers has quietly soldiered on, refining his solo song-making away from scuzz and into slightly slicker records like 2017’s Texas Rock Bottom. With that in mind, Europe On TV jettisons any semblance of refinement, filling four sides of tape with muddy kitchen-sink snippets sewn into lengthy montages with no rhyme nor reason. This is in fact an archival reissue, bringing together two releases made by Pittsburgh’s tape imprint As Above So Below back in 2009 – but it works as both a relic and a reminder. Many US tape-heads cut their teeth (as both musicians and listeners) during the era that birthed the likes of Rangers (and James Farraro and Ariel Pink and so on and so on), and you’re gonna be hard pushed to find a more complete aesthetic statement about why.

There’s smokey guitar wig-outs, muddy TV snippets, gallons of chorus pedals, oily basslines, and Italo-disco synth beats galore across nearly two full hours. The lack of sonic clarity is arguably the key ingredient though, giving these recordings the feel of a long-lost artefact; it’s an archeological find from the basement of a long-lost 80s outsider, stored on terminally compromised media. The result remains potently transportative, and practically unrivalled as a celebration of fleeting acid trip jams caught in muddy glorious lo-fidelity sound.

There’s a slightly greater weight to the baritone guitar that lends itself to communicating the heavier emotions. Sadness, despair, hope, nostalgia – they’re all imbued with added strength seeping from the slightly larger body and slightly lower tunings of a baritone. So it seems like the perfect tool for Andrew DR Abbott on Live On Daisy Hill, a minor 21st century folk masterpiece he insists you file under ‘Postindustrial Northern Primitive’. Weaving five fingerpicked instrumentals for solo acoustic baritone guitar together with field-recorded interludes, Abbott focuses on the experience of forgotten towns in the North of England as his source material. Naturally his fingerpicked tunes owe something to John Fahey and his descendants, but Abbott does a nice job of rinsing the primitive guitar of its innate American-ness and weaving in some guttural Britishisms from post-punk folksters like Richard Dawson or Dean McPhee. Abbott ignores the comfort of pure folk structures and bluesy scales, twisting his lush folk guitar into something brimming with potent pangs of a serrated kind of poetic discontent.

Founded in 2003, Langham Research Centre is an English quartet aiming to make electronic music using ideas and tools “considered obsolete, redundant and outdated”. In that sense, the multi-storey car park that stood at Trinity Square from 1967 until its demolition in 2010 (perhaps best known as a key piece of architecture in the movie Get Carter) is a thoroughly apt subject. The group assemble an 18-minute slab of musique concrète using only interviews and sounds from the car park all processed and treated on quarter-inch tape. It was first broadcast back in 2005 on Radio 3, five full years before the huge (and decaying) brutalist monolith’s demolition; post-demolition the piece takes on a fresh new life as a portrait of obsolescence.

Atop the murky collage of metallic echoes and cold stone atmospheres processed into an evocative backing track, the interviews with architect Owen Luder and others mostly portray the concrete behemoth in a positive light, musing on its role in Get Carter, praising the awe-inspiring views over Newcastle and on to Durham you got from on top, celebrating its place in the local community. In the final moments of the piece though, a flurry of negative voices spill on to the tape, decrying the hideous grey beast. Side B houses an ‘instrumental’ version of the piece, free of any interviews and focusing solely on the processed car park sounds, and it’s far more sonically interesting than it has any right to be. Obsolete methods in musique concrète don’t get much more appropriately deployed than this: capturing the spirit of an obsolete piece of concrete.

Bad@Maths is a fresh duo comprising Elvin Brandhi (half of Yeah You) and Odie Ji Ghast, both wild and unpredictable improvisers crafting spontaneous experimental performances live and on record. A cataclysm of samples and electronic gear scurry around creating spontaneous noise-pop while the duo twist their voices into a manic series of improvised words, variously sung, spoken and screamed. This resultant mini-album is dark, most notably deep inside its longest track and centrepiece, ‘GRAB LURB (K0K0NUK)’, where cursed synth lines float around a dark cavern while moans and yelling fizz with maddening impetuity. Elsewhere, an obsession with trap and grime becomes more apparent, such as on closer ‘Taylo╠êr schwivtz’, which resembles a corrupted instrumental grime WAV infected with a Super Mario-inspired virus. Anybody who’s heard previous work by Yeah You or Odie Ji Ghast knows what they’re in for with these manic blasts of improvised noise pop fuckery, but even in relation to their previous work the mood on PROSEGUR feels more cohesive than ever (in its moody lack of cohesion, ironically). Often scary, always weird, and periodically hooky, this is so-called wild pop at its best.

This massive compilation released by Utrecht’s Faux Amis focuses on one instrument alone: the trombone. Yes! It’s the mighty Trombilation you never knew you were missing! Not maligned but certainly not as beloved as it should be, the role of the ’bone in modern music has been all-too-oft minimised. It’s historically been largely a sideplayer in the jazz world, and while some notable compositions (by Phill Niblock, for example, or very recently Ellen Arkbro) have deployed the trombone’s unique qualities to create truly mind-numbing tones, it remains, to this writer’s mind, underloved. Featuring Philip Corner, Hilary Jeffery, Peter Zummo, Sophie Cooper, and many other notable bonists, the Trombilation is a mighty two-hour shot at redressing the balance, framing the trombone as a solo instrument to be reckoned with, imbued with its own uniquely inimitable powers.

It’s here deployed as a pure noise maker, a rumbling brass didgeridoo dedicated to drone, a cog in a microphone feedback loops, a hilarious horn and, perhaps most affectingly, as an intensely spiritual tool. Hilary Jeffery’s heart-wrenching ten-minute solo ‘A Cup Of Ito’ recalls Arve Henriksen’s shakuhachi-inspired trumpet-playing. ‘Four’ by Austrian trombonist Martin Ptak is similarly mind-opening, putting the trombone at the heart of a lattice of effects to create a glacial shelf of icy ambience. This is perhaps the only trombone-centric tape compilation you’ll ever need. Perhaps.

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