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Spool's Out

Spool's Out: August's Tapes Reviewed By Tristan Bath
Tristan Bath , August 27th, 2015 08:08

As Mark Twain said - there are only two things certain in life: taxes and Necro Deathmort. Tristan Bath covers their new compilation cassette and the rest of this month's best tapes

Gultskra Artikler - Destroy Music
James Place - Interpretations of Superstition
Rémy Charrier - Cowries
Roberto Carlos Lange - Plural People
(Umor Rex)

Perhaps it’s overkill to include an entire four-cassette batch from a label, but this set from Mexico City’s Umor Rex is truly all killer. First up, Brooklyn-based Ecuadorian composer Roberto Carlos Lange’s Plural People is a divine set of ten miniature computer compositions, plus one long computer composition, all created between 1999 and 2011 as Lange tried to use his machine to work out how other electronic artists got their sound. Consequently the music doesn’t really sound much like anybody else in the end but it’s all densely pretty music. At times there are sounds resembling Alva Noto’s intense glitchy backdrops for Ryuichi Sakamoto, and at others there’s the luminescent picturesque ocean of sounds heard on Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas albums. Pianos, guitars, field recordings, they all get cut up and reconfigured into brilliantly affecting exercises in textural composition.

James Place (aka Phil Tortoroli) followed up his Opal Tapes debut with an LP on Umor Rex in February this year, Living On Superstition, which saw ambience and hazy textures burst to life over bubbling synths and sparsely applied techno beats. Interpretations Of Superstition documents five reworked versions of tunes from the LP caught live on tape, stretching the tunes up to and past the ten minute mark, from trim little sonic statements, into far more potent electronic jams. There’s plenty to get lost in here, and opener ‘Amia’ (a new version of ‘Another Mourning In America’) is in particular a bombastic groove session that far outstrips its slimmer original. Also included is Tortoroli’s intoxicating remix of ‘Disney’, a tune from Kara-Lis Coverdale and LXV’s collaborative debut on Umor Rex earlier this year too.

Moscow-based producer Alexey Devyanin - aka Gultskra Artikler - has put together his best work to date here, recycling samples from tape back into a computer then reorganising and ‘destroying’ the music he’s been listening to in recent years into something entirely new, not to mention often disorienting. Snatches of melodies cycle and disintegrate, like the piano on ‘Destro’, the strings on ‘Des’, or the whirling keys on ‘Destroy Mu’, with Devyanin expanding each element into something infinitely greater than its original form. There’s a grander statement here about reformulating and recycling sound, but all reasoning aside, it’s a massively pretty dozen tracks, with barely a second worth missing.

Originally hailing from Nantes in France, Mexico City based producer Rémy Charrier made his name in abstract French hip hop group, Depth Affect, who put out a trilogy of confusingly weird/poppy albums of beats/glitches back from 2006-11. Cowries however - his first solo work - is a wonderfully listenable set of electronic instrumentals, built from experimental and free form foundations, and cleaned up and redrafted into eight near-poppy tracks. Opener ‘A Sine Tale’ utilises itchy eardrum sine waves in what could almost be an FKA Twigs backing track, while ‘1929’ cycles emotionally forever upward on a sirenesque organ line. The grooves veer between grinding dark pop (‘Denial’, ‘Backlash’) and almost Kraut-like percussion loops (‘Between Stories’, ‘Tulipmania’), but every one’s a real killer, and Charrier’s ear for haunting melodies and soaring climaxes builds the foreground into something profoundly engaging beyond his contemporaries. Some savvy record exec would be well advised to snap up Charrier to produce starlets and popsters wanting to ‘go dark’ while maintaining hooks and beats - but the potential for true greatness as a solo instrumental producer is most definitely here.

Necro Deathmort - Volume.2
(Extreme Ultimate)

This second volume of Necro Deathmort’s archival material is an outright killer, deathly dark set compiling their unique blend of industrial noises, deep drones, spacey synthesizers and beats into a seamless three-quarters-of-an-hour trip. ‘Moral Issue’ opens with whirring old school bass and trip hop rhythms taking place in a dungeon, seguing into the keyboard drone doom of ‘Ultramafic’, and the brief crescendo from ambience to Norse god levels of dark stoner heaviness on ‘Trails’. There’s atonal passages of buzzes and clicks that harken back to Schulze at his most experimental, and retro arpeggios on ‘Arcturus’ that simmer like John Carpenter’s gentler movie scores (The Fog or Prince Of Darkness) and the intense filmic darkness comes to a head on the closing ten minute ‘The Future (Acid Mix)’, where arpeggiated synths battle it out with gathering drone monsters, eventually disappearing into dark ambient tranquility. Few bands are as widely travelled in the nether regions between industrial music, droning metal and gothic techno as Necro Deathmort, but the fact that Volume.2 is for the most part comprised of sewn together detritus and cutting room floor jams is nonetheless hugely impressive. Highly recommended.

Running Point - Medita/Medica
(Power Moves Library)

Toronto’s Power Moves Label is nearing the end of its first 15 release cycle, but nonetheless, the relentlessly prolific man behind the label, Kevin Cahill, has elected to create an offshoot titled Power Moves Library. The first release on the label is from Cahill’s own Running Point project, comprising the man’s singular brand of fingerpicked electric guitar improvisation. It’s been at times abrasive, dizzying, and almost absurdly weird in the past on a variety of tape and CD-R releases, but Medita/Medica is the most outright beautiful set to date. It brings to mind the contemplative folk-tinged dreamworld of Charalambides, or perhaps John Fahey’s under-appreciated Jim O’Rourke-produced masterpiece of experimental guitar atmospheres, Womblife. Cahill fingerpicks and slides his way through an endless waterfall of melodies, repeating, reassessing, and rewriting themes as he goes. He makes heavy use of a volume pedal too, rounding the edges of showering guitar notes into a pitter patter of melodic rainfall. There’s sparingly added field recordings of bird song and natural ambience too, as well as very occasional overdubbing (or perhaps looping?) as in the climactic moments of the 11 minute ‘Medita/Medica 2’. Cahill never wanders far from the same melodic skeleton throughout the album, going over and over the same themes with something resembling nostalgia. Running Point’s been slowly entangling and disentangling himself with his instrument for the last few years, and their symbiosis is producing better and better works. Dive into Medita/Medica (tapes are all gone, but it’s up as a free download for now), but be sure to hunt down the rest of Running Point’s catalogue for some of the finest, most hauntingly crystalline guitar sounds in existence.

Hex Horizontal - Influx II: The Isthmus
(Geweih Ritual Documents)

The second in a four-part cassette series documenting improvised performances by L.A. two-piece Hex Horizontal, The Isthmus wrestles rock music’s pre-existing syntaxes to the ground, and reassembles the pieces into free-wheeling miniature dialogues. Guitarist Zach Lewis employs oscillation amongst other effects to stretch and skew improvised melodies and noises, yanking the strands apart like dismantling a cheese string, while drummer Jeffrey Allen guides proceedings, coaxing Lewis into perceivable shapes most of the time, but occasionally veering off into his own busy handed free forms (‘Exile’ and ‘Congratulations’). Free rock music isn’t normally made as much to enjoy as these guys produce it, with it more often becoming too self-importantly complicated. Hex have themselves name-checked the likes of Hella as an influence, but they suffer from none of the hyperactivity over-complexity that ultimately saw that group run out of gas. The distant weirdness of ‘Place On The Mantle’, or the heavy droning tones of ‘Perpetual Blue’ come from a far broader free rock dialect. To boot, there’s some downright clairvoyant improvisation between the duo throughout the tape.

2 8 1 4 - 新しい日の誕生 (Atarashī Ni~Tsu no Tanjō)
(Not Not Fun / Dream Catalogue)

The incessantly productive vaporwave subculture can be so relentlessly prolific that the odd masterpiece can disappear into the abyss having only reached the eardrums of a mere handful of ravenous vapor-heads. Luckily, 2 8 1 4’s 新しい日の誕生 (‘The Birth Of A New Day’) seems to have dodged such a fate. Initially put out by scene stalwarts Dream Catalogue as a digital, and very limited CD edition, it’s now getting a slightly larger tape release by Californian label Not Not Fun. Very deservedly so too, as it’s one of the most potent portraits of ambient, rain soaked urban beauty to have emerged in years. Lengthy, slowly evolving atmospheres resultantly seep from your speakers gaseously, intoxicating and weary with downpouring cityscape lamentation. 2 8 1 4 is in fact a collaboration between two mysterious artists called t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 and Hong Kong Express, and it most certainly combines the best aspects of both artists. t e l e p a t h has shown a dab hand for (very) long form, all consuming ambience (just check out this ridiculousness), while Hong Kong Express’s music taps into a bottomless well of keyboard melodies and slowly walks them over gradually moving late night beats. A distant whirling piano seems to lead us into these eight dense cityscapes, evoking the rainy, neon-lit culture clash of Blade Runner’s futuristic Los Angeles. Sonically, it comes somehow close to the most melancholy moments of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing (minus the heavy hip hop beats), capturing that wistful urban emotion perhaps best summarised by the album’s animated artwork viewable below. This album’s going to provide years of peaceful healing to everybody who gives it a listen.

Hissing - Hissing

This Seattle trio blend the doomiest, blackest, and thrashiest elements of metal on their excellent debut cassette release. ‘Callow Congress’ flits between harsh feedback and blasts of blackest metal, with trashy snare beats and angered screams that are more punk than metal. The almost baroque chord sequence of ‘Granero's Eye’ stands out too, lending passages of hyperspeed strumming an orchestral feel (quickly all brought crashing down of course with wails of feedback and grating screams). ‘Pointless Rehearsal’ ends the tape with a six minute multi-part suite, which hits its peak around the four minute mark with dozens of truly epic waves of crushing chords and black as night cadences. An awesome first release from the young trio. While they do punkish explosions of energy very well, there’s exciting potential for some incredible longer form metal from these guys.

Blondes - Rein
(RVNG Intl.)

Culled from a weekend spent improvising in the studio, Rein comprises a fifty minute and five second collage of beats, slow-shifting atmospheres, and gaping techno caverns. The New York duo of Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have already displayed their knack for longer form, gradually evolving electronica on previous releases, but Reins - along with the more fully formed Persuasion EP for which it was basically a warm up session - see them pare back to their most minimal work yet. The very audible levels of patience between the two were undoubtedly created by studio improvisation, but the effect lends the resultant feature length piece the sort of immersive power of a Terrence Dixon solo piece. The passages flow so constantly and seamlessly it's tough to map out Rein logically, as ideas fly out from both Haar and Steinman constantly, and they are only held together by the 4/4 glue - and even this gets pushed to its limit somewhere around the 35 minute mark. The final ten minutes take an about turn, send the beats into the distance, and reach for organs and a whole host of beautiful synth buzzed and effects wizardry. More than anything they’ve done before, Rein really makes the case for Blondes as long form electronic maestros, traversing the same pathways as the likes of Karen Gwyer, albeit in gentler, subtler, baby steps.

Cosmic Neighbourhood - Collages I
(Kit Records)

Purportedly documenting “the daily goings-on of the forest folk within the realm of the Cosmic Neighbourhood”, the 16 tracks on Collages I sound aptly squidgy, cuddly, cosy, and bathed in a classically psychedelic analogue warmth. Densely textured pastoral electronics burst to life, not always led by a tune, but always overflowing with rich melodicism. Tracks like ‘Vampire Bat’ sound like some haunted house level on an old SNES game. They follow traditional instrumental routes through chords and melodies, while others such as ‘Pipe’ or ‘Tomte’s Dream’ spend their 2-4 minute lifespan inhabiting a messy chamber of vocal samples, modular synth jutterings and generally upbeat musical clatter. These tracks are akin to the sonic wallpaper of Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs and the work of early electronic pioneers such as Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire. Judging from the infectious instrumental happiness on offer here, Adam Higton - the Bristol-based illustrator behind Cosmic Neighbourhood - must be the jolliest man in England. Even at their weirdest, which is most likely the five minutes of cycling phaser effects and bubbly synth noises on ‘Mermaid’, Higton manages to make his rainbow coloured broth taste of pure smiles.

Ryan Emmett - Pulling the Wool
(White Reeves Productions)

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based White Reeves Productions is a fresh new cassette label started earlier this year by Ryan Emmett and Mica Pacileo, both members of excellent local experimental band, Hunted Creatures. For Emmett’s first solo release on the label, Pulling The Wool remains in a distinctly abstract mode, but with plenty of triumphant explosions of melodic beauty and rhythmic diversions to keep it from becoming too alienatingly ‘experimental’. Making use of unidentifiable electronic instruments, and a handful of (perhaps) acoustic instruments and samples, his palette is more or less boundless. ‘The Never Ending Bend’ opens the tape with a distant fanfare on trumpet amid scraping static and atonal noises, sounding like a Gavin Bryars brass composition picked up on a dodgy longwave signal. Both parts of ‘A Newly Polished Mirror’ have lethargically plonked out piano melodies filtered into a lo fi dream state, while ‘Little Clicking Cupboard’ amasses a load of highly processed elements into a droning wash of stunningly beautiful sounds atop a thudding beat (an actual cupboard perhaps?) The 15 minute title track at the tail end of the album covers similar ground to the initial, shorter, 6 tracks, montaging boundless timbres in a lo fi ocean of reverb and vintage crooner samples cut up a la Elvis on The KLF’s Chill Out.

A i w a - I’d Rather Take You Out

The Budapest-based Farbwechsel (German for ‘colour change’) label is due to shift away from cassette releases soon in order to move into the more grown up realm of vinyl, and if evidence was ever needed of how big a loss to the format they’ll be, it’s the strength of A i w a's new cassette. It was with a digital release from Lajos Nádházi’s A i w a project that Farbwechsel christened itself, and the artist’s blend of deep abstraction and funky grooves has defined the label to no small extent. I’d Rather Take You Out isn’t the most immediately potent statement from the producer (that was his vapor-infused debut EP, ティーシャツ), but the ten tracks simmer and eventually overpower the listener every time. ‘Busy Lobby’ opens with syncopated foot tapped rhythms and synth chords that only partially evade funkiness, leaning more heavily on melody than ever before, dancing around the core beat in a dizzying way. This feeling of lethargy, of a rave twisted just out of its groove, permeates the entire tape, with longer tracks like the seven and half minute minimal house fest, ‘Livejam Sims’ and deep acid of ‘Would Not’, uncharacteristically slowly working their dance magic. ‘Take 0’ shows off A i w a’s ability to write a catchy hook too, and like the rest of this tape, it’s uncertain whether we should boogie or chill. Why not try both.