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Spool's Out

Spool’s Out: Your Tape Cassette Release Roundup For June
Tristan Bath , June 29th, 2018 07:32

Beatless techno, dub concrète, a sonic rock garden and sad gabber are among this month's best tape releases, picked by Tristan Bath

Last week, the tunes on the Spool's Out Radio show on Resonance FM were chosen by mysterious UK artist Ten Hyphen Twenty. With previous tape releases on Where To Now? and Phinery Tapes, THT's returning with more abstract expressionism and sonic 3D sculptures, issued imminently via Genot Centre, titled In-Store Music.

Head over to, 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.

Anybody who's encountered Daniel Martin-McCormick's music in the past should be thoroughly surprised by this one. Previous projects have included dancepunkers Mi Ami, hardcore punkers Black Eyes, and DIY house project Ital. Under his latest nom de plume though - Relaxer - Martin-McCormick's been producing and spinning deep and dark and muscly techno. And this first full-length Relaxer release, following a series of club-fuelling 12 inches, is a further departure. According to the artist, A Family Disease is essentially the result of assembling the background detritus from his techno DJ sets into these new beatless soundscapes. Eradicating the beats and synth tunes, but leaving behind an entire galaxy of spoken voices, bleak melodic snippets, found sounds and movie clips, the results are insanely potent fountains of dread. Taken as a standalone piece of work, A Family Disease is a profound listening experience, wrapping around the listener like a boa constrictor. The assemblage of distant voices and lethargic repetitions segue into each other like vaguely recalled memories colliding in an alcohol-soaked hippocampus, stretching out across each of the 21 minute sides seamlessly (the liner notes do name track splits, though I can't much hear them). Side two opens up with what sounds like an eerie-as-fuck horror movie string scrape before unintelligible Dalek-like mumblings start up.

Like any good techno set, pieces are piled up and layered and started and stopped atop each other, in constant motion like spinning plates. Minus the beats and bass however, the exercise is hypnotic in a totally different way. It's still not a Pierre Henry-esque, concrète collage in the entropic sense - this is a disco for ghost slugs. It's a Friday night out for the possessed, replete with epic crescendos leading to 'beatless' drops and hands-in-air breaks. Besides its impeccable assemblage and deep spiritual hold-and-release payoffs (the finale of side two is notably sublime), A Family Disease joins up latent dots between the likes of Nurse With Wound and Iannis Xenakis with Surgeon. Pick away at the beats and bass, and beneath techno's stream of consciousness lies a surprisingly potent subconscious.

Released via RVNG Intl in October of last year, Sugai Ken's UkabazUmorezU presumably brought the artist from Kanagawa, Japan to far wider attention. While that record rode its niceties and subtleties into many a blissful corner, this new outing released via Yerevan Tapes sees Ken's sound palette mutating towards increasingly abnormal frontiers. If it's expanding like anything, it's the Ikea catalogue, with Ken weaving in all manner of domestic and mundane everyday objects alongside deep percussion and moody distant atmospherics. The title translates to something along the lines of ‘Remarks On Rock’ or ‘Rock Thinking’, and the artist claims the pieces are narratives and the protagonists rocks. If anthropomorphised rocks did think, it would most likely sound something like the mental sounds on this tape.

Tracks like '腐岩 - KELOID' or '夜鳴き小法師 - YONAKI KOBOSHI' brim with leering mid-energy synth crackles and digital snippets quietly jostling for space, occasionally falling into place like something resembling a rhythm. The structures are utterly illogical however, and Ken happily drops in the most confusing hit of sound design - such as the phone vibrations that close out 'YONAKI KOBOSHI'. These thoroughly abstract little sound structures are sure to massage your imagination, sounding as they do utterly unlike anything else besides perhaps a spaghettified James Ferraro record from the other side of a black hole. It's both blissful and unnerving - like dropping a few tabs and sitting for 25 minutes in one's own private rock garden.

Although it sounds like a Welsh NGO dedicated to helping single men, a barycenter is actually the central gravitational point between two celestial bodies orbiting each other. So there's some pretty heavy forces at play at a barycenter, attempting to tear two objects apart, while forcibly holding them irrevocably interwoven. The many sides of Bary Center - an American electronic music from Appalachia - work similarly, keeping his steadily growing discography in balance. Previous releases have dived into textured explorations, more ambient beats, some exotica-tinged instrumentals, and a whole lot more. This time though, something's got Bary Center peed off, and Betrayal is thus his most brutal and fearsome outing yet.

There are some fast-and-heavy gabber speeds on the tape, with the kicks more often than not set to distorting highs. It's tough to find it outright aggressive though. Behind those beats that feel like you're getting your head kicked in, Bary Center's conjured a minimal setting of dissonant drones and voices. The result is more filled with dread and sadness than bacchanal energy or aggressive release. It's not even that fast, with 'GAMUT' closing out side A with 100BPMs of pummeling kick drum murder and a ritualistic stormcloud of punctured by oddball sax blasts. Like the best industrial techno, this music's a relatively simple construction. Ironically for something so mechanical, its greatest strengths come from Bary Center's penchant for emotive hold-and-release. After five lengthy tracks of pummeling beats, 'MEMORY' closes out the tape with a gentler epilogue, swapping out heavy kicks machines for minor key piano arpeggios and horror movie cacophony. Whoever screwed over Bary Center (I'm gonna go ahead and make that assumption - check out that title) really hit something deep in the artist. His fantastic and mild-mannered previous work is here mired in darkness, fuelled by a thoroughly banging energy only uncontrollable dark emotions can summon.

On their debut, Italian guitar duo Heart Of Snake augment a their twin acoustics with viola, vibraphone, rhodes, synths, percussion, and Onde Martenot to create two sidelong pieces in the vein of Bruce Langhorne's vintage soundtrack to cult western The Hired Hand and the sweeping hallucinogenic landscapes of Lancashire's Richard Skelton. Prickly interlocked fingerpicking knots a dense web, and the duo rightly namecheck Gastr del Sol as a key influence. They set themselves solidely aside though, weaving jazzier inflections and a heap of distinctly European romanticism into these two lush sides. Americana this ain't. The centre of side A sees a densely compelling passage of viola scrapes and slide guitar blossom for a few blissful minutes, but it closes with tirelessly minimal, almost lethargic duelling from the pair (Vincenzo Marando and Alberto Danzi if you were wondering).

Side two takes an exotica turn, and adding in some percussion rumbles halfway into the track and adding in tremolo guitar and wobbly vibraphones. The whole thing is a woozy dreamscape more than a landscape, as if stumbling through Italian hills dazed from too much sun and wine, breeze on your sunburnt face, lost in thought. More than rambling music, these loose assemblages of segueing compositions are a kind of introverted instrumental cinema. Heart Of Snake make particularly good ambassadors for instrumental folk as kosmische music.

Even while South American psychedelia has been undergoing a relatively well-documented renaissance for years now, this one came as a surprise. Argentinian outfit Los Siquicos Litoraleños (which translates to something like "The psychics of El Litoral" - the latter being the name of their local region) defy any and all expectations with a mix of cumbia grooves, technicolor lounge jazz, video game music, the odd twanging guitar, and a pile of compulsive madness. This new compilation tape spans 2009 to 2016, bringing together highlights from years of diverse recording. Third track 'Las Variables de la Vida Sentimental' is a lo-fi Animal Collective sea shanty, while a toy army of keyboard bleeps and digital waste marches over a slowly evolving tropic groove on the lengthy 'Misterios del Amazonas'. Live cut 'Satori Wachin' sees the group's lead singer having some kind of beef-fuelled breakdown over the group doing an impeccable impression of a serious lounge cumbia outfit. And then there's utterly bonkers interludes such as 'Misa Criolla Psiquica', full of backwards-masked radio samples and segueing into 'Padrillo Jugado', an impossibly strange mix of guitar strums and atonal accordion notes. These 47 minutes are bloated with humid acid madness, like stumbling across the motherlode. These guys are wonky enough to make The Meridian Brothers look like The Everly Brothers - my advice is to get to know them straight away.

While this one was released way back in January, it's only just found its way into my tape deck (and their appear to be copies left) so let's give it a shot. Appearing to hail from Hamilton, Ontario, producer NPNP (aka Jackson Darby) makes idiosyncratic beats that should appeal to footwork fans and vaporwave kids alike. There's enough pump and heat to maybe call it wonky house, but that seems way too pigeonholing for NPNP. 'Physical Mental Environmental' starts as trippy techno, all full of round edges, bassy kicks, and murmured voices, before a childish electric piano hops on board like Ralph Wiggum taking control at Berghain. By the end of the track NPNP's evolved it into a dancehall track replete with cowbells. How the hell did he do that?

Abiding by little else beyond the logic that everybody's happy so long as they get the odd passage of kick drums and handclaps, NPNP heads out into all sorts of dancefloor-readying directions. NPNP gets through such a huge bounty of ideas across his debut tape, and all the while keeping the party going and smugly pulling off grossly tropical digs on that garish artwork. It's an impressive demonstration, and shows how leaving comfort zones in search of original sounds can still happily sit inside those 4/4 constraints. It can even also be fun apparently.

Lisbon's Bruno Silva has amassed a hugely impressive body of work under various names, most notably his constantly evolving 'melodic concrète' project Ondness. Just one of his many noms de plume, Serpente finally emerges on record, and appears to see the artist taking his beats more seriously, Silva ultimately spitting out something closer to dub techno than before. Silva still keeps things minimal, often to an almost frustrating extent, deploying the old hold-and-release sans release. 'Venda De Altar' comprises little more than a gentle pules over which Silva scatters buggered up field recordings, and cut-up anonymous snippets, teasing but never issuing any form of drop. Those snippets fall more into place on 'Sob A Palha', forming a cacophonous rave put together via Voice Memos, and closing track 'Fio Obeah' does a similar trick with countless reggae and dub intros and toasts, pushed into a lofi backdrop behind an ominous foreground drone. Bruno Silva's deconstruction of recorded music into a lego-like galaxy of building blocks continues to fascinate, and despite its more user-friendly rhythmic shell, Serpente is perhaps his eeriest work yet.