Spool’s Out: Cassette Reviews For March By Daryl Worthington

From restaurant themed sound art to saz led psych jams and pogoing black metal, Daryl Worthington finds the tape scene continues to shine a light throughout these weird days

A/C Repair School is the Brazilian duo of Rafael de Toledo Pedroso and Carolina Simionato (who also makes music as Soft Verges), and on new album Órfãs, they produce something remarkably lucid from the barest instrumentation. Their songs deal with abandonment (the album’s title translates to orphans), and not just in the lyrics – it’s inscribed into the very music itself. Simionato’s vocals on ‘bom demais pra ser mentira’ have a torch song quality, but pulled into the fuzz it feels fragile and isolated – a love song broadcast into the void.

Like Grouper, or Body/Head, there’s a texture stamped into A/C Repair School’s music that should be abrasive but manifests as welcoming. A/C Repair School’s broken dream pop is all their own though. Whether it’s the dirty keyboard on ‘Cachorro (we stone)’ wrapping around Simionato’s voice, or the relief of ‘Daybreak Na Cova Da Piedade’s’ climbing chords rising out of the murk.

Even at its most aggressive, Órfãs feels vulnerable. As if those moments of feedback and noise are a coping mechanism for isolation. At points Simionato’s voice abandons words and just floats in a puddle of reverb, the songs’ production revealing as much as the words and melodies.

It’s the kind of hard to place sonics that’s increasingly becoming a calling card for the queer-focused Grimalkin Collective. Now spanning 18 members across the globe, including de Toledo Pedroso, and managed/facilitated by Virginia-based Nancy Grim Kells, Grimalkin prioritises releasing music by QTBIPOC artists rather than limiting themselves to any specific genre. It’s seen them cover everything from brutal rap to fiercely ambitious synth pop. Those releases tend to come out on cassette and limited-edition lathe cuts, and proceeds from most of them go to grassroots organisations and mutual aid collectives decided by the artists.

The label has even branched into full blown metal with Cultum Draculesti, the solo project of Dionysos Capsalis. Her songs on Antigone the Martyr act as a reminder that for all its angst, metal is participatory music to be moved to. While solo black metal artists like Xasthur or A Pregnant Light have tended to take working alone to delve deeper into proggy existentialism, Capsalis’ music has a hardcore efficiency that brings to mind Black Flag as much as Saint Vitus or Electric Wizard. Short, sharp, heavy as sin songs which demand something between pogoing and head banging.

This is just scratching the surface of what Grimalkin do, but at the heart seems to be a dedication to the belief that inclusive DIY culture and defiantly ambitious pop music can combine to play a part in making the world a better place.

Lighght – Holy Endings

(Doom Trip Records)

Cork based producer Lighght can usually be found dropping ruthlessly effective and exceptionally titled dancefloor fillers – last years’ ‘Sorry I Can’t Go Out Tonight, I’m Too Busy Going In’ ticking both boxes, but Holy Endings sees him take a left turn into twinkling electroacoustics. Beats are replaced with what sound like vibraphones and simple synths weaving through snippets of conversations, crowd noise and other ephemera. The tracks feel more choreographed than composed, sounds twisting through space, sometimes clustering into unison, others splintering off into their own movements. There are a few moments in Robin Campilo’s film 120 Beats Per Minute where the camera focuses on dust particles lit by strobe lights, marking transitions between scenes and moods. That sense of drift and transition is felt in Holy Endings. All six pieces blanketed in a soft light, and every sound Lighght drops sustaining that shimmering luminescence for as long as possible.

Sathönay – Hello Sunny


Lyon based Nico Poisson, aka Sathönay plays saz, which is a long-necked stringed instrument not dissimilar to a lute, and electronics on Hello Sunny. From these limited means he manages to build sun drenched, drum machine led psych jams.

Poisson rarely strays from the formula of beats and dreamlike saz, but it’s so hypnotic that tampering with it would break the spell. Melodies are influenced by traditional music from Azerbaijan, Greece and Thrace, while the electronics tend to stick to minimal, ruthlessly efficient rhythms and sparse effects. There are some deviations, and when the electronics take prominence, such as on ‘Tekirdag’, it almost branches into Muslimgauze territory. Mostly though, this feels like music made for transmission outside. ‘La tour du Jardin’, is the only track that features vocals, and the chorus sounds like it could only ever be properly understood when it has people singing and dancing along.

Sunun + Jiinx – Sunun + Jiinx

(Do you have peace?)

Pulling together demos, full songs and alternate versions from Sunun and Jiinx’s hard drives, this mixtape was compiled by the latter over a series of nightshifts, sitting in his car, laptop hooked up to the stereo. No surprise then, that there’s a hushed, bleary eyed glow leaking from this cassette.

‘EMBER A’, is the more sedate of the two sides. Opening with warm pads and snippets of percussion, it fades into the machine powered roots Sunun explored on her debut, Ooid, before heading into almost new agey vibes punctuated with softly glitching harps. ‘EMBER B’ brings more beats, crossing between hazy jungle and lurching dub. The tape travels a lot of distance, yet it manages to hang together, the moments when tracks blur into each other where a lot of the magic lies. There’s a very specific kind of mental ache that comes with working nightshifts, not just tiredness, but feeling you’ve been knocked out of sync with everyone and everything. That seems to have informed this mixtape, the skill and softness with which the two sides have been mixed making them welcome medicine for tired, confused minds.

Rachika Nayar – Our Hands Against The Dusk

(NNA Tapes)

Rachika Nayar was inspired by the diverse communities she’s moved through as an Indian-American trans person on Our Hands Against The Dusk, whether playing in DIY bands, reconnecting with her family history, or coming into her trans femininity. The point seems to be it’s not one discrete facet traced, but the strands and stories that fold into each other to make an individual. That process is embodied in these compositions, as chords and melodies overlap, evolve and weave through time. This is also a guitar-led album that manages to do something new with the instrument. Though occasionally augmented with electronics, piano and vocals, six strings are the anchor of this release, digitally processed and warped into shimmering swarms, smudged into soft clouds, or allowed to play out unadorned with tingling clarity. There was an interview with Low after they released Double Negative, where they said if you took away all the effects that defined that album, the songs would still work played on acoustic guitar. I feel the same applies to Nayar’s compositions here, through all the wonderful textures, there’s an essence that doesn’t need to be explained, it can just be felt.

VLK – Nun Darme Stu Turmiento

(Strategic Tape Reserve)

The story goes that as a teenager VLK worked as a busboy in an Italian restaurant in New Jersey. For customers, the place was soundtracked by a 5 CD changer loaded with crooner classics and operetta arias, while the kitchen was tuned into New York’s premier late-90s dance pop radio station, WKTU. Nun Darme Stu Turmiento is VLK’s attempt to recreate that sound world, using samples taken from those 5 CDs, as well as his own electronic productions. The result is something akin to Luc Ferrari’s Music Promenade, had he worked in the service sector rather than travelling European cities. That’s to say, this a gloriously bonkers, jumble of sounds conveying more than ambience. The abrupt cuts capture the hustle familiar to anyone who’s worked in customer service, rushing back and forth between rooms and soundtracks. Operettas warp into bouncing synth pop, locked grooves into melodramatic earworms. At points it’s frantic, at others strangely serene. Mostly, it’s a playful rumination on just how much colour can be found in something as seemingly mundane as your own employment history.

Yerba Mansa – Five Years

(Box Records)

There’s wonderful elasticity to the free rock squall of Yerba Mansa on Five Years, the band pinging back and forth from flailing meltdowns into surprisingly solid, meditative grooves. The two sides of this tape were recorded back in 2014, and see the usual guitar/drums duo of Andrew Cheetham and Edwin Stevens powering up to a trio with the addition of Dan Bridgwood-Hill on violin. Side A is a live session recorded at London’s Café Oto, while the flip is a studio session from around the same time, some overdubs added to both in the intervening six years.

‘The Crawl & Oto Redux’ shifts between noise rock contortions and something like a Tuareg riff, before eventually settling on the precipice between the two. ‘Return of Buckethead’ is basically a non-stop burst of entropy defying catharsis. Closer ‘Jesus Christ Motorbike II’ meanwhile, sounds like a royally agitated Dirty Three thanks to Bridgwood-Hill’s haggard violin. The whole thing burns with a viscerality that at its height seems to jump out into the listener, a fiery contact high that makes this tape so addictive.

Zero Gravity Tea Ceremony – Introduction To Phase 5

(Base Materialism)

Recorded in their Cardiff flat with nothing but a four-track and a laptop, Zero Gravity Tea Ceremony aka Charlie Miles conjures something positively extra-terrestrial on Introduction To Phase 5. On opener ‘Personal Statement’, falsetto vocals softly float around jazzy guitar chords, the odd components combining into something disarmingly moving. The later tracks go further into trippy, sometimes even math-rock tinged jams – think somewhere between Emeralds’ Mark McGuire and Bill Orcutt and you’ll get the gist. Miles took tape loops of free jazz drumming as the starting point to build their own personal jam band, and the beats splatter across the mix rather than acting as a centre of gravity. The lo-fi production is an opportunity rather than a restriction, weird quirks allowed to shine through and take on an otherworldly quality. Throughout the vocals keep coming in, rarely comprehensible but adding intimacy to this imaginative, resourceful as hell yet warm hearted album.

Patrick Shiroishi – Resting In The Heart Of Green Shade

(Tripticks Tapes)

LA based, Japanese-American saxophonist and composer Patrick Shiroishi has a lack of urgency to his playing on Resting In The Heart Of Green Shade, but like setting out on a walk through an unfamiliar neighbourhood with no clear destination in mind, taking that time to wander makes these improvisations more liberating. From the held notes slowly fragmenting into flurried runs on ‘Words Turn Into Stone’, or the acres of space in ‘Paper Mountain’, the patient shifts of pace and intensity pull in your attention in a way that wouldn’t happen without such disciplined control of tone and dynamics. While improvised music can often rush to a crescendo, there’s a bold patience here and appreciation that instant gratification isn’t always best. This isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of catharsis or release, ‘The Very Heart Of Things’ hitting wonderful poignancy as it lulls between near silence and parched laments. But this is music that doesn’t feel predetermined by an end goal, and that frees Shiroishi and audience up to truly explore through these improvisations.

Kraaa – Capitalism Or Death (An Evening On The Dusk Of Capitalism)


With a title like Capitalism Or Death (An Evening On The Dusk Of Capitalism) you have to deliver something pretty weighty, and Belarus born, Moscow based Kraaa is up to the task here. While the fierce beats of opener ‘Liquid Nails’ point to the nihilism implied in the first part of that title, the album develops into something far more nuanced, reflecting the liminal moment hinted at in the brackets. ‘New Sun/New Sky’ has sweet, swooning vocals emerging through the grey scale smog, while ‘Tears Of The Archons’ is a full-blown dystopian synth epic. Kraaa’s music, and her whole aesthetic, seem designed to wrong foot you, moments of vicious power electronics reminiscent of Puce Mary or Pharmakon countered with intricate electroacoustic miniatures. An album cover and title that screams harsh noise, but music which is equally populated by calm and serenity. I guess the point is that even when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, there are still two surfaces you can etch something onto.

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