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

3D live coded beats, genre defying swing, revelatory flute, a fantastic compilation from Peru, and more. Daryl Worthington dives into the tape world for April

(Ben) Von Wildenhaus

Dripping sounds like a leaky pipe splashing on a metallophone. Ghostly breaths blowing through a knowingly artificial brass instrument. A sonic environment that sounds neither acoustic nor synthesized, but tantalisingly in between. ‘APERTURA’, the first track on MonoLogue’s ALICE, is an overture to an album that’s a world unto itself.

The tape was actually released back in January on France’s wabi-sabi, but it takes time to absorb its multilayered reality. It’s inspired by Alice In Wonderland, seeking to evoke the book through sound. It veers into strange assemblies of tuned percussion, glistening pulses of pure tone and surreal, courtly, almost gagaku like synthesizer passages. The artist behind it, Italy based Marie Rose, is a prolific, fascinating figure in the tape scene, working under a variety of different guises, such as Moon RA, Marie Rose Sarri, as well as MonoLogue.

“I always want to be free from any market obligation, even if it’s to my disadvantage,” she explains, comparing these aliases both to being a ghost writer, and also part of a family. “That is to say, I love to make very different music. The different names reflect the various gradients of experimentation I insert into it. Every release has a story.” She says that, while releases under Marie E. Le Rose are more cinematic “Moon RA is definitely the most extreme, MonoLogue is less disturbing”.

Alongside her productions, Rose is a sound therapist, and a sound researcher at the The Conservatorio di Musica Santa Cecilia in Rome, and the Orpheus Institute in Ghent. Her albums are connected by an engagement with sound as a multifaceted object. An approach equal parts scientific and sentimental sees her suspend sonic events to explore both their acoustic and emotional properties. The patience in her approach challenges the listener to explore themselves and their own experience of the sound.

Last year she released a trittico – a three-part operatic suite – called MICRO. More austere than ALICE, it’s an exploration of the minute. The second part STALLO, released on Falt tapes, is an alluring world of clicks and rustles, whirs and pops, interrupted by sourceless echoes. It induces contemplation. The sonic events don’t come from the everyday, rather an alien impersonation of its detritus. The third part,Movimento, on Grisaille, is an eerie finale. Something voice-like emerges, but it’s spectral, flickering as if not quite real. As with all of her work, the trio of tapes feel like someone’s putting their hands on your shoulder and whispering in your ear – what is it you think you’re hearing, and how does it make you feel?

(Ben) Von Wildenhaus – World Best

Even by the standards of most free-flowing, genre-warping music currently being made, (Ben) Von Wildenhaus’s World Best is pretty free-flowing and genre-warping. But there’s a weirdness to this tape which doesn’t feel in any way contrived. The three pieces were created via Von Wildenhaus editing the basic tracks, cutting them into one-minute sections and then sending them to various players and soloists to improvise with, what was sent back then influencing further editing. Each track journeys along unpredictable diversions and tangents that never feel like non-sequiturs. From surf rock into spacey synthesizer workouts, string interludes and blasts of brass. Vocals come in urgent group chants, Von Wildenhaus saying that, apart from a passage from vocalist Dorian Wood in Spanish, these are all “made up sounds that sound right”. The album’s joy comes from an unlikely ensemble, who sit somewhere between a trippy psych jam collective and the ultimate function band, getting free rein to truly explore. It sounds like several eras of Finland’s Circle folded into each other, but with less metal chug, more swing and twang, while the collaging of genres and musical worlds brings to mind Mothers Of Invention-era Zappa. Mostly, it’s a reminder that by twisting, bending and communicating through established musical forms, the right group of players can craft something triumphantly unique from the vaguely familiar.

More Eaze – Oneiric

I haven’t counted, but More Eaze, aka Austin, Texas-based Mari Maurice, must be the artist who’s appeared most in this column since I took the Walkman in 2020, whether through her own solo productions, collaboration with Claire Rousay, or last years’ duo with Nick Zanca, Asemix. Oneiric marks another twist in her oeuvre, a nocturnal sounding album which reclaims the night as a time of escape rather than fear. Opener ‘A Romance’ nestles on a blanket of homely sounds, taps running, perhaps pockets being emptied on to the bedside table, before switching into a gorgeous swoon of orchestral synths and hushed voices. It’s like a pre-bed ritual turned into a song, laying foundations for an album of sparse, air-sucking kick drums underpinning delicate whispers, and shimmers of angelic melody. The level of sonic detail and prickly depth evokes Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s pristine sonic environments, but unbounded, as if the walls have dissolved. ‘Uninvited’ sees Lucy Liyou add vocals to watery pianos and crumpled electronics, their voice uniting the drift into a soaring crescendo. Closer ‘Crii’s warm key stabs and fumbling kick drum is house music made for pillows rather than dancefloors. The album gives renewed clarity to the convergence of intimate and universal, experimental and pop that flows through More Eaze’s music. It feels like a freeze frame of the strange mutterings and liminal headspace that descend as we drift off. An intimate, narrative-less space which Maurice here treats as an entire world to explore.

Tomáš Niesner – Bečvou
(Warm Winters Ltd.)

With new album Bečvou, Czech guitarist and composer Tomáš Niesner shows some things need to be said big to be said properly. It’s named after the Bečva river in the Czech Republic, which was devastated by chemical leaks in 2020. Inspired by Werner Herzog’s Of Walking In Ice, Niesner set out on a 100km journey from the river’s source to its confluence, and this tape chronicles that journey. Though recordings from the river occasionally surface, Bečvou is really about understanding its vast scope colliding with man-made disaster. Niesner’s finger-picking and strums sit somewhere between Brace, Brace-era Julia Reidy and James Blackshaw, with a valley providing the reverb. He adds zither, electronics and immense organ tones to expand the landscape. Some pieces, such as ‘Lamento 40K’ and ‘Andante’, see acoustic guitars tangle through sky-facing synths. Others, ‘Chladná Voda’ and ‘Pod Lipami’ sees it acting as leader for immense swells on an orchestral scale. It’s the audio equivalent of an El Greco landscape, equal parts immense, vibrant, and tumultuous.

Heavy Lifting Vs Graham Dunning – Hurlothrumbo
(Fractal Meat)

Vilém Flusser wrote that while the written word and language trigger linearity: reading left to right, events documented in a sequence, photography and the technical image represented the world divided into discrete particles that could be rearranged and manipulated. Hurlothrumbo was created by Heavy Lifting (aka Lucy Cheesman) and Graham Dunning using live coding, that is, writing code to trigger sounds. Their process was to fill a blank screen, then edit each other’s work to change parameters of the sound as it was playing. It’s a method that sees text collide with particles in the form of samples, moving away from the drag and drop, smoothly edited workflows of much music software into something tied to a human intervention mediated by QWERTY. The algorave and live-coding scene is a varied one, but Dunning and Cheesman uniquely embrace rather than hide the crossed temporalities of the process here. This is a tape of bleepy, squelchy bangers, the tracks fire off in stunning flurries of rhythm and texture. But it’s been compellingly misshaped by abrupt shifts in energy and surprising collisions. It hits a highpoint on the elegantly titled ‘Hurry (Hurry) $ Absorb A Stone Fence FAST # Eso’s explosion of borderline cartoonish euphoria. Hurlothrumbo sees Heavy Lifting and Graham Dunning find intricacy in the inelegant, gleefully bouncing sounds into each other and finding new ways to move by sidestepping machine slickness.

Vic Bang – Burung
(Moon Glyph)

Vic Bang, aka Buenos Aires-based artist Victoria Barca’s Burung is an intricate exploration of beat, melody and texture. The release notes say this is computer-based music, but these vibrations are far more mysterious than that might suggest. There’s a familiarity to the sounds she harnesses which echo real-world exotica and wildlife, until you try to pinpoint what those real-world sources might be. It ends up sounding deeply impressionistic, a synthesized world quantized to the strange rhythms and pulses of the earthly one. ‘Ni Oro’ sees slippery bass woven through a canopy of percussive flourishes, the rhythm diversifying in a strange act of glowing mitosis. ‘Poeia’ sounds like a computer simulated drum circle, a groove which never quite locks but never loses its pulse. Burung sits somewhere between Foodman’s micro-grooves and Ursula Le Guin & Todd Barton’s fictionalised anthropology. It’s music as virtual reality, an immersive world of colourful detail and intricate, vibrant rhythm.

RXM Reality – Sick For You
(Hausu Mountain)

Maybe it was an algorithm, maybe a coincidence, but there were a couple of days this month where my Twitter feed was full of people extolling the glorious accidents that come from music playing from multiple tabs on their computer at once. RXM Reality, aka Mike Meegan doesn’t create music through chance, his work seems painstakingly composed, but he has a magical knack of capturing something akin to that oddly exhilarating serendipity, of unconnected sonic worlds colliding in accidental synchrony. Sick For You is his sixth album, and it’s an explosion of unhinged, perpetual motion. Video game soundtrack melting into noise rock catharsis via something which sounds like mangled chart pop. Meegan adds vocals to his work for the first-time here, hyperactive screams boosting the euphoric mania. ‘Never Go To Sleep’ burns with dangerously accelerated dance floor energy. ‘Life Is Shit’ is glitch doom metal. ‘You Can Have All My Body’ and ‘Never Asked To Be Born’ hit unusually serene moments via swarms of sounds. The album is locked in a state of permanent overextension, finding neither relief nor falling into a total breakdown. It feels profoundly of the times. Charting escape and dread in the overload, conjuring a state of constant stimulation equal parts invigorating and obliterating.

Various Artists – Mensajes del agua: Nuevos sonidos desde Perú Vol 1
(Buh Records)

This is a fantastic compilation of Peru’s burgeoning experimental scene, curated by Buh Records founder Luis Alvaredo. The name, Mensajes del agua: Nuevos sonidos desde Perú, translates to Water messages, new sounds from Peru. The tracks here seem to come in pairs. Opener ‘Carácter Transitorio’, by Mauricio Moquillaza, explores intricate, pointillistic synth patterns, reminiscent of Caterina Barbieri’s stratospheric electronics but less minimal as it layers polyrhythmic collisions and unlikely overlaps. It’s followed by Michael Magán’s ‘Quick A’, which retains Moquillaza’s pin-point precise electronics but reverses the polarity, burrowing inwards through an electro-mechanical ecosystem. Ayver and SOARER’s pieces conjure blurry romanticism. The former working in gorgeous orchestral arrangements, the latter hitting synthetic majesty through choir-like pads and twinkling arpeggios. There are eerily poignant field recording assemblages on Vered Engelhard’s ‘Dirty River’ and #DMTh5’s ‘En honor a los caidos’. Lucia Beaumont’s intricate musique concrete miniature is followed by Isabel Otoya’s spooky sound world of chimes and rustles. Elsewhere are widescreen, almost shoegazey vistas from Grave For Amanda and Vrianch. It’s a fascinating collection, doing what the best compilations do by pulling together a diverse group of artists with a shared intent as much as nationality. A diverse archive of a vital moment sequenced and curated with the care to never sound fragmented.

Mitch Stahlmann – Into The Wish

Mitch Stahlmann turns the flute into a world building tool on Into The Wish, playing, cutting up and rearranging it into dizzying compositions which don’t so much abstract the original source as shine a light on its singular qualities. The first half of the album dwells on the instrument’s ethereal sustains, hitting clarity with ‘Comet Jo’s backing track of what sounds like a guitar stuttering through a busted gramophone. The flute floats over the top, the contrast highlighting a quality that’s difficult to put into words. ‘Paris 2007’, ‘Occupied’ and ‘Mega Mart’ see the instrument refracted through electro-acoustic forms, the three pieces flowing together like a battle between cartoonish mutilation and elegant grandeur. It reflects the instrument’s materiality, exaggerating how its ethereal textures come from breath and fingers interacting with a metal machine. The whole album feels like it is accompanying Stahlmann on a quest to map what it is that makes a flute unique by placing its tones into different contexts. The journey is endlessly engaging as he pulls out something which is equally sci-fi and timeless.

Orca, Attack – You Won’t Remember This
(Superpolar Taïps)

I wrote about Superpolar Taïps’ cassingle series early last year, and since then they’ve continued reining a host of experimental artists into composing pieces under four minutes. Orca, Attack’s You Won’t Remember This is number 29 in the series, and it’s the poppiest and the most diverse yet. From a tentative acoustic opening, the duo of Elizabeth Joan Kelly and David Rodriguez ascend to a glorious Tropicália meets shoegaze epic. It’s ridiculous in its ambition, cramming an album’s worth of ideas into two minutes and thirty seconds.

VHS¥DEATH – Corrupted Geisha EP
(Cruel Nature Records)

VHS¥DEATH is London-based Natalie Wardle, and her productions on The Corrupted Geisha EP are a thrilling concoction of speech, doomy atmosphere and jungle rhythms. Opener ‘Space Bankers See You, The End Is Near’ journeys through soul singers, hip hop beats and a mournful acoustic lament under a George Carlin recording. ‘Snakes In The Grass’ is terrifyingly pitch-shifted synth pop. Wardle seems to choose sounds as much for contextual baggage as their sonic properties, making collisions both jarring and revelatory. While it’s not always clear what’s sampled and what Wardle is playing herself, working it out seems an arbitrary distraction. The whole EP is a magnet for apocalyptic vibes and angry defiance. Wardle using breakbeats and loaded plunderphonics to collage a high-definition reflection of our volatile times.

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