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

Role playing medieval digi-dub, haunted cello, an epic pop masterpiece and a family of beavers, Daryl Worthington takes a tour of the ever-exciting tape scene

ABADIR by Hassan Emad

Long-windedly building up to talk about a tape label by describing its Twitter presence is a pretty shameful introduction, but Strategic Tape Reserve’s posts feel vital to the label’s mythology. A strange presence meandering through the content machine and filling it with grumpy rants, surreal philosophising, and unhinged observations. It’s as much a character in the label’s story as the tapes themselves.

Latest release, Perkins & Federwisch’s One Dazzling Moment is billed as contemporary schlager, and over a queasy backing of budget electric keyboard melodies and splattered bleeps the duo sing songs of pilotless drones and venomous woodland creatures. The vocalist seems consumed by a cranky malaise somewhere between Gregor Samsa and Jack Duckworth, their scattered, banal observations poignant despite containing an unending bathos. There’s a desert dry humour running through One Dazzling Moment, but it’s never at the listener’s expense.

The cynic in me isn’t convinced that Chip Perkins and Uli Federwisch are real people, but the role they play in setting the quirky context for this music is undeniable. Some myths are based on a semblance of truth and some aren’t, but that doesn’t determine if they’re useful. Whimsical characters tend to crop up a lot in Strategic Tape Reserve’s releases, and they’re pivotal to setting the scene. There’s pressure for artists working in experimental music to stick a narrative or concept on to their releases, so why not run wild with it?

Meurig Elis Huws’ Bellectronic (1980-1984) has even more backstory. To paraphrase, Huws was an engineer at an agricultural trailer manufacturer who in his spare time made electronic music in his home studio. He passed away in 2020, and while clearing out his belongings his nephew found the recordings of traditional bell ring methods played on synthesizers and drum machines collected here.

The phasing, confusingly time signatured grids come curiously close to proto-techno. ‘Reverse Stedman Triples’ has the most familiar bell ringing melody, but it’s become an arms in the air amen break. ‘Cader Idris Treble Minor/ 6 Voices’ is less centred, a six-way robot conversation with synthetic bing-bongs bumping into each other, while ‘Cambridge Surprise Royal Incomplete’ unfurls like a homebaked Tangerine Dream. Like Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On-Bach, it asks what happens if you translate something composed for acoustic instruments into a completely electronic medium.

Bellectronic’s liner notes may require a certain suspension of disbelief, although they’re also strange enough to be true. But again, veracity is a distraction. STR’s releases tend to have a sense of hand-cranked, home-brewed experimentation and a warm-hearted humour which is refreshing in its refusal to be too straight faced, but shouldn’t be confused for a lack of ambition. It makes sense that they’re accompanied by a motley mythology of strange characters.

Various Artists – Longing For The Shadow: Ryūkōka Recordings, 1921​-​1939

Hánkel Bellido – A Change of Mourning

(Death Is Not The End)

Death Is Not The End are on a mission to expand the musical archive, with compilations of everything from Jamaican doo wop to pirate radio idents and adverts weaving new threads into the history of music. Longing For The Shadow: Ryūkōka Recordings, 1921​-​1939 goes back to the beginnings of the recording industry in Japan, and a style merging traditional Japanese forms with western pop and classical. Swooning orchestrations and prominent vocals capture some of the melodrama and bombast found in US and European music of the time, but beds of plucked and strummed instruments give an ordered elegance, tying it firmly to Hogaku tradition. Not much has been written about Ryūkōka, and a 2017 book by Hiromu Nagahara gives some clue as to why, arguing that although popular with the public, it was dismissed by critics both for its adoption of western sounds and its dwelling on Japanese traditional styles. Close to a century later, those are some of the qualities that make this compilation so fascinating.

A Change Of Mourning documents a ritual from the Ayacucho region of the central south Sierra area of South Peru. Tributes sung on the first anniversary of the death of Mrs Sofia Miranda de Bellido by the people who knew her, the final goodbye recorded by her grandson, Hánkel Bellido. Each piece starts with a lead voice, but it’s quickly met with a swelling chorus as the community joins the awe-inspiring tribute. The songs teeter between ecstatic and morose, and the way voices connect in free harmony has faint echoes of Sacred Harp singing. Mostly though, it’s a reminder of the raw power of music, conveying an explosion of feeling and communal response that language never could.

ABADIR – Pause/Stutter/Ur/Repeat

(Genot Centre)

ABADIR, aka Egyptian producer Rami Abadir was inspired by the interruptions in our speech for Pause/Stutter/Ur/Repeat. Fragments and tics, whether from conversations or choirs, dropped into the seven immense synthetic worlds here. ABADIR’s beats sound like they’ve been launched from a sling, spinning through the air before snapping to a halt, electronics and voices endlessly collapsing under their own weight. The four remixes take it further, creating new patterns of movement, whether it’s ZULI’s synth funk rework of ‘V’ or FRKTL’s microscopic dissection of ‘IV’. A spooky melodicism appears as the snippets of voice repeat through machine rhythms, a hidden musicality emerging through the stutters. It means for all the synthesis and abstraction this is a very human centric album, rooted in shared habits. As though ABADIR has unearthed a boundary shattering common ground in our errs and stumbles.

Richard Youngs – Blue Thirty-Nine

(Blue Tapes)

Blue Thirty-Nine has Richard Youngs playing 7-nylon stringed guitar against cut up loops of his singing, hitting some surprising common ground with the ABADIR tape. Young’s loops aren’t fully formed phrases, instead capturing single syllables or ascents stymied in mid-flight. Like ABADIR, he seems to be magnifying the in-betweens and hesitations. Scratching at the surface of communication and creating a hiccuping choir of himself. ‘Escape’ is mantra-like, different strands of voice folding into blissful cacophony. ‘Sudden Thoughts On Slow Insurrection’ begins almost maddeningly as the guitar races to keep pace with a spluttering ‘aah’, eventually settling into a precarious serenity. In some ways Youngs captures the folky melancholia of his best-known works, the heartbreaking ‘Sapphie’ or ‘Airs Of The Ear’, but in others he’s never felt further from their traditional forms. As if their longing essence has been cut up and mangled through a machine, creating something more unsettling but just as moving.

Abby Lee Tee – At The Beaver Lodge I


At The Beaver Lodge I is the first in a series from Austrian sound artist Abby Lee Tee recording beaver vocalisations from the Danube. I’m not going to try and describe what beavers sound like, and this tape very much does what it says on the tin. But having never heard beaver vocalisations before, the drama of squeaks, cries and whines makes a fascinating subject for this cassingle.

Ceramics – Goblin Gathering 1 & 2


There’s a lot going on in this double tape, squalling power electronics, possessed dungeon synth, medieval digi-dub, while the barrage of unrestrained joy that opens the first side has to be heard to be believed. Goblin Gathering 1 & 2 started out as two broadcasts on Bristol’s Noods Radio, accompanied by a role-playing game in the chatroom following a script constructed by Seisyll Sage of South and Lord of Arfan. Much of the music comes from members of Bristol’s Pheasantry Society collective, alongside vocal recordings sent via Whatsapp of people playing the roles of goblins, witches and knights. If you struggle to keep track of who’s who, you won’t be alone, but I think the point really is to surrender yourself to the cyber-medieval mythology they stitch together. The jumps from knight-themed techno to harp-led folk ballads and lute-powered hoe downs flowing into a glorious charivari. The tape comes with a read along zine come quest log, allowing you to capture some of the full experience, and covertly changing the game for what counts as multimedia.

§E▲ – The Garden We Shared

(No Problema Tapes)

§E▲ is a San Francisco based composer who, according to the folks at No Problema, was an early adopter of a vaporwave sub-genre known as ocean grunge (which sounds exactly like its name suggests). With The Garden We Shared she’s casually dropped an orchestrally scaled glitch pop masterpiece, turning her poems into epic, swooping arrangements of tarnished electronic symphonies and pitch shifted choirs. The whole thing has a cocoon like quality, human voice emerging through synthetic mess, turmoil blossoming into something truly vibrant. ‘Sun Melody’ carries drops which sound like suddenly switching from black and white to technicolour, ‘A Blooming Spring // Puritain’ channels Scott Walker-esque existential weight over stumbling tones and a choir of pitch shifted voices, while ‘Moi! Moi!’ sounds like Van Dyke Parks composing on an iPhone, the lyric “I find solace in your juxtaposed colours” hinting at something romantic underpinning this turbulent song cycle. It’s an album of dazzling inner and outer scale, a genuine home-made epic.

Asemix – Asemix

(Warm Winters Ltd.)

Asemix is the duo of Mari Maurice (aka more eaze) and Nick Zanca (aka Mister Lies), and while the palette of synths, field recordings, and processed acoustic instruments on their self-titled debut isn’t unusual, the way they’re twisted into new physics and strange kinaesthetics is. Asemix doesn’t so much sound like world-building as an attempt to reimagine the forces which govern the material field. It means listening intently has a similar effect to intensive gaming, your mind getting confused when the real world doesn’t follow the virtual’s laws of motion. Opener ‘Phantom Lung’ diffuses through alien gravity, bleeps and rustles reacting in an untethered swarm. ‘Rehearsal Earthquake’ and ‘Lakebrain’ take in more friction resonating strings and flashes of bedroom ballads creating new shapes through their strange tessellations. The duo recorded these pieces remotely, and the feeling of a game of filesharing exquisite corpse is strong, their personalities bouncing off each other to evolve and develop their materials.

Eimear Reidy – Things That Happened At Sea: A Short Story in Several Parts

(Hypnagogic Tapes)

Cork-based cellist Eimear Reidy recently dropped a stunning duo release with Spool’s Out favourite Natalia Beylis, but Things That Happened At Sea: A Short Story In Several Parts is her solo debut. Her intensely lyrical use of the instrument shines through, gentle bows of the strings summoning soft groans and shivering luminescence. It’s almost animistic at times, as though she’s captured the sound the instrument makes as it hums to itself in private. The opening plucks and strums of ‘Prelude’ come in like a series of shudders, while ‘III’s’ fluttering tones conjure images of staring out to sea, which may be prescient as this tape was recorded in a famine village turned artist’s retreat atop cliffs in County Kerry. The mood switches between ghostly spaces and forlorn laments, but most rewarding is the gap left for the imagination. Reidy’s vivid playing leaves behind a tantalising mystery which pushes you into piecing together the story alluded to in the title.

Mik Quantius – Mik Mich

(Het Generiek)

German vocal artist Mik Quantius summons a one-man parallel universe on Mik Mich with just his own throat and an ill-sounding keyboard. His voice contorts through odd croons, growls and a flood of twisted glossolalia, while his keyboard playing takes in mashed fanfares and parping preset dances. Musician and instrument in a freefall that sounds like Quantius is trying to jettison his self and release the primordial id underneath. ‘mikjlk’ strikes a strange dance off between voice and preset rhythm, while ‘mikr’ sounds likes it’s wrestling with the urge to launch into a cover of The Carpenters’ ‘Close to You’. The closest reference points are Phil Minton’s free vocal explorations, and Yeah You’s wild pop. Like the latter, it’s the fact these songs are often so close to something much more commercial that makes them so triumphant – as though the familiar form has been hijacked by a mischievous spirit and aloud to run truly free.

Marie Rose Sarri – Controvento

(Psychic Liberation/Enmossed)

Marie Rose Sarri has released deep electronic works under a slew of names over the years, Moon Ra, Marie e le Rose and MonoLogue to name just three. Her compositions stretch from twinkling kosmiche epics to GRM studio influenced deep sound, the single side long piece of Controvento falling firmly into the later. It’s the first section of a three-part operatic suite, and while there’s no singers, there’s drama, as grains of electronics flex and collide through delicate murmurs, moods stuck in a gentle tumult between distress and bliss. The whole thing seems joined by a throbbing breath, as though her sonic textures are agitated to motion by a serpentine presence sliding through. Texturally Controvento brings to mind the glassy shards and synthetic wildlife of Else Marie Pade, and like the late Danish composer, Sarri’s electro-acoustic sounds hit on a fantastical as well as academic register. A strange dance through the unconscious of composer and listener.

Preliminary Saturation – Summer Breeze

(Muzan Editions)

Dutch duo Preliminary Saturation, aka Wouter Jaspers and Steffan de Turck summon intense, rattling walls of sound on Summer Breeze‘s ‘Across The Floor’. Flickers of sheared metallic flames licking at pulsing drones like a house slowly burning down. But by far the most unsettling thing is the twinkling music box that chimes in about three minutes along. The sudden intrusion of cuteness not so much uncanny as deceptively disarming, the eye of the storm before the burning miasma returns. ‘The House Next Door’ is less monolithic, a wandering synth giving way to a strange dance of crumpled rhythms, watery percussion and eventually human breath. Like the first side it manages to achieve time freezing levitation through sheer insistence, repetition and drone muting the world outside and creating a liberating auditory tunnel vision.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today