March 27, 2012

Tape Trade #4: Eggy Records

[photos by Liz P.]
Eggy Records is, as it's simply described on their website, "a record label and cassette tape distributor located in Portland, Oregon" - no unfamiliar vocab words there, but if you click through to their distro page and see the banner flying big and beautiful at the top of the page, the full magic of Eggy becomes clear. In my experience Eggy Records is Rafael Spielman, an incredible artist and a long time proponent of the cassette format, who I'll periodically hear about indirectly when I email with other folks involved in running tape labels or distros. As a curator, Spielman has constructed an expansive and rich personal aesthetic. His distro carries releases from the likes of Night-People, Digitalis, Beer on the Rug, and recently partnered with Mississippi Records, though his imprint is a better document - over the course of dozens of cassettes, all with packaging of his own design, he's created one of the largest and most coherent catalogs of any tape label active today. With such a track record, getting six of these tapes at once and hearing the shear variety of music was incredible. Though they were cherry picked from what Eggy still had in stock, they feel connected by the hallmarks of Spielman's attention and creativity in a unique way for a label with such a truly broad purview. Check out what Raf sent us.

EGGY17: Nodolby, S/T - Nodolby is "Mic Scariot" (which we're hoping is a vague sort of reference to the "man of Kerioth"), the proprietor of Italian noise label Dokuro, and if that bums you out his three track tape with Eggy surely will as well. Though these songs are savagely amelodic, with cacophonous repetition being the closest possible analog to a conventional song structure, their range evokes the intellectual grandeur of Luigi Russolo, the Italian godfather of noise music, exploring the boundaries of his six traditional sound classifications.

EGGY21: Lab Coast, Pictures on the Wall - A really impressive little "LP" of sorts; slacker pop with just the right reverb and little suggestions of feedback throughout. Calling it an LP could be debated, considering its 12 tracks unfold over only twenty minutes, but Lab Coast is so revelrous in their proudly worn conceits that each song feels fully fleshed, deriving their impact as much from the band's energy as anything else. Perhaps uniquely for a record that feels so self-satisfied, something about Pictures on the Wall also feels very clean. It's a sort of production that coupled with the song's rigid adherence to fairly simple melodies occasionally pulls me back to a time when I liked Modest Mouse and the more "indie" (many of the Midwestern) Elephant Six bands, with polish traded out for pizzazz.

I also can't fail to mention how sick the name "Lab Coast" is, in spite of being "only" another bit of the ol' transposed letter wordplay.

EGGY24: Toning, Drained Brains - Despite the legion of ungoogleable band names the last decade has spawned, "Toning" is a dark horse winner for me... "toning band" is a particularly good search term combo, if you want to see what I mean. On the other hand, the nature of the music suggests that there may very well be nothing about him/her/them online. Even Eggy hasn't supplied much information on this particular tape. Based on its skewed industrial melodies and paranoid noise repertoire, the best adjective I can think of is arch. The overall sensation is very Gnostic; what melodies there are tend to recede into turgid warps or dread drones, though elements of post-rock and moments of a "sample music"-like repetition arrangement give certain songs better definition and more recognizable form. A challenging listen, but as the palette widens as the tape unwinds, a far more rewarding one than I anticipated.

EGGY30: Sky Thing, Cooler Heads Prevail - The great mystery that first emerges from this tape is why the name. What does "cooler heads prevail" say about this music and these musicians? Unless the goblin profile on the j-card is just "winning". If you know what I mean. In any event, for their tape with Eggy, Sky Thing juxtaposes gorgeous drones with organic, highly ritual sounding rhythms, whether the tone is of the Buddhist ceremonial or more ambiguous moments of cacophony, filled by the texture of delicately frenzied drumming. Of the recording process, Eggy reports that "John would send over drafts of the material they where working on and I would email back my thoughts" - perhaps the name is an offhand gesture towards that process of revision? An interesting thought in lieu of the music's energy; complex and intense, without the usual sounds of conscious oversight.

EGGY31: Archers, S/T - Strongly influenced by Portland's secret wing of the power pop / punk rock underground, Archers' self-titled Eggy tape is a beauty. Printed on newsprint by Portland design collective Container Corps, with Raf Spielman's incredible characteristic artwork. I can't stress enough how unfailingly perfect these tapes are in every way.

EGGY34: Erik Gage, Stoner Romance - According to Raf, to whom the album is dedicated, it is "a silly tape of odds and ends - Erik does the Gnar Tapes label and plays in White Fang and Memories, who have an LP on Underwater Peoples coming out. He's a bud and a dude in the community." I might not have actually said "silly", but the tape's boisterous variety (as in the phrase "those drunken kids are getting a little boisterous, Corporal, get ready to shoot") and extreme textural shifts might be suited to the adjective. What isn't silly is Mr. Gage's most excellent pop balladry on this outing, recorded with what I suspect was very minimal preparation and an assortment of guest musicians across the west coast, finally to be transmitted across who knows how many different formats before making it out on Eggy's finest green plastic.

Most of the above tapes can be gotten direct from Eggy, excepting Erik Gage's which is only just barely hanging around at a few distros (ex. #1). If you want to find out more about Eggy and founder Raf Spielman, check out this video interview - the sound starts out terrible but gets significantly better over time.

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