March 31, 2012

Bayou Maharajah


Bayou Maharajah, directed by New Orleans filmmaker, educator, and journalist Lily Keber and funded almost two years ago via kickstarter, is the first attempt to treat the life of New Orleans pianist James Booker at any real length; although how it's taken so long for "the black, gay, one-eyed junkie" (as NPR describes him in a nutshell) to receive in depth treatment (biographical) is beyond me. Booker's distinctive playing style, synthesized from his huge range of generic and personal influences, and almost unnerving faculty for keyboard playing earned him an international reputation, though his eccentric lifestyle and chronic drug abuse caused his early death at 43. Having said that, Keber's project has been a model resuscitation. Throughout the life of the film, Keber has regularly communicated with fans and the past generation of silent chroniclers that remember Booker via her blog, where she and her team are also continuing to accept further donations to offset the notoriously expensive post-production process. (via NPR Music)

March 30, 2012

One Hitter Wonders


Even discounting the obvious and admirable wordplay, Culture Dealer's done something really wonderful with this tape - the Baltimore-based imprint, run by Mike Collins of another well named thing, Run DMT, solicited poems and made a cassette mixtape of songs out of them. They also wisely asked for the cost of a preorder with the poem, so presumably the edition mostly circulated within the group of poets and writers that original submitted. It's not clear whether all the bands were invented for the project, with names like the Stalactite Singers Family Band, Altered Zones, and the Smokey Mountain Rangers (which yield no, misleading, or the obvious google results) at least many of them must have been. Hopefully we're hear more from them either way, but in any event, the video above explains it better, with some short song samples and voice modulations that we could never really deliver without at least some preparations beforehand. (via Impose Magazine)

Stream: The Stalactite Singers Family Band - The Lights

Order the limited edition cassette from Culture Dealer.

March 29, 2012

Premier: Prevrat - Safe Distance

Prevrat (Czech for coup d'état) is Kansas City based artist and producer Ric Gordon, who I have it on good authority holds a doctorate in physics and keeps up a nice sideline as an abstract expressionist painter... I like to locate the beginning of Prevrat with Gordon's description of finding the name for his recordings:
Came up with this by searching other languages for cool sounding names, that had not already been taken on facebook, bandcamp, etc. Not the easiest thing nowadays.
For a guy whose music reminds me most of a nice band y'all might know of called "the Butthole Surfers" - of all things - it seems like a good way to come by a name. His older recordings under his given name (which you can check out on his old bandcamp) give the comparison the most resonance I think, though it's a good point of departure for describing his newer work. Prevrat is more cosmopolitan, with a darker pop sensibility and a slightly less glossy sheen of beats and percussions for backdrop.

MP3: Prevrat - Safe Distance
Download "Safe Distance" and grab it with an exclusive b-side over at Ric's own imprint bandcamp.

Fantasy


Long-time Decoder/GOTC favorite Teen Daze is set to tear it up all across Europe starting this Monday. For those of us not in Europe, there's still some good news in this one. He's also leaked a track from his EU Tour EP, a collection of three tracks recorded around the same time as his upcoming debut full-length, All Of Us, Together; out this May via Lefse. "Fantasy" is certainly an appropriately named banger, with swirling pads and claps & snares popping seemingly from the ether. Teen Daze guides us through a mystical journey; warm colors swirling around as slight distortions of your favorite dreams become reality before your very eyes.

MP3: Teen Daze - Fantasy
If you're lucky enough to catch Teen Daze in Europe he'll have only 25 copies of the EU Tour EP on hand, so don't miss out. You can also head over to Lefse to pre-order All Of Us, Together, due out May 22.

March 28, 2012

Waiting For Godot


Here in San Francisco, where the men still comb their mustaches before taking visitors and the women never sit down, Stage 2 at SF Playhouse began showing Tides Theatre's (director Jennifer Welch) production of Waiting For Godot, one of the most revered plays from one of the most revered playwrights of the 20th century: Samuel Beckett. The production is incredible. The traditionally bleak and desolate setting was done up by Maryland-born San Francisco artist Richard Colman as a silver, vortex backdrop with a single striking, multi-hued pink tree as jagged interruption and an unnerving soundscape designed by Welch's husband Jon Bernson for accompaniment. Bernson, who has recorded as Ray's Vast Basement and Exray's, to name only two of the previous aliases I know best, also has a long history with composing for the stage. His last album under the former moniker, Starvation Under Orange Trees, had its nativity in a set of songs recorded to accompany Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Bernson's experience is most clear during playful and sometimes striking moments of synchronicity, like when co-star Keith Burkland playing Vladimir pulls his hat on and off to contemplate the void within, a distorted tone ringing out every time that his tattered bowler leaves his head . That's just one example of how the production uses sound and imagery to generate a uniquely coherent representation of the slightly less abstract descriptions in Beckett's original text.

Although it can't do the full experience justice, Bernson was kind enough to put together a short montage of sounds from the play.

If you're in San Francisco or the Bay Area, check out some more details of the performance here; it's running from March 15 to April 14.

Architect


Over the past two years I've had the extremely awesome pleasure of watching Gross Ghost grow and evolve as band. Songwriter Mike Dillon is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, a sentiment echoed by almost anyone else I know that also knows Dillon. Two weeks ago Gross Ghost finally released their debut full-length record with the folks at Grip Tapes, and I couldn't be more tickled with excitement. Listening to Brer Rabbit gives me more than just the satisfaction of hearing the brilliant songs it contains; I'm finally hearing finished recordings of tracks that I've been dancing my ass off to at the Soap Box and various dive bars across NC for over a year now. Their infectiously catchy brand of garage pop sticks with me more than it ever has while finally listening to them on record.

MP3: Gross Ghost - Architect
Head over to their bandcamp to stream Brer Rabbit in full and order the ltd. edition clear 12".

Cleaners

The folks at VLEK recently announced a digital release series, appropriately called "VLEKD". The first release is with the brilliant noise explorer formerly known as Dem Hunger; Wanda Group. The eight tracks on Cleaners combine murky, wet sounds with digital blips and whirs to merge various sci-fi elements into a truly dystopic world. I've described many artists as creating barren, alien worlds with their music; but Wanda Group creates worlds full to the brim with any and everything, content to dig and explore it all. Cleaners serves as more than just the first VLEKD release, as it also doubles as the announcement of a full-length vinyl release this Fall via VLEK.

MP3:
Wanda Group -V SUNRISE
Wanda Group - T VISION
Head over to the VLEK bandcamp for your free download of Cleaners.

VBS


My favorite young label Tri Angle is at it again. Last week the masters of darkness announced  a new EP release on 12", CD and digital with Providence, RI, beatsmith Nathaniel Oak, aka Howse. Lay Hollow creates a sexy atmosphere on the jungle floor. Content moans clash with screech of perhaps a howling monkey, throwing the brain into several gears at once. The high energy of the music will have  you flailing limbs chaotically if you can only figure out how to lose yourself. Fortunately Howse makes it quite easy for us.

Stream: Howse - VBS Lay Hollow drops May 28 via Tri Angle Records.

March 27, 2012

Video: Bola - Tigantabame


After making the leap from blog to label Awesome Tapes from Africa released their inaugural record, Nâ Hawa Doumbia's La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Volume 3. In keeping with their tradition of oblique album titles with not so much explanation they've announced that their second album, this time with Ghanan musician Bola, is called even more simply Volume 7. Upping the ante, huh? The label's circulating the above video, which has an hilarious near four minute long introduction... after which it basically continues being hilarious, but the music will have started after that point. You can also stream "Abayetidu Ma" below if you want to get a fair impression of what to expect from Volume 7. From Awesome Tapes...
Volume 7, which came out in 2009, is just one entry in a brilliant series of recordings Bola has released on CD and cassette. Although he employs a traditional instrument and the age-old mode of griot story-telling, Bola embraces elements of up-to-the-minute mainstream Ghanaian music—drum machines, synths, bone-shaking bass. Inspired by pioneering kologo greats like King Ayisoba, Bola has taken a dynamic instrument used by traditional healers and herbalists to sing to god in search of advice and taken it to futuristic heights.
(via Tiny Mix Tapes)

Stream/Download: Bola - Abayetidu Ma

Album Stream: Xander Harris - Chrysalid

For a while now the homies at No Fear Of Pop have pretty much been my go to source for news on Justin Sweatt, bka Xander Harris. We recently filled you in on the synth wizard's split 7" with Dylan Ettinger on one of our favorite labels, Moon Glyph. Now we have the newest full-length effort from Harris, a cassette titled Chrysalid released today on Pour Le Corps. On his soundcloud Harris has labeled the tracks "Vangelistic," and the similarities to Vangelis' music are certainly there; yet the tape stands out as more than just an homage to a style of music we can't seem to untie from the future. With Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack depicting a world that takes place in a world only seven years from now; Harris manages to drag the timeline further ahead to a point where Earth is nearly empty due to most of its population moving to off world colonies, or simply dying off due to inhospitable atmospheric conditions. Still, somewhere in the underground lurks a race slowly adapting to this new Earth and its harsh conditions, and Harris' creates a pulse for this new future to thrive on.

Stream: Xander Harris - Chrysalid

You can snag Chrysalid on cassette or digital download via the Pour Le Corps bandcamp.

Video Premier: Jacober - Steps


Mark Charles Brown's video for Jacober is a great fit, inaugurating Dave Jacober's solo identity away from the Dan Deacon Ensemble, for whom he does beats and percussion, and his regular mainline in Dope Body, in a swirling bedlam of melting pastels and exotic sea life of the living room tank variety. The slow churn and complexity of Brown's visualization seems to match Jacober's colorful poptronica and even suits his understated delivery, though all good things come to an end and eventually the maelstrom melts over him in a consuming pink tide first, then allowing an upside down gathering of jellyfish to shift into gear. "Steps" is taken from his upcoming debut album Water Karaoke, coming out this Wednesday on Friends Records - it will be available as a pay-what-you-want download and on limited edition cassette.

Check out the cover art for Jacober's Water Karaoke after the jump.

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.

Mixtape: Peaking Lights - Lucifer mix

Last year Peaking Lights blew us away with the release of 936 on Not Not Fun. Its mellow, meditative sounds have carried me through many a heady buzz and inspired countless collages, specifically just in the past few months. Now the married duo has announced their third full-length release before I even have to the chance to shake off the state-altering effects of 936. The new record, Lucifer, seems to be less in the realm of Not Not Fun's stylings and and more in line with their 100% Silk imprint; though it seems our pals at Mexican Summer have secured this release for a June 19th drop, with Weird World covering areas outside of the US to make sure no one misses this beauty. Our first peak at Lucifer is an hour+ mix that allows glances at some new tracks. The mix retains the dub sound we've come to expect from Peaking Lights while adding new, dancier elements we're less used to; with the duo describing this change of pace as a more nocturnal version of their sound.

Stream: Peaking Lights - Lucifer mix

Lucifer hits the streets June 19 via Mexican Summer in the US and Weird World worldwide.

Loose Changes

Peh Per Ghost creates slow moving beats that ride syrup vibes while generating an atmosphere that feels wide and expansive. Like swimming through a purple pool it takes a while to reach the other side; but all the while the intoxicating vapors draw you in deeper, gripping you at the center and demanding you remain. Glitched vocal samples provide short moments of warmth, tearing them away before you can become too comfortable. Just shy of two-minutes into this one a guitar jumps into the fray to delicately carry us home, lifted on high above the purple goo just to drop you back in right before the exit ladder.

MP3: Peh Per Ghost - Loose Changes
You can hear another glowing beauty at Peh Per Ghost's Soundcloud.

Video: iamamiwhoami - play


It's been quite a while since the first iamamiwhoami videos hit the web, leaving the blogosphere buzzing for a solid couple of months before her identity was unraveled as Jonna Lee and suddenly so many of the kids ceased to care. For those of you reminiscing fondly on these videos, remembering their eery darkness, you'll be happy to know that Ms. Lee is still doing her thing as iamamiwhoami; just as gloriously as ever. The newest clip, released just this morning, is a for a track titled "play"; seeing iamamiwhoami step into a dancier, almost glo-fi realm while maintaining the weird vibes visually. It's a pretty awesome song and a video that made me say "whoa" from an artist whom I believe should not be forgotten.

Pirate

The vocal style used in Professor Penguin's unique brand of electronic-tinged folk music is honestly one I don't usually prefer. It has to do with equal parts boredom combined with the desire to forget things of the past. This only makes enjoying Planes, their debut full-length set to drop April 9 via Gentoo Recordings, that much more rewarding for me; however. Soft hisses of static play lightly behind delicate keys and heartbreaking chords while slightly dizzying whirs and chirps dance through tracks sparingly. As the record progresses the music seems to build, growing bolder with each track, almost as if documenting some sort of recovery. When all is said and done, and the little play button pops back up to signal an end, the most appropriate thing I can say about the record is that it is simply beautiful.

MP3: Professor Penguin - Pirate
Pop on over to Prof. Penguin's webspace to grab the single's non-album b-side, "Paper"; and if it's just killing you to wait and order a your copy of Planes, Gentoo has the pre-order right here.

March 26, 2012

Commenting on "the Cassette Revival"

Yesterday I came across an interesting post on Weed Temple, a Polish music blog that primarily reviews material released on cassette and is a constant favorite for us. The post was a defense of singling out specific tracks to listen to off of cassette albums rather than "listening through", which some vinyl and tape advocates have touted as an experience that elevates the two formats. In the post, Weed Temple concedes that...
"I agree that cassettes are outdated and are probably ultimately just a temporary fashion, a passing trend before people go back to CD’s and mp3’s." (Source)
I would tend to argue that "outdated" and "temporary fashion" are the wrong or at least some of the more misleading expressions that could be used here. They negate the cultural significance of the format, which didn't raise eyebrows when it first appeared and really needn't now only because it isn't championed by larger commercial concerns. To dismiss tapes as an even more bigotedly nostalgic addendum to vinyl is to ignore a chasm that separates them. Tapes were invented after vinyl and the reality is that when vinyl became unfashionable, it was supplanted by both CDs and cassettes in sales. Technologically and generationally speaking tapes are related to vinyl, but are actually cousins, with one's development and clarification not directly connecting up to the other - then or now.

From a label and band perspective, cassettes could not be more unrelated to vinyl. That is to say from a cultural perspective, cassettes presently have more or less currency for a variety of somewhat predictable reasons. Cassettes are cheap to manufacture. Unbelievably so, compared to vinyl. This has allowed their niche to remain constantly filled: by them. There's no CD analog that supplanted tapes, the way they supplanted vinyl. That is significant. Because of costs, one underground culture endured mostly silently to this day - in pockets on the west coast and in some traditional enclaves east and throughout the mid-west - while the other, though it had been bigger, actually started life in my generation's consciousness as a benign caste of techno-punks. People that lived for the music and touted vinyl for the distinct quality of experience that it offered, linking the music it contained aesthetically to a "live" rather than a "studio" experience.

While tacitly disagreeing with most of its contents, Weed Temple also points to a much older, lengthier article from Calum Marsh at Pop Matters. Marsh writes...
"The signs of deliberate regression are everywhere: vinyl LPs continue to (re-)grow in popularity; micro-communities built around fan zines and basement shows continue to burgeon; lo-fi home recording remains a spirited exercise in anti-consumerist, anti-corporate production and distribution; and, most recently, the inexplicable comeback of cassette tapes has confirmed its status as veritable hipster zeitgeist."
So tapes are just another bit of frippery, dismissing the social experience that underlies more than just hipster culture, at its most self-absorbed and most authentic. The origins of the word hipster link it to music, particularly the burgeoning jazz "scene" of the 1940s; since then importance of the "scene" has tended to be the defining interest of hipster culture.
". . . the informing logic is ostensibly similar: vinyl and cassette are both neatly sidestepping the physical album’s decline in popularity by regressing to a decidedly obsolete format, thereby investing their product with a kind of antique novelty . . . vinyl serves a function: it provides something many audiophiles insist [that] digital releases cannot. Cassette tapes have no such value. Behind the hip veneer of ‘authentic’ tangibility or the warmth of physical presence, arguments for the value of the cassette unspool and decay like so much magnetic tape. The cassette is permanently relegated to the realm of the fervently anti-digital; it affects vinyl’s distaste for the new and intangible, but does so seemingly for the sake of mulishness alone.
The use of the word "regression" throughout Marsh's piece is telling, but my biggest criticism is his total unwillingness to attempt a critical analyses of the culture he's talking about. Marsh's piece has really just identified one reason not to give-up enjoying your mp3s, as nearly all of us - tape and vinyl nerds alike - do, and amplified it into an argument against enjoying cassettes. Not one prominent tape label, or vinyl label for that matter, was mentioned in the entire article - admittedly the article was produced in 2009, but even then a lot of the evidence was in hand. I take it up now because tape culture is traditionally considered mute outside of the circles that have collected and continued making them. Though the last several years has been a sort of "coming out" for tapes, most treatments of the format are either incidental, anecdotal, or wholly topical.

The reality is, tapes do a lot of "sidestepping". A lot more than vinyl, frankly. Marsh wrote to imply that both had cheated death, but what tapes have actually sidestepped is the commercial concerns of the mainstream media culture that continues to fail miserably at projecting positive paradigms for its occupants - when has the mainstream music industry ever been touted for its inclusiveness? Tapes are cheap to produce and bear no taint of a cultural economy that people of all ages continue to feel disenfranchised by. People struggle after the root of why cassettes are so important, but the common discourse has forgotten that tapes have only just become particularly trendy to anyone. The new generic intersection of significance to tapes is electronic and pop music, so the affinity that all tape advocates should feel for the DIY punk scene occasionally gets lost. The question is too much "why are these normal God-fearing bands releasing on tape?" because the answer is they're not normal, none of us are, and which one of us really needed to be told again how different we are? Tapes are a new currency for a new culture, as much as they are an old technology for an impatient race.

March 25, 2012

Spectral Growth Reel

Semya, aka Alex Deranian, will probably seem quite a surprise celebrity if you know his credentials; also known as Ferrari Jackson, a name under which he released an EP called Lush, on Culture Dealer, a tape label he's heavily involved with. He's also part of the extended RUN DMT family and has been involved with WigFlip as well. Golden Days, his debut effort as Semya, brings him into the Leaving family, fulfilling some much delayed expectations for the partnership - last June Altered Zones first premiered "Spectral Growth Reel", forecasting the release of Golden Days for the next month or so. What caused the delay? Who knows, but in its light the first further glimpses of his Semya project are particularly interesting. As opposed to Lush and his elaborate songs as Ferrari Jackson, assembled by the meeting of Deranian's just slightly off kilter beats and a liberal use of heavily manipulated audio samples, Semya is more reserved and lives more in the glow of synths then samples.

MP3: Semya - Spectral Growth Reel
Buy Golden Days on limited edition cassette from Leaving Records.

March 24, 2012

Premiere: USF - Radiant and Insubstantial (SPORTS Remix)

USF, short for "Universal Studios Florida" is Jason Baxter and Kyle Hargus, "two good ol' boys from the Pacific Northwest" that make experimental electronic music loaded down with cosmic synths, organic instrumention, and countless little flourishes that connect the texture of their music to the spirit of their home region. Their last album The Spray came out to much applause and envy on Circle Into Square last October; recently enough for the the other good ol' (Seattle) boys in SPORTS to take its #2 track "Radiant and Insubstantial" for a ride. If you know SPORTS ringleader Whitney Gould, aka Heart Island in his solo efforts, you know that he tends to own his remixes. Previously most of these have involved vocals (on one memorable occasion he even re-recorded vocals from another song to lay over an unrelated instrumental track) so to feel the imprint of his personality, with its refined prog sensibilities and kosmiche flirtations, on a purely instrumental track strikes an impressive note of restraint and truly does the original justice.

MP3: USF - Radiant and Insubstantial (SPORTS Remix)
Check out more SPORTS on their soundcloud. You can grab The Spray on more formats than you can shake a stick at over at Circle Into Square.

Splash Wave - Passing Wave (Ben Butler & Mousepad Tape Remix)

Ben Butler & Mousepad is the recording moniker of musician and producer Jon Howe, a chiptuned and skwee influenced wizard of electronic novelties currently based in Glasgow, though his last EP Worm came out of a residency he accepted on the continent at Worm Studio in the Netherlands. A remix of his recently graced a small EP of similar tracks, taking as their common point of departure "Passing Wave", the title track from French electronic-pop duo band Splash Wave's recent 12" in Third Side Records' Le Podium Series. Splash Wave and Howe's sensibilities are similar inflected; video game tones and a menagerie of noises forming their respective backdrops, though Howe's remix reorients some of that attention on to the duo's vocals, constructing a minimalist score beneath a heavily effected version of the original's vocal track.

MP3: Splash Wave - Passing Wave (Ben Butler & Mousepad Tape Remix)
Download the entire Passing Wave: Remixes EP here and listen to Splash Wave's original version on their own bandcamp, where a 10" vinyl version of the original is available as well.

March 23, 2012

Video: Amon Düül II - Phallus Dei


Over spring break I amassed an enormous stack of new records. Some I purchased at Permanent Records in Chicago, others were given to me by my cousin in trade for two cartons of Parliament Light cigarettes, others were loaned to me indefinitely by my uncle, and some had arrived in the mail from Twist and Shout while I was gone and were waiting for me when I got home. Then I discovered that my needle was shot, and it took a week for a new one to arrive in the mail, so I had to wait and stare at all these new records while I subsisted with my meager supply of CDs. When the needle finally arrived I was desperate and panicky. I didn't know what to listen to first. I went with Golden Calves' Money Band, which was wonderful. But some of the records were awful, some of the free ones from my cousins, and one of the ones I bought, a Shepherds record I will likely keep because I'm loyal to Woods. There is such a thing as too many records. I'm beginning to think it's best to get just a few and really study them. One of the new disks I'll be studying in the coming weeks is Amon Düül II's Phallus Dei. It's one of the new ones from Twist and Shout, a 1972 UK edition. The video above is the last few minutes of either side one or side two, I can't remember. It's far out. There are many versions available.

March 22, 2012

Portrait


UV PØP (Ultra Violent PØP) reformed late last year, perhaps inspired or merely supported by their affiliation with Brooklyn imprint Sacred Bones Records, continuing a modest stint that previously ended after several years 1980s. They were interestingly soft-spoken, releasing their LP No Songs Tomorrow in 1981 to "one week" on the Rough Trade Charts and though I don't know their history as well as I'd like, the original pressing became a sought after bit of regional and punk esoterica. Continuing the Brooklyn sets' new tradition of reissuing neglected classics, Sacred Bones is giving the album a second outing on April 3, though you can pre-order it here.

L.I.E.S. and the Fake Flamingo

Chris Miller of Little White Earbuds recently sat down with Ron Morelli of avant-punk electronica label Long Island Electrical Systems - L.I.E.S. for short - for the latest installment of their recurring "Talking Shopcast" series, an occasional podcast that focuses on the owners of small record labels. Over the last year, L.I.E.S. has acquired a bit of a reputation for minimalism; releasing all white label vinyl sometimes with stamps and maintaining a positive external image. Their roster holds a lot of up and comers - our perennial favorite Maxmillion Dunbar comes to mind - but the kaleidoscopic personality cults that tend to be constructed around some DJs and dance musicians is entirely absent. The interview covered a lot of ground and drew a tighter rein on exactly what Morelli's had in mind for the operation. According to him...
"I was just going to put it out. You know, a name, no artist information or nothing, no stamp. I was going to do it and have the music exist as it is with nothing behind it, no preconceived notions, no one knows where it comes from. Obviously when you put a label on it, and it’s associated with a label and artists’ names and everything like that, it’s perceived in a certain way. Eventually it becomes what it becomes. I didn’t want it to get it’s own stigma behind it."
Miller makes an interesting observation: "...while L.I.E.S. has hosted a range of techno and house aesthetics, an overarching punk ethos . . . unites its first 12 records". For us here at Decoder, the extension of some aspects of the traditional "punk ethos" to other aspects of an individual, band, or label is a critical goal, particularly in running our own imprint. As the commodification of networking relationships approaches its most shameless form, promotion of a "punk ethos" could not be more important. In order to escape that commodification some labels like L.I.E.S. and dark horse semi-art projects like Fake Flamingo Recordings, whose artists all release under anonymous pseudonyms, admirably attempt to break the cycle and remove the necessity of an "exchange" from their promotional relationships and their public images. Although most of us will probably not conceptualize this attitude as being by necessity a "punk" ethos, the desires that expressed themselves in the DIY punk scene bear numerous similarities to our contemporary situation, spanning genre after genre. I think arguably the most significant form of this phenomenon is happening in the world of electronic music, at its most broad, and enterprising labels across the globe are using their identities to synthesize a larger community out of their desperate catalogs. Or maybe that's just our ambition for them. Catalogs, that is.

Read Miller's interview with Morelli and listen to a L.I.E.S. mix here.

March 21, 2012

Formerly Ex-FAG COP

A few weeks after my last day of creative writing graduate school I invited one of my fellow graduating graduate students over to get drunk. He'd once written a story about vegetables and he cut his own hair. He brought with him a big box of Miller Highlife and a 45 with a multi-eyed goat on the cover. The 45 was by his band, Ex FAG COP. The records by FAG COP were out of print and hard to find, he told me, and they weren't worth buying anyway. We drank and had a great time even though we'd been just friendly acquaintances in school. After he left, when I was smashed, I listened to his record and I liked it. It sounded like the Butthole Surfers stuck in one really high gear.

A few days later he sent me some videos of his band playing in a hole in Kansas. Then he went on tour in Europe and tweeted twice on twitter, once to say, "Rome is for lovers, and cheap food and beer and lots of trash. #homesweethome #jizzwave," and the other to say, "@comerolfwithme such pain! Who is the little guy? And can I crush him/her???" I was jealous. I sent a note: "@homofiveoh You were in Italy. Can I write about you?" And he replied, "@90milesoutofatl yes and yes. Never ask!"

I proposed we do a Q&A where he ask the questions as me and I write the answers as him and then we do a normal one and then we mix the two. He said, Yeah that works, and then he changed his mind. Apparently he's secretive and he doesn't trust anyone (anyone) to exert creative licence over his band.

I said, I just want to have fun. What's most interesting to me is that we were in an MFA program and I didn't know till it was done that you were in a punk band, I said.

He said, This angle sucks. Punk and literature are both dead. Don't you remember digging a hole in the grave and fucking it? And anyways, you didn't know until the program was done because you (obviously) didn't read my comments on your young adult book, where I said something to the effect of "hey, you're mentioning punk bands. You should put my punk band FAG COP in there. That would be funny."

It's true. I burned all those comments on my Weber grill in my backyard the next morning and I'm not working on that teen book anymore.

You can listen to FAG COP's new LP Whimpers from the Pantheon on bandcamp or buy it by sending $15 dollars to homosexualpoliceofficer [at] gmail [dot] com.



March 20, 2012

PBUH-042: Monroeville Music Center - Le Progrès DVD


You read that right: DVD. Today we're announcing the first DVD release on our Crash Symbols imprint, done in partnership with incredible Florida filmmaker Joshua Rogers, producing through his company Broken Machine Films. We also couldn't be more honored to say that our first DVD contains a track by track visual accompaniment to Monroeville Music Center's gorgeous Le Progrès EP, released last year on Brooklyn-based digital imprint Dracula Horse. Above is Rogers' video for the EP's opener "En Route (ou Enfin! Le Défilé Capsule de Temps va au Centre de Contrôle)", setting the track to his bizarre found footage of the triumphant machinations of some aluminum beings, marching through factories as they're transformed from raw materials into more practical "extruded shapes". Roger does an incredible job of syncing the music and  accidentally or deliberately his new juxtapositions feel like the completion of the original Le Progrès.

Buy the limited edition DVD and stream the original Le Progrès EP here. You can watch a couple promos and look at some pictures of the final product after the jump.

March 19, 2012

Gold Rope (Stones Flip)

Fronted by artist Felix Jackson Jr.'s original cover design, Jewelry, the latest free remix/beat-tape from LA producer Matthew McQueen, aka Matthewdavid, feels like a new set of dispatches from his the man's own endlessly fecund unconscious mind. Self-released on his Leaving Records imprint as he continues touring with Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, and Diva, the contents are fractured, a series of "top of the mind" elements - funk, soul, and any number of more or less lightly fucked-with other samples - quickly shifting across a surprising range of juxtapositions, most of them unexpected and many of them only momentary. I don't think anyone planned for Jewelry to have the coherency of an album, perhaps why it was released for free in the midst of a busy touring schedule, but we'll be damned if between LPs McQueen isn't still one of the best purveyors of electronic novelties this side of the Atlantic. Isn't that more useful these days anyway?

MP3: Matthewdavid - Gold Rope (Stones Flip)
Download Jewelry for free here. While you're at it, two of McQueen's tourmates, Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras, recently released a collaborative LP called Icon Give Thank. Recorded in Jamaica with reggae dub band The Congos, it's being released by RVNG Intl., in their impeccable FRKWYS series. Check that one out here.

March 17, 2012

Tenth Oar

Hanetration is a London based producer, otherwise anonymous on his web-appendages and in his short introduction to us, making self-described "music for headphones" - long-winded drone cycles, mostly somber and unadorned. Highly organic. Despite the more gregarious opening on his self-released debut Tenth Oar EP with the beautifully sped up vocal-samples, lilting flute, and delicate warps of "Rex", which approaches the carnivalesque before the orchestra gently unwinds; progress is much more introspective on the remaining three tracks. By its end, Tenth Oar becomes vaguely claustrophobic, the same warped tones and a crunching sound laying over a ringing drone, creating a balance that periodically sets itself off balance.
Get it from yon widget or at Hanetration's bandcamp.

Circadian Rhythm

Prolific Chicago tape label Teen River recently indicated to us that they're going to begin keeping some of their releases in print even after they've sold out in batches; normally the label releases a monthly group of tapes without individual repressings between them, so many of their original micro-editions of 25 or so have understandably gone out of print. These titles are amusingly called the "Infinity Series" and draw their first from the label's fellow Chicagoan Spooky Moon, aka Kyle Drouin, a one man mini-orchestra with strong vocals and a healthy noise-pop proclevity, à la Hear Hums or early Animal Collective.

MP3: Spooky Moon - Circadian Rhythm
Buy the cassette from Teen River here or grab the digital album from Spooky Moon's bandcamp.

Welcome to Planet Dance

"Welcome to Planet Dance" comes from our favorite nerds in Oakland: James & Evander, the collaboration of Glenn Jackson and Adam Myatt, the founder of blog/imprint Mapzzz and a dashing cat nerd respectively, with the two subverting their nerd-powers on this track specifically for the purpose of cultivating the dance. Disco, to be specific. The b-side to their Let's Go 7" with our fellow Oakies at Gold Robot Records, it most confidently introduces the disco element that runs through the whole single, whereas other tracks emphasize the pop component of the admixture... "a melodious voyage through galactic disco and beyond" is right. The record is a final demonstration of the band's ability to translate myriad influences into compelling compounds, music that proudly wears its references and synthesizes them into a remarkably organic whole. They're ambitious and clearly they have the wherewithal to keep it up.

Purchase the 7" from Gold Robot. With remixes by Yalls, Some Ember, and Teen Daze backing up James & Evander's originals, it's uniquely worth the expenditure.

March 16, 2012

Video: Johanna Blakely on "Fashion's Free Culture"


Dr. Johanna Blakely is the Managing Director at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, a well regarded research and education institute concerned with public policy and the entertainment industry - a huge purview whose range you can sample on the center's staff run blog. In 2010 part of Blakely's outreach campaign included a sixteen minute TED talk which came in part as the culmination of several years worth of personal attention to the "implications of fashion's unique creative ecology, where fashion designs are treated as shared resources that can be freely reused, recreated and recombined". Although the video was released in 2010, the ideas in it have never been more timely. As a larger and larger segment of the music underground takes the very same tenets as their own, the practical implications of the higher selling product and less traditionally "protected" design in the fashion industry should be of critical interest to others trying to figure out their role and goals in our contemporary music industry.

March 14, 2012

Finer Climes

Boston-based musician John Chierici, aka SUPER88, released a small batch of songs recently, titled Salad Days. The four song EP is perfect for the very rainy weather we've been having in Oakland -- drum beats are gently covered in a wash of synth layers and somewhat ambivalent vocals, creating an atmosphere that is at once cozy and aloof. Check out "Finer Climes", a dreamy, electronic stoner jam that seems like it belongs in a movie.

SUPER88 - Finer Climes
You can download Salad Days, along with all of John's other releases, for free at his bandcamp.

New Music-Finding App

Tomer Elmalem is a computer science student at Georgia Tech, with his personal goals centering out ways to make technology work better for people trying to find new music. Right now, Tomer is working to develop the basic architecture of a new music app and he needs the help of musicians to put it together. He explains...
It's fairly simple, the idea is that it's a Pandora style app for the artists on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. I'm hoping that this'll give people who are not familiar with either websites an easy way to discover and learn about new artists . . . [and] I'm trying to see if people would be interested in something like this. I created some simple forms for people to submit links and tags to their music so I can experiment with recommendation algorithms and another form for interested people to submit their emails.
And that's it. If you've got some time to help, click here or on the image up top.

Tape Trade #3: Moon Glyph

The tradition of "tape trading" is a long one, though it's probably a practice most people will associate with how the underground of rock and punk networked for decades in the 80s and 90s. There are even a few small websites still out there (example) that help organize the remnant of that original network and some of its successors. Today tapes are a variety of things to a variety of people, but as a way of finding new music on a format you value tape trading has never been more important - because the things are available to purchase for a fraction of the cost of CDs and they're gob cheaper than them to manufacture. For many cassette labels, tape trading is a way to network with others in the same position, trying to produce and sell what is still an eccentric seeming item to some. Trading their own releases, the real cost of the trade becomes almost negligible.

In 2011 we began organizing and documenting tape trades through the webpage for our imprint Crash Symbols, but after some discussion we've decided that these features had as much a place here as anywhere else. Though this is the first tape trade we've covered here, the others - with Holy Page and Full of Nothing - are still available. Feel free to get in touch with me if you'd like to participate. The first trade we'll be covering at both sites couldn't have been a bigger pleasure to arrange. Late last year, my wife and I entertained Minneapolis label Moon Glyph's founder Steve Rosborough and his significant other, taking them to the hippest places in Oakland, surely leaving them impressed with the area's vibrant cultural scene and the terrible table service at Burma Superstar, one of our favorite restaurants in the Bay. Amidst all that splendor, we were able to trade a bunch of releases - check out what we got!

MG17: Tender Meat, Live at the Ritz (the Ritz on the Fritz) - Recorded live at Flaneur Productions' Heliotrope Festival in Minneapolis, Live at the Ritz... is nowhere near so elegant and clean as the Ritz, but every bit as shambolic and incredible as the use of the word Ritz twice and the addition of "Fritz" to the title would suggest. Tender Meat Jon Coe and Andy Fritz, with Coe's percussion animating these recordings and Fritz fleshing them out into a jagged skeleton with his digital orchestra, echoing some of the crazed compositions of their co-Minnesotans Skoal Kodiak.

MG21: Camden, Living Image - The solo project of Cole Weiland of Daughters of the Sun, Camden plays blasted synths over tape loops, adding in "his boldest and most crepitative vocalizations yet", which I quote primarily for Moon Glyph's awesome and correct use of the word crepitative, but his second outing under the name is actually very accessible. Although there are plenty of spots where the ear is given over to a shifting warble of noise and tidal drones, these are more "pop" soundscapes than synth; plenty melodic and even Weiland's oblique vocalizations aren't particularly jarring. Certainly one of Moon Glyph's most cohesive albums.

MG23: Ghostband, Verdical - "It's uncertain whether Davis has tapped into a contemporary mania or synthesized a manic – and, at times, maniacal – electronic sound response to the times." (via Moon Glyph) This is actually one of the first Moon Glyph releases I reviewed, more than a year ago back at Get Off the Coast, and I feel pretty good about what I said then: "I'd call Ghostband a working class Daft Punk; half the budget, twice the vision, and at least as danceable." It remains one of my favorite of their tapes, and probably is one of the label's most accessible, thanks to the captivating melodies embedded in Ghostband's shambolic beats.

MG24: Soothsayer, Inflow Illusion - Soothsayer is actually the home for Moon Glyph proprietor Steve Rosborough's solo work. Inflow Illusion, his second outing under the name, is an eleven track collection of calmative synth soundscapes; an extended new age meditation, occasionally pulled back to reveal Rosborough's playful intellectualism and highly refined palette.

MG34: Roy Orb D.M.T., Doctor of Metaphysical Healing - This is another favorite Moon Glyph release for me. In some ways, it feels like one of the most confident assertions of the label's musical aesthetic, less challenging than other albums but ultimately more effective, and the name of the tape is entirely descriptive... synth soundscapes ebb and flow, but the sound is explicitly therapeutic. If you've been looking for something to accompany meditation or promote states of restful awareness, I'd highly recommend it.

All of these cassettes and more can be purchased direct from Moon Glyph.

Bop-A-Bop-A-Bop (I'm Yr Porkchop)

Burned Youth, a new tape dropped recently on Night People, collects Lantern's buried gems from 2009-2011. The tape was originally released by Lantern while on tour but Night People couldn't see such an injustice, such as not letting everyone hear this beauty, happen. Primarily consisting of Philedelphia's Zachary Fairbrother with a little assistance from his pals Emily Robb and Daniel Miller, these sweet lo-fi crooners should prove to be the perfect addition to coffee for your early morning pick-me-up.

MP3: Lantern - Bop-A-Bop-A-Bop (I'm Yr Porkchop)
You can order the Burned Youth cassette now via Night People, and stream the whole thing over at Lantern's bandcamp.

March 13, 2012

Bathetic Presents the Asheville Cassettes

Some time ago our pals at Bathetic Records moved to Asheville, NC to establish a new base of operations. Since then they've been scanning the Asheville underbelly for the cream of the crop in prismatic sounds. They just unleashed three new tapes from different Asheville artists, ranging in a stellar variety of soundscaping.


[video by Ross Brubeck]
Up first is the self-titled release from Difference Clouds. Delving into cosmic caverns and pulling out the most mellow tones your alien mind can dream up. Bathetic describes his music as seeing sound in full-spectrum color, an analogy I'm hard-pressed to top. This is deep mainframe meditation; relaxing in the ice fortress while beautiful memories dance around you.

MP3: Difference Clouds - Les Jardins D'Edena Pt 1 (excerpt)
Pick up a copy of Difference Clouds over here.


[video by The Moon Foetus]
Next up is Villages' The Spilling Past. This one is moody, but still dabbling in beautiful soundscapes. Called to mind is imagery of long forgotten quests for cursed wizard staffs and war armor blessed by the gods; though perhaps all I really see is fears and stress systematically purged from the mind of Villages.

MP3: Villages - Beach Pneumatic Transit (excerpt)
Snag The Spilling Past on cassette over here.


[video by Ross Brubeck]
Last, though certainly not least, in Bathetic's series of Asheville cassettes is Merryl's Slow Spell. Taking moody sound exploration to a much dreamier level, it's highly recommended from me to hit the bowl for this one. Merryl's heady, expansive soundscapes seem to actually induce a feeling of floating all on their own, however; these ethereal drones are just about perfect.

MP3: Merryl - Slow Spell Pt 2 (excerpt)
Snag a copy of the Slow Spell cassette over here.