Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Pharaohs Serpent"
(Grants Tomb)

In Michigan a worn out cliche continues a healthy life about the weather changing every minute.
This is often the case with electronic music. In fact, while some tapes go on and on, never shifting far from the initial pretense, others rapidly jump from concept to concept. A balance somewhere between is comfortable listening and hence I finally bring you to this tape.

Bodega System, from New York, would appear to be the brainchild of but two people. They've been at this awhile with releases going back over ten years, mostly on the Grant's Tomb label.

While the tracks are, of course, all electronic, they lean heavily on themes and while the first couple titles are nearly upbeat, the tape progresses toward a more sinister approach such as what you hear on "Dawn" and "Termagent"

All in all, Bodega System, on this release, display masterful technique and writing capabilities. This tape is highly recommended to all electronic music fans.

-Bob Zilli

Saturday, July 22, 2017

“Seltrac” C60
(Third Kind Records)

I’m going to give this tape a really high recommendation. A really high one. Start there, go backward into your thought process, begin evaluation, go back to sleep. I don’t know why I’m approaching this from the wrong direction, but it doesn’t matter. I think I know why I like International Debris, aka Ross Baker, so much. First of all, on the Bandcamp page, it simply says “Horizon music” under the artist description. I like that. You can lose yourself in a horizon, dreaming of the vast swath of real estate it encompasses, the people who inhabit it. It’s where the sun rises and sets, so it takes on celestial properties at certain times of day. You can lose yourself in International Debris’s music too – its mix of propulsive minimal electronics, leavened with easily digestible beats and timbres. The second reason International Debris hits all the right spots is that I’m reminded at points of the Octopus Project/Black Moth Super Rainbow collab album The House of Apples and Eyeballs, which I love. It takes the rough edges of both bands and kind of smooths them, for the most part. Seltrac has that House vibe, not too in-your-face, but not remotely operating at a distance. From start to finish it’s an absolute treat. Chew it like gum and huff the horizon with your third eye.

--Ryan Masteller

Friday, July 21, 2017

“Hypocritical Oath”

Belfast artist Jason Mills’s Deadman’s Ghost is nothing if the adjective “haunting” is not in front of whatever description you come up with. Death, ghosts, dead men, spirits, corpses, sprites, tragedy – all this stuff (and I realize most of these words are synonyms for each other, especially within the world Mills is creating) permeates the songs of Hypocritical Oath, an electo-folk excursion where Appalachian-backporch-acoustics (think Nick Cave or David Eugene Edwards at their most earthy) meet synthesizers and other electronics in the air, in the clouds, literally raptured and well met by the risen Lord Jesus Christ, returned to judge and to save. Wow! There’s, uh, at least banjo and some serious self-reflection that I imagine turns up in the Bible Belt here in the United States, and probably in Ireland too at points. Who is really to say anymore – it’s all just a big swirly pagan mess in a cauldron simmering for maximum jucifying, leavened with thick slabs of meaty synthesizer at points to remind you that you’re not really in an un-air-conditioned church in the heat of the rural Alabama summer handling venomous snakes. At least “Neck Romancer” has the decency to drop a beat! “Neck Romancer” … I get it. Hey, you should get it too! This tape, I mean. I’m digging it.

--Ryan Masteller

Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Split Series Vol. II”
(Orange Milk)

If “there’s a gap in between, there’s a gap where we meet,” according to the old Radiohead standard “Where I End and You Begin,” then Future Daughter and Matthew D. Gantt don’t seem to acknowledge it. Instead, where the two artists meet – around the ten-minute mark on their split tape for Orange Milk – there’s nary an indication that you’re not listening to one seamless whole. And in fact, if your eyes are closed and you ignore the noise your player makes as it switches direction once the tape runs out, and I guess if you conveniently forget that you’re actually listening to two artists, one on each side, you might be forgiven if you accidentally recommended this cassette to your friends as the product of a single entity. Sadly, your friends would have a real tough time figuring out which release to buy on Orange Milk’s page, though, if you went that route, because as cohesive as these nine tracks are, three are still made by Future Daughter and six by Matthew D. Gantt, so – pay more attention to what you’re doing, maybe?

Seamless. Transition. You ever watch ice melt? Water boil? One could say that although there is a certain point where the temperature rises enough to enact a change in the state of H2O, that change is so natural and one stage so perfectly follows the other that the conversion is imperceptible. We don’t see, with human eyes, the molecules adjusting their density. That’s the idea put forth by Future Daughter, whose “Solids,” “Liquids,” and “Gases” make up side A, titled “Ekphrasis,” an intense electronic sound art triptych where each piece evolves from the last, but each also has such a distinct flavor that you can’t help but marvel at their uniqueness. That’s before you even dig into the idea of ekphrasis, a textual representation of visual art, of which “Ekphrasis” might be considered a sonic manifestation – of Keith Rankin’s typically spectacular cover art, maybe? Or something else? (The trio of Future Daughter includes a credit for “visual director / live visuals.”) Heck, before today, I didn’t even realize that my reviews essentially constitute ekphrastic writing, except they’re about music instead of optical media.

After Future Daughter’s time with us ends, the gas state becomes plasma with Matthew D. Gantt, I guess, and then on to Bose-Einstein condensates by the end of his spectacular side B, “Plastics.” Plastics isn’t a state of matter, but hey, that’s OK. And if you want to consider Gantt’s contribution here a more exotic representation or at least the next logical scientific step, that’s probably OK. But as I’m precariously navigating the brink of coherence with this whole theme at this point, perhaps I should edge back from the precipice and simply state that Gantt’s six contributions, all titled “Music” but seemingly numbered at random (but probably not), continue the stylistic thread and expand upon it. In his short pieces, Gantt affirms the electronic trails blazed by his split-mates (and indeed his label), touching on vaporwave and plunderphonics at points but maintaining an individual style and approach. It’s a suite, like Future Daughter’s, that makes sense within itself and in conjunction with the entirety of the tape.

So in the end, where artists’ particular contributions begin and end make little difference once Split Series Vol. II plays out. It is a singular artifact, and one that deserves undivided and repeat listens.

--Ryan Masteller

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

“Nonlinear Record”
(Orange Milk)

Genetics and Windsurfing builds music around negative space – you don’t have to listen very closely to realize that you’re in the vicinity of an actual black hole, and whatever sound Daniel Jasniewski, the man behind the Genetics, decides to issue from his computery bank of beats and effects and samples and other neat stuff is soon obliterated from immediate time and space by the presence of the celestial object. As soon as a note or sample or beat is triggered, it’s immediately jerked backward at the speed of light, disappearing into the singularity’s sheer gravity. Even when it seems like some tones are about to escape and shoot off like sentient aurora borealises and cause whatever mischief they’re capable of causing, that black hole – Ol’ Sucky, as our primitive ancestors used to call it – reels them back until they’re no longer perceivable beyond the event horizon.

So when you drop something like Nonlinear Record upon an unsuspecting species, one that cannot begin to fathom time as something other than, duh, linear, you might run into some problems if you’re expecting an immediate reaction or a rapid evolutionary advance. People just aren’t built in ways to process something as obviously next-level as Genetics and Windsurfing. When confronted by the sun rising and taking up three-quarters of the sky as it did so in the novel Dhalgren, the citizens of Bellona reacted in ways that only people divorced completely from the concept of that physical phenomenon could: they wept unceasingly, they wandered about confused, they stared into the sky and waited to die, and, spoiler alert, nothing happened. The sun eventually set, just another fucked-up thing that happened in the fictional city.

That’s why it’s important to rejigger your headspace when tackling forward-thinking sonic architecture. Yeah, you could dive in and overwhelm yourself, but wouldn’t you rather prepare for the onslaught of bytes and waveforms that hurtle at you from alien sources? Or maybe, since we’re talking black holes and Nonlinear Record and all, time has simply ceased to function as expected, and Daniel Jasniewski has indeed evolved into Genetics and Windsurfing, and what we’re catching are brief glimpses of future-Daniel as the space-time continuum continues its disintegration in our vicinity. That’s… yeah, that one’s actually a bit more plausible, I think. This is future music, the result of biotechnological breakthroughs. Prepare yourself – it doesn’t get any less weird as we go.

--Ryan Masteller

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“Secret Wind” C50
(Lily Tapes and Discs)

Languid. Mournful. Contemplative.  That’s the National Park Service way, and if you need a refresher course on what the NPS is capable of, you can check my utterly nature-obsessed review of the excellent ’97 Tracer on PSI LAB. I’m feeling similar feels on Secret Wind, but there’s a difference. We’re out of the woods here, I think, and into the spiritual malaise of suburbia. See cover photo above for all the mood prompting you need before beginning Secret Wind. Here NPS alternates between Kranky-esque instrumental slowcore and nocturnal ambience to stunning effect. The evening descends, and National Park Service descends upon us with it. More a band-esque affair than ’97 Tracer, the tape still moves deliberately, like if Explosions in the Sky decided to all lay in sleeping bags in the backyard and stare up at the stars while sort of playing. By the end of it the drummer and bassist are asleep, the latter still clutching his plugged-in instrument as it gently feeds back. The breeze blows softly, and barely anyone is awake to perceive it. It’s our secret.

--Ryan Masteller