Saturday, November 14, 2009
I've been deluged with tapes! Really great stuff from Digitalis LTD, Gel Tapes, Goaty Tapes and Night-People. I haven't had a chance to listen to everything yet, but this is a start. The Gel and Digitalis tapes are already down at the Half and Half, hope to start stocking the Goaty stuff tomorrow, Night-People by next week.
Digitalis is an industry unto itself. The Tulsa-based web magazine and label has been around seemingly forever, and has released music by, or helped establish, countless stellar fringe, folk and avant-garde musicians. The cassette tape branch of the label, Digitalis Limited, started up around two years ago, I think, and has released about 100 tapes since. It boggles the mind.
Brother Raven - Nellie - Digitalis LTD. 103
It seems like more and more folks on the cassette tape underground are dusting off their old synthesizers and letting themselves go in the drift of mellow electronic tones. Not sure why that is exactly, but it makes me happy so I'm not too concerned. "Nellie" is really a treat because of the focus and restraint evident across its five tracks. The whole tape maintains a cohesive mood without feeling inert, and the compositions are all carefully put together in terms of tone and melody. There's something about the feel of the tape that reminds me of German synth stuff from the 1970s, but on the whole considerably less romantic and melodramatic, and definitely pre-New Age. Brother Raven are taking heavy cues from that era but their stuff has it's own place. $6
Lakes - Monument of Nests - Digitalis LTD. 103
Nice little chunk of dark, homemade pop music very much in the vein of Tall Dwarfs or Pumice. I like the energy on this tape a lot, it feels sideways somehow. The energy of being stuck in. "It's a day for staying inside," the Great Unwashed song goes. Lots ramshackle percussion and squiggles of weird noise adorn what at heart are oddly catchy pop songs. $6
On this tape, Plankton Wat create the traditional music of an undiscovered culture. The instrumentation is acoustic, with some nice, subtle electronic effects that quietly underlie a couple tracks. The songs are uncluttered, and understated, and the tape holds really nicely together as a whole. I also particularly like the art for this tape because it reflects the music well -- simple, balanced, quietly mysterious. $6
Goaty Tapes, currently based in Connecticut, has been quietly releasing amazingly packaged tapes for a couple years now. Each tape is a little event, involving multiple colors, textures and weights of paper, letter-press seriousness and cut-and-paste whimsy, and brightly colored tapes. This latest batch of tapes is very much in the outsider-pop mode -- two of the three have a whiff of Shadow Ring about them.
Banana Head - In the Tubs - Goaty Tapes
Blankets of reverb, tremelo and tape skuzz hide what is secretly a collection of pop songs, albeit off-kilter ones. Reminds me a lot of those early OCS records -- strange and far away, but at the same time familiar and vulnerable. By the second time through, the pop-song logic behind the tracks begins to reveal itself, and that's when they really start to work their way into your brain. Codine sadness. A tape for winter. $7
BIRD - HOY EN DIA - GOATY TAPES
Short, strange tape that's a peek into a girl's very unique looking glass. Home-made drumming and cheap keyboards back-up vocals that've been run though thrift store autotune, giving the whole tape an uneasy haze about it. Some tracks remain abstract, while a couple lock into a nice propulsive, sing-songy energy. Katie Leming is half of the strange, powerful Cro Magnon, who record for the venerable De Stijl label. $7
VINCENT OVER THE SINK - BIBLE BASHERS - GOATY TAPES
I've been a big fan of Vincent Over the Sink since picking up 22 Coloured Bull-Terriers, which came out on Near Tapes the other year(which I've still got a few copies of, by the way). They seemed very at ease in both the skewed pop realm and also doing the noisier stuff, which is still the case on the new tape, although the two poles seems much closer together this time out. The tape opens in a mode very much indebted to the Shadow Ring, including some nice background electronics, before moving on through some varied ground. Other highlights are the woozy, trumpet-lead, song-y passages. Side B veers into strange territory. Half of the duo that makes up Vincent Over the Sink is Matthew from Naked On the Vague. $7