Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What do I know about the people whose tapes I've been distributing, or even about the labels themselves? Very little. A name and a location usually, and sometimes I can deduce that a band or two on the label is the handiwork of the label-head. So it is my own curiosity behind these interviews as much as any thought about readership, though I hope they are interesting to more than just the die-hards. Discovering Matthew Hopkins' (of Naked On the Vague) Near Tapes label made me very curious about the Australian music scene and the wealth of interesting music it was generating. When Albert's Basement, out of Victoria/Melbourne, got in touch with me about organizing some mutual distribution, I was eager to ask man-in-charge Michael about the tape and underground music going on around him.

Who are you and how long have you been running the label?
I'm a nobody from the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Was a grade A student then did average come exam times. I love shopping at the queen Victoria market and rolling around on my purple sheet bed. Label's been going since latish '08, Albert's Basement's been around doing shows since March '07 before that.

How would you characterize the Australian music scene versus other scenes in other countries?
I’m no judge really, all I can tell is there’s shitloads of amazing stuff happening all over the world. Apart from Australia I’ve mainly been getting into the American scene with bits and pieces from Europe and elsewhere too. There’s less people in Australia, so its harder I guess, but instead of isolating totally it means real nice bonds form. But also great things begin and die quickly without enthusiasm gathering. That’s the first question I didn’t really answer… Australian people are alright, mate.

How would you characterize the Victoria scene versus the Sydney scene?
Well Melbourne is the ‘it’ place for bands in Australia, at least in this decade, but that means there's a lot of boring bands here too, but a lot of good stuff all week long. Near Tapes and Rest In Peace Society are doing wonders in Sydney/NSW, plus Spanish Magic and Break Dance The Dawn (now in Brisbane).

I think you’d characterize it the same way as the Eggy things, our Taco Leg or Constant Mongrel is your Woolen Men, etc.

People are just doing things that are fun, having fun times with people, that’s the aim! Also, there’s lots of opportunities for far out bands here in Melbourne, but its tougher in Sydney, no venues etc..

How would you describe the relationship between the Australian and New Zealand scenes? Is there a lot of fluidity in terms of bands and musicians going back and forth?

No. All the good bands hardly ever tour in Australia. I saw Pumice from NZ play in Melbourne recently which was a real treat. A few great bands have sort of come from NZ to AUS I think (Garbage and the flowers, The School Of Radiant Living).

Pat from Sunshine And Grease (the best record store in Melbourne) stocks a lot of great music from NZ like pseudo arcana label etc. There’s a connectedness between AUS and NZ in all the great music that’s come from each over the last 40 years and the differences in character are beautiful. But yeah I haven’t gotten around much, I’m gonna start soon. I’m releasing something for With Moths from NZ, that dude seems real nicey. BUT the whole relationship is a world thing now I guess, yeah everyone's isolated but connecting with people doing like minded things on other half of globe. Like Garbage And The Flowers who I mentioned having just as much in common with Rosemary Krust from Maryland than any of the bands in Australia. It's a global scene? It prolly feels like that more here 'cuz we're so far apart from other cities and there's not many people.

One of the things I noticed on the Your Colla comp was the prevalence of drum machines and synthesizers, and the absence of guitars and traditional drum kits -- do you think that represents your personal taste in terms of what you curated for the tape, or do you think that's what people are thinking about in Victoria/Australia right now?
Nah I love guitars, and give me drums babeee! The inspiration for this tape came from dancing round my room to Nite Jewel, coming across Jeans Wilder and when those two combined with the songs I'd heard of SUPPER the idea of the tape was born. Skewed moods, I guess. So I guess its more how I curated the tape. I feel its all happening in Australia at the moment. Primo bands in all genres and in between all over Oz mate, every corner they’re at it doing it. We've got awesome bands making magic happen all over Australia right now, its amazing.

Why do you think tapes appeal to people right now?

Cuz they’re fuckin' cute things, real mysterious, you never know what you’re gonna get with a tape, such a strange format and listening experience. Fun. Tape tape tape tape tape. Because it’s the opposite of the way the world is racing up? Some people like tape. Some people don’t want tape!

What have you been listening to lately?
The Supreme Cool Beings (in the kitchen)
Vincent Over The Sink
Them Themselves Or They on Malt Duck!
Anything on Night People
The Polyps
All the good Australian stuff, yeah!
Human Adult Band 1-sider
All the good stuff in the world

What's in store for the future of Albert's Basement?
Quiet down with some tapes - First up is The Heartbeat, Team Red, 6majik9, Terror Bird, and split between Pissypaw and Weirding Module. 3 American bands, 1 North Australian and 2 from my home city. Plus keep the mini distro going getting stuff in I really love and trading/selling it to the enthusiasts. Sell all the old LPs…. Thats what happens in the Basement.. funk it up with all the colour balls…

-And now, the tapes:
V/A - Your Colla the Colour of Mounds - aB12
Nice comp of fringe pop from the Australian and North American undergrounds. Some familiar names might be Nite Jewel, Dirty Beaches, Jeans Wilder, Pink Priest. I'm particularly a fan of the Nite Jewel track, a German language cover of some sort with the right pop moves. The Australian acts make up a pretty good snapshot of what people like us who live in Australia are up to, which turns out to be drum machines and a couple laptops. Always fun to have a glimpse into another scene in progress. This tape holds together surprisingly well, definitely a "sound" being documented here. Everything more or less a little hazy, a little poppy. $5
Pink Priest - ab11
Dark, heavy synthesizer music, delivered in two or three minute shots. Songs rather than 'scapes, though they are quickly buried beyond recognition by the massive synths. There's definitely some doom in there. The man has a vision all his own, it'll be neat to hear where he goes with it. $5
Oscar Vicente Slorach-Thorn - Teeth - aB10
Pleasantly unclassifiable tape, I would maybe call it scuzz-house? One long-form, very rhythmic track stretches across both sides of the tape, and covers a lot of ground, rarely staying in one mode for longer than a few minutes. I think what makes this one stand out is the focus on the voice -- almost every sound on the tape comes from Mr. Slorach-Thorn's mouth. Not that he's a uniquely talented vocalist, but that it puts a very personal touch on the careening mass of sound, something that is too often faceless. $5
Nice little write-up of Eggy and the Majic Eyes tape over at Cassette Gods, you can scope it here. I've still have copies of the Majic Eyes tape, they cost $4, shipping details/info can be found here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ran into Evan Miller, who recently transplanted here from Iowa City, at a Grouper show the other week and he handed me off a copy of the new Plane tape, which is his guitar duo project with Phil Ochs. I've been really digging it. Rare Youth, run by one of my favorite drone/improvers Geoff Mullen out of Providence/New England, put the tape out and I just got in touch with him about stocking the tapes, so I'll have those in a little bit, along with a couple other choice Rare Youth items, including a Keith Fullerton Whitman tape which I couldn't be more excited about. Anyway, getting the Plane tape was a reminder of the huge backlog of tapes I haven't had time to write about, Evan's tape for Gel among them:
Evan Miller - Contracting the Eye - GEL06
Two placid, shimmering drones from Evan, each given it's own side. They are very appealing in their focused simplicity. The theme here is the soft, shifting pulse of two near-frequency tones. The glacial evolution of the work refuses narrative or linear dynamics, yet the pieces never quite slip into the background, moving at just the right pace to appear static but never actually settle. $6

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Of note, the excellent Calgary-based improv group Bent Spoon Duo recorded a special set for the WFMU show the Long Rally the other day and it's posted on Beware of the Blog. The set is really great, very mysterious music those two play. You can listen to it here. The reason I bring this up, other than that it's great music, is that I've still got a copy or two of Bent Spoon Duo's tape for Holy Cheever Church, called Fossils of Slumber. It's really a great tape and it bums me out a little bit that it hasn't flown off the shelf. You can order it at the mail order part of the site, here. Portland folks, if you dig Hammer of Hathor (and who doesn't?), you'll dig this tape.

Bent Spoon Duo - Fossils of Summer - HCC 020
Mike Khoury/Chris Riggs - My Words Came Out Slow and Odd - HCC 024

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Short notice, the Woolen Men are playing with Bodhi Monday night at Berbatis' Pan. Is free, I've heard Bodhi are pretty sick. 10pm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Local tapes!
I'm really happy to be stocking all of these as they represent some of my favorite music going on in Portland right now. I order a lot of tapes based on the reputation of the label or a hunch or nice cover art or whatever, but these are ones I really wanted to make sure I was carrying and tracked down. Pretty eclectic group here but all of it stellar.
Sad Horse - Self-Released
Sad Horse come with a Mississippi Records pedigree and their 7" for the label's North Portland Music Series is a prized item in my record collection. Though out-of-print for a little while now, five of that record's six tracks ("Coyote" is absent) are on this tape, along with a dozen or so other tracks of similar vintage. Sad Horse play short, fast songs that are as punky as they are personable, whose frenetic energy plays off their odd structures and meters. I think one of the reasons I like their music so much is that the personalities of the two members come out so well -- that it seems like two people making music together as a way of life. I'm looking forward to their next release, and hopefully it'll have their killer cover of Dead Moon's "Loafer" that they've been playing at their shows recently. Only $3!
Pete Swanson - Denim Life
Pete Swanson - Unlimited Options
I'm pretty certain that these are Pete's first releases since the end of Yellow Swans, and it's hard to be bummed about that group's end if it means more releases like these ones. Both of these tapes are really amazing -- it's clear that Pete has been at this game for a long time. The man knows what he's doing and how to make music that is shredded, imploding, brutal and above all beautiful. I was shocked at how emotional this music is and the kind of visceral punch it packs. Unlimited Options is the more monolithic of the two tapes -- each side is a heavy duty drone that builds in intensity at the same time that it feels like it's disintegrating. Denim Life feels more tangible with the rhythmic and melodic undercurrents of the two pieces (similarly side-long drones) showing more clearly through the obliterated sonics. I can't decide which one is my favorite. Each is $6.
Nucular Aminals - Self-Titled - Ick Ick Records
Nucular Aminals - Self-Titled - Ick Ick Records
Very charming bedroom recordings from the Aminals. I particularly like the combination of '90s-isms and '60s-isms. On the one hand, the muffled DIY sound, strum-y songs with weird lyrics, on the other, plenty of vocal harmonies and those great, great organ lines. Some very catchy numbers here, in their own off-kilter way (i.e. the best way), and a Daniel Johnston cover to close things out ("Walking the Cow," one of my favorite songs in the world). I hear there is a 7" on the way. $4

Monday, December 7, 2009

Woolen Men & Total Bros & Total Noise
Show Wednesday -- should be a good one!
Also, new tapes on the way:

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm a little bit slow on this one, but Impose Magazine did a feature on Eggy a few weeks ago, you can read it here. At the bottom of the page you can download a compilation of music from the Eggy label proper that I put together. Impose has done similar features on a couple other awesome tape labels:
Gnar Tapes and Shit
Not Not Fun

PS. Got my hands on a couple of Pete Swanson's new tapes, the first stuff he's done since the end of Yellow Swans, I believe. They are amazing. I've been stocking them a the Half and Half, proper update about those guys soon. Also, got some copies of Sad Horse's tape. Same material as was on the CDR -- nothing new but still one of my favorites! At the Half and Half for a mere $3.