Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plane - Kremlin - Rare Youth
Super nice, meditative duo electric guitar pieces from Evan Miller and Phil Ochs. I am really digging the purity of the approach here -- no weird effects, production trickery, overdubs, extended "freak-outs," feedback, etc., just two distorted guitars carving some rough beauty out of the thin air. Restrained, disciplined stuff. If someone told me these were salvaged Popul Vuh home-recorded demos, I would probably believe them. Don't know if this is an ongoing project or one-off but I hope to hear more from these guys in the future. $6

Keith Fullerton Whitman - Rare Youth
KEITH FULLERTON WHITMAN - Hallicrafters, Inc. / 10 POKE 54272+INT(RND(1)*25),INT(RND(1)*256) : GOTO 10 - RARE YOUTH
There are not many out there like Keith Fullerton Whitman. I can't think of anyone else so faithfully and beautifully carrying on the tradition of Electronic Music, from musique concrete to Morton Subotnick and Terry Riley up through Max/MSP and computer music. After that introduction, I should say that isn't an "easy" tape, but if you're used to the deep listening required for absorbing a piece of tape or experimental music, you're really gonna dig it. Two modular synth pieces here, both with a "spliced" aesthetic -- the first uses a shortwave radio to create an ever-changing sonic palette of tonal bursts, in the second an old commodore and an iphone are used with the synthesizer. $6

Couchie Poochie - Feeding Tube Records
Sam Gas Can of Faux Pas records, and of himself, described this tape as "zonked," and I think that's the best way of getting at the particular brand of Western Massachusetts weirdness represented here, which is to say genuine and deeply perplexing weirdness. Tape starts with a "straight" and very endearing cover of the old standard Sea of Love before swerving into psychotic vocalizations and cheap Casio grooves. Somehow very pure and also demented. A total oddity. $4

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bird Names - Recession Vacation - Really Coastal
I have long been a fan of the warped pop stylings of Bird Names -- I interviewed them a while back for Foxy Digitalis, which you can read here, I got them to play at my birthday party, I've fed them dinner, they've slept on my floor. Those guys are upstanding humans. They've been at it at least half a decade now and it’s safe to say they've built their very own sonic universe to inhabit. Their sound is on the one hand clamorous and dissonant, on the other catchy and energetic, with everything heard through the hazy gauze of lo-fi tape wizardry. The songs are assembled from pieces both intricate and home-made – Rube Goldberg pop. And it’s hard not to love that inscrutable, wry, Chicagoan irreverence that seems to delight in being brainy and stoned at the same time. This release is on the mellow side and a little ‘60s leaning. It's a winner. $6

Really Coastal is a boutique tape label based from historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles.

Tyvek - Demos - Fag Tapes
Early demo tapes from these arty garage-punkers. The versions here are much noiser and punkier than would appear on their classic 7”s and Siltbreeze LP (included are favorites Frustration Rock and Mary Ellen Claims). $6

Emeralds - Grass Ceiling - Fag Tapes
Early Emeralds tape. This Cleveland trio has emerged in the last couple years as a heavy-weight of guitar and synth drone. “Grass Ceiling” does not yet reveal the beautiful, shimmering weight that characterizes their recent work, but is nonetheless an impressive and interesting pair of drone pieces. Their sonic palate is already a million times more developed than ninety-nine percent of the noise groups out there, and their ability to keep the pieces shifting and moving in subtle, interesting ways is in full effect. $6

Monday, January 18, 2010

Goaty Tapes spread
I had the pleasure of exchanging a couple emails with Zully Adler of Goaty Tapes on the topic of tape music and culture and the present and future of his upstanding label. It was nice to get some heavy duty answers to questions which I have thought over a good deal myself, and to realize that a lot of the same interests and motivations brought us both into the tape scene. In addition to running the label, Zully is the man behind Banana Head, whose recent Goaty release is a collection of crooked, distant pop songs. Strange stuff at first, once you make it through his warped looking glass, the pieces definitely fall into place and you're hooked. Zully is currently based in Connecticut. Eggy has several Goaty titles in stock, both at the Half and Half and for mailorder.

It seems like Goaty is moving more into the realm of song-based music, usually pretty damaged stuff but rooted in song-form -- what's motivating that shift?

I guess it’s cause I’ve always been interested in artists who kind of construct their own representational realities—myth-makers and outsiders and loners who don’t have to be as flamboyant as Yves Klein or as holistic as Joe Beuys but still construct some sort of unified artistic perspective, however unclear or cryptic or contradictory or whatever. The bands that embody this idea can really come from anywhere—rock, pop, experimental, but always come off as damaged, like you said, or different/weird.

I think the reason I’ve been moving into more structured, song-based territory is because the drone/noise community—or at least parts of it—is kind of ossifying and not really advocating the kind of radicalism that creates the weirdos I love. I think it’s cause experimental music as a community is so young that the experimental subculture is only now developing the bad habit of prefabricating models for what a band should be. These models have plagued rock music for a lot longer—long enough to catalyze a reaction against it.

There are still experimental acts that manage to create their own space, and I’m still constantly impressed by the ingenuity of a lot of experimental bands, but I still feel that there has been a push in the experimental subculture to create basic musical and aesthetic templates that lead to homogeny. Particular moods and aesthetics prevail and new bands pick up on them without remaking them or utilizing them in a critical way. In rock and pop music, this has been happening for long enough to incite backlash, so now you have all these people really doing their own thing—creating their own rock and pop vocabularies, because the rock subculture has already experienced standardization and artists are now fed up with it.

So I guess I’m really interested in individual projects. I don’t filter artists based on genre, I don’t think, but it’s become harder for me to find experimental acts that are really making something completely their own. It’s sort of like that four-stage demographic transition, where underground Rock music is a developed country—already reaching a sort of equilibrium with equal parts homogenous bullshit and innovation, and underground experimental music (vs. academic experimental music) is a third-world country, in the throes of development that calls for regularity before bands can really branch out on their own again.

You mentioned to me once that as a teenager you interned at Marriage Records here in Portland -- is running a label something you've been interested in for a long time?

In retrospect running a label was absolutely on my mind, but at the time I think my interest in Marriage and record labels in general was more organic and less conscious. Marriage was particularly inspiring because the whole enterprise operated on an incredibly personal level. It was just friends who liked working with and supporting each other and especially as an outsider that was immediately intriguing and rewarding. I guess my fascination with record labels really stemmed from an interest in community arts. Marriage exemplified how a single operation could simultaneously be musical, visual, personal/intimate—essentially have a composite personality of its own—and that really appealed to me.

Caethua/Ancestral Diet Split - Goaty Tapes

How does your role as a label owner relate to your role as a musician?

I probably wouldn’t get around to recording music if I didn’t run the label. Knowing that I own the means of production makes recording music a lot more appealing and the final product becomes less distant. For both the label and my music I would like to create real cohesive personalities, but it is as of yet unclear whether I want them to be the same or not.

It seems like a lot of the small labels out there are run by people who are just as busy making music themselves -- Digitalis/North Sea, Night-People/Wet Hair, Gel/Driphouse, etc. -- do you think that's somehow indicative of the musical climate right now?

Definitely. Right now its all about comprehensive involvement—for the real die-hards, “DIY” becomes a sort of holism or comprehensive worldview. You can’t release music without recording music and although this community operates on very strong principles of collaboration, I think the real OGs need to be there for every step and familiarize themselves with every part of the process. Shawn from Night-People is a perfect example—everything he does is in-house. He is in full control of the entire operation and because of this his releases take on the air of “multiples.” They kind of speak to the process and represent the consummation of that process, no corners cut.

Bone Patrol U.S./Varlet Tarsod - Goaty Tapes

OK, so you've brought up the idea of "multiples" and Mr. Joseph Beuys made an appearance earlier, how do those ideas relate to the music that is being put on the tapes? What is the relationship between the music the artists are producing and the "art" of running a label?

I think there are practical and theoretical reasons for using tapes specifically for this kind of music. First, the lo-fi or damaged quality of the music is not supposed to be a definitive statement--the idea is not that the production is tailored specifically to the sound (although people actively harness and manipulate the production value to varying degrees), but rather that it is a desirable outcome of the do-it-yourself process that takes advantage of chance operations--volatile four-tracks, bizarre second-hand gear, etc. The label contributes to this process of the manipulation the music's fidelity by using and dubbing tapes. So on a really basic level, tapes are unpredictable and hazy in ways that support DIY music's complicated relationship with authorship and the idea of production, as the medium itself contributes to the music-making and listening experience.

Underground music also presents a criticism of the celebrity of mainstream music in really obvious ways. The homies I work with are clearly people who care more about making music they love and sharing it with their friends and making it intimate than catering to a broader audience (even though everybody wants to make a little bank). Tapes buttress this criticism cause they can be dubbed over and they quickly lose their fidelity. They challenge and even violate prevailing assumptions concerning posterity and our impulse to preserve. Further, each copy of a release or "multiple" changes hands in particular ways, gets copied over with different material, or deteriorates depending on how its used--such that the edition a tape is released in (or the lack thereof) has real significance.

I guess these are kind of normative claims, cause not all tape music is "damaged" but that's where I think tape culture fits in and proves itself. I think there is a reason why "damaged" music has found a place in cassette culture--both address the ephemeral nature of music, especially DIY music, and call into question assumptions of timelessness. I don't think tapes contradict notions of preservation, but suggest a different type of preservation more like the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. A preserved object should include the history of the object and not sterilize or maintain its "original" form. Cassettes embrace this sort of change--they're the furthest thing from impervious, most associated with dusty corners and disintegration. So tapes and their assemblage and decay embody this idea of the "multiple" as an edition of increasingly individualized single pieces--if the artworld's multiples don't live up to this definition I think its due to the incorporation of fine art and not the will of the artists themselves.

Banana Head - In the Tubs - Goaty Tapes (inserts)

Any thoughts on how the underground music world will be functioning five years from now?

Hopefully similar to how it functions now, only a stronger focus on local scenes? It would be nice if there were some sort of reaction against the global free-for-all that has consumed independent music, as it has everything else. Even in this tape world too many people, including myself, seem to rely on anonymous long-distance communication. In a perfect world there might be a relapse into more vernacular production/bros chilling together in the flesh.

Last thing you listened to?

JosÈ Corrales y sus Bandurrias – Urpicha CorazÛn played half-speed on my Library of Congress cassette deck.

Last thing you read?

Christopher Reed’s Bloomsbury Rooms

Any bands or labels you think readers of the Eggy blog should be aware of?

Some myth-makers that have contributed to/affected how I roll. Not limited to:
Jack/Baronic Wall
Jeff/Rene Hell, Agents of Chaos label
Carlos/Russian Tsarlag
Will/Truth Syrum
Chris/Unskilled Labor label
Bill Orcutt
Absolute Body Control reissues
Lieven/Taped Sounds label

David Joon Jaberi/Cole Moldy Miller Split - Goaty Tapes

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Three new tapes from Eggy:
Mattress - WFMU Tape - Eggy Number Ten
Rex Marshall is a local hero around here, good to have him in the Eggy family. These tracks are from a session Mattress did on my buddy Jason Sigal's Talk Cheap radio show on WFMU a couple months back. Stripped down to the bare essentials, the strange and powerful vibe of the Mattress live set is in full effect on these cuts. The drums are hard hitting and Rex's vocals are in top form. To top it off, Richard Rusincovich engineered the session so the sound is killer. Three tracks are from the latest LP, Low Blows, the other four span the Mattress catalog, making the tape a good intro for those unfamiliar with this post-apocalyptic junkyard crooner. A great document of the energy and sound of the Mattress live set, and a very proud moment for Eggy. $5
Mattress page
Mattress space
Lame Drivers - Launchpad 2 Demoverse - Eggy Number Nine
Hard to know where to start with this tape. Lame Drivers main-man Jason Sigal(see above) and I were housemates for a year in Providence, over the course of which we played together in four different bands(not counting two cover bands), worked at the same radio station, traversed the nation in a Chevy Tahoe and blew our minds at Terrastock. So the connections run deep. Around the time I started up Eggy, the Drivers distributed their "Let Them Eat Tape" cass to a small circle of friends then stopped making them -- a "lost classic" if there ever was one. Once Eggy got underway, it only made sense to approach Jason about rescuing the tape from oblivion, but he offered up a batch of new recordings instead, which is what I am proud to be offering now. Demoverse is a different animal completely than Let Them Eat Tape and I didn't know what to make of it at first. For half a decade, Jason and the Drivers had been issuing blast after blast of blown-out power-pop candy, but this is a definite curve ball. The list of influences spirals out of control, not only from track to track but from moment to moment. Scrappy lo-fi pop, turns into big rock, turns into weird noise, turns into David Bowie. The Lame Drivers own thing going on here. Make no mistake, though, the pop hooks are there, and in spades, but you've got to find them this time out. Exciting to watch a band create their own universe, and also nice to have a tape in the Eggy catalog pulling away from the lo-fi trend and the every-song-same-sound monoculture dominating the underground right now. $5
Lame Drivers page
Lame Drivers space
The Honeys - Phraze Haze - Eggy Number Eight
The Honeys are your friends. They are two of your smart, talented friends who decided to start making music together not so they could have a record deal and fans but because that's what creative people do in the small city where they live. When you listen to their music it sounds like your two friends making music together, and it sounds like the city you live in. Kersti's voice is honest and clear, and her guitar playing energetic and intuitive, Jeff's voice is rough and emotional, and his drumming simple and effective. These songs have a magnetic attraction. I have listened to this tape many many times. $4
Kersti's website
Some of Jeff's art

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Woolen Men White Fang poster
Pill Wonder represent the West Coast end of the Underwater Peoples crew. Young Prisms are from San Fran and sound fuzzy.
Dirty Beaches - Self-Titled - NP085
Slinky Suicide worship that focuses on that group's electric grooves rather than their unsettled yelps -- this LA bedroomer keeps his sunglasses on as he rides these muted go-go beats into infinity. Song titles like "Coast to Coast," "The Road" and "Easy Rider" reveal a kinship with some kind of expansive, fucked American dream. Head-nodders for the apocalypse. $5
The Twerps - Self-Titled - NP084
OK, I've already sold all my copies of this tape but I thought I'd give it a couple words here because it's easily one of my favorite tapes (heck, releases period) of late and I really recommend that you track a copy down before they're gone. Pure jangle pop for yesterday people. I would say the closest reference would be the Bats in terms of being upbeat, earnest and emotionally direct but there's something much more frayed and personal about the Twerps which is maybe what really gets me. I'm hooked, really really hooked. There are tunes here.
California Son - California Sun - NP088
Another one I'm out of but thought I'd give a shout. Charles Free of Taterbug and Dunebuggy is behind this one, though this might be my favorite of his projects so far. Very kaleidoscopic feel, lots of little parts tumbled together. Scuzzy, warbling tones. Haunted nostalgia, but very pretty. Hope this project's not a one off.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I spoke about cassette tape culture at an art brunch/salon put on by Research Club the other week. This is a nice write-up of the event. Not mentioned in the article, on the topic of the small publishers fair, is my friend Gary's new workshop/gallery/store, Container Corps, so I am mentioning it now. Those Xylobooks are beautiful.

Also, I have been too busy/scatterbrained to properly announce that there are three new Eggy tapes, Phraze Haze by the Honeys, a WFMU session by Mattress and Demoverse by Lame Drivers. Images and sounds on the way soon I hope, but they are official and ready to order.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


It seems contrary to the nature of cassette tape music to make lists and anthologize. Moving on, this new year coincides with what feels like a transitional time for the fringe music world. Low-fidelity recordings are, thankfully, once again just low-fidelity recordings, nothing more or less -- "Great sounds great, good sounds good, ok sounds ok, bad sounds bad, rotten sounds rotten." Another fad in it's grave, amen. So what's next? Synthesizer music approaches critical mass and finicky me is still pretty much ok with this. Make or break will happen pretty soon with this sound -- Peaking Lights do Cluster, Brother Raven do Tangerine Dream, Driphouse is a little this, a little that, all of them doing it very well but I think we need a record to really define the terms of this dialog and either move forward or settle the issue and break new ground.

I bought a record this year that is, above all, great art, but I think also points in the direction of where the interesting music will be happening in the coming year. That record is SOFTLY SOFTLY COPY COPY by GRAHAM LAMBKIN. Something is in the air and a lot of us are turning our attention toward the beginnings of electronic music. Field recordings and musique concrete seem suddenly to have so much to offer. Oddly enough, technological innovations in last couple years are, I think, one factor behind reexamining an art form that until very recently seemed hopelessly arcane. Hand-held digital records are now lightweight, easy to use and relatively affordable. I bought an Olympus LS-10 this year for around $200 (there are cheaper options) -- when I was in college not very long ago, high-quality field recording meant a giant Marantz slung over the shoulder like a briefcase (and even then limited with fleeting recording time), and transferring audio to the computer to edit was another headache. To ears accustomed to electronically generated drones, and sounds in general, even the most mundane recordings made outdoors seem to leap out of the stereo. The possibility of narrative, however oblique, is also enticing. A collage recording can at once be deeply textural and still point beyond the abstract world of drone music. SOFTLY SOFTLY COPY COPY is a musical record, which is to say it is easy to listen to. I look forward to other artists engaging with the possibilities this record presents, and I think this could be a meaningful year for abstract music.

I would like to end these thoughts with a mention of Laurie Spiegel. I did not mention her earlier, on the topic of synthesizer music, because her work seems to run parallel to that of contemporary musicians. Similar sounds but different concerns. The Expanding Universe from 1981 is long out of print -- I downloaded it and recommend you do the same, and hope that someone represses this record in the near future. I think it will make a lot of sense to the ears of 2010.