The December Tape Round Up: Deck The Spools With Wayward Sonics…
It may be peak festive season out there in the big bad world of consumerism, with end of year lists dripping out of content pipes and livers being pickled even harder than usual. However, here in tape land there’s still one month’s worth of bad-ass music released on cassette to be mulled over like bargain bin plonk.
Brighton-based label Kit Records is a lovely mixed media concern that has previously sported the wares of The Nag’s Head and Plinth, but for their latest jaunt they’ve tapped up French delicatist Roméo Poirier to tickle your ear canals with some gossamer light, yet deceptively deep creations. Poirier is billed as a musician slash photographer plus lifeguard, and it seems that all his traits feature heavily in this release, entitled Plage Arriere. If the aqueous dub ripples and undulating waves of melodies on “Atispades” aren’t enough to transport you to a particularly quiet day on Baywatch beach, then the risograph print artwork of Poirier’s photography on the cover will surely get you feeling the sun in these colder months.
Digital sonic tinkerer supreme Mark Fell’s been up to some mischief over on The Tapeworm, returning to the label for the second time for the Focal Point cassette. This time around he’s been experimenting with the idea of piping one of his subtly, precisely off-kilter rhythms to a drummer’s set of headphones and listening to what happens when said drummer tries to mimic the pulse with a single snare drum. There’s far more to the project than just that, but if you want to know more then it’s best to go diving into Fell’s detailed explanation here.
Is it going against the purist principles of tape culture to mention a release that also includes a vinyl disc? If so, feel free to mail me whatever threats are appropriate, but this is a rather delightful proposition it would be a shame to overlook. Leaving Records, Matthewdavid’s damn fine Stones Throw sublabel, have turned once more to the zitheral delights of Laraaji for a one disc vinyl, three tape reissue of material he originally self-released in the early ‘80s. While the LP of Om Namah Shivaya does hold appeal, it’s the tapes that sport the best bits. Sun Zither is a heavenly body of work, with “Part 1” making a single instrument sound utterly engrossing for no less than 45 minutes. The story is no different on Tonings and Celestra / Deep Chimes Meditation. As the man himself says, “classic, space, peace, zen, timelessness.”
Portland, Oregon-based dub explorers Boomarm Nation dabble in tape based fun and games here and there, but with Calm Tapes they’ve announced a new, dedicated arm to their activities that they intend to use as a foil to the somewhat spikier ends of the human experience. They’re beginning that process of aural acupuncture with the sound of The Key, whose Slow To Surface comes on in the form of two sides of blissful beatless delights with enough bite in the processing to keep things interesting. It’s far from clean music, and it’s far from one dimensional, but it is very relaxing indeed – the perfect tonic to wash down a year of tumultuous events and yuletide extremities.
Enough of that niceness – how about some grubby material from the ever intriguing Haunter Records crew? The Milan based label has been championing the unsettling underbelly of heavily processed electronic signals for the past three years, drawing some parallels with labels such as Lee Gamble’s UIQ in its more beat-driven moments. On Control The Ground by Lettera 22 the mood is more obtuse, as two long-form sides melt down scratchy found sounds and voices into a digital mulch purportedly inspired by war bulletins and radio transmissions. While scanning on your FM dial might send you past the murky noises at first listen, on a return visit you might well find a frequency you can happily get lost in away from drive time schmaltz and laborious phone ins.
Tabernacle Records is a label you can trust in, what with their enviable roster of hardware hasslers bashing out all kinds of wonderful electro and techno, but between the productive thrum of their single output comes an excellent series of mix tapes under the seductive banner I’m Afraid It’s Not Fresh. These mixes come from anonymous sources, although considering the company the Glasgow label keeps there’s surely some reputable figures working the blends. Volumes #3 and #4 have just been announced, from The Dark Passenger and Lai Kai respectively, and one would suspect they won’t hang around for long.
Well, a diverse bunch it may be, but if there’s one thing tape culture will continue to yield, it’s interesting music from all over the shop. Perhaps this Christmas you can knock the carols off the stereo for a moment and gather your loved ones close with some challenging music from the outer rim.
All the best for the season of (not so) cheap thrills.