I just reviewed Constellation Tatsu’s current batch of tapes, but I still have a ton of older releases stretching back to last fall that I keep meaning to post about, because they’re incredible too. This one is credited as a split, but it doesn’t seem as if each artist has created tracks independently of each other, it looks like more of a collaboration. The 5 tracks on this tape have waves of static and storm sounds, lots of wind and rain, and some heartbreaking drones. Kind of feels like standing out in the freezing, pouring rain and wind, but somehow in a romantic way. Frigid and blustery, but still with plenty of life to it. “Continuum” ends with some gliding MBV-like bent waves, except it sounds more like an organ than guitar, or most likely both combined. “Unearthing The Past” has a bit of a pulse and even a sort of bassline, and sheets of guitar feedback. “Darkness Shall Cover The Earth” couldn’t possibly end up on a bright note, and so it ends up smothering everything in static until there’s nothing left to smother.
A few months ago, Life Like released a tape with no information at all printed on it, other than the Life Like logo and a catalog number, and some sort of circuit-like design on the cover. The website just refers to it as Synth Meditation and doesn’t give a clue as to who recorded it, just saying that it’s 90 minutes of raw analog synth recorded live to two-track tape, and that it lacks character, is totally dull, and is one of the best tapes they’ve ever released. I couldn’t have been more intrigued, and I definitely have to say it’s easily one of my favorite Life Like tapes so far. There’s more going on here than I expected from the description. I expected just one or two notes for an hour, and there’s just so much more progression and variation than that. It sounds human to me, anyway. Side A starts out with sort of a downcast drone, but it doesn’t stay in one place, it sounds awake and moving. Sort of holographic sounding, even though it’s minimal you feel like there’s some sort of audio illusion, something going on subconsciously. There’s some wavy synths that sort of swizzle in here and there, but the main sound bed is the warm glowing drone which seems to gravitate between two notes. Reminds me a bit of Red Electric Rainbow, and seriously, what the fuck happened to that guy? Dude released a million tapes between 2009 and 2011 and then disappeared. Or at least somebody stopped entering his new releases into Discogs. Anyway, side A of this type does kind of continue on monotonously for a while, but when some sounds flare up, it gets pretty cosmic. And then eventually the signal gets kind of warped, warning signals pan between the left and right channels, and things start to get strange. It’s always growing and expanding, but every couple minutes another sound or effect is introduced and it just keep going into a different outer orbit. It gets a little more distorted and ends with kind of a buzzing drone that’s far away from the warm, kind of blue, downcast drone from the beginning of the tape. And side B (at least I think it’s side B, neither side is labelled) is just something else entirely, a tense, paranoid creeper which is definitely not music to meditate to. A swiftly building, jittery synth sequence gets pumped up with fuzz and static and eventually blows out completely, but then some alien-sounding synth melodies surface and illuminate, and it gets seriously mind-boggling. Really messy and freaky and even quite playful. And it just keeps building, adding waves of noise and some fluttery keyboard soloing. It never stays still and it just keeps going deeper into the void. Shrouded in mystery and even a bit of false advertising, this is totally one of the best tapes I’ve heard all year.
Apparently Posh Boy released this album in America, kind of interesting given that most of that label’s roster was punk and hardcore (Agent Orange, T.S.O.L., Black Flag, Circle Jerks), and this is new wave/synth-pop. Celluloid released the album overseas and that seems a bit more fitting. Anyway, Dark Entries is bringing this San Francisco group’s album back from the dead, and it’s somewhat silly, paranoid new wave, heavy on synths but also with bass guitar and live drums (in addition to drum machines), so it sounds closer to rock than electronic music. “Time To Get Up” is an anthem for anyone who hates getting up in the morning just to go to a job they hate. “What’s That Got To Do (With Loving You?)” is a hooky, catchy pop-rock song with that early ’80s “zap” keyboard sound, and a drummer trying to play along with a drum machine. “Reckless Dialogue” is a spoken word track, which inevitably reminds me of Algebra Suicide (whom Dark Entries just released an essential anthology of) but this track is less deadpan, less musical and just minimal overall. “T.V. In My Eye” is one of the band’s favorite songs of theirs, and probably mine too. It’s about how advertisers categorize people by their shopping and viewing habits, and how target markets are researched and catered to. Obviously the type of song that hasn’t lost any relevance in 30+ years. “Forever” is a speedy new wave tune with a heavy beat, and organs which seem to change direction and play a different type of music every few bars, from salsa rhythms to spacey circus melodies, with some lyrics in Spanish. “Postponed Is Not Forgotten” is a brief instrumental opening side B, then “La Voix Humane”, a song about twirling the phone cord around while talking to them, and feeling their presence that way, an experience which admittedly might be lost on the current generation. “Is There Life After Breakfast?” sort of continues the theme of the album’s opening track, wondering if life is worth getting up for in the morning, but at least this time you get to eat some breakfast. “You Bet” is another speedy synth-pop song, with sort of a B-52’s type organ melody, but more melody, and some bongos. “Radio Heart” ends the album also reminding me of The B-52’s, due to the call-and-response vocals and the bassline, and the quirky synth lines. The song cuts off suddenly for some reason, while the band is saying “radiooooooooo” but before they can get to “heart”. A really fun album of vintage dance-punk, which definitely seems to capture something missing from the 21st century hipsterized version of the genre.
Impressive new discovery from Constellation Tatsu. Pretty much all I can tell about the artist is that he’s from Indonesia, and he’s had a split CDr and netlabel album released previously. This tape runs pretty long (almost 70 minutes) and has a wealth of ideas, running from ambient jungle synths to cracked drum machine fizziness to chilled-out juke to interstellar voyages. “Layar Maya” opens the tape with a few minutes of bright synths that make you expect some bass and breakbeats circa mid-’90s Logical Progression-era drum’n’bass to come in, but after 3 minutes instead of a beat dropping, there’s some busy, fractalized synths which melt into a slowly blipping sine wave which forms some sort of Morse code like pattern and then multiplies and expands, leading into “Tenaga Lara”, with another fast drum machine pattern and more ambient jungle synths, which gains something closer to a breakbeat. There’s a bit of an extended break where the beat drops out and the synths wash over in distortion, before the drum machine starts clicking away again. “Amazonas” keeps sounds like it’s swelling up to erupt into a beat or rhythm, but it never does, it just keeps on gliding, ending with some rainforest bird sounds. These birds also lead off “Sneaking Into The Pulsar Wave”, which rides a rather oblong synth rhythm, which twists and distorts while more ambient synths flower around it. “Sujectless World” is the most juke-sounding track here, but still reminds me more of ambient jungle. Nice waterfall-like drum pattern, and some sneakily panning, pixelating synth bits. The track seems to stay in one place, under that waterfall, but keeps accumulating distorted spray. “Panorama Prescription” has another chilled but busy drum pattern, softly flickering synths and an occasional gentle, blushing synth melody. Things sound like they’re about to get out of control for a second towards the end, but then it strips back to the flowing ambient synth pattern. “Pasaraya 88” has another simple, blipping beat and calm synths, which occasionally flare up with echo, and it ends with a sort of confused and scrambled but fun part, which goes into “Interstellar Life”, a longer journey which spends more time building up a beat and adding layers of melodies and effects. The beat goes away for and while and when it comes back, it feels like it’s not fit on quite right, and then everything goes haywire with all sorts of swooping, swarming, flanging effects. “Familiar Landscape” starts out quiet and minimal, but then some cymbal shimmers start cascading in, warping and changing color, before a brief looped plucked melody, and then some more ambient synths bubbling ever upward. After this bubbles over, we enter the 17 minute epic “Unforseeable Photosynthesis”, opening with more rainforest birds, then gently pounding drums and a subtle bassline. The drums drop out after about 7 and a half minutes, leaving some calmness for a while, but then some whistling, chirping synth sounds emerge and start to build another swirling, drumless rhythm. There’s more bird sounds, but it doesn’t really change up from the meditative synth mood. “Unfamiliar Landscape” slashes everything with light so bright it almost singes, distracting you from the nothingness behind it. And so ends one of the most impressive out-of-nowhere tapes I’ve heard all year.
I saw White Poppy (Vancouver visual artist and musician Crystal Dorval) at the Not Not Fun showcase at SXSW this year. Every set during that showcase was incredible, and I ended up buying music by every artist that I didn’t already have music by. But White Poppy’s set was truly special, and the new tape she’s releasing on Constellation Tatsu has just been on repeat lately, and is making me revisit the 7″ and tape I bought from her at the show, and finally getting around to posting about her music on this blog. She put out a tape on Not Not Fun last year, which I haven’t heard, but she has a proper LP coming out on NNF later this year, which I’m sure will be fantastic. But last year, she put out a 1-sided 7″ on Kingfisher Bluez called “Mirage Man”, which is a little more rockin’ than the type of stuff she was playing live. This song has pounding drums and a big fat distorted bass guitar sound, and vocals that sort of buzz and snarl, yet still remain dreamy. Plus the title sounds like “Mirror Man”, so I want to describe it as “dream-Beefheart”. The snippet of a bluesy sax solo at the end adds a nice touch.
Also last year, she released a tape on Green Burrito called Song A Day, which contains 18 of the recordings she made during the first month of 2011, when she recorded a song every day. All the songs are titled after the date they were recorded, and they’re not presented chronologically. Like the 7″, there’s plenty of drums and bass guitar, and a little bit more of a ’90s alt-rock feel, especially during the first few tracks. But still plenty of layered, sometimes blown-out vocals, and a few Krautrock-ish rhythms. A few tracks have somewhat Afropop-sounding guitar lines, and the last track on the first side is an experiment with a thumb piano and lots of crazy delay.
Which brings us to her newest release, the Drifter’s Gold tape on Constellation Tatsu. “Green & Growing” is a short, hazy instrumental introduction, followed by “Who Are You”, which opens and closes with some brief, backwards oldtimey music samples. It’s a gorgeous, lush dreampop song, with delicate guitars and vocals. Dreamy as all get out, but there’s a clear melody and structure, and it’s super memorable. The best part is towards the end when there’s a slight bit of feedback, and the vocals drift away from lyrics into wordless cooing. And then even better is “Daydreaming”, a seriously beautiful piece of music with a nice sunny rhythm and huge pillows of reverb that just put a big ol’ blush on my face. It ends with a few seconds of a capella lost little girl singing, then goes into the tape’s instrumental title track. “In The Sun” follows, and is much slower and more zone-out-worthy than the previous songs. “Silver Eyes” is the other big hit here, coming of sort of like an alien translation of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, with a somewhat 50’s-ish guitar melody played slow and full of reverb, and with a refrain of “I guess I’ll dream, dream dream dream”. There’s several layers of vocals and guitars, and it just feels like you’re watching a music video that’s dimly lit, kaleidoscopic and purple, and there’s multiple projections of the same person superimposed on top of each other doing several things at the same time. “When I’m Gone” ends the album appropriately, another lonesome, ultra-drifty, vaguely country-ish open-space ditty which has a sembleance of a toe-tapping rhythm, and some far-out whistling during the last few minutes.
Mic break music = Wrekmeister Harmonies: You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me
3:01 AM Algebra Suicide ~ Little Dead Bodies ~ Feminine Squared ~ Dark Entries
3:05 AM Xex ~ Form Follows Function ~ Change ~ Dark Entries
3:10 AM Los Microwaves ~ T.V. In My Eye ~ Life After Breakfast ~ Dark Entries
3:19 AM Zomby ~ It’s Time ~ With Love ~ 4AD
3:22 AM Mount Kimbie ~ Made To Stray ~ Cold Spring Fault Less Youth ~ Warp
3:27 AM Diamond Version ~ The Future Of Memory ~ EP5 ~ Mute
3:32 AM Octo Octa ~ Bad Blood ~ Between Two Selves ~ 100% Silk
3:37 AM High Wolf ~ 707 ~ Kairos: Chronos ~ Not Not Fun
3:42 AM PAS Musique ~ Modern Witchcraft ~ Abandoned Bird Egg ~ Alrealon Musique
3:49 AM Baths ~ Inter ~ Obsidian ~ Anticon
3:53 AM White Poppy ~ Silver Eyes ~ Drifter’s Gold ~ Constellation Tatsu
3:56 AM Quadron ~ Sea Salt ~ Avalanche ~ Epic
4:03 AM SISU ~ Two Thousand Hands ~ Light Eyes ~ Mono Prism
4:07 AM Future Bible Heroes ~ Keep Your Children In A Coma ~ Partygoing ~ Merge
4:09 AM Scissor Now! ~ There’s An International District In Seattle ~ Not Now, But Right Now! ~ Arbco Records
4:11 AM Scissor Now! ~ Bail Out ~ Not Now, But Right Now! ~ Arbco Records
4:13 AM Carl Testa ~ .. ~ Quartet Solo Series Volume 2 ~ Striking Mechanism
4:17 AM 303 Committee ~ Aeons ~ Nine Angles ~ Inam Records
4:24 AM Sawi Lieu ~ Circumstellar Life ~ Pasaraya ~ Constellation Tatsu
4:38 AM Motion Sickness Of Time Travel ~ Drawing Down The Moon ~ split tape w/ Aloonaluna ~ Constellation Tatsu
4:42 AM Eclipse Quartet with Wiliam Winant ~ Whimwhams by Frederic Rzewski ~ Eclipse Quartet with William Winant ~ New World Records
4:56 AM Boards of Canada ~ Semena Merlvykh ~ Tomorrow’s Harvest ~ Warp
5:02 AM Date Palms ~ Night Riding The Skyline ~ The Dusted Sessions ~ Thrill Jockey
5:13 AM Shells ~ Beach ~ In A Cloud ~ Life Like
5:16 AM Rebel Kind ~ Run ~ Laurel Canyon ~ Life Like
5:19 AM Saturday Looks Good To Me ~ Are You Kissing Anyone? ~ One Kiss Ends It All ~ Polyvinyl
5:20 AM Dirty Beaches ~ Belgrade ~ Drifters/Love Is The Devil ~ Zoo Music
5:24 AM Ariel Pink ~ On The Beach ~ Thrash & Burn ~ Human Ear Music
5:27 AM Blanche Blanche Blanche ~ Pain Station ~ Wooden Ball ~ NNA Tapes
5:36 AM Piper Spray ~ Color-Magnitude Diagram ~ Epigraph To The Bright Star Catalogue ~ Singapore Sling Tapes
5:40 AM Jan St. Werner ~ Sipian Organ ~ Blaze Colour Burn ~ Thrill Jockey
5:45 AM Ocoeur ~ Arret Sur Image ~ Light As A Feather ~ n5MD
5:49 AM Ruxpin ~ We Are Far Away From All The Things We Know ~ This Time We Go Together ~ n5MD
5:50 AM Melorman ~ Glow ~ Waves ~ Sun Sea Sky Productions
5:55 AM Northcape ~ Another Endless Morning (In The Sanctuary) ~ Exploration And Ascent ~ Sun Sea Sky Productions
9:01 PM Justin Walter ~ Dream Weaving ~ Lullabies & Nightmares ~ Kranky
9:06 PM Wolf Eyes ~ Born Liar ~ No Answer – Lower Floors ~ De Stijl
9:09 PM Ritual Howls ~ Cemetary Guards ~ Ritual Howls ~ Urinal Cake
9:14 PM Zombie Jesus & The Chocolate Sunshine Band ~ LIVE IN WCBN STUDIO!!! ~ Local Music Show ~ WCBN
9:45 PM Shells ~ Side A ~ Other Clouds ~ Life Like
10:01 PM Rebel Kind ~ Mother Nature ~ Laurel Canyon ~ Life Like
10:05 PM Scissor Now! ~ Pee On My Butt ~ Not Now, But Right Now! ~ Arbco Records
10:07 PM Nice Hooves ~ Play Jazz ~ Nice Hooves ~ Bellyache
10:10 PM Patrick Elkins & Chelsea Jordan ~ I Only Ever Think Once ~ Pills In My Pocket ~ Toothless Eyeball
10:12 PM Hydropark ~ Side A ~ second tape ~ Life Like
10:18 PM Mounds ~ Sequoia ~ Mounds Of Earth ~ Symbolic Capital Records
10:22 PM His Name Is Alive ~ This Weekend ~ King Of Sweet ~ Handmade Birds
10:25 PM Saturday Looks Good To Me ~ Empty Beach ~ One Kiss Ends It All ~ Polyvinyl
10:32 PM Auburn Lull ~ June Tide ~ Dual-Group EP ~ Burnt Hair
10:37 PM Windy & Carl ~ Lighthouse (Demo) ~ Introspection ~ Blue Flea
10:42 PM Viki ~ Merican Metal ~ split LP with Hair Police ~ Scratch And Sniff Entertainment
10:45 PM The Mini-Systems ~ untitled ~ Labyrinths & Jokes ~ Hanson
10:51 PM Adjust ~ Scorch ~ Your Bad Luck ~ Low Res Records
10:57 PM Ectomorph ~ The Haunting ~ Abstraction ~ Interdimensional Transmissions
Unreleased second album by NJ synth-pop group Xex. This was recorded in 1981 (a year after their classic Group: Xex, which Dark Entries reissued a couple years ago) and is only seeing the light of day now. A little more serious/less wacky than the first album, not as much of the funny call-and-response vocals and perky melodies/tempos, still quite a bit of the same sort of morbid sense of humor, but not quite as biting. The tracks seem to be a little bit slower and more drawn out, instead of quick, punchy and goofy. They seem a bit more aimed at exploring a groove and making people dance, even while they’re exploring darkly humorous topics (see “Dance Of The Limbless)”. Still quite a good bit of social commentary, with the opening track comparing people to fast food, and “Vietnam Vet” (with its machine-gun synth-drum fills) sort of a cousin of the first album’s “Rome On $5 A Day”. “Fun In The Sun” is slow and actually quite gloomy, in contrast to the song’s title. Sort of reminds me of ADULT.’s new album, and how that’s such a dark, slow contrast to their earlier work. A little bit of a Change, but still undeniably Xex. Plus the band members had the best pseudonyms ever: Alex Zander, Thumbalina Guglielmo, Waw Pierogi, and Jon-Boy Diode.
Just a month after the first 303 Committee CDR, the new project is already up to release #2. Droney, noisey ambience, with blackened guitar loops, void-staring drone and some field recordings. No beats and not really rhythmic, but there’s some noticeable loop points that sort of guide everything along. Opener “5th” is a warmup session, and “Aeons” blows everything to bits with crushing feedback, but a calm aura underneath. “Nine Angles” mostly seems to stick to one electrified orb of feedback, until a devastating guitar part takes over for the last two minutes. A similar guitar drone slowly develops in “Bride Of The South” along with some rustling sounds, and it isn’t until the 9 minute mark when some synth begins to tremble its way in, and the drone sort of swells and crests, eventually burning and rusting out. Free download over at Bandcamp, as is the project’s first CDr.
WCBN got a 2CD set by Aloonaluna a few years ago and I remember enjoying it, but she seems to have blossomed in recent years, releasing tapes on Hooker Vision and Watery Starve, including an epic double split tape with Birds Of Passage, Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier and Motion Sickness Of Time Travel earlier this year. All of the recent Aloonaluna material I’ve heard has been amazing, and this is no exception. “Apnea Method” flutters in with softly shredded, waved vocals and shimmering synths, until the end when the synths bubble up and get squirmy. “Stutter-sleep Dance” is the highlight, a perfectly-named piece which basically ends up sleepwalking onto the dancefloor, starting with ghostly murmuring and ending up with a chant of “get your hands in the air and your ass on the ground”. “Shifty Eyes is ultra spooky, with melted, warped ambience, chirping, cackling birdcalls, and moaning voices. MSOTT’s side functions as a suite, with Rachel Evans’ cascading synths and sad but beautiful vocals, with the peak probably being the climax of “Drawing Down The Moon”, but the calmness of “Aspecting” might be my favorite part overall. Brilliant stuff as always from both artists.