07 May 2017


unknown tone 2017, edition of 10

"Written, performed, recorded and mixed by Samuel Regan (early 2016) / Photography by Samuel Regan, Violin on 'centuries' by Sarah Reid, Vocals on 'centuries' by Sarah Nawotka / Thank you for listening, even if briefly. / thanks to Mark and Lindsey Kuykendall, Sarah Reid, Sarah Nawotka, Jake Alvarez, and Amy Erickson. / Mastering by Mark Kuykendall / Highly limited 1st pressing of 10 copies / 45rpm / lathe cut / includes three 35mm Photographs by Samuel Regan " - UNKNOWN TONE

UNKNOWN TONE, a "Midwest label exploring the surreal", a husband-and-wife team out of tulsa, an audio engineer and a metaphysical scientist / classically trained violinist - that's a hell of a team it would seem, an ideal operative pair perfectly suited for their mission - "avant-garde blended with film noir as expansive and isolating as the Oklahoma prairie"

the operative ordinal number here is "1st" as A WARM ROOM is begging for a more abundantly distributed cassette issue or even a proper vinyl pressing to placate likeminded listeners sure to want/need it before they even finish hearing the first track for the first time

also, a behind-the-blog note - SARAH REID was one of the local artists i approached when assembling the inaugural PSI LAB batch more than three years ago -wow that's somehow already three years ago- i liked what i had heard but it didn't pan out

ENO's APOLLO by way of STARS OF THE LID is a proven formula no doubt, though one could make the argument that there's plenty of that already out there and/or it's a league where the greats separate themselves from the pack too much to fairly consider the not-quite-as-greats - all of that might be fair -then again it might not be- but like folk guitar music, for me, if the execution is on the money then i gotta have it and REGAN is absolutely right on the money here - A WARM ROOM challenges KJ's WAKE [REC# 138] for the best "classic ambient" album i've heard in the decade since SOTL called it quits or went on hiatus or whatever, right there alongside all time favored cassette DAVID ANDREE's IN STREAMS

there's neatly incorporated and brilliantly reserved embellishments akin to ANDREE & MASON's CALL RESPONSE or some of UNKNOWN TONE labelmate DANNY CLAY's work, echoing the peculiar style of "oklahoma minimalism" as heralded throughout UNKNOWN TONE's catalog as well as fellow tulsa label SCISSOR TAIL particularly early titles before they congealed into an overtly folk enterprise, like GOLDEN PAWN and NEW HONEY SHADE -aka MARK KUYKENDALL- and head honcho DYLAN AYCOCK's output as TALK WEST - given the pedigree a hundred miles northeast, it is a bit curious that this sound emanates from norman where the experimental scene in general seems more brazen and moody, perhaps more receptive to oklahoma's proliferation of weirdo pop/psych/punk - DEBRIS, CHAINSAW KITTENS and of course the LIPS whose influence despite half life dissipation may be forever inescapable - then again SARAH REID and LAINE BERGERON aka SHAMELESS FRIEND are based in norman, and other likeminded folks i'm sure - this just seems a bit more counter to the (counter?) culture and to me sounds more at home on a tulsa label -- but i won't pretend that i know the ins and outs of oklahoma music scenes - i don't go to a lot of shows, i don't actively seek out local music in particular, i just seek out music tuned to my wavelength, and A WARM ROOM is most certainly that




01 May 2017


faux discx 2017, edition of 500

"Irma Vep is a loner, a joker, a roamer, a ribald construct riddled with both earnest anxiety and mercurial songwriting talent birthed by a young Edwin Stevens in Llanfairfechan, North Wales. Having since fully grown into Irma Vep and now residing in Manchester, Stevens' discography has expanded to document every aspect of his music, from ecstatically free group experiments to bare, sparse songwriting that cuts to the quick, shorn of ornament or pretence. No Handshake Blues is a homage to Llanfairfechan (Transylfechan to the locals).

Having bedded down into Manchester's bourgeoning DIY scene, Stevens moonlights in several other groups (Sex Hands, Klaus Kinski, Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Yerba Mansa), bringing with him an instantly recognisable guitar language. However it's in Irma Vep that his most life-affirming, troubling and thrilling music is made. Much Irma Vep feels like what 'classic' music should feel like if it weren't so Classic. Each record, each song exists as an evolving drama." - FAUX DISCX

that's a nice wholesale pitch for one EDWIN STEVENS who has already delivered one of my upper echelon favorites this year as half of favored "psychotic rock power duo" YERBA MANSA [REC# 170] courtesy DEEP DISTANCE and now looks to one-up that and just about everything else i've heard this year with this unexpected "loner joker roamer earnest mercurial" anti-folk blues masterpiece

there's some CODEINE and MUDHONEY and SONIC YOUTH codons stashed away in STEVENS' dna as expressed on the opener's twelve minute barrage that hits like a velvety MAGIK MARKERS cover of CAN's "little star of bethlehem" fronted by a stoned out DAN MELCHIOR - a jam, yes, but not the sort he's churned as YERBA MANSA or as a member of free rock outfit DSDV - the distinction is clear - this is in no way a free rock exercise, as born out over the next half hour

after kickin out the jams, STEVENS embarks on an outsider folk blues journey the likes of which challenge the best i can recall, and what i recall at the moment is DAN MELCHIOR's THANKYOU VERY MUCH and WOODEN WAND's glorious 2009-11 run, and more tangentially the worn down (sonically and in my copy's case, physically) flipside of PAUL CARY's GHOST OF A MAN (get a good whiff on "armadillo man" > "i want to be degraded") and MARK ALEXANDER MCINTYRE's GRAPES (which, despite all these being way underrated and/or underappreciated gems, GRAPES might be the most of all) - these references aren't too far removed from one another - weird but cool guys with true grit and a knack for "zingers" (as TOTH puts it) and a wry sense of humor and learned everything the hard way

but STEVENS has more up his sleeve than just a loner stoner jam and a handful of countrified punk ballads - there's a lot of variety, a lot of key details filling in and filling out the record - the title track is like MARISA ANDERSON covers FLYING SAUCER ATTACK or somethin like that, a shimmering shoegazing folk guitar hymn for the ages that fades into a short n sweet am radio retro pop lovesong before diving off the deep end into "the moaning song" which is a six minute psychotropic meditation kinda like WILLIE LANE laying down a nice VU & NICO drone with MELCHIOR blurting and crooning like a bizarro TIM BUCKLEY - but there's no denying the strong force here on NO HANDSHAKE BLUES is the blues (of the outsider folk kind) which everything else swirls around like a mid-life tropical storm with an eye that's a knotted mess of self destruction, self pity and sorrow, staying true to the blues maxim "lord if it wasn't for bad luck i wouldn't have no luck at all"

25 April 2017


debacle 2017, edition of 250

"longtime friends Jesse Shepard (12 string acoustic guitar) and Drew Gardner (electric guitar). this incredible duo fuses a rich vein of American primitive with psych, jazz, and improv. The result is a nearly perfect album that wildly bounds through the American story of guitar in the 20th century. It is a high wire act of the highest order. heavyweight vinyl in a beautiful sleeve designed by Mikey Rioux with spot UV gloss embellishment." - DEBACLE

"folk/psych-rock guitar duo interweaves folk tradition with psychedelic improvisation; from American Primitive to Psychedelic Rock, from Hindustani to Mauritanian, from Krautrock to Jazz; multilayered music that shifts fluidly from pre-rock to post-rock, from the 1860s to the 1960s and beyond." - ELKHORN bandcamp

BLACK RIVER follows their now sold out self titled debut cassette out last year via BEYOND BEYOND IS BEYOND [REC# 149] - previous metaphors and comparisons i used then still apply - "smoky electric solos anchored to acoustic rhythm backbones, think SANDY BULL meets LIGHTNIN HOPKINS with more heavy 70s oomph" - but this lp opens it up, not just in terms of the warm and rich yet well reserved fidelity that vinyl affords but also thematically as THE BLACK RIVER meanders a bit more beyond that established home base while also excavating deeper into the righteous mine that coughed up all those self titled gems which i collectively likened as a "sky high collaboration between BEN CHASNY and JUSTIN WRIGHT"

here ELKHORN safely and cozily land alongside DEBACLE labelmates DANIEL BACHMAN, EXPO 70, PLANKTON WAT and fitting SCISSOR TAIL crossover HAYDEN PEDIGO, point in fact THE BLACK RIVER sounds like it could have just as easily been another SCISSOR TAIL hit, pushing the BULL meets HOPKINS narrative boldly toward what i imagine a collaboration between EXPO 70 and JACK ROSE would have sounded like, at times approaching the actualized SONIC MED sounds and vibes of TERRANE's BASALT PALISADES [REC #25] which is PLANKTON WAT and CHUCK JOHNSON (as heard via SCISSOR TAIL's BLOOD MOON BOULDERS--how i never managed to post a proper recommendation for that one i'll never fully understand)

so one foot in contemporary folk guitar akin to MARISA ANDERSON and CHUCK JOHNSON and, say, WILLIAM TYLER, with the other firmly planted in brooding psychedelia like EXPO stripped of his kosmische armor or MATT VALENTINE on a(nother) vision quest fueled by a FUNKADELIC and SPACEMEN 3 binge, plus a healthy dose of TAKOMA guitar, oftentimes found free ranging through scarcely populated territories as previously trailed by the likes of ILYAS AHMED and HERBCRAFT - but if you're lookin for that moment where BLACK RIVER runs wild and bursts through any possible preconceived notion, then you'll need to stick around until penultimate track COLTRANE's "spiritual" which on paper ought to be one of the most transcendental moments in folk guitar music ever, and by my estimation it is

16 April 2017


audio visuals atmosphere 2017, edition of 55

"'In the early days, in a way, she never left her home.' Remote and mystifying harmonies to escape the engulfing air of passing hours. Returning to the cultivated wealth along the trail to the shore. A bleak, but beautiful loss that continues to taste of salt. // Seemingly harmless melodies put in contrast with field recordings. Nothing is what is seems in this collection of tracks completed over a long period of time." - AUDIO VISUALS ATMOSPHERE

"debut tape from Berlin-based Sofia Ozdravovna. An almost 40-minute album mixing field-recordings, stark noise and industrial nuance with an ambience that evokes anxiety and apprehension and only a hint of light at the end of the tunnel." - HOLY GEOMETRY

pseudonym SOFIA OZDRAVOVNA's debut full length (?) is an impressive integration of darkly tinted ambient drone tape manipulation and upper level berlin school studies - but more than that, a commentary, a statement, but i will come back to that - HOUSEWIFE humanizes early 70s SCHULZE and TANGERINE DREAM esque nebulous analog synth exploration and deep (inner) space evocation as fed through a RANDALL MCCLELLAN "drone box" configuration informed by classical ambient, industrial and modern classical standards - a rich collection of entrancing compositions built on simple yet eye-closing'ly effective loop structures and improvised (?) melodic motifs manifesting inexorable waves of contemplative bliss - yet another gem from the softer side of this euro underground cultivation of post industrial dronescapes, standing alongside recent favored works by C.L. LOBBESTAEL [REC #177] and ZEN ZSIGO [REC #175], and finding favorable comparison to new weird american drone masters like GREG GORLEN and SKITTISH ARM

HOUSEWIFE is an intimate confessional, be it the artist's or the listener's or humankind's, it makes no difference, it becomes the (sufficiently close) listener's along the way - immersed (spiritual?) meditation and heartfelt introspection exploring the serling-esque fog between light and shadow, real and surreal - a forty minute montage eerily embedded with self-reflective slices of life, cast in a light that is perhaps more telling than the listener might typically care to be cast in

sold out at the source but still available in certain corners of the weirdo cassette world, one being OZDRAVOVNA's own distro and imminent in house imprint HOLY GEOMETRY

do not sleep


11 April 2017


self released 2017, edition of 50

"solo tracks by one half of midnight mines - guitar, tape loops, voice, organ, bass, drum machine, piano, effects. He recollected the England of his imagination, culled from dozens of Saint books. A sleazy place of cockneys, nursemaids, policemen, slums, misty wharves, large houses full of the vulnerable jewellery of beautiful women. That place was not this. Well, like the man said, there had been a war, a dislocation. He looked at these people in these streets. The few women who were about moved fast and furtive, poorly and shabbily dressed, keeping close to walls. Not a nursemaid among them. The men did not stir. A curse of alternate inertia had been visited upon the English sexes. Men stood waiting and smoking in little groups, unspeaking; women scurried lonely. In their eyes, he saw the dewy glints of madness. Their pupils flashed towards him like animal headlights, feral with guanin, the women's green, the men's red like wolfhounds or a new animal." - MIDNIGHT MINES bandcamp

i'm not here to talk about the small arsenal of sold out tapes MIDNIGHT MINES have amassed in recent years, but rather this most unfortunately sold out tape from BARON SATURDAY who is half of said new-to-me pre-this post-that clogged kitchen sink lo-fi london duo, apparently hittin it big in a weirdo blogospheric sense - but i might preface by briefly summarizing MM's style, if one can call it that (and i don't mean that in any negative way at all) - their music churns and lurches and trudges inexorably -and rather clumsily- forward track to track, but step back a bit and you will find MM nimbly leaping about this aforementioned pre-this post-that genre potpourri, blown out and damaged to hell, equal parts intriguing and nauseating -which can be quite exhilarating in regimented doses- on a mind knotting eclectic trajectory that kinda reminds me of GERMAN ARMY with the industrial propulsion dialed back and the noisy no wave psych punk throttled up

halve that and you get CONCRETE POETRY - pure CHARALAMBIDIC indulgence in JANDEKIAN isolation tumbling into a black hole, compressing the wonderful and frightening striations of HARMONY OF THE SPHERES into a DAN MELCHIOR esque folk punk psychosis channeling SYD BARRETT and SKIP SPENCE, at times sounding like demented INTELLIGENCE demos bricked away in LARS FINBERG's basement, echoing the profound weirdness of HAWKWIND's "space is deep" and TROUT MASK REPLICA, other times like WILLIE LANE backed by the DEAD C - still, an unexpected soft underbelly is exposed from time to time, a hushed VELVETS closet mix prowess, mesmerizing glimpses of ILYAS AHMED or the HIRED HAND soundtrack or RICHARD YOUNGS' SAPPHIE among this somehow brutal yet elegant framework of distortion, feedback and uneasy silence, which is perhaps the most crucial element of CONCRETE POETRY that to me sounds rather scarce in the MIDNIGHT MINES universe -- self released (?) but would seem right at home on SILTBREEZE (in the 90s no doubt) or SLOOW or even JON COLLIN's fringe folk nexus WINEBOX PRESS - probably in the same wheelhouse as JASON MILLARD and TUCKER THEODORE for contemporary cassette comparison, but CONCRETE POETRY sounds and feels kinda out there on it's own to me