Tape Hiss
#001: Semi-Philosophical Slur Poetics



cheap, durable, easy to produce, nothing tops a tape for a start-up label. CD-Rs are on the rise, but a tape has far higher fetish power as an object.




The Woods
How to Survive/In the Woods
[Fuck It, 2005]


Sporting a freak-folk ur-name and photographed in Animal Collective fashion for their debut double cassette, The Woods look like another addition to a huge stable of improv psychedelic wanderers. Luckily the duo of Jeremy Earl and Christian DeRoeck stay way more grounded. They craft folky-but-distinctly-urban bedroom pop songs, focusing more on money and women than spiritual yearning. Proprietors of Fuck It, the duo certainly have sympathy for the outsiders, as witnessed by tapes from the Skaters, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice, and Raccoo-oo-oon as well as the in-the-red instrumental numbers on this album. Hardcore releases are also abundant on Fuck It, and that too surfaces as an influence. But the Woods sound better playing pop ditties, and they thankfully spend most of the album doing so. Though this is soon to be re-released on CD by Sweden’s Release the Bats, the cassette seems the perfect format for their scruffy, sincere sound.

The Golden Hours
Mystery and Her Crew
[Not Not Fun, 2005]


Seems cassette is the perfect format for sleepy pop, because we have another winner here from Not Not Fun. Though their label is known for L.A. noise, the Golden Hours sing syrup-sweet male/female duets about death and drowning, set to acoustic guitar and the occasional casio. Pacific Northwest to the core, the trio exists for rainy days that need cheering and for sunny days that need deceptive gloom. Eliza’s soft, naïve vocals (no last names provided, as if this release needed to be more intimate) satisfy far more than Brian’s, but the few missteps do not prevent this six-song suite from lulling you into a soft stupor.

Watersports
Watersports
[White Tapes, 2005]


Utterly mysterious, both in content and context. After tracking down the label to its now-blank website and sending an email in an attempt to buy this cassette, I received a response two weeks later asking for my address. I send the address and lo! the unbought cassette arrived the next week. From what little information I can gather, Watersports features White Tapes honcho Russ Waterhouse and possibly some other people. They’ve shared the stage with Double Leopards and they certainly share an aesthetic. Beginning with what seems to be a field recording of a busy street, the tape evolves into a groan-drone and ritual-drum meditation before concluding in an all-too-brief ten minutes or so. If I ever manage to track down Russ again, I’ll tell him his tape kicked ass.

Paivansade
Paivansade
[Pohjoisten Kukkasten Äänet, 2005]


This group made a splash stateside with an LP release on Eclipse and member Lau Nau’s full-length Kuutarha on Locust. These two releases make them among the most visible domestic representatives of the Finland’s burgeoning experimental music scene. This is both a testament to their talent and to the woefully slow efforts of American labels to import the Finnish bounty. Anyone lucky enough to hear those releases will know what’s in store here: dreamy, improvised folk mood pieces. With a droning violin providing a tense focal point, the group is free to drift far and freely. They craft vast, white soundscapes shimmering with Nordic light, sunset funeral marches, and paranoid forest paeans. Fluttering winds, wailing strings, desperate stumbling percussion—the tape is a wonder.

The album collects material from the sessions that produced the Eclipse LP; none of it was created within the past two years. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve been up to lately.

Dark Inside the Sun
See the Darkness Shine
[Yeay! Cassettes, 2005]


This is the second Yeay! Cassettes release from Steve Gigante, member of W-S Burn and Seven Year Rabbit Cycle. Mashing soft, eerie songwriting against cathartic drum attacks and agit-prop crowd bantering, Dark Inside the Sun is as much a performance art concept as a band. Everything here is live; there can be no Dark Inside the Sun Studio album. So much of the album depends on Gigante’s conviction. Otherwise, his onstage antics—calling out Civil War Generals, half-mocking semi-philosophical slur poetics, feedback fuckery as intentional audience irritant/attention-getter—would fall flat. Luckily, Gigante does not lack conviction. In this recording he comes off as a rabid eccentric who’s seized the stage with a personality engaging enough to keep the owners from calling the cops. Crowd noise is noticeably absent from this recording. Not because of carefully editing. This document is far too crudely recorded for such tricks. Rather the audience is simply silenced by Gigante’s energy. While See the Darkness Shimme loses something removed from the live setting, it still captures a man bent on expressing himself.


By: Bryan Berge
Published on: 2005-12-08
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