Tape Hiss
#003: Pretension or Authority



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.




Tumble Cat Poof Poofy Poof
The Werewolf Story
[Yeay! Cassettes, 2005]


Boffo release from Yeay! Cassettes. A real live oddity, this Tumble Cat character. By name alone, he’s limited his fan base to Hello Kitty! Fans and cat ladies. Go beyond the moniker and the package—if that’s possible. The release comes in a double-cassette box with 37 quirky, surreal drawings of robots and assorted critters, the lines of which often drift to a stop before closing the creature. The music is an Alice in Wonderland array of accordion songs, noise rumbles, and glockenspiel hymnals. The tape starts with a whimper dressed as a bang (in the world of cassettes, one burns out on formless noise pretty fast), but is quickly saved by the tender, wavering vocals of the lost werewolf in question. Success and glory follow, in the form of pensive accordion dirges and audience applause. He even redeems his noise side. The B side begins with curious vocal cut-ups (flashy if nothing else) before that pesky accordion steals the show again. In the end, the opening number may not have been so bad. It sets up the listener for very pleasant surprises the rest of the way through.

Vapaa
Koneitten Siritys
[Imvated, 2005]


This Finnish group blew me away with their 3” CDR on 267 Lattajjaa earlier this year, and though they don’t aim for the free-jazz stratosphere with this one, I still came away damn impressed. The rainbow spray paint covering the tape obscured its length, so after each piece I expected the album to peter out. But lo! It kept on going. And going! This comes on a C-90, the bottomless lasagna pan of cassettes. Vapaa spends the extended time well, developing quiet drones in dark caves with disorienting echo on the first side, before indulging their campfire-circle, Krautrock impulses on the flip. This was released as both a CDR and tape, and though I love me the cassettes, perhaps the CDR would better represent the band. On Side A in particular, the cassette’s loud hiss nearly overwhelmed the sound. Treat it as texture, I guess. A great cassette from a group I’m keeping a close eye on from here on out.

Dark Inside the Sun
A Little Nervous
[Alamagator, 2005]


Readers of this column (are you out there?) may recognize this name from a previous edition. Steve Gigante has released a slew of tapes, most of which have ended up in my stereo for quite some time. Abrasive on first listen, Dark Inside the Sun wears its heart on its sleeve and doesn’t apologize if the blood spray hits you. More blasts of performance punk drum attacks and speak/shout/sing songs and rants, albeit a little more subdued on this tape. Indeed, Gigante includes a couple of folk numbers on this one that—GASP!—don’t appear to be club performances and don’t pertain to politics. As if to compensate for those, Gigante’s opinions are delivered even more forcefully than normal on “Cutting Loose” and “Pappy,” leading one to suspect Gigante perhaps doesn’t like the Bush regime. Normally such soap-boxing bothers me, but Gigante doesn’t pretend to pretension or authority, and his sincerity burns like California in the summer. Gigante exudes so much energy in his sets that one gets exhausted listening to them. I can only imagine the drain after playing them.

Sword Heaven
Horsing
[23 Productions, 2005]


Ohio’s Sword Heaven is a mighty prolific duo, with something like four recordings released within the past year and a few more forthcoming. Their sound merits the exploration, however. Gut-punching distorted drums and creeping electronic manipulations elicit near-death vocal codas I missed the first two listens through. Since (if one allows for some extra scrapes and moans) this formula applies to the forty-minute entirety of the album, the pressing question is: does it wear out? Amazingly enough, no. Believe me, I expected it to. I actually awaited the moment the minimal dread atmospheres would finally lose their menace. But no such luck. The tape’s lugubrious pace and near-mundanity are assets. Sword Heaven sounds damn confident over forty minutes. They know their sound takes time to unwind, and they expect the listener to know that to. We get no breaks, no relief from their desolate sound world. Which is a blessing after all; this tape becomes more compelling with each listen.


By: Bryan Berge
Published on: 2005-12-22
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