The Aloha Spirit: “This is Water” (Bandcamp embed)




One of the reasons why recording buffs may be leaping onto the tape bandwagon: the “scavenger hunt” factor. Let’s face it, there are fewer and fewer “brick and mortar” places to browse for music. Where’s a record head to go to experience the thrill of the chase? Instead of browsing the stacks, are we consoling ourselves with searching the internet far and wide for that elusive short-run cassette (1 of only 30 or 40!)?

In the case of the Aloha Spirit’s “This is Water,” their debut release, the music is a hefty part of the equation too: an ambient mix of analog synths, field recordings, and loops aplenty. I’m still in the hunt for a physical copy, but in the meantime, the stream on their Bandcamp page has whetted my appetite for more from this Austin-based project.


Playlist for Monday 2/6/12

Dark UrrrU/Waterfinder - cassette split (via the sadly now defunct Peasant Magik): A generous helping of drones, post-psych reverberations, spoken word and caterwauling from Portland, Maine supergroup.

Caldera Lakes - “arranged” (via Ecstatic Peace): see Sunday’s review.

Long Distance Poison – The Shores of Titan: free download via their Soundcloud page (thanks to Steve Smith for the tip!)

Sharon Van EttenTramp (Out this week via Jagjaguwar). Her last album was indeed Epic; and this one has breakout hit all over it. Check out L Magazine’s article on Sharon: she’s interviewed by Wye Oak’s vocalist Jenn Wasner.

Sharon Van Etten

Tim Berne - Snakeoil (ECM Records): Also out this week, alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s most “chamber music”  flavored foray to date. Ches Smith, Oscar Norieaga, and Matt Mitchell join Berne on his first studio recording in years, creating supple, dynamic, and adventurous renditions of a set of new original compositions.

Johann Johannsson - The Miners’ Hymns (FatCat): From February 8-14 at Film Forum on West Houston Street in NYC, there will be screenings of Bill Morrison’s film The Miners’ Hymns: a portrait of the inexorable winds of change that beset a British mining town, forever changing its residents’ way of life. The score was released last year, but its evocative mixture of organ, brass ensemble, and string textures is well worth revisiting, even sans Morrison’s touching cinematography.

Long Distance Poison: Gamma Graves (Cassette Review)

Long Distance Poison

Gamma Graves

Ecstatic Peace Cassette

Gamma Graves is a prime example of the kind of release that has helped to fuel the cassette resurgence on the indie/experimental music scene. Produced by a variety of sources, from bedroom DIY collectives and small tape-only labels to established imprints like Ecstatic Peace, the audio cassette format, long thought extinct, is back. Tapes have been unassumingly encroaching their way onto the shelves of connoisseur collectors and music critics (no less than Steve Smith is a devotee): even record sellers such as Insound and Other Music have made room for them again.

The Brooklyn triumvirate of synthesizer performers Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury and prepared guitarist Casey Block comprise Long Distance Poison. Armed with vintage gear by Moog, Arp, and Roland, they create experimental soundscapes with a sense of history, referencing everyone from David Borden and early Philip Glass to Keith Rowe, Alva Noto, Ryoji Ikeda, and Derek Bailey. Drone-based foundations are overlaid with coruscating ostinato loops and distressed with pointed interjections.

Gamma Graves is the type of music that would have been just fine to distribute digitally (or via CD). Indeed, some purists might argue that cassette is an inherently inferior audio format to hi-res digital played through good equipment (by no means do most consumers play their MP3s through good equipment). So, why do I like having it on cassette? I find the noise imparted by tape and deck to do no harm to this music: in fact, it adds another, subtle, layer of drones to the proceedings that is consonant with the musical intentions of the work.

The tape as artifact yields something important too. Limited runs of handmade cassettes are often lovingly attired with artwork more expansive and, obviously, more tangible than any JPEG can provide. They are a reminder of a bygone era in which the physical release WAS the release, in which tape-trading and digging in bins for rarities was a hobby to enthusiastically pursue: not something simulated in online forums and furtively grasped at brick and mortar outposts now few and far between. Long Distance Poison (and Ecstatic Peace) acknowledge their debt to history not only via musical reference points, but through the resonances found in a cassette as relic and artwork. Try finding all that in a computer file.

Nova Scotian Arms: “Navigation (Devotional)” (Video)

Saturday listening

Steve Smith shared a variety of links about ambient drone artist Nova Scotian Arms yesterday via  twitter. And when Night After Night praises something, it’s smart to take notice!

NOVA SCOTIAN ARMS – Navigation (Devotional) from Camilla Padgitt-Coles on Vimeo.

Nova Scotian Arms have released a new double cassette, Winds Over Silmäterä, via Hooker Vision.

File Under ? Early Summer 2011 Playlist

Thus far, 2011 has been an excellent year for releases of new music. Some formats that many folks thought to be those of yesteryear – 7” singles, 12” vinyl LPs, and even (shudder) cassettes – continue their resurgence.

Vinyl has long been touted by audiophiles; but why cassettes? Nostalgia? Perhaps. But it may also be due to an abiding interest in collecting audio artifacts, as well as a burgeoning taste for lo-fi DIY. Either way, I wish that my car was equipped with a cassette deck, as I’ve enjoyed several new ones at home. This playlist includes several of the discs (both compact and vinyl), tapes, and digital releases that have been in heavy rotation during the beginning of summer 2011. I’m listing whole releases, rather than individual cuts. Check back later in the summer for a proper mixtape.

n  Mark Templeton, Scotch Hearts (cassette SLG022)

n  Neon Marshmallow 2011 Festival Comp (Neon Marshmallow cassette)

n  Feelies, Here Before (Bar None digital)

n  Colin L. Orchestra, Infinite Ease/Good Good (Northern Spy CD)

n  V/A, Clandestine Comp. Series Vol. 1 (Northern Spy cassette)

n  Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds CD)

n  Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM CD)

n  Arlene Sierra, Volume 1 (Bridge CD)

n  Matthew Shipp, The Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear 2xCD)

n  Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)

n  Chris Thile and Daves, Sleep with One Eye Open (Nonesuch CD)

n  Radiohead, The King of Limbs (TBD vinyl LP)

n  John Adams, Son of Chamber Symphony and String Quartet (Nonesuch CD)

n  Seda Roeder, Listening to Istanbul (self-released CD)

n  Sophia Knapp, Nothing to Lose (Drag City 7” vinyl)

n  Devotchka, 100 Lovers (Anti CD)

n  Amy Briggs, Tangos for Piano (Ravello CD)

n  Chiara String Quartet and Matmos, Jefferson Friedman: Quartets (New Amsterdam CD)

n  Battles, The Gloss Drop (Warp CD)

n  Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Matador LP)

n  New England Conservatory, American Music for Percussion, Vol. 1&2 (Naxos CDs)

n  Anti-Social Music, Is the Future is Everything (Peacock CD)

n  Orchestra 2001, To the Point (Innova CD)

n  Vicky Chow, Ryan Francis Works for Piano (Tzadik CD)

n  Brian Eno, Drums between the Bells (Warp digital)

n  International Street Cannibals and others, Ballets and Solos (Composer Concordance CD)

Northern Spy’s Clandestine Cassette #1

Clandestine Series Cassette #1
V/A
Northern Spy Records

It wasn’t so long ago that people were counting out “hard copy” recording formats, prognosticating that digital would reign supreme and that vinyl and cassette tapes would be on the scrap heap or, at best, fodder for flea markets and garage sales. While the LP’s resurgence in recent years has been variously chalked up to increased attention to aesthetics, desire for higher fidelity, and a pop culture trend in its own right, many still assumed that cassettes were too sonically compromised and kitschy for a comeback in their own right. But then, lo-fi indie exploded, and the landscape changed.

While Northern Spy’s first in a projected series of Clandestine Cassettes isn’t just concerned with lo-fi aesthetics, one can see why the scrappy Brooklyn import, and others like it, embrace the cassette format. It’s inexpensive, easily portable, and yes, has its own nostalgic artifact qualities. But CC#1 isn’t a novelty item: it’s a fascinating mini-sampler of Northern Spy artists, revealing an EP length recording of avant rock drone-filled soundscapes by the likes of Zaimph and Messages. There’s also “August is All,” a beautiful track of slowly evolving, minimalist yet blues-inflected improvisation by guitarist Tom Carter. A little avant folk star power is in force on “Live at Union Pool,” a reverberant duet by Loren Connors and bassist Margarida Garcia. Garcia also contributes the cassette’s artwork, which recalls homemade mixes and tape trading.

Although you can still get MP3s or FLAC, this tape’s already sold out. But rest assured, there will be more cassettes to come: from Northern Spy and elsewhere on the scene.

Already got rid of your tape deck? No worries; for now, they’re not expensive to acquire. But be warned: I recently learned from Twitter that no less a tastemaker than Steve Smith has gotten a new Walkman. Can it be long before this microtrend explodes and cassette decks are the new iPad? Stay tuned.

Name your format for Akron/Family’s 2/8 release

Akron/Family is known for their explorations of alt-folk balladry, indie rock jams, and noisy experimentation. Their next album comes out next month and, by all accounts, it takes the band even deeper into sonic exploration, encompassing field recordings, homemade instruments, and microtonality.

Not only is A/F catholic in terms of musical influences, they’re also embracing a number of recording formats. Joyful Noise will be releasing the band’s new album S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT on cassette alongside Dead Oceans’ releases of the LP and CD. All formats will be released on February 8th.

Karl from Joyful Noise passed along this info about the cassette version:

The cassette edition of the album is pressed on high-quality purple tapes,
is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, includes digital download (MP3 & FLAC), and full 8 panel artwork.

Who says cassettes are for the Eighties?

You can check out the album’s leadoff single “So it Goes,” below.

So it Goes