Back In Fields of Tape
Everyone stuck in the “music amassment” mentality (aka lifelong bullshit
collecting) must deal with their own crates of crap in their own way. I’ve been
at friends’ apartments where every single paint-encrusted 3” CDR they owned was
delicately arranged on pristine display shelves, and of course the opposite
methodology is PLENTY common (pack-rat sloth piles of dirty cardboard boxes
filled with cracked tape cases and random flyers). Our lifestyle falls somewhere
between the two. But one nagging obsession I struggle with is that I despise
owning a piece of music that I’ve never found the time to listen to, from start
to finish, at least ONCE. I hate the idea of some friend chillin in our living
room, grabbing some random gross C10 from a stack of junk, and being like
“What’s up with this tape? I heard it was good,” and I have no answer for them
cause I’ve never jammed even one second of it EVER. Why own an object if you’re
never going to engage even the foggiest relationship with it? It’s like those
cartoon posers who stock their shelves with classic literature tomes just to
look brainy to guests.
That said, even when I do give each tape its moment in the sun so to speak, there’s a certain class/strain of CS that – due to its vagueness, mystery, or literal lack of information – totally defies my memory’s attempts to grasp it. Maybe other Cassette Gods readers out there can relate to this phenomenon? Tapes that, every time I’m like “wait, what the fuck is this?”, I draw a blank trying to recall what the hell it’s all about. So, though this is probably a weak column thesis, I wanted to re-approach some of these mystery tapes and re-try to nail them down in my mind. Without further annoying preamble:
TOP 10 TAPES I CAN NEVER FUCKING REMEMBER WHAT THEIR DEAL IS
1. Clear Light Funeral “Realtime Motherfucker” (Postneo)
Had this tape since at least 2002, when I first met Jean-Paul/Loopool (Postneo was his old label), and have definitely thrown this on…4 times in my life? I think I recall him explaining this was a shortlived bedroom-industrial improv band he was in? Yeah, the label says it was recorded in 2000, and there’s dumb song titles like “The True Truth” and “A False Lie” and the tracks veer from shrill 8-minute keyboard goth-punk with hoarse crusty screaming on top to plodding 4-track drum machine lounge pop? Occasionally it sounds like shoddy covers of the soundtrack to that sick NES game “Maniac Mansion.” That ring a bell with anyone? Shit ruled. This kinda does too, though it all sounds so highly accidental and fuckaround-y that even calling Clear Light Funeral a “band” seems somewhat misleading.
2. Warmer Milks “Tiger” (Husk/Blood Red Cassettes)
For some reason I’m always under the impression I’m into this band but then whenever I actually listen to one of their recordings I’m like, “What was I thinking?” I’ve done some research into this persisting delusion of mine and my current theory is that I made the mistake of grabbing a copy of their “Tendertoe Blues” CS a few years ago and it’s this totally fucking flawless psych bonfire that builds and grooves in the best possible way, and so now I keep expecting them to have a connection to that sort of style/approach, and they totally don’t. It seems like they’re really into doing whatever the fuck they want whenever they fucking want, which – while cool as a life philosophy – sometimes translates in music terms to them releasing bafflingly meaningless wastes-of-everybodys-time like “Tiger.” A 1-sided C30 of boring amp feedback with a guy yelling boring, incomprehensible who-knows-what over the last half. If this kinda thing was done at some ear-splitting volume maybe it could achieve a garbage-void vibe that, though still shitty, might be likable for its sheer grossness. But the middle-ground-ness of this thing makes me think of Phil Blankenship’s genius piece of wisdom (uttered, I believe, in description of the Yellow Swans/Cherry Point collab CD): “Not for fans of music.”
3. Nervoid “How to Pull the Wool Over Your Own Eyes” (Black Velvet Fuckere)
Classic example of a tape-I’ve-owned-forever-but-have-zero-idea-how-it-even-came-to-exist-under-my-roof. I’ve never ever heard of Nervoid apart from the name typed on the spine of this totally oddball C60. Black Velvet Fuckere is that Louisville, KY mysterio label that puts out Virgin Eye Blood Brothers stuff every once in a while but that doesn’t help explaining what in the world this hour of bizarro tape recorder diary blurts is hoping to convey. Some tracks are like a person dropping thumb tacks on a microphone, others are obvious tape manipulation snippets, later “pieces” barf and fart inane casio sound FX in some sort of half-organized progression. Most of the songs (they have individual titles, needlessly) are under a minute, and all of them are bedroom tinkering of the most private and esoteric nature. The cover image is a photocopied photo of a gate, as if to say “KEEP OUT. DON’T LISTEN TO THIS.” Nervoid gets points for giving his CS an accurate title though I guess. Wool? Eyes? Can’t see shit? Check, check, and CHECK.
4. Heart Stopping Drums of Passion (Glaciers of Nice)
I may have gotten the ‘band’ name wrong, and the label, and everything else, but that’s kinda why I included it on this list. Totally left-field C25 of Luke/Lucky Dragons and someone else (his girlfriend I assume) playing peppy, pastoral David The Gnome-style flutes in a few different modes/moods (with not a single drum – of passion or otherwise – in sight/sound!!). I think the only reason I bought this thing was cause the tape itself was all fancily handpainted in this gorgeous, intricate way and when I asked David Kramer (of Family, where I got it) what the tape sounded like he didn’t even look up from his internet surfing, he was just like, “Oh, I dunno…I don’t think anyone here’s even listened to it.” Strangely that sort of functions as a fitting description. This definitely falls into the “didn’t need to be documented” genre of recordings, but hey, it’s a free country, yr allowed to play goofy flutes all day long. You can even record it for no good reason and sell it to me for five bucks. I’ll buy it.
5. Ladderwoe “Rowboat/Virgins On the Water” (Bone Tooth Horn)
Pure question mark action from this focused, cultish East Coast CS label. I have a lotta tapes on Bone Tooth Horn and they all freak me out and leave me confused about what I just listened to. Plus they all have near-identical artwork and lettering so I end up never being able to tell any of them apart. This one is a particularly unsettling chunk that gets lodged in yr ear and makes you feel disgusting. I don’t know who/what/where Ladderwoe are or what their deal is but this C24 keeps me in perpetual confusion. Strangely plucked guitar and no-fi whisperings that grossly erupt into screechy vomit vocalizations/convulsions, then sputter and die out in a creepy-crawl of fretboard psycho-fingering. Both sides leave me really hard-pressed to describe what the fuck this even sounds like. Hence its inclusion here.
6. Treble “Scronk!” (No! No! No! Tapes)
If anyone else out there has a copy of this, let’s hang out. This is like the perfect/Platonic form of the Mystery Tape ideal. Bought it at a Goodwill in 2002 on a break from work solely because it was covered in thick, hand-applied neon pink paint and had an insert printed on transparency rambling about Lester Bangs and no-wave music. Says it was recorded in 1994 at “Kenny’s Plumbing and Supplies, Sun Valley, CA,” which is obviously awesome. Now that I’m thinking about it I believe one time I mentioned this tape to Bobb he had a theory it might be a historic/ancient David Scott Stone project possibly. If so: SMALL WORLD! Anyway. It’s basically two trebly (hello band name) guitars skronking little string patterns together while a wacky pitch-shifted Chipmunks-style voice sing-songs along with the anti-melody. Utterly bizarre and isolated and annoying in a pretty likable way. This CS set in stone my policy to always buy any/all handmade tapes I come across at thrift stores.
7. Hourible [sic] (no label?)
This CS is so brutally and relentlessly vague it almost should be disqualified from the column/competition cause the other tapes at least put their band names on the J-card somewhere. But there’s no rules to this lawless list so I’m keeping it in the running. Ok. I think Carlo/Audiobot gave me this tape when Robedoor was in the UK, or…wait. I think deep in the beer/weed haze of Colour Out of Space ’06 Carlo dragged some drunk Belgian dude up to me and was like “You gotta hear this guy’s shit, duuuuuude!” and forced me into trading tapes and this was what he gave me. There’s writing on the spine and inside flap but it’s in a crazy cursive script and covered in black scribbling and I can’t make it out at all…it almost looks Arabic? The audio is a totally mystifying garbage can kaleidoscope of pre-programmed keyboard organ notes and pitch-shifting oscillator noises panning back and forth in a hopelessly perplexing way. It also goes on forever, a full stuttery hour of drunk-as-fuck electronics rolling around on the floor. I give up.
8. Spiral Jetty “Walkabout” (Buried Valley)
Hadn’t jammed this lost classic since summer of ’06 and I was totally blanking on what the freak it even sounds like so thought I’d include it here. Roy’s pre-Changeling project, the “deleted” first Buried Valley release. Not unlike his “Light Cones” double CS recorded a couple months later, this is from the Tatum headspace that was all about slow-motion keyboard loop-hypnosis, before his bummer-blues space-guitar transformation. It’s just a 1-sided C20 so there’s not a lot to sink yr teeth into, but what’s here is cool, raw reverby meditation music of the lonely apartment variety. Droney daydreaming that floats from yr mind the moment you turn off the tape deck.
9. AK’OO [sic] “One 2 iii” (no label?)
Wow. Another one in the VIOLENTLY unknown sector of our cassette collection. Zero notion when this came into my possession, and by what means. It’s just another spraypainted-to-shit no-info CS with a peeling square of spray-glued art on the cover with an illegible hotmail address hidden under some shitty line drawings. Aesthetically it falls loosely in the brainfried electronics obscurity terrain staked out by Black Velvet Fuckere or Lieven (during mid-era Imvated) but I could be totally wrong. Foggy samples of drums or keyboards wander in circles while mild machine noise growls from the shadows once in a while. This fucker feels endless too, rambling on and on until you eventually get distracted and stop paying attention – thereby ensuring it forever remains a classic “mystery tape” of the precise style I’m profiling here. See how this works? This one will resurface in 5 years on a list just like this, it’s impenetrable.
10. M Ax Noi Mach/Lone Tree (Breaking World Records)
George sent us this what feels like a million years ago and I didn’t understand it then and I guess I still don’t. Lone Tree must’ve broken up or something cause I’ve never heard of them other than their 15 minutes of mindfuck fame here. Bewildering bedroom barf teamwork captained by toy piano plinks and numb mixer noise and the sound of a bike chain shaking in the toilet. Totally pointless in a way that’s totally beyond the point. Maybe not music? I’m in no position to make a call like that but the thought crossed my mind for a second. The M Ax…etc side blows the game wide open by actually upstaging Lone Tree for pure null-and-voidmanship. Tapes are played and rewound for reasons unclear to the listener, there’s muttering, noise squiggles in a gastrointestinal fashion, someone imitates a stuck pig, confusion reigns. There’s one out-of-character section of the jam with a cheesy budget reggaeton beat that might get mistaken for intentional musicality but then they drop it out and get back to the business of pure weird. This is all either going way over my head, or way under my ass. If there’s even a difference anymore.