Tape Hiss is a (semi) regular column focusing solely on cassette releases. For the uninitiated, this feature was originally run on Stylus Magazine's website, but with Stylus shutting its doors, Bryan Berge is bringing it to Foxy Digitalis. So rejoice and all that, and check out some of these recent happenings in the world of cassette labels.
Palais de Ilil
Beyond Repair Records
Many of the readers of Foxy D and like-minded content probably arrived at this fringe of the music world with a hunger for difference. Animated by this pursuit, we've treated our preferences as vanguards unbound by convention. But the more time spent on the edge, the more the edge expands, and the less it feels like a cutting edge of advancement. In time, one realizes that we are entrenched, even in this uneasy musical terrain.
But as the contours of the outer-limits genres emerge, the vocabulary and swagger of the new
persist, a hoary echo of the searching spirit that binds this community. So I feel somewhat uncomfortable stating that Uuhuu's "Palais de Ilil" is a top-flight example of ecstatic lo-fi drone. It's odd to write a sentence where one could substitute the words "j-pop" or "indie rock," but this breed of drone has blossomed to the point that it has developed a general outline and occupies of well-defined niche.
There is no shame in exemplifying a genre. The existence of and adherence to a template does not necessarily exclude creativity and originality. Indeed, self-consciousness of genre is one of the chief wellsprings of creativity in pop music today. While drone hasn't trod so far down the path that it needs recourse to convolution, it has developed a consistent bag of tricks.
All of which are employed by Uuhuu, the transatlantic duo of Marcel Turkowsky and Andrew Cvar. The A-side, "Surfen Virgil," is the heavier of the two roughly ten-minute pieces that fill the tape. Buoyed by compact melodic and textural loops, "Surfen Virgil" is dense and mantric, with a glazed opening passage that slowly accumulates scruffy feedback before ebbing into a tonic finale.
The B-side is a queasy, shifting field of string-like scrapes measured by intermittent high squeals. Its movements are multi-directional and difficult to follow and eventually collapse into the smoothness of Now. A bracing, bowed see-sawing then dominates the track's middle section before giving way to a deep, dark bass churn.
Devotees of drone will quickly recognize the structure and sonic signatures of "Palais de Ilil," but this will not dampen their experience. The pleasure of Uuhuu comes from the refinement of these trademarks, not from innovation. This is but one of series of three Uuhuu tapes released simultaneously by Beyond Repair, all of which are uniformly good.
Beyond Repair Records
Albert Ayler seems to be the spiritual forefather to much of the jazz-informed avant gunk currently gushing from basements across the globe. On face, this is something of a curiosity, as few of Ayler's acolytes share the melodic sensibility that was the backbone of the sax player's work. Most of the acts today identify more emotionally than sonically. They sense the abandon that Ayler felt, the devotion to his muse that pushed him away from most of the jazzmen of the day. In pursuit of his holy aurals, Ayler dipped into marching music, old spirituals, and, towards the end of his career, rock and roll. Today's energy-music practitioners do not share Ayler's specific musical and cultural background; rather they share his mystic vision, his fluid approach and his belief in music as a higher force over worldly trappings.
So now we have the Danes of Shiggajon channeling Ayler through another vessel. One part warbling free jazz, one part commune rock, Shiggajon is largely brass-driven but feels different from the more explicitly out-jazz outfits like Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy or Graveyards. It could be the emphasis on Christian esoterica or the heaping helpings of cosmic guitar work, but Shiggajon bears more than a passing resemblance to the musical rituals of Ya Ho Wha 13. Replace Yod's barrel-chested code-sermons with star-licking saxophone squeals and you've got yourself a dead ringer-though second coming would probably be the better phrase.
Both sides of "Levende Vand" maintain an admirable level of excitement and mystery, trading off drone meditation for psych majesty for jazz elation. The tile translates roughly into "water of life," which could not be more appropriate, as this music is constantly trickling into something else, becoming something but never quite being. Stay tuned after the B-side fades, and you'll be treated to a excoriating, overdriven blowout miles away from the carefully executed sounds otherwise found here.
Drumming for Dunedin's Futurians, Pat Kraus must've gotten his fill of punk action, because this solo tape offers pure, mellow space. The Facts alternates between two distinct styles, both refugees from a forgotten 70s reel: fried guitar groovers and sci-fi Sagan-style cosmic (but not kosmiche) studies. He pulls both off with equal aplomb, making me yearn for an imaginary past of smoked-out, wood-panelled rec rooms bedecked in shag.
The A-side contains the bulk of the rock moves, most all of which are languid, instrumental Pebbles-worthy excavations. Extra points for the fantastic organ melodies that drive a few tracks. Occasionally the sound becomes a bit too chilled, and the energy lapses, but overall Kraus maintains a smooth, late night, lava-lit burn.
The B-side is the more electronic and austere of the two, but even its deep-space freeze it has a Tod Dockstader-like playfulness that distinguishes it from the frowning Charlemagne Palestines of the world. A few tracks ring hypnotic and vacuous like the recent Eleh project on Important, but without the fussy, engineer-geek edge. Others have a Marvin the Martian goofiness, bubbling with synthesizer giggles and alien chatter.
This is the second edition put out by Lieven at Dreamtime Taped Sounds, and you've got no excuse if you miss it this time around. Pat Kraus will even give you a free copy if you're in New Zealand and you drop him a line.
please submit any tapes to be reviewed to the regular Foxy Digitalis address (found HERE). Thanks.