Sunday, December 8, 2013
2013 was the year of quiet cassettes for me. Not all of these on the list came out in 2013 -a few were from 2012 - but I purchased them or listened to them a lot in 2013. I can bend the rules, because it is my list! I know it sound strange to be mail-ordering short-run cassettes in the 21st century but some of the best delicate bedroom compositions are coming out in this format. As I wrote in this Tome to the Weather Machine review, "cassettes have a lot of the same appeal to me that I find in drawing. Drawing is typically a personal, immediate, and usually low cost medium. There’s nowhere near the degree of material preparation one might have with a painting. In some of the same ways, home-made lo-fi cassettes exemplify an imperfect, direct, and personal medium." The affordability of cassettes can't be understated - typically $5-$10 with shipping. You can find a walkman for a few bucks at most thrift stores, so you can start listening for a minimal investment.
If the idea of stacking up plastic cases doesn't thrill you I would recommend checking out these artists on bandcamp where most of the above albums are available to stream and/or purchase digitally. Most of the releases pictured above came out in editions of 100 or less, so the audience is obviously quite small. However, it is unfair to assume that my reason (or anyone else collecting this music) for listening to these artists is because of their obscurity. I would love for these artists to be better known and supported. When attempting to translate these complex textured sounds into words I will certainly fall short - so listen to the samples below for the best way of appreciating the music. With that intro out of the way, let's talk about these exceptional tapes from 2013:
1. M. Sage - multiple releases (eight pictured above) - I am becoming quite the superfan of Fort Collins-based musician Matt Sage. Most of his releases are on his own aptly titled label Patient Sounds - with a couple exceptions this year on the Moon Glyph and Mirror Universe labels. These tapes are grainy compositions that ebb and flow with washes of guitar and strings. I can't recommend them enough. Listen below:
2. Kevin Costner Suicide Pact - "Container Ship" - also a Colorado-based group making soft arrangements on the Patient Sounds label. On rare occasions when I was in grad school in Savannah, Georgia I would venture down to the touristy River St. area for some food/drink or to visit friends. Inevitably a large container ship would be lumbering down the river and if you were lucky enough to be in one of the shops or restaurants on River St. at the time it would appear as if the whole building was moving because the ship would engulf the entire view out of the windows. It is a phenomenon that's hard to describe, like a lot of ambient music. This double-tape/download set is spare and quite melodic. There's a lot of beauty here. This just came out at the end of November so a small number of the physical releases are still available. Get on it.
3. Hedia - Wool - These quiet neo-classical/ambient arrangements come wrapped in a stunning little letter-pressed cover. The music is described by the artist Bryce Hample in this way, "WOOL' CULMINATES FROM 2 YEARS AND 3 WINTERS. A FAILED FILM SCORE. A THEME REPEATED IN STOLEN MOMENTS ON GRAND PIANOS IN WISCONSIN, NEW YORK, AND NEW MEXICO. PIANO AS WOOL. VIOLA DA GAMBA, A BORROWED CLARINET,AND DESERT SNOW." It does feel like a film score when listening to the pianos and strings weave among each other, but hardly a "failed" one. I could picture Jep in "A Great Beauty" walking along the Tiber river in Rome to this piano:
4. Gimu - "A Silent Stroll on Sombre St.", and "All the Intricacies of an Imaginary Disease" - these both came out in 2012, but Brazilian artist Gimu has released 8 (!) additional albums/eps in 2013 and if I had those on tape I would include those as well. I have had the pleasure of working with Gimu on album art for one of these tapes and an upcoming release in 2014 and I'm honored to have some of my art accompany such dark, heartfelt, textured arrangements.
5. Aria Rostami - "Decades/Peter"- When compared to a lot of the other releases on this list, this tape is one of the most dynamic. Rostami's songs incorporate EDM, classical, noisey textures, and ambient to form a really enjoyable album.
6. Paw Paw - "Temporalis/Epiphysis" -more great ambient from Denver - more acoustic than other releases on the list - not a single bad track on this two tape set.
7. Forming, "Variations of the One Essence" - sampled tape loops - soft repeats
8. Kyle Landstra, "The Illusion of Becoming", and "Sage" -big new age synth-scapes with dramatic crescendos
9. Olli Aarni - Pohjoisen kesä - this came out in 2012 - reviewed by myself on Tome in 2013
10. Pines, "A Spirit" - perfect soundtrack for a winter in a log cabin
="http://patientsounds.bandcamp.com/album/ps039-pines-a-spirit">PS039 - Pines - A Spirit by Pines
11. Stag Hare, "Angel Tech" -hazy hippie house music - a really enjoyable and upbeat listen
12. Foothills, "A New World" - Patient Sounds says this about Foothills, "Chase Hudson brings to us a shimmery unveiling of ambient and pop structures refracted through a psychic crystal, projected into the future, and shone brightly onto the wasted past. Glittery synths, drum machines, radio wobble and lush soundscapes."
13. Tuluum Shimmering, "Islands of the Moon and Sun" - I played this in drawing class over the summer and one student said, "does this just repeat for a half hour?" - yes, it does more or less. That's what I like about it.
14. Former Selves/The Original Flowering Earth, "split" - I am more inclined to like the less-abrasive Former Selves side of this tape but it is a solid release as a whole on Denver's own Planted Tapes.
15. Sky Stadium, "Setting Vision" -mellow synth-based new age ambient
16. Journey of Mind, "Oil Burner" - dark loops