Here we have two of Albany’s finest, Rambutan and Parashi, teaming up for their first collaborative release via Frankfurt-based Sicsic Tapes. The title of the tape, Lesser Halogens, evokes images of half-dead blackened lamps barely illuminating the decaying space surrounding them. The tape builds on this theme conjuring up a bleak world shrouded in darkness, dim lights flickering over foreign objects and alien faces. Gone are the warm friendly tones found on Rambutan’s more recent releases, like his split with Tidal on Aguirre or his Typhoon Shapes cassette on cae-sur-a. Instead we are presented with a cold electronic hum that underpins most of the tracks with searing squelches of electronics cutting through the noise to rupture any sign of stillness.
The A-side keeps things dark slow-moving, allowing you to relish the noise as it envelops you. On “Halogen 1” large sluggish masses of distortion roll in over the underlying din. Giant sonic shapes drift over otherwise vacant landscapes, eventually slamming into each other. Sounds moan and contort as they crash together, their echoes calling attention to the vast expanses they roam.
“Halogen 2” opts for electronics that swarm around in a chattering and buzzing manner. This is the sound of chlorine being heated slowly so it reacts with whatever else is in the tube. Piercing noises emerge from the drone as the track gains energy. By the end the chlorine eats through its container and the escaped gas spills out chewing through the organic material around it with an increasing intensity.
Things slow down on “Halogen 3,” which drops to a slow eerie crawl. Digital ghosts float through a cold sterile world entirely alienated from any human presence. Electricity pulses in its quiet atmosphere, cracking and hissing as it moves through its circuitry.
The B-side picks up some, with each of its two tracks containing something of a beat. “Halogens 4” has a listless pulse buried behind an atmosphere full of dread, and couldn’t sound more like your heart as you hide in some cramped space waiting for some inevitable doom. The slow thump fills the space echoing louder than you would like, a turncoat calling out to the terror that is slowly sliding toward you.
The highlight of the album is the last track “Halogen 5,” also the cassette’s longest track, clocking in at 15 minutes. It is also the most upbeat and it rushes to an amazing climax that finishes off the tape in perfect fashion. At first though, the track starts with almost nothing. A synth, or a sample, and then silence. From there a cry calls out to you from somewhere off in the distance. Bursts of static gradually surround you. Slowly rhythm is added and you can even hear something like drums. Finally, a slow but steady rise in the tempo. Midway through the track the drone turns into a blur with a stream of incomprehensible things rushing past you. A myriad of small samples flit by for you to try to pick through. The drums begin to pound at a pace you could dance to, if it didn’t sound like you were in the middle of a war zone. Synths scream out to you, heightening the tension. Then, abruptly, at its peak, it fades away to nothing. All the energy is spent, the burst at the end destroys itself.
Rambutan, who runs the Tape Drift label, and Parashi, who runs the Skell LLC label, do an amazing job at dragging you into such a desolate world and holding you there captivated by the dark atmosphere while not letting you get tired of what could serve as bland source material in less capable hands. One hopes that this is the first of many collaborative recordings between these two Albany mainstays.
Tonight on The Upstate Soundscape we’ll hear new sounds from Buffalo drone project VWLS (Bad Drone Media), Albany-based collaborative project Mensheviks (Tape Drift), and a ghostly cassette from Hamilton’s Annie Shaw (Old Frontiers).
VWLS – Broadcast in the Moss (Bad Drone Media)
Lots of other good sounds coming your way tonight, including Jealousy Mountain Duo, Swans, Efterklang, Tim Hecker, Lucky Dragons and Mike Shiflet.
Show starts at 8pm on 91.3FM WBNY. Stream at WBNY.org.
Gateway is the debut release from Montreal’s Frank Ouellette (aka Hobo Cubes) under the Code: Suite 104 moniker and comes to us via Albany’s Tape Drift label. The cassette consists of two tracks, “Time Key” and “Exit,” both of which clock in at about nine minutes; and, besides the incidental similarity in length, these electro-acoustic recordings share just enough in common to be considered of a single piece.
A pulsating and looped patting provides the backdrop for “Time Key.” Moments into the track, a tone, reminiscent of a dial-up modem, is lain overtop providing a theme which is returned to at the end. Other sound fragments add complexity: faint static, throbbing distortion, occasional sustained notes hinting at the emergence of melody that never arrives. Midway through the track, the rhythmic patting gives way to another more insistent tapping pattern. It is difficult to call the rhythms ‘beats’ as they stay in a bass-stripped trebly register, but they do generally point the way forward musically.
“Exit Area” resumes on the low vibrating wave which “Time Key” rides out and pursues the conceptual theme of the melody’s non-emergence: first through tonal repetition, then tonal disfiguration. It is always the background noise, however, that is gradually brought forward (but never fully pronounced), hinting at the artist’s preference for music’s neglected spaces.
Where “Time Key” tapers off into electro-cricketdom, “Exit Area” is transfigured into an interplay of droning and mangled tones. The rhythm all but disappears by the end and the last couple minutes sound like a Peter Brotzmann number arranged for a band of junkyard insects. If the pitches seem too high and the changes too subtle, it’s likely owed to the diminutive nature of their instruments.
The recording never rises too far above the surface, which means you might have to wade a little further into the deep end than you’re accustomed.
The Location Ensemble is a motley 9-piece guitar ensemble whose membership reads like a who’s who of experimental Albany-area musicians. It currently includes Thomas Lail and Patrick Weklar from soundBarn, Tape Drift owner Eric Hardiman, Ray Hare from Century Plants, other Albany Sonic Arts Collective regulars Holland Hopson and Matt Weston, an Albany rock club owner Howard Glassman, Tara Fracalossi, and Jason Martin. The group came together in 2010 when soundBarn joined with other ASAC members to perform Rhys Chatham’s “Guitar Trio,” which has been expanded since it was composed in the late ‘70s to allow for six to ten guitars.
This self titled CD out on Tape Drift is the debut release of the group and captures their performance from last year in Saratoga Springs where they performed original compositions by three members of the band.
Thomas Lail’s “Untitled (All the Times She Loves Me),” is a gamelan-influenced take on alternative tunings used originally by Sonic Youth. Inspired by a live performance of Sonic Youth’s “I Love Her All The Time,” Lail took the multiple tunings found in the Sonic Youth song and split them between members of the ensemble creating two distinct tuning groups with one half of the ensemble using one tuning and the other half using another.The effect creates a haunting and dissonant sound that is still somehow ephemeral–at least as ephemeral as eight guitars can be over the course of 18 minutes–with different parts shimmering for brief moments only to disappear as the piece moves through its three distinct segments.
Eric Hardiman’s composition, “Diversion #3,” takes an almost Krautrock approach in that it is propelled by an internally forceful minimalism. While “Diversion #3” lacks that steady motorik beat of a lot of Krautrock, the piece chugs right along driving you forward with it as it incrementally speeds up. The piece lurches around, speeding up as if everything was frantically trying to move at once then suddenly locking up, only to do it all over again. The performance is tightly fused together but always on the verge of overwhelming itself and having everything be torn apart.
Drummer Matt Weston, the unsung hero in this guitar ensemble, shines here, pummeling his way through the song, dragging the guitarists along with him faster and faster in this big insane machine. His drum patterns are very physical in nature contorting the listener to the music, the repetition pulling them along.
While “Diversion #3” has a manic machine-type cohesiveness, Holland Hopson’s “Six Chords Every Rock Guitarist Should Know” has a much looser feeling almost to the point where the piece seems to be in danger of decaying right in front of you. It is, in a way, a call and response piece with Hopson playing a phrase and the rest of the group playing it back in turn. This creates a dizzying sound that spirals up with sheets of sound whipping around, building up and then falling apart.
Throughout all of this, one wonders what was lost of the performance in the recording. With seven or eight guitars fighting for space in a mix you can’t help but feel that the recording must fall short at times trying to capture those moments where all those instruments coalesce into something much larger. For those who have yet to catch one of the all too rare performances by the group this recording will have to do, and–make no mistake–it does it well. Each piece is great and the album as a whole is a fascinating listen for the three different takes on the sonics of mass guitar. But for the full impact of these pieces, one can’t help but think that this recording is nothing more than a tease for the live experience. Fortunately, the ensemble will be opening for Disappears (Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Brian Case of The Ponys) and Lotus Plaza (Lockett Pundt of Deerhunter) on April 18th at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany.
Due to the host being a dipshit and forgetting to hit ‘record’ at the start of last night’s show, there is no archived version of last night’s show. Pity, because it was a good one. Kind of surprised this hasn’t happened before, actually. Anyway, you can still check out last night’s tracklist below.
1) Martin Freeman, “Beastin,” Beastin 2) All of them Witches, “Toyotal Recall,” Breathers vs. Drivers
3) Bear Flames, “Judas/Heavy Outro”
4) Velvet Elvis, “Pretty Girls in Lace,” No Rules in the Wasteland(cae-sur-a)
5) Tuurd, “I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty,” I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty(Carbon)
6) AIDS Wolf, “Very Friendly (Weasel Walter Remix)”
7) Bees////, “MONSTERFLOWERCAT,” GA/KA 8) Dustin Wong, “Diagonally Talking Echo,” Dreams, Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads(Thrill Jockey)
9) Christian Marclay, Elliot Sharp, Vernon Reid, Melvin Gibbs, Lee Ranaldo, Mary Halverson “Graffitti Composition 2” Graffiti Composition
10) Deerhunter, “Weird Era,” Wierd Era Cont.(Kranky)
11) Odonis Odonis, “Ledged Up,” Hollandaze(Fat Cat)
12) Lotus Plaza, “Remember Our Days,” Lotus Plaza/Odonis Odonis Split 12″ (Fat Cat)
13) Settlers, “Sky Kings”
14) Women, “Untogether,” Public Strain(Jagjaguwar)
15) Grasshopper & The Crickets, “Sketches of Saturn,” The Orbit of Eternal Grace(Beggar’s Banquat)
16) Sonic Youth, “Anagram,” Perspective Musicales(SYR)
17) Off the International Radar, “Critical Mass,” OTIR 003(Voof Records)
18) Location Ensemble, “Diversion # 3,” Live in Saratoga 11.12.11(Tape Drift)
19) Colin Stetson, “The End of Your Suffering,” Those Who Didn’t Run (Constellation)
This week on The Upstate Soundscape the two heads of Rochester label //cae-sur-a//–Cory E. Card and Jen Marquart–will be in studio to play some tunes from their label’s catalog, including some unreleased stuff that you won’t hear anywhere else.
As a label, //cae-sur-a// has played an important role in the development of The Upstate Soundscape radio show, not only by supplying it with killer sounds, but also by expanding the show’s focus (and then audience) beyond the city of Buffalo.
It all started way back in November of 2010 when our little radio show (then going by simply The Soundscape) had only been on the air (on a different signal, mind you) for a little over a month. While the show has been dedicated to experimental music and sound since the beginning, the regional focus of the show didn’t start to come into being until a brand new label from Rochester emailed me about some underground cassettes they were releasing.
That label was //cae-sur-a //.
It was after hearing how great those three original tapes were (which included personal favorite Tone Arm by Buffalo’s Steve Bazckowski) did the idea to make The Soundscape an experimental radio show for the Upstate region really come into being. After finding //cae-sur-a//, I began poking around to see what other labels might be working in the region….little did I know how much I was about to stumble on to.
So it’ll be with great pleasure to welcome Jen and Cory to the studio this Wednesday night to talk about their label, which has grown up alongside The Upstate Soundscape, a radio show that they’ve had an indirect hand in building.
For now, check out this interview with Cory and Jen below, and also check out the mix Cory made for us that was posted yesterday.
What is the story behind //cae-sur-a//? How and when did it get started? What was the motivation behind the label’s creation?
Cory and Jen: We began //cae-sur-a// mid-2010, over a conversation we were having about the idea and desire to run a label, mainly to promote the work of friends and artists that we admire.
Tell us about the //cae-sur-a// team and whoever else is involved with running the label.
Cory and Jen: //cae-sur-a// is a two person (Jen Marquart and Cory E. Card) operation with occasional contributions from friends. Holger Adam from Phantom Limbo and Test Card has written copy for us and Mike Tarantelli is working on some artwork for an upcoming release.
Are there any labels out there that you patterned //cae-sur-a// after or strove to emulate? What labels, past or present, do you admire?
What’s your take on the current state of experimental music in general? Is this a good or bad time to be an experimental artist/fan?
Jen: I really don’t think about it much. What is meant by “experimental music” has become so vague. On the positive side of the spectrum this means that the genre is continuously morphing and changing, but it also means that “experimental music” also falls prey to taste-makers and the “anything goes” attitude of its not so experimental counterparts. Is it ever a bad time to be a fan of anything? It’s definitely easier to be a fan of experimental music these days, which is always a plus.
Cory: The one thing that I think is all at once interesting, exciting and at times detrimental to the whole genre is the ratio of participants to audience (you will even see evidence of this in some of our own answers above and below). In many cases and situations they are one in the same. On the positive front, the dialogue that evolves can become quite complex, but it can also quickly devolve into an insular perspective, leading to potential stagnation and exclusivity.
Any releases you’ve heard from 2012 yet that stand out to you?
Jen: It’s a bit early in the year for me to commit to such a question… Definitely the Tuurd-I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty LP. I’m looking forward to what else this year has to offer.
Tell us about some of cae-sur-a current and upcoming releases.
Cory and Jen: This year we are picking up the pace even more, we have a ton of great releases planned including our first two vinyl releases, the first of which will be Velvet Elvis’ debut full length, which should be out around April or May, the second is by the German trio Autistic Argonauts, which will see a release in late Autumn/Early Winter.
Last month we released our second Velvet Elvis tape No Rules in the Wasteland and our first split between Giant Claw and The Cats’ Orchestra. These two are highly contrasting in approach, Velvet Elvis being a straight up stoner/doom rock band while the split contains two forward thinking electronic meditations.
Up next we have tapes by psych/folk duo April in the Orange, drone/folk trio Riasni Drova Consort, the minimal electronics of Lefterna as well as some amazing tapes by our good friends Rambutan and Fossils From the Sun, BLACK CHALK, Fear Konstructor and a whole lot more. You can check our forthcoming page on our website.
8) Is there a past release that you feel deserves a second look?
Cory and Jen: Thats a hard one… as I really love everything we have put out. If I had to pick one to gain more attention than it has I would say the Novoe Tsarstvo release that we did back in September.
Any advice for aspiring label owners?
Cory: Have patience, only release stuff you can really stand behind, and budget appropriately
Jen: I don’t think Cory emphasized patience enough! patience// patience// patience, plus realistic goals and devotion.
Any Upstate artists/labels you are really into at the moment? Any one we should look out for?
Cory and Jen: As far as labels go, the ones run by friends we have known and worked with for many years: House of Alchemy, Tape Drift, and Carbon Records are always doing great things, that respect and excitement turns into the musicians as well: Tuurd, Rambutan, Fossils from the Sun, Burnt Hills, Century Plants, April in the Orange, Velvet Elvis, Jungle Heart, Pengo, Blood and Bone Orchestra, Licker, Foot and Mouth Disease, Harold Biffen, Andy Gilmore R(ockin) Scott Oliver and our friend Jarek Miller who plays drums with our band Stone Baby sometimes.
Cory and Jen performing as Stone Baby (Image courtesy of Ithaca Times)
What’s the experimental scene like in Rochester? Where would you tell somebody to go if they came to Rochester wanting to see experimental music?
Cory and Jen: Rochester has a long history within the experimental music world, extended back, to our knowledge, to the beginning of Joe Tunis’s Carbon Records in the 90’s, but most likely way before so there are some heavy hitters such as Pengo (who have been in existence for a long time), Coffee and many of the other bands mentioned above (for a more complete history talking to Joe Tunis, John Schoen, Nuuj or Jason Finkbeiner would be of the essence).
The scene really revolves around a certain level of interconnectivity and crossover; I believe Joe Tunis alone has some 14 projects active and inactive. As for venues since the A|V Space closed there has not really been anything stable. Occasionally Rochester Contemporary Art Center will put something on, and there are also sporadic shows at the Bug Jar, as well as house shows that pop up here and there. To come and see something you would probably have to know the participants or someone who knows them to be able to fully experience it.
How does somebody get a hold of //cae-sur-a//’s stuff?
Cory and Jen: The ideal place is our website. We sell on Discogs under CommonError. Carbon Records and Flipped Out Records run by Jackson Wingate carry all our releases and both have some of our out-of-print titles, such as Steve Baczkowski’s Tone Arm and Pine Smoke Lodge’s Season Above Lakes. I cannot recommend either of them enough for quality distribution and as stand up individuals.
We also have some releases distributed through Eclipse Records, Tomentosa, 905 Tapes and DNT Records.
If you are in Rochester and into grabbing stuff at a store, all current //cae-sur-a// titles are available at Needledrop Records.
As a cassette-only label, what’s your take on the re-emergence of the cassette as a legit medium to release music on?
Cory: I have a deep running attachment to cassettes; I think I got my first tape when I was 5 (Springsteen’s Born in the USA, still have it), made mix tapes constantly throughout my teens and into my 20’s, my Master of Fine Arts thesis was all about their physicality, so all in all I can say I am excited about cassettes in general. Though they may not have the best sound, they have a durability and physicality that is lacking in other mediums, plus they are relatively cheap to produce.
Jen: My Sony Walkman was my best friend growing up. I could fill an entire bag with cassette tapes to get through family vacations or uncomfortable wedding receptions/ graduations/ retirement parties etc. There is a definite nostalgia: shoving paper wads in a Tiffany tape (unwanted birthday present) so i could record songs off the radio and having just enough money for cassingles. Most of our generation has some similar connection with the medium. Does that legitimize tapes? Not a clue.
Tune in Wednesday night at 10pm to 91.3 FM WBNY to hear Jen and Cory live on The Upstate Soundscape. Stream at WBNY.org.