Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Cassette Roundup, Volume 1

Independent record labels have really harnessed the potential of the internet through mediums such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and it means that whatever the label puts out can be heard by more people than a limited-run release would allow. Sure, it sacrifices the exclusivity of owning one of 50 copies of a tape, but as the major labels continue to stagnate, we need these boutique and web-based labels more than ever for exciting, challenging and new music. A few releases I've reviewed this year (JCCGLAMPGOD and**Ł_RD//$M$) have been tapes, so to reflect the wealth of cassette releases out there in 2013 I have decided to launch this new series: Cassette Roundup. Every so often, I'll tackle a few tapes which I feel are worth a few words and include a sample/stream for good measure.

Diamond Black Hearted Boy Father, Protect me. (Steak Au Zoo, 2013)

There's outsider hip-hop, and then there's this. Chino Amobi's Diamond Black Hearted Boy project has been going since 2008, but it hasn't seen many proper full-length releases; instead, his Bandcamp mainly features single tracks, all of them strange in their own right. Father, Protect me. is a continuation of his oddball approach to beat-making and soundscaping, and it may be one of the most singular hip-hop albums I've heard this year (possibly probably ever).

The title track is an exhilarating experience in and of itself, featuring broken drum loops, digital abrasion and a stuttering verse which is repeated throughout. Amobi has an almost Burial-esque approach to vocal samples on tracks such as "I just wanna be a r#97C57CE", wherein soulful voices are pitched up and looped ad infinitum. There are some rather strange samples across the album - I think I can hear the gravity hammer from the Halo games on "I don't need protection (You)", and I'm sure there'll be hidden pop-culture nuggets aplenty buried beneath the murky beats and noisy manipulation. That's all I can really muster up about Father, Protect me.: albums like this have to be heard to be believed.

Free Weed On the Moon / Get It 2Nite (Exo Tapes, 2013)

Erik Gage's releases as Free Weed carry the drug-induced hypnagogia one would expect from such a name: his previous releases feature whacked-out pop songs comprised of drum machines, distorted guitars, pianos and sloppy vocals, all veiled beneath a kush cloak. His cassette for Exo Tapes, released earlier this year, sees him clean up his sound a little bit for On the Moon, before retreating back into the clouds on Get It 2Nite.

The On the Moon side is probably his most immediate set yet, with upfront drum machines opening the proceedings. The lyrics are, rather predictably, stoner fare, with lines such as "I wanna have drugs for friends" and "You won't get high if you don't get high, if you won't get high"; it's not big, and it's not clever, but it's infectiously good fun. The Get It 2Nite side is more abstract, with the case in point being "I'm a Mermaid", in all its sub-aquatic glory. All in all, this tape is a pleasure to listen to, and you'll be sure to return for your Free Weed fix.

Street Thunder Bonfire Gecko Hex (Reckno, 2013)

Street Thunder doesn't do "releases" or "albums"; he/she/they/it instead operates in "transmission[s]", and the latest is Bonfire Gecko Hex, released in Reckno's October batch. Gibberish name aside, Bonfire Gecko Hex feels like some sort of spiritual rite. There's a certain earthiness and elemental quality suggested by the artwork, and it's carried into the recording itself - Street Thunder manages to shift the stasis with swelling, layered drones and subtle movements in sound, in a way that reflects a forest ecosystem.

Side A's "Dragon Bong" starts out with pulsating, melancholic strings, as if one was exploring a dark undergrowth or wading through a murky river, but just as it seems to slip into a groove the mood is suddenly altered by a shimmering loop, akin to the awakening of an ancient beast. Side B's "Chrome Swisher" begins as side A ended, with a twinkling loop underpinned by slowly-developing (but never threatening) noise. Towards the end of the track, a chasm is opened and the noise envelops all, before fading back into the darkness. Bonfire Gecko Hex, then, is a rather minimal, hallucinatory experience, but a gripping one nonetheless.

No comments:

Post a Comment