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Caught on tape: the month's essential cassette releases, June 2013

Welcome to Caught On Tape – our new regular column digesting the best contemporary cassette releases. The cassette circuit is a wellspring of inventive and surprising music – and more often than not, the best releases get minimal-to-zero coverage. Brad Rose – boss of nonpareil cassette and vinyl label Digitalis Recordings – picks out the cream of under-the-radar tape releases from the last month or so. 


The number of tapes being released on large and small labels alike these days is ridiculous, and trying to wade through all of it is an impossible task.

Worse is how many of these cassettes are nice enough, but generally unremarkable.  As always, though, there are a handful that stand out from the pack, yet too often go unnoticed.

Before I go any further I want to mention something that is very much cassette-related, though in its digital form. Union Pole was one of the best tape labels in the 90s and is as responsible for me starting a label as anyone. Well, UP-figurehead Jeff Fuccillo is back and working at getting the label running again. How’s he doing that?  By offering the entire back catalog of Union Pole cassettes (76 of them!  Including some gems by Neil Campbell, Prick Decay, Jackie O Motherfucker, and tons more) for $1. Yep. $1. I recommend heading over and checking out the site – it’s well worth your time and (little bit of) money.

Anyway, this month we get into the totally bonkers Cream Juice, the dystopian meanderings of WWC, Ras G’s latest fried mini-opus, the debut of Dave Saved, and the industrial snarl of Tether.

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CREAM JUICE
MAN FEELINGS
(ORANGE MILK)

So there’s weird and then there’s weird.  Cream Juice, the duo of Orange Milk Records heads Keith Rankin and Seth Graham, certainly fall into the latter category. Man Feelings is the duo’s second album and ups the ante on just about everything they did on the first. Spastic drums and electronic rhythms paired with schizophrenic synths skitter all over the place – and then some. This is music that is constantly in motion. ‘Man Made Womb’ bounces around like a pinpall stuck in a kaleidoscope. It’s all damaged neon. I hope that free jazz sounds like ‘Straight Edge’ or ‘Re-Nude’ 100 years from now whereas the title track is the most obnoxious video game you’ve never played (in the best possible way, of course). Man Feelings is probably my favorite tape so far this year. Rankin and Graham have managed to completely lose their marbles on here and end up sounding like nobody else.

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WWC
MEDITATIONS/INDUSTRY 
(OBSOLETE FUTURE)

This band and this label are totally new to me, though at least the latter has been around for a while. Meditations/Industry couldn’t be a more apt title for this selection of electronic meanderings and rhythmic blasts. Impressively, this is all recorded live to cassette, no overdubs, by one Bill Converse. From the arpeggiated, pensive melodies of opener “Inward Fathoms” through the acid-soaked “Between Electrons” and primitive futurism of “Consulted Acid,” Converse shows an impressive amount of range.  He’s juggling a lot of different sonic strands throughout each piece and the fact he’s doing it all in one take adds to my admiration of his abilities (‘30.26367, -97.77082’ being a perfect example).  This may be the first dose of WWC I’ve had but Bill Converse has quickly become a name I’ll be keeping a close eye on

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RAS G
RAW FRUIT
(LEAVING)

“Oh Ras!” Anytime that sample is played to open a track, you know it’s going to be a hell of a good time. Ghetto Sci-Fi overlord Ras G returns with one of his strongest efforts to date, infusing heavy soul and jazz samples with all manner of synthetic overtones. I always imagine Ras G as Madlib’s Martian cousin, floating out in space, shooting a million sonic missiles at the Earth, most of which burn up on re-entry. If Raw Fruit is just him fucking around and making music to get high to, then keep on smoking Ras. Spacebase is most definitely the place.

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TETHER
GUEST BED
(DOKURO)

Tether is the moniker used by Lauren Pakadrooni after retiring her previous pseudonym PAK (a really good project in its own right) and Guest Bed is the project’s debut. It’s a doozy. Guest Bed is almost like a moving sound installation that drifts from place to place, idea to idea. Industrial-tinged bass blasts out holes in the concrete on opener ‘Well Lit Void’ while Pakadrooni howls on the surface. Everything but her voice is subterranean. Elsewhere tape loops are mangled into mesmerizing sonic detritus. ‘High-Heeled’ rips through hypnotic drones with a buzzsaw-like rhythms acting as aural bombs. All the edges on Guest Bed are rough as fuck and honestly, that’s a big part of its appeal. I hope there’s more of this stuff infecting my eardrums and soon.

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DAVE SAVED
PRISONERS OF GRAVITY
(ASTRO:DYNAMICS)

Astro:Dynamics had a real winner with the Best Available Technology tape released a few months ago and build on that momentum with this excellent debut from Dave Saved, Prisoners of Gravity.  Hailing from Naples, Italy (his real name is Davide Salvati and Dave Saved is a direct translation of that), Salvati takes a host of kosmische and ambient influences and muddies them up just such to keep Prisoners of Gravity fully cemented in its own world.  The bizarre timing paired with the slow build and eventual decay of the beats in ‘Quotient of Meditation’ are the perfect example. He lays the track out in a deceptive way, seeming linear at first before it eventually circles around on itself. Further props for effectively working monotone vocals into the mix without sounding forced or just generally bad (a moment’s silence, please, for the multitude of good songs that have been ruined by awful vocals).

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