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. Join Brad Rose – boss of nonpareil cassette and vinyl label Digitalis Recordings – as picks out the cream of under-the-radar tape releases from the last month or so.
This month, I have to give a special mention to this sweet 3-tape reissue of all three Kill Rock Stars compilations from the mid & early 90s.
The packaging looks great, and, considering the impact these three compilations had on me as a teenager, I’m a total sucker for this kind of thing.
Onto the selections…we’ve got some Ghanaian perfection from SK Kakraba Band, deep listening from Jason Lescaleet, Yard’s lost classic, a weird pairing of Klangberg & Tea Factory, and the ecstatic impulses of Whirling Hall of Knives.
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SK KAKRABA BAND
Look, the label had me at “Son of world-renowned master xylophonist Kakraba Lobi, S.K.” But SK Kakraba Band doesn’t disappoint in any way. Sunkissed melodies repeat to infinity until they end up as an infection you’ll never want to shake. SK is the centre of the universe here with his gyil (“a Ghanaian instrument constructed of wooden slats placed atop Calabash Gourds”) and all the grooves hiding underneath are just icing. This music has serious soul. Everything about these tunes is purely ecstatic. Holy Page have quite possibly scored the best tape of 2013.
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This has been my go-to morning jam for the past few weeks. Jason Lescalleet really slows everything down here with these two side-long pieces. Mammoth drones that unfold like molasse – that move like a pristine glacier – exist here in a way that is wholly mesmerizing. This is the beautiful sound of decay.
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Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Yard, but this tape has been on heavy rotation. In Waiting sounds like some lost classic that was only recently unearthed. It hits all the right notes, from the bouncing, bass-heavy rhythms of ‘Disco Belle’ to the subdued cheer of ‘Adam Sunshine’ and everything between. Yard’s beats are well-constructed, and only as present as they need to be. Album closer ‘The Diver’ is the real highlight, though, as it trudges through the black depths, unearthing all kinds of glowing sonic treasures. Heavy doses here.
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KLANGBIRD & TEA FACTORY
I don’t know much about this tape and only stumbled onto it through a different submission from the label, but it’s absolutely great. I’m fairly certain it’s a split, and that Tea Factory’s A-Side blitz, ‘Idiopathic’, is the definite highlight. Grizzled synth patterns are blurred into oblivion while a heady pulse rides the waves into nothingness. The flow and composition of the piece is stellar. Klangberg heads up the flip with snarling guitar death howl and a bit of ambient catharsis. The two projects make strange bedfellows, but that’s what keeps me returning to these tunes.
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WHIRLING HALL OF KNIVES
Lab Emissions Vol. 1
(Fort Evil Fruit)
There’s something familiar about Lab Emissions Vol. 1 that I can’t quite pinpoint, but throughout its 38-minute runtime, the duo achieve some kind of misguided ecstasy. The music is sprawling and takes plenty of time to unfold. It’s as if WHOK were pointed in one direction, heading for that sonic nirvana, when everything suddenly, gloriously go off the rails in the best possible way. Follow them down this path, and I promise shit is gonna get heavy.
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