Bob Bucko Jr, runs through his list of favorite tapes for the year, and we should all be so lucky, Follow the links for samples and full albums:
Straight Panic – For Magne Andreassen (Fuck Mt. Ltd. Release)
Beautifully packaged tribute to Magne Andreassen. Ominous beginning, sounding like the footsteps in the forest Andreassen was walking in when his life was taken by Faust. Snippets of Faust’s confession and samples of biblical rhetoric penetrate the brutal mix of power electronics and harsh noise that is Straight Panic’s signature.
From the liner notes:
Dedicated to the memory of Magne Andreassen (1953-1992), murdered by Bard “Faust” Eithun in Lillehammer, Norway.
Dedicated to the memory of all queer victims of heterosupremacy.
John Bellows – L O N G E P (Planted Tapes)
A sublime about-face from his earlier work, “L O N G E P” retains Bellows’ skillful songcraft, but jettisons the playful quirkiness of “Clean Your Clock,” creating instead a somber reflection on regret and loss. Bellows gives dimension to relatively simple song structures through harmonically rich chord progressions, making an honest modern folk album that is neither light nor cloying. Coupled with sharp, biting lyrical turns, these seven songs cut to the quick.
YlangYlang – Life Without Structure (Crash Symbols)
Fell in love with this tape immediately. Split evenly between propulsive drum machine rhythms and hazy ambience, the album is perfectly sequenced. What I imagine the soundtrack to a hypnotherapy appointment would sound like. Gentle vocals float above washes of synths, the lyrics hinting at self-discovery and ego-critique.
Comfort Food – Waffle Frolic (Already Dead)
One of the highlights of my musical year was getting to see Comfort Food twice in September. Already gushed about this tape earlier in the year, but it was a treat seeing them recreate the richness of sounds on the album, just two dudes with drums and bass and trumpet. That they keep a pocket so tight while using loops is dang impressive, and “Waffle Frolic” is full of light-hearted heavy grooves.
Darko the Super & Ialive – The Hell Hole Store (Already Dead)
Another banger from Already Dead (I suppose I can excuse having more than one release from the label on here, considering they put out over 40 tapes this year alone!), the combined talents of Darko and Ialive (both cats make beats AND rhyme) are a blast. The mood is lighter than on Darko’s solo efforts (there’s even a mock ‘80s freestyle track), but the tracks slam just as hard. Pop culture references abound, from Beck and the Beatles to Almost Famous and Married With Children. (“If this was Married With Children I’d be Buck” cracks me the fuck up every time). Playful and expansive, “The Hell Hole Store” is the sound of a couple buds hanging out, discovering themselves through each other.
More Eaze – D0M@N3 (Never Anything)
For several years Marcus Rubio has been creating high quality sounds across a variety of genres. I’m beyond enamored with More Eaze’s 2015 tape, “(frail)”, which takes often-disparate ideas and reassembles them into a sleek, refined album. 2016’s “D0M@N3”, on the other hand, plays out like a series of sketches, sometimes slight yet fully realized in their individual element. Over the course of two sides, “D0M@N3” traverses multiple stylistic reference points including sizzurp beats, noise and sound collage, tender autotune, gorgeous American primitive guitar, and even a goddamn postmodern violin hoedown. Ultimately, instead of lacking focus, the album comes across as cohesive, due to the singular world Rubio’s compositions inhabit.
Sister Grotto – You Don’t Have To Be a House To Be Haunted (self-released)
“You Don’t Have To Be a House To Be Haunted” has ruled my late night drives and pre-sleep meditations in 2016. Its 32 minutes divided into 3 long pieces, the album floats along like a lucid dream, tingling the senses from behind the veil. The lyrics are intonations, short repeated phrases whose meaning amplifies with each reiteration. Mournful cello comes to the fore, adding rich harmonies to the simple chordal patterns. Madeline Johnston’s vocals inhabit a space between the somber keyboard loops and soaring cello lines, slightly buried and distant (live, this effect was achieved through singing into a modified telephone receiver). An album of true emotion and stark vulnerability, “You Don’t Have To Be a House To Be Haunted” may well be my favorite thing I’ve heard this year.
Captain 3 Leg / Beartrap – Split Tape 2016 (Mortville Noise)
Captain 3 Leg has a recorded output spanning 20 years, exploring various strains of extreme music and confounding trendy metal kids at every turn. They put out a handful of splits in 2016, of which this is my favorite. On this outing C3L combines hardcore riffing with blast beats and strangulated vocals. It’s solid stuff, filled with their usual acerbic humor and choice samples. Beartrap, who I was unfamiliar with before this tape, delivers over-the-top blown-out noisecore. Sounding like it was recorded live to a boom box, the 4 songs feature amusing introductions in which singer/guitarist Tim half-explains each song — though titles like “The Wolf’s Name Was Caligula” and “Forever In Blue Cheese” kind of explain themselves, I suppose. All in all, this is 10 minutes I’ve been playing and flipping over and playing again repeatedly this year.
Mukqs – 石の上にも三日 (Apothecary Compositions)
Seeing Mukqs perform at his most frenetic this year, then listening to his standalone release on Apothecary Compositions, creates a counterpoint that further shines light on his live compositional skills. (He put out a couple well-regarded splits this year as well.) Recorded in real time using only a 4-track and a couple 4-channel stereo loopers, the album adeptly creates fully realized audio collages on the fly. Bridging the gap between academic and DIY, Mukqs’ tape music succeeds at making music out of music, absconding notes and the like in favor of pure sound.
Charles Barabé – Cicatrices (Never Anything)
Charles Barabé has been releasing volumes in two conceptual series over the past few years: “Cicatrices” and “Confessions.” 2016 saw one entry in each. Two very different propositions, “Les Dernières Confessions” is the more straightforward listen. As an example of the potential of modular synthesis, it is an impressive document. Fitting firmly into the Orange Milk aesthetic, sequenced patterns unfold, presenting seemingly-simple harmonic elements and rhythmic patterns that develop into expressive fractal experiences.
“Cicatrices,” on the other hand, is much less direct — a massive, 100 minute-long piece in 16 parts. It is an intense listen, a fully absorbing take on musique concrète. Layers upon layers of found sound compete for the listener’s attention, but never invade each other’s space. Though it may be one of my favorite releases of 2016, I really don’t know what to say about it, other than it deserves to be experienced. Together, these two releases show an artist able to effectively create mood, be it pastoral or oppressive, through electronic sound.
Coin Locker Kid – Discordia (Never Anything)
“Discordia” has wormed its way into my regular listening, providing a claustrophobic accompaniment to a traumatic year. My introduction to Coin Locker Kid was hearing the song “As special as you are, you are not as special as you think you are” on a comp in 2015. This tune leads off the second side on the tape, a collection of odds-and-ends spanning several years. As a singular piece, the album’s cohesion springs from the overlapping tension across each track. Spoken interludes lambast the human condition, while many of the ‘proper’ songs evoke the cloudy paranoia of early Tricky. Ostensibly an indie hip-hop album (again, the trip-hop comparison is not off-base,) “Discordia” wallows in dark psychedelia. Creative sampling and song structures support alternatingly rapped and sung vocals delivering sharp wit and existential crisis. The album culminates in a conversation between two robot voices — one male, one female — representing the artist’s internal dialogue. To a backdrop of hardcore pornography the voices analyze and critique the process of creativity and the point of existence, fears and neuroses laid bare. This entire stark, frank treatise ends with the following exchange:
Female voice: “I like that there’s a segue from brutal gangbanging to artistic vanity to existentialism and back.”
Male voice: “I guess I was hoping that people would find it funny, and then I could say how I really feel.”
Female voice: “How do you really feel?”
Male voice: “I feel like dying.”
Hats off to ya, 2016.
Russell Hoke – A Voice From the Lonesome Playground: An Anthology (Round Bale Recordings)
My favorite discovery of the year. I guess you could call Russell Hoke “outsider” country, but dude’s writing is on par with any Nashville insider. Admittedly, the psychedelic flourishes and gnostic religiosity of much of the subject matter keep it on the far fringes of anything approaching mainstream, but Hoke’s music speaks to universal truths in a fashion infinitely more honest than anything some random beardo indie folker put out this year. Spread across two cassettes, the songs are selected from Hoke’s vast, hard to find discography. Home-recorded, but well-executed, there is a loose feel that unites 20-plus years of songwriting, creating two hours of surprisingly consistent listening. Banjo-led songs like “Twisted Mountain” sound like Appalachian music melded to Eastern tonalities, while “Hey Marie” employs twisted but joyous wordplay along the lines of Roky Erickson’s “Never Say Goodbye” album. Big ups to Round Bale Recording’s David Perron for helping to expose Hoke’s music to a wider audience.
Scammers – Deathly Hollow (self-released)
Built entirely upon samples from the film score to the final Harry Potter movie, Phil Diamond’s reassemblage provides the requisite dramatic underpinning to a collection of songs that speak to the fragility of relationships. Fraught with doubt, of both self and others, Diamond’s highly personal lyrics invoke the universal. Far from a gimmick, “Deathly Hollow” works deeply as an exploration of fractured psyche, the high melodrama of the music both mocking and embracing the vulnerability of Diamond’s narrator.
Mustard-In-Law – Born With a Yellow Spoon In Your Mouth (self-released)
The seed of two Iowa City artists, Mustard-In-Law is not necessarily music. But Mustard-In-Law doesn’t really fit into the noise scene either. They have too much fun. Creating a unique sound world out of everyday objects, the duo’s take on electro-acoustic improvisation is full of whimsy. Basically, Mustard-In-Law is the aural equivalent of pure id: honest, exuberant expression that is also completely absurd. Live, they incorporate homemade visual projections, as well as donning all manner of Mustard-In-Law swag. You see, Mustard-In-Law is all-immersive. And all-inclusive. Mustard-In-Law is having a party, and you are on the guest list. Bring your noisemakers.