As we’ve done during previous years, we compiled a list of some of our favorite tape releases that we played on our podcast show during 2013. In the weeks ahead, we will be doing the same for our other favorite LPs, CDs, reissues, etc. Even though we listened to literally hundreds of tapes throughout the year, we decided to keep this limited to twenty releases total. There are plenty of artists and labels whose work we fully appreciated and whole-heartedly endorse that are not represented herein, and we strongly encourage you to look back through our podcast playlists to check them out. For now, though, these were the tape releases, listed here simply in alphabetical order, that we found ourselves returning to most frequently. Please follow the label links to find out more information about each release and for ordering purposes. As always, thanks for looking and listening.
AdCan’s releases on Tranquility Tapes and Rubber City Noise were
also exceptional. This one, though, struck me as his most concise
statement with its strong song-like elements. Along with his other
project, Oxykitten, and his label, Field Hymns, Dylan McConnell is
unleashing some of the most consistently interesting electronic music
in the cassette underground.
Brute Heart’s original score, which was commissioned by the Walker Art
Center, perfectly captures the eerie and ominous feel of this 1920 German
silent horror film with its melancholic strings, ethereal vocals, and twinkling
keys. There is a magical quality to this recording that connects, whether
you have seen the film or not.
Both Keith Rankin (aka Giant Claw) and Seth Graham released some
insanely good solo tapes this year too, not to mention the excellent work
they do with their Orange Milk imprint, but there is something so
mind-bogglingly great about their work together as Cream Juice.
Their barrage of electronic sounds are, on the surface, complex,
yet their material is infused with a sense of pure fun and exuberance
that is downright irresistible.
Murky basement pop from this collaboration between Russian Tsarlag
and SHV. Goaty had us sold at “a gruesome twosome of leathery
grooves and toilet rock.” 2014: The Year of Toilet Rock.
Top-shelf psych drift and kraut groove from this transcendent Seattle
husband-wife duo, not to mention that Eiderdown has some of the
most eye-popping artwork around.
German Army is hands-down one of the best groups to have emerged from
the cassette underground over the past couple of years. This tape, along with
their recent LP output, show them continuing to refine their brand of
woozy industrial noir to more precise and emotionally resonant results.
This tape features two of the most fascinating sidelong pieces we had
heard all year. It has just the strangest arrangement of sounds that melds
classic musique concréte strategies with piano minimalism and hillbilly
banjo plunk – like a hoedown at GRM studios – yet incredibly fresh
Mysterious soundtrack work to a short film by Anti-Natural member,
Timothy Shortell, based on a 1902 German science fiction short story,
here narrated on the A-side by The Shadow Ring’s Darren Harris. We know
it has been stated elsewhere that Harris could read from a damn telephone book
and make it sound utterly arresting with his stark, baritone delivery, and that is
most definitely the case here. The accompanying sounds are equally as compelling:
warm electronic pulsations, mutant machine music, and crackling piano loops.
A much-needed reissue of the beautiful and otherworldly dream-folk
transmissions of Jackie McDowell, who has now sadly put this project
to rest. Comes housed in No Kings always fetching risograph artwork.
Expansive and fully immersive alien electronic sound worlds from
this Belgian artist who has released music on countless reputable
tape labels from around the globe. A massive blank-out trip.
McLaughlin’s meditation on the work of Karen Dalton, specifically
her renditions of the traditional song “Katie Cruel” and Tim Hardin’s
“Don’t Make Promises.” He completely deconstructs these songs, yet
somehow captures the gritty texture of Dalton’s voice and the timeless
melodies of her playing with his reel-to-reel machine and banjo. One
of McLaughlin’s most moving works to date.
Phil and Myste French, formerly of Stunned Records, a label that was
massively influential for us here at FFF, have been crafting some of
of the most mesmerizing sounds under their Nite Lite moniker over the
past few years. This tape picks up where their exquisite LP, Megrez, on
Desire Path Recordings left off, blending found sounds with various
percussive elements and droning textures and an amusing wtf family folk
closer in “Froggy”. Comes packaged in the classic Stunned collage style
replete with those memorable rounded edges and all.
Hazy, retro-futuristic collage pop from the heart of Russia. Singapore Sling
as been cultivating a distinctive aesthetic that is closely aligned with the
excellent Orange Milk imprint.
These infectious, spiraling afro-funk-inspired jams came just in
time to brighten the now long and frigid (soon to be) winter days.
Another winner from Space Slave Editions, who put out a number of
stellar releases throughout 2013. And Phil French artwork to boot!!
This tape features a handful of lengthy live tracks recorded during
Sheldon Siegel’s 2010 tour with Ignatz and U.S. Girls. This Belgian
trio moves between explosive free jazz ramp-ups and droning ethnic
folk scrabble with enough finesse and restraint to make those peak
moments sound like they’re going to tear open the goddamn sky.
Aside from the focus on duo aktion, the second installment of Duets,
much like the first, feels more like an annual report on the state of the
experimental tape scene, bringing together a notable group of
actively involved musicians, artists, and label heads that travel
in similar circles. If you are looking to get up-to-speed quickly,
these compilations are a great place to start.
A collection of blasted, no-fi pop & rock nuggets that’ll leave you wondering
if the International Pop Underground has been reactivated and gone
and relocated to Detroit.
Beautiful handcrafted double cassette edition, with zine and all, that
brings together four of the leading female voices in the international
cassette underground – all delivering their unique take on homespun
dream-pop songcraft to form a cohesive whole. Best packaging
and overall presentation of a cassette release of the year.
Bad-ass noise rock pummel interlaced with squelching electronics
from this dynamic under-the-radar Minneapolis duo.
Prior to his show here in Mankato a few months back, we wrote something to the
effect that John Zuma St. Pelvyn was a blues guitarist in some respects,
but he was also someone hellbent on destroying the form. One of the more
original and completely underrated solo guitarist out there right now,
Lost Masters showcases both the beautiful delicacy and hard-edged
dissonance inherent St. P’s playing style.