Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cassette Review: Cop Funeral "2 STRESSED 2B BLESSED" (Already Dead Tapes and Records)

[$5 // Edition of 100 // https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/album/ad215-cop-funeral-2-stressed-2b-blessed]

A name such as Cop Funeral seems to be a contender for sparking a lot of controversy or at the very least could provide someone with paragraphs upon paragraphs of ideas within a review.    For me- and perhaps it is a good thing- when I see the name I think of the band Sex Funeral and wonder what would happen if the two artists merged together to form a super-group of sorts and would they call it Cop Sex?    If they did, I would fully expect an album titled "Fuck Me In The Evidence Locker".

We begin with an audio clip which sounds like something out of Bob Dylan.   I feel like this is kind of one of those situations where you want to weed out the people who aren't really here to listen- like something Andy Kaufman might have done- because not only could listeners mistake this for the entire overall sound of this cassette and turn it off if that's not what they're into, the next part comes blowing out your speakers and straight into your mind as harsh static blasts.     It's almost as if this opens with enough of a sound to put you into your comfort zone and then kick your ass right out of it.

A glitching buzz can bring about ringing reverb and screeching distortion which can bring memories of "In Utero" to mind.    Gentle beep tones do make their way into this, despite the previous sound which may have sent some listeners packing, and then it turns into this sound of NOLA jazz which I believe might be sampled.     Background audio clips and what can only be described as skipping ghouls bring Side A of this cassette to an end and if you've made it this far, clearly you are ready to take the voyage on Side B.

By this time the listener is invested so there is no more trickery, no more tests to see who is in for the long haul and who is just here because they think this name is cool.    A video game glitch sound takes us into choppy static as well.   Louder whooshes and whirls cut off before we get into the drone beep which leaves me feeling somber, sad.      As loud and chaotic as this was previously, it comes to an end in such a beautiful way.   You could imagine the loud, harsh sounds before as a car crash, the following sounds being the ride to the hospital and the end has something to do with that machine that drone beeps when you flatline, but maybe I'm reading too much into this all.   Maybe my mind is somewhere else.   But at least I am able to read into it.

Cassette Review: Horselover Fats "Liberty Ashes" (Northern Spy Records)

[$7.99 // https://horseloverfats.bandcamp.com/album/liberty-ashes]

When you start listening to something I think you almost instinctively begin to listen for pieces inside of it which remind you of other music you've heard.   It seems only natural.    Someone who is a fan of, say, Nirvana could pull out pieces in a band's music and think "Oh, the vocals sound simliar and that's why I think I like it so much".    With Horselover Fats, I can't put my finger on any one influence really because I've not heard anything quite like this before.    The best way to describe the sounds on "Liberty Ashes" is to think of it as having two similar yet different sides which blend together to form what you hear.

On one hand, there is a slow, brooding, sort of eerie instrumental band feel to it.   It reminds me of various artists I've heard before in that aspect- which at times even hits that FNL spot- and you know, it can go from some sharpness right into these sounds of almost haunted moans.    Though without a specific artist to name it does have some similarities with music I've listened to before and probably even reviewed before although, again, I'm not going to go back and find names to name.

At the same time, you will hear this loud distortion.   You will hear drums banging to the point where they sound like they could be glitch.   Guitars rattle through with powerful bass lines and there is an overall sense of rock to the music as well.    More than rock, it feels fitting that it looks as if it's going to snow outside today because I imagine having that "power through" quality of someone getting stuck in the snow and pushing down the accelerator without going anywhere and then slowly making that progress.    In a word, this could be described as sludge.

To have these two sounds on cassette is not uncommon.   I've probably reviewed any number of artists which I can apply either of those two paragraphs to in almost a copy and paste way.   But the fact that those two sounds are coming together like that, I just have not heard that before but I am really enjoying it.   And now it is snowing outside for the first time this season.

Cassette Review: graffiti trials "no dancing"

[$5 // Edition of 50 // https://graffititrials.bandcamp.com/album/no-dancing]

I like the idea of the name Graffiti Trials because it makes me feel like people are being put on trial- in a court of law, in front of a judge and jury- for graffiti related crimes.    I'm not saying that graffiti is okay because in some sense it is vandalism and it costs money to remove it and all of that (and some people make shit graffiti anyway) but it is funny to me that it feels like it's one of those crimes we just, as a society, sort of blow out of proportion.   Like, you could murder fifteen people and get less of a sentence than someone who sprays some paint on a public building.

Through the sounds of footsteps in a hall and doors closing some synth lasers and beats.   Percussion leads to singing and there is a certain amount of funk in the bass on this one.   Electronic rock is an okay way to describe it, but it also strongly reminds me of the Blue October song "Drilled A Wire Through My Cheek"- which, yes, I fully believe is less of a song and more of a genre in itself.
A split of male and female vocals singing make me think of Adverse Side FX (even though they strictly had male vocals) and then I'm also reminded of something along the lines of PJ Harvey, Garbage, you know, that sort of 1990's distorted almost dark rock in ways.   On that level, yes, I could see this being on some sort of soundtrack like "The Crow" or maybe even "Hackers", but more like some combination of the two (Is there a movie which combines those two ideas?  I'd totally watch that)

If you're a fan of music with lyrics then this will be good for you, but also you have to recognize that there are possibly more instrumental parts on this cassette than not and those songs in some ways are greater than when there are vocals.   This could easily be one of those cassettes which wins someone over in that sense of "Oh I don't listen to instrumental music but I do like this" because the instrumental aspects of it, even with audio clips spliced in, are just so fantastic.

Cassette Review: On New Horizons Vol III by Various Artists (ZyNg tapes)

[£6 // Edition of 200 // http://music.zyngtapes.co.uk/album/on-new-horizons-vol-iii-zyng017]

For whatever reason, I always feel like I have this misguided idea of what I had for tape decks in my teenage years- like, late teenage years when I stopped really buying cassettes but would get some here and there from bands directly.   I actually had a stereo with a CD player and dual tape deck in it, though I did also have only a tape deck in my car for some time, so I would spend a lot of time putting albums from CD onto cassette and even making my own mixtapes for listening to in the car.   I remember mixing up the songs of Weezer when they only had two albums out and some random soundtrack songs.   But the days of trading mixtapes with friends seems to be over, so I find comfort in compilations by labels who I consider to be friends.

Of the bands I've heard on ZyNg tapes before now, only The Nosuns and Savage Goth appear on this compilation but it just means that there are more artists I'm hearing for the first time.     Like friends from before 2010, I trust ZyNg tapes' taste in music and this compilation certainly delivers on songs in the genre of rock.     From the poppier side of punk like Day At The Fair and Saves the Day to guitar riff driven songs in the vein of Franz Ferdinand, this compilation can really just be described by the word rock.

I actually really enjoy how Echoline opens with this electronic Nine Inch Nails sounding song but then it goes into a rock sound which shapes the rest of the cassette to come-- it's just beautifully designed in that way, much like a most excellent mixtape.   Sounds like Coheed and Cambria and even that 1950's rock and roll can be heard before we go into Side B for a song by Bubamara that I can only describe as gypsy punk.  That lazy rock blues takes us into a synth and lasers show before we close everything out rhyming "joy" with "destroy", which oddly enough sounds a bit like Echoline but not exactly like them-- just enough that I could see You Are The Dead playing shows with them.

Overall, in addition to these songs, you'll find this great fold out with a little info about each band and I really enjoy that.   I feel like if I was still making mixtapes to the point where we are right now in 2016 (because we didn't have Bandcamp when I was still making them) I'd probably print out something similar with a band photo maybe or at least just a link for each artist on how to find more music by them.    I don't think I'd go through all the effort of making the layout that ZyNg tapes did though and in a lot of ways that alone makes this all worth it.

Cassette Review: Joe Westerlund "Mojave Interlude" (Northern Spy Records)

[$7.99 // https://jwesterlund.bandcamp.com/album/mojave-interlude]

One of the first things I always like to say about cassettes- and music in general- is that when I feel it is more needed I think you should listen to this one with headphones on.   There is a lot going on and so to let it float out of your speakers and around your room would be ill advised.   You need to trap it and make sure every last ounce feeds from your ears into your brain.

Mechanical, grinding loops start things off.   There are hip-hop electronics and then some form of electronic breathing.   Loud computer crashes come through and might disturb the headphones listener but that's okay.   Spacy pinball bubbles can be heard next.   For some reason, while listening to Side A I get the overall impression that these sounds are a form of the inner workings of a clock- the gears and such moving and grinding while perhaps making amplified noises.

Percussion crashes kick off Side B.   It's screechy beeping.   Electronic birds or puppies come out next.   There is also this drama in the background, like strings or even a trumpet.   A sense of glitch brings in video game horns (whatever that means).    Screechy, free flow jazz brings about some modem glitch now.   Lasers.  Static rain.  Wavy darkness, wind chimes and/or bells and then the overall sense of a submarine bring us into the close with the sound of killer bees.

You can listen to this and kind of create your own ideas of what's going on when you hear these sounds.   It's something which you can experience through headphones and then without and having different ideas and feelings about the music.   It's just something I find so appealing because I keep finding different aspects to it each time I listen to it and I never grow bored.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cassette Review: The Marshals "Les Courriers Session" (Freemount Records)

[£6 // Edition of 50 // https://freemountrecords.bandcamp.com/album/les-courriers-session]

When I first heard The Marshals I was impressed by their particular sound of blues.   I remain just as impressed with this cassette- the "Les Courriers Session"- as it has just as much bluesy rock in it as one can handle.    I feel like in a lot of ways my previous exposure to them was almost like an introduction to the blues itself and now I'm beginning to actually be able to hear some other influences in here come out.

From the soulful guitars of Eric Clapton to a more modern (but still not as recent) artist such as Halfacre Gunroom, this music is powerful.     It's the type of sound that if you're in a room listening to this- even on a jukebox- it demands that all conversations and other sounds cease so that every individual ear can be focused on these sounds.   We've all seen the videos where artists have had to tell fans not to film their shows with their iPhones, but I think The Marshals draw the type of crowd who would never dare.

With the harmonica and lyrics which can become really belted out, this does take a turn into this southern rock sound as well, which makes me think of The Doors.   I also can hear bits of Lucero and just that idea of when blues once crossed over with the more popular emo music at the time, but I feel like that is mostly also because that is a lot of what I know about the blues because despite my love of the blues (I mean, it's sad music) my knowledge of it does not run very deep.

Sometimes the true measure of a band can be how they are seen by their peers on some level.   There is this cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" on here which just embodies a lot of what I love about music.   If you love Johnny Cash- and you better- and you listen to The Marshals version of this song you will be able to appreciate it.   And if you can appreciate this cover of Johnny Cash, I think it will also be rather easy for you to fall in love with The Marshals if you haven't already.

Cassette Review: Snow Angel "Snow Angel" (Captain Crook Records)

[$3 // Edition of 25 // https://captaincrookrecords.bandcamp.com/album/snow-angel]

As I listen to this cassette a lot of what is coming out reminds me of Gabby La La if only because it also says "Gabby Gab Music BMI" on the back.   I don't know if it's just a coincidence or whatever but it doesn't matter because this could be Gabby La La in more of a full band setting (And the covers cassette was more of her solo) or this could just be completely unrelated-- it doesn't matter because it's good and you should be listening to it regardless.

There is an upbeat sense to the music, as it is mostly ukelele and vocals, but there are can also easily be whispers within the singing.   In some ways, it reminds me of One-Eyed Doll but without the... whatever it is that makes OED fall into that "alternative" genre if that makes sense.    Just in the sense that if you won't go to a One-Eyed Doll show because you don't want people next to you asking about that new Korn album then, yeah, Snow Angel might be better suited for you.

Through melodies and harmonies these songs are both angelic and jovial.   It gets a bit darker by the end of Side A, but you will also hear one of my favorite comments on any album ever: "That was the weirdest drum track I've ever done".  I mean, that alone should make you want to listen to this, right?   Someone who doesn't want to write a lengthy review could just include that quote and be like, "Find out why it was said by listening to this cassette!"   I think that could bring people in because at least to me it definitely should.

Side B has two new songs to start things off- which find a keyboard brought into the fold and at one point there is even laughter as the pop reigns seem to take control- and then the last two songs are remixes of songs from Side A.   I've always felt like there was a pop quality to any artist who offered up remixes and the fact that when Snow Angel plays I do not think of the cold weather but rather bubbles floating around everywhere in the clouds, yeah, I could say this just helps to confirm that but only in the best possible way.

I'm not sure what to compare Snow Angel with as I've not heard anything quite like it before but I do enjoy it.   The cassettes are almost gone and when they are none of this will matter in the sense of "Go buy the cassette!", but it will still have the download up so if you listen to it and enjoy it, please pay a couple bucks so the artist (and label) can continue to put out music as great as this.   If you've listened to Gabby La La then you might have an idea about this one but otherwise I'm not sure what to tell you other than how much I like it.