A year in the making, Life Like releases its first compilation, as well as its first non-limited release. The tape almost seems like two compilations in one, with the first side being dedicated to lo-fi indie-pop songs (which can still be described to some degree as “experimental”), while the second side is more definitely avant-garde (though it has its pop elements too).
I’m not sure if any other copy of this tape is like this, but for some reason my copy actually starts out with the last track on side A, a Fleet Foxes-like a capella song by Idiot Glee called “I’m Going To Yum Yum’s”. The actual first song is a rough guitar instrumental by Shells, the solo project of Swimsuit drummer Shelley Salant. This is followed by “She Is Gone”, a jaunty organ-driven number by Bad Indians. Very gleeful and actually kind of pretty. Next is a very rough, trebly song by Detroit garage rockers Gardens, which stands in stark contrast fidelity-wise to the track which follows, “The Dignity Of Saint Jude” by Hive Dwellers. This is actually the only non-exclusive track on the comp because it’s on the band’s new album that just came out on K Records. It’s a typically Calvin Johnson song: booming baritone vocals, simple memorable melody, jangly guitars. Man The Hunter follows with a brief, scruffy pop song with a tossed-off “whatever” spoken intro, which contrasts with the lush, harp-driven Our Brother The Native instrumental which follows. Then Curtains gives us “Harbinger”, a much more refined pop song than the material from his tape from 2010. Still lo-fi and stripped-down, but with some detailed vocal breaks and a stately groove. After this is a very hazy, Actress-like techno track by Daytime Television called “The Sky”, and then an Avery Feral track which sounds like a few unrelated practice clips spliced together. Very grainy and fragmented, but it still sounds really beautiful. Then there’s a melty keyboards instrumental by Mt. Hope, and then a new City Center song, “Permanent Green”, which blends acoustic guitar and vocals with some electronics which end up sounding shorted out at the end. The tape turns a bit dark after this; Broken Water do a really raw, junky track called “Practice Tape”, and then Wiccans do a spooky dark folk song called “Cone Of Night”, complete with bongos, flute, reverb, and lots of still night air. Rat Paws (who is also in Hot Boss) destroys yr senses with a harsh amelodic screed called “Vending Machine”. One of the most surprising tracks on the tape is the Mighty Clouds track, “Volcano”, which for some reason stands out to my ears far more than any song on the group’s self-titled album from 2010. Gorgeous layered vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars, almost sounding like K Records-era Mirah or The Microphones. Next is a live instrumental by Swimsuit, and then the Idiot Glee song which I already mentioned.
On to side 2. Some of these songs are longer and more drawn out, but it starts out with some shorter songs. Corpsekisser’s one-sided LP was the first Life Like release; they kick off the second side of this tape with “This Is Not A Revenge”, a typically creepy and minimal song with simple, cold vocal harmonies and xylophone, and some train sounds running in the background. Then there’s a brief, trippy, lazer-delay instrumental by the mysterious Racecardriver, called “Cell Phone Machine”. Then Long Distance Poison, whose first tape was on Life Like, return to the label with “Heofoncandel”. The track doesn’t stretch out quite as long as they usually do, and it fades out suggesting it might be an edit of a larger performance. But it starts out with some midnight drone, adds a hypnotizing buzz-pulse, and has a few other carefully-paced synth sounds flaring up into the stratosphere. Next is an unusually groove-based track by Billowing, “Dead Duck”. Groove is a relative term, but it has a bit of a loose, post-rock-y rhythm section, along with some flickering synth sparks and some freaky vocals imitating the music. After this is a definite tape highlight, a Xela track called “A Cemetary Mane”. Very haunted, very smoky, very horror soundtrack like, and very fitting for a song released after the end of the Xela project. It basically sounds like Xela coming back as a badass zombie. Next is an unusually chill instrumental from Damned Dogs, which mostly just consists of some atmospheric flute and quiet synth. A little surprising based on the more beat-driven direction the group is heading towards, but nice nonetheless. This calmness is broken up a bit by a blast of guitar introducing the Skate Laws track, but this quickly fades into humming minimal drone, with a lone delayed guitar note at the end. Thurston Moore contributes a track, but it basically sounds like a flanged-out remix of some noisy pipes in his apartment. Next is the most “proper” noise track on the album, “Night Balance” by Lidless Eye, AKA Knox Mitchell of Green Records and Tapes. It’s a really nice measured burst of distortion with some rhythmic elements towards the end. Then there’s a short, blurry spoken word piece by Mall Mutants (formerly Actual Birds, and owner of the FM Dust label and Archaic Formats distro), a slow, tense track by Failing Lights, and finally a grainy, decayed, incredible untitled track from Evenings, which sounds like being carried away on a ghost ship.
Whether you’ve been following Life Like’s release schedule or not, this is simply an excellent showcase of current underground music. As previously mentioned, it’s released in an unlimited edition, so you don’t have to immediately order it in fear of missing out, but you should make sure you get around to ordering it soon. BTW, if you search around the Life Like site, there are rips of some of the sold-out tapes and records, the Billowing 1-sided LP Cruel Summer being a particular favorite of mine.