Tape Hiss is a (semi) regular column focusing solely on cassette releases. For the uninitiated, this feature was originally run on Stylus Magazine's website, but with Stylus shutting its doors, Bryan Berge is bringing it to Foxy Digitalis. So rejoice and all that, and check out some of these recent happenings in the world of cassette labels. In vol. #28, we take a look at a handful of recent releases from the Epicene label.
Rain of Ghost
It comes as no great surprise that—in a scene so enamored with reverberation, decay, and darkness—two sludgy projects go by Caves. Thus simple name confusion led to the release of this tape. Seems Epicene head honcho Matt Reis was trying to solicit some work from the ultra-dreary Caves of Kentucky but ended up with this slightly-less-dreary tape from Caves of New York. Beyond the humorous typecasting—sort of like stumbling across two acid folk acts name Faerie Family Band—the mistake reveals the open-minded zeal of the noise underground, the prime reason this is such an invigorating time to fan or practitioner.
The error also resulted in a pretty damn good tape. This Caves likes his sound sources a bit clearer than his Kentucky counterpart. As a result, the six pieces on "Rain of Ghost" have a coherent flow and form, and the separate tracks of each piece are much easier to appreciate independently. Underpinning most is a solid bass throb, recognizable from most every project labeled 'doom' in recent days (and that would be a hell of a lot), but in this case, that throb is not overemphasized. Instead it shudders like an evil threat beneath the riffs.
And riffs there are aplenty. This fella comes from the Slayer wing of metal appreciation, and while his guitar lines aren't quite so break-neck, he certainly has a knack for the 'badass' school of guitar. This marks a nice departure from the foggy fugues to which I’ve grown accustomed. All told this hews closer to a more traditional form of metal, while retaining a focus on atmospherics and texture befitting good drone or doom or whatever.
Not every metal move works out well unfortunately. The vocals sometimes lapse into a gurgled roar that sounds played out to these ears. Without the extreme range of a Malefic, such antics come off as space-fillers. Luckily, listeners are mostly spared the extremities. Instead we're treated to a sprawl of ambience and anger that deserves a much wider release than a humble edition of thirty.
Blue Sabbath Black Cheer / Vestigial Limb
Turn your back for a goddamn second and you’re bound to miss another up-and-comer. It’s getting so a guy could make a regular career from scouring message boards. Anyway, while I wasn’t paying attention, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer up and released LPs on What We Do is Secret and Black Horizons, as well as a healthy stand of tapes of their Gnarled Forest label, earning en route a following amongst all the right people. Unless I’m mistaken—and given my painful out-of-the-knowness with this crew, I probably am—this material predates their recent burst of output.
Despite their sudden ascent, BSBC doesn’t come on quick. The tape opens in utter desolation, with measured beats emptily thudding like detonations in a desert. After the somber intro, the duo descends into a squall off knob-mangling, upping the decibels but retaining the eerie note of resignation with which they began. Swells rise as the sea swirls stormy, eruptions of distortion blur the distinction between blown-out crusty vocals and past-the-red effects, and the methodical beat keeps pace like a slow-moving summer-camp slasher.
The flipside is graced by the solo project Vestigial Limb. They arrive without the laurels of the A inhabitants, but, hell, all anyone needs is that elusive critical mass. Vestigial Limb unleashes noise of a straighter, harsher variety, with little concern for even the slightest nods to neighboring genres. On first listen, one is pummeled by pure power but—once the ringing clears—is left with the icky suspicion that there’s little else to the piece. Subsequent listens reveal more—whirring motifs, whale-tongue bass bleats—but the details are dwarfed by the savage gestures splattered across the reel. But hey, that’s noise for you. And the initiates grin…
The Sacrosanct Opuscle
Over time in this column, biases against noise-qua-noise have emerged. The genre is pure action, liberation from the constrictions of organized, theory-saddled music. At its best, noise is like abstract expressionism—ostensibly a matter of process and emotion alone, but capable of creations that, as if by accident, possess an almost incomprehensible depth. Sadly, I find this lack of preset structure often paradoxically manifests as a striking sameness, as all the noise folks converge to a point of mutual maximum violence.
But this Teeth Collection tape reminds me that this notion is, after all, only my perception, necessarily contingent on the limitations and expectations of my own hearing and listening. Sure, lots of noise sucks, but much of it is unduly converted by baffled ears into audio garbage as a matter of coping. Noise requires total immersion; to offer less is to render it an impotent curiosity.
Teeth Collection had me as soon as the button clicked. This tape is totally saturated in sound, infested with an oddly perfect static, a distillation of chaos. The remainder of the sonic field is populated with strangled shrieks, insectoid stuttering, and alien distress signals blaring imminent death.
But never did the tape lapse into a tantrum. Rather, Teeth Collection is intentional without being so—further evidence that systems emerge from the void, with no assistance from the bloody hand of God or man.
please submit any tapes to be reviewed to the regular Foxy Digitalis address (found HERE). Thanks.