Certain releases fit perfectly with their format, complemented by medium's unique physical qualities. LPs, 10", 12", 3"cdrs, all these formats, when used properly, can contribute to a release's appeal, fitting snugly like a new pair of knickers. Considering all the great, easy to reproduce options available to artists and labels these days, the continued survival of cassettes has been annoyed me for some time, as an average consumer. First of all, if anyone's like like me, they ditched their cassette players (cars excluded) over a decade ago, along with roughly 99% of the rest of the civilized world. My only experience with cassettes, prior to my discovery of diy labels, was from my youth. Those tapes, especially Poison's "Flesh and Blood," and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie original soundtrack, remind me of a musically shameful youth, years that set the foundation for a decade of misguided musical fascinations. Mass Dist's recent split/collab tape release, "Kites Is a Monster / USA Is a Mudboy," is fortunately one of those rare releases that really fits perfectly on its chosen format, a persuasive testament to the continuing relevance of cassettes in my collection. Godzilla-scale, Tokyo-stompers, calling themselves USA Is a Monster (an ever-evolving, currently psychedelic, kraut, magma-blooded-rock organism) appears on both sides of this tape release, collaborating separately with two distinct Providence, RI scene heros: Mudboy and Kites. Is a Monster stitches these two artists together, even when they're split contributions is divided by the format's inconvenient physical barrier. Each side, so separate from the other, is given plenty of space to take root and flourish. Over each guest collaborator, Is a Monster gradually encroaches its influence like a parasitic organism, sucking the life from its host, until eventually acclimating, resulting in some new, symbiotic musical pairing. Alongside Is a Monster's imposing presence, the Kites and Mudboy still manage to distinguish themselves, carving out their own cooperative niche alongside the formidable, magma-fueled psychedelic beast. Had these tracks been pressed besides each other on a cdr or some other similar format, this recording would not have the same effect. Each side is distinctly separate, but part of some greater whole.
Surging like a tsunami, KitesIsaMonster, the topside's blend of USA Is a Monster and noise-sculptor Kites, opens the recording gently. A surprisingly subtle ambient electronic drone fills the scene first with a tranquil undergrowth of sound, peppered by a canopy of cymbals and other assorted noise tinkerings. On the edge of the horizon, far off in the distance, Is a Monster's electric electric guitar first begins to surge, its gentle progression sounding innocuous. Kites influence is dominant at first, their thick, expansive tones draped over those first hints towards Is a Monster's slow, approaching tsunami force. Like the great waves, there's little warning of danger, just a harmless looking, larger-than-average sized wave foreshadowing the ocean's approaching weight. This electric guitar begins to carve a path for the approaching torrent, catering a harsh buzz-saw of sound, the pitched shredding of electricity, across the landscape. Regular drum notes, alongside the electric guitar, are more early signs of the increasing urgency, and deepening sonic waters. Within a few minutes, electric guitar and drums knock are knocking over obstacles effortlessly, USA Is a Monster's influence at full force. Psychedelic, leather-pantsed rock jams hold the high water mark for several minutes, lumbering prog-psych waves snapping trees in half, and washing structures clear off their foundations. Periods of relative quiet bring that distant drone tree-line back into focus, with the drums rolling slowly back towards the horizon and screeching guitars soaking back into the water table. What comes up must come down, and the track's rock-and-roll spotlights eventually dim, fading at last into that ever present drone.
Mudboy's pairing with Is a, as USA Is a Mudboy's, is hard to describe succinctly. This long form track implodes on several occasions, re-materializing from shattered pieces of the recently obliterated tunes. The first section of the track, which last about seven minutes, is atmospheric and creepy. Rusty, crumbling synthetic drones weigh like a heavy haze upon playful, dusty electric-piano synthetics and a distant, psychedelic guitar. Out of nowhere, without any warning, the track takes another sudden detour, introducing a Caribbean afternoon cocktail guitar, and playful, toyish synth, cleared of its cobwebs. This sound doesn't stick around either, looping for only a minute or so, and suddenly collapsing, exhausted, into silence. From this latest aural rubble rises a single stringed tone, bowed repetitively over tinny, crackling cymbals. Like the turn of a page, or flip of a channel, these elements too slip out of view. The abrupt shifts almost make this track sound like a soundtrack, mixed and blended into one continuous track. Electric hum, a heart-rending, Blue-Period electric guitar and drum beat fill the track's lunchtime and early-afternoon with a subdued ambinace. Is a Monster's influence is more subdued here, bowing to Mudboy's more whimsical fancies.
Film samples, mysterious, energetic and desperate, the confrontation of a frantic husband, wife and even-tempered friend, fill the final piece of this growing puzzle. This particular puzzle piece is the oddly shaped sort that you would immediately notice, if this music was actually composed of puzzle pieces. Much of this lengthy track, when viewed like puzzle pieces as individual elements, doesn't seem to fit together. If this song's metaphorical puzzle was an ocean scene, there would be plenty of blue pieces (obviously), but also another huge selection of brightly colored neons. Viewed out of sequence, those neon bits would seem out of place, and misplaced. Assembled though, those pieces finally take shape, probably as a sailboat, or a distant, flamboyant flock of Colombian Coast-Owls.
These two distinct compositions, sharing a common collaboration with the previously featured rock musicians USA Is a Monster, make for a wonderful side of this split release is distinct, and displaying in turn, each artist's unique identity, melding at times into something entirely new. Collaborations oftentimes drown out each contributing artist, leaving little more than a muddy mess. This release, on the other hand, is a wonderful testament to the split, and the split cassette especially. 10/10 -- Sean Herman (31 July, 2007)