tate/allison – “Jazz Machines” Cassette (2019)

tate/allison is JR Tate and Billy Allison, a couple of guys who met in music school in the San Gabriel Valley, just outside of Los Angeles.  The duo have backgrounds in big band, jazz, and rock, but also an affinity for noise, and they brought all those disparate pieces together on their new release Jazz Machines.

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Jazz Machines opens with the 23+ minute “Rain”.  The first third of the track creates an overall ambient soundscape with a distinctly non-electronic, instrumental warmth about it.  The horn takes a more prominent place as we progress, the composition splintering into different subelements as the intensity attacks and relents.  There are elements of free jazz at play, but much of the vibe remains minimalist and some passages feel quite intentional and not so improvisational, the overall subtlety making the noisier portions that much more jarring.  “Washer/Dryer” hits the listener with more discordant sounds early on, taking a more aggressive stance.  I sense a broader range of instrumentation here as well, including some electric guitar feedback that would have made Hendrix proud.  The track is more reminiscent of experimental rock than free jazz, in part due to the more prominent place of the guitar and other obviously electronic elements.  At 36 minutes it’s a marathon, but one that never gets old or tired.  “Train” opens in a much gloomier place, like a dark night in a run-down harbor district, damp, cold, and dangerous.  It retains that somberness throughout, a film-noir-esque soundtrack (and at 28 minutes, it could indeed score an entire film) to those places that are best avoided.  Compared to the other tunes, “detergent” is almost punk rock at just over five minutes in length, a song that retains its ambient core throughout and serves as a relaxing outdo to the overall Jazz Machines experience.

Jazz Machines is available on limited edition cassette and digital download via the art throughsound Bandcamp page HERE.

Grav Spee – “Grav Spee” Cassette (2019)

gravspeeThe latest from new Reykjavik-based label Eyewitness Records is a three-song thumper of a self-titled tape from Grav Spee.  The cassette opens with “Eating Out”, an electro pounder that includes some industrial-metallic-like top end flourishes to give the entire thing a very “otherness” quality, something you can’t quite put your finger on, something both familiar and yet… just slightly off in a way that connects with your most primal fight-or-flight neurons.  Do you like it?  Do you hate it?  Are you afraid of it?  To me it bypasses both the fight and flight options and freezes me solid like a deer in the headlights, unable to look or turn away as a ton of steel and plastic bears down on me doing 60 mph.

“Carpull 55” does away with any pretense and hits like a wrecking ball driven by a mechanical beat, a beat that at times takes on an edge of distortion, running hot and destructive.  “Mongo” is like being submerged underwater, sealed inside a steel drum that someone keeps banging on from outside, metallic and with the sound waves distorted by their travel through the fluid.

Give Grav Spee a listen on Bandcamp HERE.  As of this point it appears there are still cassettes available as well, though it’s limited to only 25 copies so it probably won’t be around for long.

Somke – “Somke EP” Cassette (2019)

somkeThere’s a new label in Reykjavik called Eyewitness Records.  It was founded in 2018 by electronic musician Ívar Sævarsson as a means to release his own material as well as that of other less traditional techno artists, and so far this year Eyewitness has put out three limited edition cassettes.  Copenhagen-based Somke was the first non-Sævarsson artist on the label, with a seven-song EP of synthy dance beats and mild chiptune influences.  “Facelift” is my personal favorite, its brisk tempo overlaid with bleeps and bloops, though the darker and more laser-like “Golden Circle” certainly gives it a run for its money.

Danceable?  Hell yes.  So get yourself over to Amazon and order some glowsticks, then head over to the Eyewitness Records Bandcamp page HERE and get yourself some Somke.

Mark Trecka – “Everything Falling Crosses Over” Cassette (2019)

everythingfallingOpening with a high-speed and only vaguely tonal piano passage, Everything Falling Crosses Over‘s A side track “First / Kicking / Form” captures your attention with its almost clinical composition.  But then… then a change starts to emerge.  Slowly, moving, curving like a sine wave and becoming something… different… but still similar, the piano warmer now with more depth and range. But then… the… the vocals come in and the complexion changes again… and again… the merging of all these parts into one composition something that clearly shouldn’t work, but does.

The B side is broken down into three tracks, each unique in character but with similar enough frameworks that they feel like part of a whole.  The vocal interludes remain startling, almost otherworldly in how the seem to suddenly emerge from the mist and plant themselves into the soundscape, growing, living, then wilting before being overtaken by the mist once again.  At least until the last number, “The Wrestled To Regard”, which is all about the vocals, hitting you with them right out of the gate, an unexpected close to the album.

Everything Falling Crosses Over is my first experience with Mark Trecka and it most certainly won’t be my last.  This was not the album I was expecting to hear when I played it, though those preconceptions are on me.  I also didn’t expect to like it as much as I do – it’s something truly unexpected and captivating.  Available by cassette in a limited edition of only 50 copies, if you want the physical media you better get on this one fast.  You can find it HERE.

Endalok – “Englaryk” Cassette (2016)

endalokenglarykIt seems that the older I get, the more frequently I have weeks that feel both impossibly long but yet seem to pass by in no time at all.  The cycle of commute, work, commute, eat, and sleep can turn you into a five-day automaton, a zombie who, unlike those portrayed in the movies, is going a hundred miles per hour non-stop.  That’s why I sometimes like to get up early on the weekend and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while listening to some music, a slowed down part of the day before the world wakes up and daily responsibilities take hold.

This morning I decided that the recent snowpocalypse we’ve been dealing with here in Seattle, which is now in that “everything is melting and there are huge piles of ever-dirtier slush piled everywhere” phase, warrants some atmospheric black metal.  I picked up this cassette copy (numbered edition of 100) of Englaryk on eBay the other day for less than ten bucks.  I tend to prefer my black metal more on the chiller side, and Endalok fit the bill.  At times moodily ambient, at others orchestrally metallic, the band has found the black metal sweet spot (and if Black Metal Sweet Spot isn’t a great album name, I don’t know what is).  Tortuously dark with electric edges that crackle like ball lightning, Englaryk is equally effective at both low and high volumes, more somber when turned down, more electric when cranked to 11.

You can listen to Englaryk on Bandcamp HERE, though it appears the cassettes are sold out.