Richmond Tape Club is billed as “a series of 20 minute EPs from Richmond, Virginia based electronic artists”, but it encompasses multiple genres including drone, new wave and experimental. Two cassettes are being released every other month, and we’ve just reached the halfway point, with the final four scheduled for October and December. With the series off to a strong start, we anticipate a strong finish as well.
Negative Gemini (Lindsey French) is the only of the initial four to include vocals, but the fun of listening to this release is the opportunity to hear a new take on an older genre. Part electronic, part gothic and part new wave, French’s set is appealingly nostalgic (at least for our older readers). At times, French sings playfully, other times plaintively, echoing and manipulating her words into phrases and fragments. With vocal music, it’s all about the memorable phrase, and the last track is the strongest, thanks in great part to a strong beat, fuzzy synths and the poignant “all I ever wanted was to feel okay”. With a delivery reminiscent of Miss Kittin, French makes listeners wonder if the electroclash revival was too short-lived.
Husband and wife John and Tara Morand are the impetus behind Slow News Day in the Vampire World, a percussive project that makes fine use of live inputs from a host of artists including Steven Vitiello and Bobby Donne. With titles including “Stephen Funky”, “Delia Dub” and “Bobby Dub”, there’s no question what listeners are in for. This is beat-driven, head-nodding music, and several of the tracks would make fine backdrops for emcees. The dub sheen is at times Laswell-esque, a groovy repetition that allows the ear to search the curtains for additional noises. Again, the last track is the strongest; “Animal Talk”s stuttered beats and sampled grunts recall the work of Tackhead, making this the second Richmond Tape Club release to have one foot in the past and one in the present.
Elian (Michael Duane Ferrell) has always been a difficult composer to categorize. His first physical release, Whispers, Then Silence, sounded as haunted as its title, while subsequent releases ventured into territories unknown. This time the RTC nostalgia is present only in the titles: “Christopher Lee” and “Peter Cushing”. These complex, synthesized soundscapes are marked by vast dynamic contrast, a boon to repeated listens. While one would never mistake these tracks for the original scores of Lee and Cushing films, one can imagine them as adventurous new scores, as they include the mysterious unpredictability that creates effective suspense. As one drone recedes, it is replaced by another; a gurgle departs, a pulse enters. Through the wise use of stereo, Elian creates a clever misdirection. Sure, there’s nothing under the bed, you’ve checked. But is there something in the closet? Elian’s latest offering is far more immediate than his former works, and its intensity is an aural magnet.
Finally we reach the work of Anduin (Jonathan Lee), whose multi-media releases have made a solid impression, in particular XXVII and Stolen Years. His RTC release continues the collaboration begun on the latter album, with the valuable contributions of saxophonist Jimmy Ghaphery. The meditative, elegant “Sleeper” provides satin sheets of sound: one imagines lying safe in bed late at night, being serenaded to sleep by a lonely alley musician. “Stranger”s electronic cadences are supplemented by the surprising harmonica of Noah Saval (Souvenir’s Young America), followed by the subtle guitar work of bandmate Graham Scala. If Stolen Years marked a new direction for Lee, this tape solidifies that direction. As the head of SMTG LTD and the curator of the Richmond Tape Club, Lee is leading by example, stretching his boundaries while inviting others to do the same. (Richard Allen)