Already Dead Tapes have just released a ton of new music. The prolific Chicago based label has some fine n’ fresh cassettes for us to dig into: new music from Supervixens, mchtnchts, Matthew Dotson, Fuzz Town, Paddy Hanna and The Binary Marketing Show. Phew. Founded by Joshua Tabbia and Sean Hartman, Already Dead Tapes display with this eclectic collection just what a playful, diverse and creative label they really are. So, lets get down to the music.
mchtnchts (spell-check hates me right now) kick things off darkly with The Spoiled West and Its Freshly Minted Infants. Throbbing bass lines hint at the underlying infection, though its debatable whether the fever lives inside the music or outside in the mainstream practices and cultural demands of Western civilization. It’s not a voyage for the faint of heart. A deep anxiety courses through the veins, along with a squealing, suffocating dose of noise that can’t get out; trapped tracks that tremble with nervous tension. The Bay Area is home to the outbreak of noise; it’s a contagion that can’t be contained.
Fuzz Town’s Songs for the Existential is a really interesting album. Josh Miller and Poncho Klinger make up the duo and proceed to loop, grind and warp the resulting music. You can go really deep with this one. Static-shrouded loops, unsettled guitar textures and sketchy synths all rotate powerfully and then reverse in on themselves; surely a system that’s close to crashing. Rough yet beautiful guitar chords are slowly strummed, creating some kind of weird, psychedelic paradise. It’s a long ride, but it’s never a long haul. Troubled beats skitter around the lengthy tracks, grinding to a halt as they sputter out dissonant chords. Songs for the Existential is a strange, slow-burning record washed in its grainy low fidelity. When it comes to experimental music, this is where it’s at.
Nature & Culture is a brutal beast in tape form that lives on the wrong side of town. Noisy rock never sounded so good. Supervixens hail from the underground punk / noise rock scene of Italy, and their punishing riffs, incarcerated drumming and psychotic inclinations make this music to remember. No vocals are necessary when the guitars are as loud as this, screeching at everything and anything in their way. Their sole intention is to destroy sound via sound, and in the process they kick off a never ending war of destruction and subsequent creation. They can slow things down, too. “I” crawls around the gutters just after sunset. Police radios pick up word that something is about to go down. The insane chugging of a drunken guitar raises the volume, and the intensity relentlessly builds. The resulting riff is as dark as they come, but imbued with a spark of fiery violence; the aftermath of a thrown molotov cocktail. The noise from the strings, which is unwanted in most situations, drips from the guitar and saturates the sound. The music laps up the noise as if it were the first bottle of the night. The final track is named “Loud Loud Loud!” – you have been warned.
Matthew Dotson has a clear vision for the future of Vaporwave, a genre perpetually stuck in the past. It could be said that Vaporwave’s future is in its past – the genre is convinced that it’s already dead. Perhaps it was never really alive to start with, just a zombie incarnation that feeds on the decaying haze of the 1980’s, its ballads, padded beats and lost footage. 90’s culture has somehow preserved itself, living forever inside the music. The music progresses to the operating systems of Windows 95 and into the early 2000’s, swirling around the era like the Sega Dreamcast logo, but Vaporwave doesn’t really come any closer to the present day. Dotson’s mixing is excellent and ranges from crystal clear electronic sprinkles and sampled lyrics from forgotten songs. The music cuts through itself, sounding like interrupted lines that descend over a VHS tape that has accidentally recorded over the music with an afternoon weather report. Much like the genre, it corrodes in slow motion. Vaporwave is a lovely, nostalgic disconnect. It feels as if you’re travelling through another dimension, scribbled in the fading colour of an ancient television that still picks up repeats of Baywatch; a place of temperate climate, under clear skies.
If you want some seriously good strumming, then head down the freeway to Leafy Stiletto. The guitarist has some breezy folk music that delights in its storytelling. Hanna’s well-rounded songwriting blends perfectly with the guitar’s melodies. Slide guitar rests beside some faster strums, but they’re always in a major key and they love the outdoors. Leafy Stiletto is described on bandcamp as ‘driving music’, and the strings mirror the wheels as they move and vibrate in constant motion. It’s instantly accessible, but the songs really benefit from repeated plays. With the drums progressing bar by bar like an endless streak of road markings there’s a real sense of soft acceleration and a wicked interplay between the drums and the strums.
The Binary Marketing Show is an experimental, ‘sci-fi musical outlet’ whose spacey synths resonate and rumble. 8-bit microprocessors, spoken word samples and loose songs dominate Anticipation of Something Else. Bethany Carder and Abram Morphew lead us through a lush experimental dreamscape that has more to do with the stars than with the Earth. A strange yet soft disorientation comes to take you away; you’re viewing the long, wooden crates that were driven away from the ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. Cosmological theories and rock solid beats wrap tentacles of synth melody around the music, gripping us the way the aliens did in the film Independence Day. Transmissions invade the music, cutting in and out from NASA Mission Control, but the electronic synths are a constant presence, glowing like a diluted beam of pale white light in the sky. The sedate, tinkling rhythms and reverb heavy vocals of “All The While” are particularly beautiful, but a strange aura hovers over the music. Their signals are a ‘communication originating from the silence that surrounds us in a place where nothing is ever silent’. Keep watching the skies. (James Catchpole)