Sky Lantern Records has just launched a tape series with a flourish, as if setting lanterns free in the sky. A quartet of new cassettes by Ø+yn y Montibus Communitas, Centralstödet, Sheldon Siegel and Kikagaku Moyu come wrapped in lovely line cut drawings that share a similar aesthetic. The wide psychedelic/folk sound is given free reign on these tapes, as the label is content to let the artists do what they do: this is raw, this is real, this is immersive.
Listening to Ø+yn y Montibus Communitas‘ Offerings for the Destroyer, the inaugural release from Sky Lantern, one imagines being at a temple for a Hindu festival, or at the very least, a religious street fair. Violin, flute and percussion instruments create a mood of awe; crowd noises add a sense of excitement. From the happy vibe this tape creates, one imagines that a person might have been invited to bring their own cymbals and rain sticks to the concert. The improvised 34-minute raga was in fact performed in a Peruvian bar, a place in which even the Destroyer might feel welcome. By extending a hand to the Argentinian Ø+yn, Peru’s Montibus Communitas demonstrates a sense of brotherhood that carries throughout the set.
Since Sky Lantern is based in Tucson, Arizona, it’s a little surprising to encounter their next release, which again crosses the sea to an unrelated community. Solkurva, Krök, En Böj is the debut album from Swedish “garage proggers” Centralstödet. The mix is a little sloppy in places, especially in the transitions, but this is to be expected as the album is culled from 20 hours of tapes. It does share with the first tape a love of freeform improvisation, yet differs from the former in its form of groove. Here the groove comes mostly from a funky bass, backed by fuzz in the same way as the band members are likely enveloped in smoke. But the band also knows how to rock, as is apparent on the title track, a head-banging anthem that should have all the cool kids jumping and pumping their fists.
Moving on to Sheldon Siegel, we encounter the free jazz of Midden – this trio hailing from Belgium, representing yet another type of timbre, yet still live, still improvised, still as much a blast to listen to as it probably was to play. The saxophone is wild, the drum rolls exuberant, the cello not always what one might expect. This is not an easy, melodic listen, but a creative, curious experience, as the musicians push, pull, hit, tap and otherwise investigate the sonic properties of their instruments. One track was recorded under a bridge; one can only imagine the local reaction! The interruptions – a passing motorcycle, a car radio – add to the pleasing disorientation as the players react and incorporate the new sound sources like a brook flowing around a rock, eventually making it smooth.
Kikagaku Moyu‘s Mammatus Clouds was the first Sky Lantern tape to sell out, even before its release date. This is probably a good time to mention the fact that these tapes are priced at $6 while the digital versions are a bit higher at $1000. This does seem a little pricey, but it’s really a reaction to a Bandcamp setting. For $1000 you’d probably get a newly-recorded tape along with a personal appearance from the Japanese psych innovators. The public is right, as this is the best of the first four tapes by far. On the 28-minute “Pond”, a slow-growing sitar drone bursts into bloom midway before retreating into a meditative trance. As one might expect, the track eventually gets a second wind, and after a few minutes of rocking ends up spent. The B side is sharper, the first studio recording from the label. A springlike wonder inhabits the playful pluckings of “Never Know”, while a surprisingly straightforward cover version of “There Is No Other Place” ends the set with a crash and a bow. This is the way to start a label: throw out so much good stuff at once that we have to take notice. Welcome to the world, little tapes! (Richard Allen)