Cleveland’s Unifactor Tapes makes a splashy debut this month with a trio of quirky releases and an avian art motif. These birds are not normal, nor is the label; and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
The label’s first release doesn’t even have a title. bending spirits (Tristan Kasten-Krause and Jayson Gerycz) honor their name by bending notes and structures, their opening salvo akin to the sound of unoiled machinery, their finale an assault of all-out noise. Perhaps these are the sounds that irradiated birds might make in the wake of an apocalypse, although the duo imagines it more like the back streets of Cleveland; not a very good tourist brochure, but an excellent warning. These sounds would scare even the offensive line of the Browns. As the first side-long track grows in volume and stature, one wonders just how loud it will get, until the bottom drops out in the eleventh minute. The plinks and plonks sound like frightened insects scattering for safety; human footsteps approach, marching closer and closer until finally they pass; has one been spared? Only until Side B. Here the strings swirl and swarm until they are ready to attack, their screeches and squeals matched by rising electronic glissandos. And oh, that bass. This is not a subtle manner in which to launch a label, but it’s an extremely effective one, a statement of strength that’s hard to ignore.
Sam Goldberg‘s kiss me while i excuse the sky may refer to a famous rock song, and it is rock, but it won’t be misquoted. This fuzzy, groove-happy pair of tracks marries electronics and six string guitar and operates as a long-form jam. It’s not as loud as the first tape, but it does include unusual breakdowns, the first arriving in the fourth minute of Side A, as the rhythmic pace halts, giving way to something that sounds like a calliope with a broken battery, attempting to turn after the summer staff has all gone. Similar sounds return in the tenth minute, sparking the question: which is the real song? The surreal shifts continue as a waltz tempo emerges from behind a frayed tent. And is Goldberg singing? Side B is more straightforward, until the ninth minute, the moment in which the tape most sounds like a tree filled with mutated parrots. Sky, you are excused.
Khaki Blazer is a nice moniker for Patrick Modugno, much nicer than that of the band with which he normally plays. But gelatinous ground is less polite. Treating electronic tempos and notes like fingerpaints, Modugno proceeds to smear them all over the place, allowing words to enter only to be stuttered, looped and mangled like a tortured Speak & Spell. Not even rap is immune: take a line, kill it by hitting the repeat key ad infinitum, and steal the danger from the rapper. The whistling is more fitting, as the artist is clearly having fun here. As for accessibility, forget about it on Side A; Side B is where the electronic stems are allowed to sprout leaves. If not for the synths of the first half, one would have a hard time taking Modugno seriously, as soon he’s back to the hammer and elves. The wink in his music reflects that of the label: take them seriously, but not too seriously. Just be careful when you feed those birds. (Richard Allen)