An Already Dead Tapes Quartet

shapeBrooklyn’s Already Dead Tapes continues to release music at a ridiculous pace, faster than the normal consumer can fathom.  We’ve chosen four recent releases to highlight, including one of the label’s best to date, which isn’t even a tape!

We wanted to review anybody but the cops’ The Shape of Punk To-Go when it was released a couple months back, but it was too short for our pages: four blasts of pure power punk, tucked into seven and a half minutes of a 7″ record.  But now we can tell you: this is something special.  While playing this record, one can imagine (or remember, if older) digging through the crates of a punk shoppe, searching for discarded singles from bands that might just be the best thing ever.  There’s remarkable complexity in these grooves, which seem at times like an entire album of punk and math rock distilled into a bite-sized meal.  Would we want 45 minutes of such music?  Our initial answer is yes, but our suspicion is that too many explosions would strip the music of its power.  As it stands, The Shape of Punk To-Go is an exclamatory statement of where power punk might head in the 21st century.  Calling on glam rock, psychedelic rock and thrash, anybody but the cops stake a claim to being the most energetic band around.  And with titles like “Heather’s Favorite Puking Spot”, the band is bound to find fans through words ~ despite being nearly all-instrumental.  There’s one word on this 7″, blink and you’ll miss it!


What in the world is this thing? one might exclaim after examining the cover of Grimény’s Die groβe Enttäuschun.  Is this a Wakeman-esque prog band, a Renaissance troupe, a Shakespeare festival gone wild?  In a way, all three things are true.  This German trio rocks hard, but with an undercurrent of melancholy ~ which is why their name translates to “the great disappointment.”  Suffice it to say that few will be disappointed by their sound, which often borders on the massive.  In the opener “Remény”, riff after riff enters the room until the sound field has been completely filled.  Then some spoken word ~ surprise, it’s prog! ~ followed by giant slap bass and an (unspoken) invitation to dance.  But as soon as one thinks “Raubbau” is the latest incarnation of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, it all falls apart, and faux orchestration thrusts the listener into King Louis’ court.  The remainder of the hour continues on these three poles: dance, space out, listen.  While it never settles on a single genre, its variety is its strength.  If the live show matches the cassette, attendees are in for a treat.


Lost Trail‘s What If This Was All A Twilight, Trembling On The Edge Of Darkness? would have made our Haunted House list had it been released before Halloween ~ but Lost Trail’s nature is to be haunted, and another of their productions did make the cut.  This is a blast of dronelike music, thick as locusts in parts, intricate as needlepoint in others.  The contrast between these two poles creates a delicious tension.  It may be called “The Devil’s Music”, but only in the present day, a reminder that the sounds associated with the devil have changed; while the devil now seems to love abrasion and dissonance, once upon a time he loved harmony, and female singers, and organs (the musical ones) and guitars.  The wink is that Lost Trail knows history and plunders it for posterity.  “You know how many people commit suicide listening to the devil’s music?” an orator asks.  Play me some pretty elevator music, and I’ll jump out a window right now.  But play me something like “Anthropocene”, with its looped, dramatic strings, and my spirits will lift toward the heavens.  The album’s thematic consistency makes it one of Lost Trails’ most memorable productions, but it also contains some of the act’s best tracks; “To Be Overwhelmed By Vastness” is downright gorgeous, and we suspect that we’ll be playing “The Turning of the Stillest Year” come New Year’s Eve.


Come Home starts with a siren, laughter and a horn, then in mid-track incorporates ambience and a baby’s gurgle, suggesting that something unusual is going on: a tour, perhaps, through cities both internal and external.  Vinyl crackles provide mild hints of plunderphonics, but Come Home is not an easily-pigeonholed album.  Beats approach in comforting fashion, but stop shy of the dancefloor.  A child cries out; a harp is strummed; a spoken word sample speaks of “Life and Upbringing”.  In a way, the album operates as yin to Lost Trail’s yang; things are still strange here, but no danger is involved.  The samples recall those used by The Orb in their early days, circa “Little Fluffy Clouds”.  The most affecting:  “Oh, it should be so easy to be happy, shouldn’t it?  It should be the easiest thing in the world.  I wonder why it isn’t.”  Yet the music is as calming as the woman is wistful, as if Pyramidal is responding in the resurrected language of trip-hop.  Pyramidal’s music is nostalgic, but his message is timeless.  “If you get a little bit of insight into yourself and into the world and in your relationship to the other 3 billion people on the earth … maybe you won’t be so stupidly violent.”  (Richard Allen)

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