In this month’s edition of The Tape Deck, we take a look at some cassette releases from The Fun Years, Rug, The Binary Marketing Show, Red Necklace and Selaroda. From droning pop experimentalism to doom metal thrash, including detours into noise and avant-garde electronic rhythms, we cover quite a bit of ground over the course of just five tapes.
These bands never feel the need to adhere to, nor even acknowledge, any set group of musical aesthetics. Pushing genres apart and rearranging rhythms are what these bands do best, and with these particular tapes, they show their ability to transcend mediums and simply present their music in its natural—and occasionally unnatural—state.
Check out five releases that deserve your attention below in the latest installment of The Tape Deck.
The Fun Years, "One Quarter Descent"
To say that Ben Recht and Isaac Sparks (AKA The Fun Years) have an unorthodox way of approaching their music is a bit of an understatement. Using only a turntable and a baritone guitar, the duo crafts long stretches of droning bliss that encircle you and slowly blur the line between reality and their own aural fantasies.
On their latest cassette, "One Quarter Descent" (which is out now on Spring Break Tapes), Recht and Sparks utilize looping sections of guitar tones and layers of crackling vinyl hiss to evoke vast landscapes of music frozen in time. But alongside this feeling of rhythmic stillness, there is also a curious sense of cathartic circuital anticipation. The songs themselves bleed together in a way that doesn't diminish their individuality but heightens and reinforces the album's connective musical tissue.
Rug, "All Neck/Get Plished"
Rug is something of an anomaly. Twisting together aspects of abstract hip-hop, noise experimentation and fractured beat tape rhythms, the enigmatic producer/group/musician (I'm still unsure at this point, as details are relatively few and far between) has created some of the oddest and most unexpected melodies in recent memory. Even when it seems that the songs themselves are breaking down in front of you, there's a ramshackle cohesiveness that sets Rug apart from a good deal of like-minded artists.
For their latest release on Patient Sounds (Intl.), Rug seems to enjoy the task of rearranging and constructing songs from the bare rhythmic and arrhythmic essentials and some assorted scraps of other tracks. "All Neck/Get Plished" feels less like a straightforward album and more like the psychotic ramblings of some half-mad musical genius—and I mean that in the best possible way. These tracks have a disembodied feeling, a chaotic sense of swirling instrumentation and genre manipulation that keeps them churning forward, whatever the cost.
The Binary Marketing Show, "Anticipation of Something Else"
The Binary Marketing Show is an experimental electronic-pop duo from Portland, Ore.—and that description tells you absolutely nothing about the band. OK, so maybe it gives some hint of an indication, but the band never feels bound by any label or genre specificity that you might throw at it. Nothing seems to stick when describing them, and that is most definitely a good thing, if a little frustrating for someone trying to explain the band and their sound to anyone else.
You can find their latest cassette, "Anticipation of Something Else," out now on Already Dead Tapes & Records, and it is a stunning collection of broken avant-pop melodies and lo-fi electronic ferocity. Mixing spoken word samples, 8-bit synths and sparse bursts of brass, the duo of Bethany Carder and Abram Morphew creates something that tickles your ears in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. With every melodic turn, they confound your expectations by quickly zigzagging away from their previous direction and splintering off into strange and wonderfully abstract musical landscapes.
Red Necklace (self-titled)
Chattanooga doom metal purveyors Red Necklace recently released their self-titled debut album, with an exclusive cassette edition handled by Failed Recordings and Inherent Records. Their sludgy, viscous riffs and prehistoric drumming mix with certain aspects common to drone—not unlike their metal brethren in Sunn O)))—to create a thudding, chest-rattling stomp that seems to grab your spine and twist until it's nothing but knots.
Their debut consists of only four tracks, but it's full of some of the heaviest riffs and pounding percussion this side of the Tennessee River. The band, consisting of Bill Robinson and Patrick Wilkey, has managed to harness the feral snarl of metal and add their own slow-burn catharsis to the mix. The result is an album that stands up with the best that doom metal has to offer but that also doesn't feel like just another metal record trying too hard to stand on its own. As slow burning as these songs can be at times, Robinson and Wilkey manage to keep them moving along, even when the rhythms seem to draw out like molasses. But you'll soon hit a great riff, and everything else just fades away in a wash of distortion and noise.
Michael Henning, the man behind futurist electronic moniker Selaroda, makes music fit for soundtracking some grand celestial event. His music incorporates thick synth melodies and droning tones that suggest some magnificent occurrence, some heavenly point of entry where music meets and crosses into space. Henning conjures vast distances and makes the effort it takes to cross them seem practically effortless.
On "Polytexturalism" (available now via Sanity Muffin), he treads into kosmische and psych territory, and of course he brings along the cosmic synths and mind-bending rhythms that have characterized his work thus far. Never one to simply rehash his past material, he warps and alters his own aesthetic into something redolent of his earlier efforts but that feels entirely new and insular. Letting lines of warbling synths, atonal beats and the occasional bit of acoustic guitar shine through, he emphasizes the mood and atmosphere of these songs and allows them to unfold in startlingly beautiful ways.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 8:37 a.m. on 3/27/14 to correct a typographical error.
Updated @ 8:01 a.m. on 3/28/14 to correct the spelling of Michael Henning's name, which was originally reported as "Hennings."