In this month's edition of The Tape Deck, I take a look at some cassette releases from Teaadora, Rachel Thomasin, Andras Pokorny and Magic Camp. In a month with a ridiculous number of fascinating tapes finding their way to fans, it was hard to narrow down which ones would make the cut. But over the course of these four tapes, the artists display a deft hand at avoiding any sort of musical expectation and leave you wanting more of their unique rhythmic concoctions.
Teaadora, "Sang d'Or/Blood Gold"
In the past, sound constructionist Teaadora Nikolova has favored a more drone-intensive aesthetic, with brief flashes of folk rhythms and synth-led melodies to smooth out some of the rougher edges. As apt to draw you in as push you away, her music exists in some otherworldly realm where thought and function have no discernible boundaries—a place where thought is instantly manifested through atonal and arrhythmic composition. But on occasion, roiling just beneath the hiss and static and distortion, she lays herself bare, and it is a wonder of intimate storytelling and emotional honesty.
And with the recent release of a two-song cassingle on I Had An Accident Records, she's given fans new reason to think that she'll continue to confound and excite in equal measure. "Don't Expect Perfect Love" finds her treading the same brutally raw emotional landscape as on previous releases, though the beautifully plucked guitar gives the song a cautiously optimistic slant—as if Teaadora herself realizes that everything isn't quite as bad as it seems. "Blood Gold," however, feels new and different, and you can hear her approaching her own ingrained aesthetic from a new and rhythmically viable angle. The track is practically a rock song compared to some of her other songs and feels far more fleshed out and tangible than people may be accustomed to hearing from her. Thankfully, these two songs never lose the spark and inclusivity that her best songs radiate and simply make you desperate to hear more.
Rachel Thomasin, "Outlines"
Boston-based singer-songwriter and producer Rachel Thomasin wants to drape you in sound, in streaming rivulets of atmospheric synths, guitar tones and a voice that never changes its skyward trajectory. Bringing together a vast array of influences, Thomasin layers atypical beats and shifting rhythms on top of her crystalline vocals and creates distorted dream pop that feels weightless but incorporates aspects of drone and electronic music in some amalgamation of sound and form.
For her debut cassette release for Otherworldly Mystics, Thomasin has offered her listeners "Outlines," a collection of fascinating and affecting songs that should bring her skewed brand of electronic music to a much larger audience. These songs breathe and expand under her careful guidance, though the music never smacks of having to conform to a heavy-handed direction. Anthemic one minute and quietly subversive the next, "Outlines" never tries too hard, and yet you feel as though you're emotionally worn out by the time the last track fades away. Definitely an artist who deserves to have her music heard on a much larger stage, Thomasin is happy just to give the few of us who've come to know her a glimpse into the cogs and gears of her musical heart.
Andras Pokorny, "High July"
Brooklyn songsmith Andras Pokorny creates music that is catchy, melodic and adheres to a strict bedroom-pop DIY aesthetic. His songs creak and moan with the sounds of his makeshift studio, which just happened to be his grandmother's East Village apartment (and which was conveniently empty because she was in Egypt on vacation). Taking what he had on hand—box springs, plywood boards, the ambient neighborhood noise—and crafting some homemade guitar pedals, Pokorny wrote, recorded, mastered and mixed everything by himself; he even played every instrument on the record, barring some haunting violin by Lehel Ujvari.
"High July," his debut album, isn't simply the sum total of its disparate physical elements. Taking pieces of folk, pop and indie rock and meshing them together in a kind of sonic smear, he fuses these pieces of sound into something memorable, arresting and capable of holding your attention, no matter what. Gently lilting melodies give way to brash guitar licks and lo-fi percussive rhythms as the song acts as the perfect carrier for these tones of musical transit. Pokorny isn't aiming for any sort of misappropriation of his influences; he's simply infatuated with the way these artists have affected his own viewpoint on making music.
Magic Camp (self-titled)
There's a ramshackle looseness to the music that Charleston, South Carolina, natives Magic Camp create—seeming as if the music could fly apart at any moment, the band digs in their heels and holds it together by sheer force of musical will. Gliding along on trails of glistening indie pop/rock, Magic Camp can be gentle and catchy one moment and ferocious and ragged the next; it's all part of the remarkable way in which they harness a wide-eyed exuberance and twist it to their pop purposes.
On their recent self-titled record, Magic Camp explores the interconnectedness of different genres, and it is at this focal point between a handful of them that the band finds the sounds for which they were looking. Post-punk attitudes creep around like ghosts in the night, appearing and disappearing without notice, while the band's innate pop prowess allows them to successfully infuse their songs with the heart of pop music but with the soul of DIY rock 'n' roll. Jangling guitars, buried vocals and stomping percussion prop up each song, giving each a chance to stand on its own. They rarely put these songs together in a way that reminds you of anything that you've heard lately. Magic Camp makes you remember all those albums that became instant favorites with one listen, and if you give this release its due, you'll be surprised by how quickly you'll want to hear it again.
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.