Gift Tapes /presents: Jonathan Sielaff, Million Mists, Norm Chambers
Our first show of 2017 felt like a real success, with the help of friends, lovely music and a supportive audience. It’s an especially important time for live music, for building community and for experiencing the creative expression of artists.
The evening opened up with a beautiful set by Norm Chambers on synthesizers, beginning with an intriguing introduction of mangled frequencies, followed up by one of his more signature melodic sets, offset by an LPG’d motorik beat powered by his euro-modular.
Jonathan Sielaff presented a powerful, dynamic set of processed bass clarinet and loops paired with a video sequence of structures among natural landscapes. His piece drew attention to the acoustics of space and varied in intensity throughout. Light floating melodies pierced by atonal moments of ripping, sub-augmented whines filled the space. My personal favorite moments were the forceful, flattening gestures that sounded like the removal a throat from a live guerrilla – intense!
Million Mists, Jamie Potter’s solo project, performance was a cold and cryptic set of feedback loops and synthesis accompanying a new video experiment. Potter’s adeptness as an improviser guided him into new and unusual territories of cycling sub bass tones and discrete hums on a self-oscillating analog drum head, a 70s wind/wave machine and delayed arpeggiations on a Pro-One, despite a brief technical issue of a dying piece of gear audibly hissing its way out of commission. The sounds were reminiscent of Potter’s early work with drone and noise in Bonus circa 2004. I inquired about the video after the show and he explained that he used a modified image of his own head (that we used for our press image) and 3D printed it, placed it on a turntable to rotate the head while projecting video feedback loops onto it, shooting it and then applying some post-processing. Video sample below:
This show wouldn’t have gone so well without the help of two great friends: James Watkins running video and lights, and Robert (RM) Francis managing the door. The Wayward Music Series (Steve Peters) generously offers a beautiful space to host performances, but the PA setup, running sound, working the door and managing the artists can be challenging without the help of a good team. Special thanks to those two for making this first performance a huge success!
Just got word this morning that Matt Carlson’s recent Gift Tapes release has been reviewed in the June issue of The Wire magazine. I’ve seen a few reviews of Gecko Dream Levels out there in cyberspace, and most of them basically warn people that it’s SO WEIRD you may have difficulty listening to it. Check this one out from OMG Vinyl:
You may have a little harder time wrapping your ears around Matt Carlson’s offering for the newest Gift Tape batch. It is a far, far gone piece of electronic experimentation.
You’ll notice that The Wire pretty much follows suit.
For me, the weirder the record, the better… and the more I want to listen to it. As a listener, I’m attracted to work that is challenging and hard to figure out—this is what I think distinguishes art from craft. I am a true fan of Carlson’s bizarro world. This tape has become my gateway to enter the deep waters of creative meditation, in search of the big, deep fish (deep-diving David Lynch fans will know what I’m talking about).
For those of you that are ready and waiting for more, keep your eyes peeled on the DRAFT website. We’ll be issuing our first LP for Matt in the coming months, and let me tell you: this one ups it a notch on the weirdo-scale! And for those of you in Seattle this Friday, May 13th, come check out Matt’s solo modular set at the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford.
This year I’ve noticed all kinds of best of 2010 lists out there in cyberspace, so I thought I’d join the party and post a favorites list too. The list includes both recorded work and live performances of 2010. Please note that the albums are listed in no particular order and the live performances are listed by date. I’ve probably missed a few things, but I definitely wanted to mention these albums & live performances because they have totally shaped my reality in 2010.
Favorite 20 Releases of 2010 [that I’ve heard/in no particular order]:
Golden Retriever, Golden Retriever 2 (CDR, Self-released) Robin Fox, Handful of Automation (CS, Editions Mego) Pete Swanson, Challenger (CS, Self-released) Caged Soprano, The Newspaper (CS, Jugular Forest) Pulse Emitter, Cosmic Images (CD, Expansive) Headboggle, Banjo Signal Generator As Advertised (CS, Digitalis) Keith Fullterton Whitman, Disingenuity B/W Disingenuousness (LP, Pan) Alex Barnett, Section 3 (CS, Nihilist) Outer Space, Lightyear Demonstrations (CS, Deception Island) Telecult Powers, Return To The Psychic Dancehall (CS, Snake Mysteries) Geoff Mullen, Bongo Closet (CS, Razors And Medicine) Geoff Mullen & Keith Fullerton Whitman, November 28, 2009 (CDR, Upstairs) C.P.U., The Hard & The Dead (CS, iDEAL Recordings) Synaptic Foliage, The Bottom Of The Ocean Pt. II (CS, Cylindrical Habitat Module) Pax Titania, Orphan Daughter of an Orphan Daughter (CS, Catholic Tapes) Rene Hell, Porcelain Opera, (LP, Type) Any Given Sunday, Take Me To Your Dealer (CS, Agents of Chaos) Bee Mask, Canzoni dal Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico (CS, Gift Tapes) J. Hanson, Blood Orange (CS, Gift Tapes) Frak, Dry Vanadis/Tournament City (CS, DRAFT)
Favorite Live Performances of 2010 [that I witnessed/listed by date]:
Pacific City Nightlife Vision Band & Stellar Om Source, February 18, Seattle @ Gallery 1412
Spencer Clark and a friend from the Portland group Eat Skull creating ritualistic Casio music that really had everyone mesmerized. At one point Spencer started some sort of loop and walked through the crowd to grab some other non-name-brand Casio-type keyboard enclosed in it’s original box – totally added to the humorous, semi-ghetto vibe. Stellar Om Source’s set was ultra hi-fi layered synth, performing in near darkness amidst crazy light formations.
Matt Carlson & Josh Hanson, April 2, Seattle @ The Josephine
Matt Carlson played a crazy set of modular synth that reminded me of Carl Stallings cartoon music, extremely stereoized and humorous – I was laughing my head off the entire time. Josh Hanson performed pieces of his Blood Orange tape, using prerecorded material processed through various filters and other analog effects – a very refreshing approach to performance.
Metal Rouge, June 17, LA @ Synchronicity Space
Duo of Helga Fassonoki and Andrew Scott + another member performing trumpet I think whose name I don’t remember. Total tripped-out mysterious improv, with music venturing into mostly unclassifiable territories, using affected/prepared guitar and voice. Helga’s presences give this group a performance art aspect that is very engaging and unsettling, while Andrew seems to link the music to our world.
Golden Retriever & Double Dare, June 19, Portland @ Abyssal Behemoth
The duo of Jonathan Sielaff on bass clarinet and Matt Carlson on modular synth – started out like a blippy analog computer, transformed by ecstatic wails on bass clarinet and becoming a ripping field of champion musical energies. Opener that night was a ruling duo of Levi Berner and Amanda Anderson called Double Dare, a combination of samplers, live electronics and some huge Casio CZ synth creating awesome textural noise amidst song structures – my intro to this new duo (and it turned out to be a one-off performance).
Telecult Powers, July 10, Brooklyn @ Port d’Or
Amazing set of extraordinary cosmic jams by the killer synth duo, performing with a rare 16 mm film of animated comets flying through space!
Harmonizer, July 11, Burlington @ Firehouse Gallery
Greg Davis & Toby Aronson’s duo project utilizing synths, effects and the harmonizer! Really killer live collab process, and fairly gestural in sound… inspired by John Hassell’s work.
Bee Mask & Marcia Bassett/Samara Lubeski duo, July 14, Brooklyn @ Zebulon
Chris Madak of Bee Mask which completely floored me with this sound collage/live electronics set; awesome diverse sound set that flowed like a concrete master work. The duo set of Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubeski ventured into some really dark territory; full on ghosted light patterns from alternate dimensions.
Pulse Emitter, August 13, Seattle @ Chapel Performance Space
Daryl Groetsch’s Pulse Emitter project, performed a meditative music set in a beautiful space on a summer evening, using his road modular system and a mini rack mount synth. One of my favorite artists in the minimal synth category and this was an exceptional performance.
Greg Davis, August 24, Seattle @ Gallery 1412
Total surprise set from Greg Davis. I had seen his newly assembled modular a couple months prior to this set, but had no idea what he’d be doing. Instead of his ultra-minimal music I am familiar with, he seemed to do an exact opposite. Sound flying all over the space, ultra maximalist, mostly atonal and masked vocals within the field of electronic chaos. So fucking awesome.
Matt Carlson, September 17, Seattle @ The Josephine
Another Matt Carlson set that blew me away and had me rolling at the same time – he literally uses every available limb to control his modular and keyboard and upped it a notch with his use of the vocoder. Extremely bugged out, dynamic set of weirdo vocals and synth.
Rene Hell, Pete Swanson & John Wiese, September 18, Seattle @ Black Lodge
Swanson’s recent incorporation of the modular synth has been ruling, and I have to say this was my favorite set I’ve seen him perform. (The photo above is actually from the first show he did incorporating the modular synth.) My live into to Jeff Witscher’s Rene Hell project totally stood up to the amazing record he put out on Type. John Wiese utilized way more acoustic recordings than I’ve seen him use in the past, kind of an odd, atonal cut up that was more weird than noisy.
Oregon Painting Society, October 7, Portland @ Holocene
Crazy-ornate set of this amazing Portland-based 5-person art collective, performing live electronics and homemade instruments amidst flashing lights and an insane amount of props. Reminiscent of a dynamic Merzbow set.
Million Mists & Panabrite, October 10, Seattle @ Gallery 1412
Jamie Potter’s first solo performance as Million Mists and Norm Chambers first solo performance as Panabrite – both sets super amazing debuts. Million Mists usage of digital synths, samples and delays gave way to malleable jellyfish textures and cold fuzz. Panabrite used three synths and some effects, creating some truly vintage new age scores to a fantasy landscape degraded on VHS.
Pax Titania, the solo electronic project of Christopher Cprek (currently residing in Louisville), incorporates homemade electronics, sequencers and drum machines to create sweeping textures and bumping rhythms. Orphan Daughter of an Orphan Daughter, released on Catholic Tapes, is like a high-speed chase scene on Light Cycles, as colliding drones outwardly flex their energies just above the speedy oscillations of a 2-dimensional plane. It’s musical accompaniment to an action scene, a unique vision that is bound to cause some head wear.
Cliffsides is one of the projects of Brooklyn-based synth jammer Ryan McGill (Bones of Seabirds). His recently released tape called Singularity contains two melodic works for synthesizer that launch the listener into celestial orbits. Thick, spacey passages of delayed synth washes, combined with heavy bass notes that drop like meteors, are carefully constructed to form a heavy cosmic aura. Drones and filter sweeps combine to form a mountain of sound. It’s the sound of a spaceship set to fly just 200 yards above the earth’s surface, zipping across the sky, tracing it’s geological formations. Ambient arpeggiations rain down from the skies above sub-bass tones, while emotive string pads slice through the center leaving gorgeous, wistful melodies in their wake. This is an invitation to another place and an easy passage to a new universe.
This was my first acquisition from Franklin Teagle’s Anathema Sound. Forming only a year and a half ago, this label already has 23 releases to date. With such great artists and original artwork (Matt Yacoub), this is a definitely a label to keep our eyes on–check them out. Also, I should mention–keep your eyes out for a new project called Afterlife, a collaboration between Franklin Teagle and Ryan McGill. Some of you may have checked out the Stunned Records release, a split with Ossining (Brad Rose & Kevin Danchisko of Sovetskaya Gone). I got this in the mail last week (thanks Phil!) and both sides are excellent.
Mirror to Mirror, a new project from Jugular Forest’s founder Alex Twomey, melds mystery with new age ambient virtues. Minimalist atmospheres are packed with emotive intensities so powerful, they tend to feel more like noise pieces. Rerest is the first release of this new project, conceived in February of 2009. It’s a departure from his work as Persimmons Pomegranate, a noise-based project where the music jumps from strange drones to ecstatic spaces (also excellent work–check out Window).
With the press of the play button the sound begins to accumulate, forming yellow-tinged shadows that pass beneath every breath. In the corner of the darkly lit room, a distant light reflects upon a pool of blood. You notice that the air is stagnant, but then someone opens the door. This transition causes the walls to disintegrate. Emotional, uplifting, inspiring, meditative, and underneath it there is an attractive darkness. Rerest excels at activating the imagination. I find it particularly amazing that a short tape (c20) can have such an effect; this music will transport the attentive listener.
Jugular Forest is proving itself to be an up and coming label. This is my 4th cassette from them and everything I’ve received so far has been great. I highly recommend picking up some of these tapes before this label is discovered.
Knit Prism is a new project by House of Sun label head Mike Pouw. His new tape, Amaranth, is an excellent introduction to his work and to his label. (I should point out that what you are looking at is actually a double cassette – total props on the case!)
The beauty of Amaranth lies in it’s ability to coerce the listener to enter dream states, so much so in fact that I wonder whether this was intended as a hypnosis tape. The unconscious is awakened by distant melodies and slowly morphing loops and drones; deep tones creep into the chest and induce the physical body into a relaxing sleep. Synthesizers, guitar, effects and tapes, some of which seem to be recorded in space, are slowly combined and offset– as meditation. There’s an element of musique concrete happening here, lying in the background as textures and appearing in the foreground during transitions. Delicate and mysterious, the flow of Knit Prism’s works are not to be missed.
Charlatan’s Equinox tape accesses some of the melodic zones Iasos might have reached in 1975’s Inter-Dimensional Music, but the music is a bit more minimal: transcendent washes of melodic notes that flutter and hover about in the stereo field. It’s not quite what Steve McLinn (Ojas) refers to as ‘big synth’ music, but it sounds huge and seems to lead us from vast landscapes into the star field. These uplifting jams will open your heart and mind. I have one other Charlatan tape that came out on Digitalis LTD a few months back, but this one is even better. Highly recommended, but limited to 40 copies.
The new tape by Brooklyn-based artist Prehistoric Blackout (Taylor Richardson of Infinity Window, Purple Haze) called Stone Reaper collages synths and guitars to create cloudy, layered electronic music for mind-altering states. This is murky, cavernous mysticism ran through a phaser pedal in a fish-bowled room.
Side A opens with a tweaky, but poppy guitar progression that’s momentarily overtaken by a white noise storm and morphs into loopy synth noodles stream of consciousness-style through stereo-panning and rhythmic muting. The B side begins by continuing the psychedelic trip-out light vibes of the first side. Noise-head sample warping momentarily devolves into tribal drum circles surrounded by a multinational boys choir, providing the perfect ending to ruling cassette.
This tape was recently released on Pizza Night Tapes alongside 3 other great-looking releases. I highly recommend taking a look at Sam Goldberg’s label, as it offers an excellent selection of experimental cassettes. Definitely pick this one up.
^^^ is a beautifully packaged CDR by mi or and the pedestals, the project of Ceci Moss. Ceci generously sent me her solo disk back in April, and soon afterwards I had the pleasure to share a bill with her in NYC at DIY venue West Nile. Using synthesizer, computer processing, effects pedals, and voice samples, her live performance manages to recreate similar spaces found on this CD.
The disc opens with intense waves of digital heaviness, a spatial vacuum that presses at the temples. Hints of open spaces pierce this river of sound, until the flood of inverted gravity begins to slowly degrade into a dimly lit spectrum of falling particles. These particles rise, taking the form of stars that become constellations. Here the music takes a turn, becoming synth music of the cosmos, a soundtrack to the night sky.
When the second track takes shape it becomes apparent that we have traveled: a place of foreign origins, an altered perspective. The breadth of this new ambiance echoes through the dense, new atmosphere, as a mix of electronics and voice spin up a web of sound that reflects the natural rhythms only found in reoccurring dreams. From here on out, the listener is free to explore the quiet dynamics of the invisible and the unlikely.
This disc is a total treat. It comes from a very unique perspective and definitely one that is well versed in experimental and ambient musics. Support her efforts by acquiring her works here: ceci AT amillionkeys DOT com
About the time I released the first batch of Gift Tapes, someone told me about a crazy productive guy named Josh Burke. I hadn’t heard his work before, but I had seen the name. He pops up all over the place – distros like tomentosa and the like. When I looked into it further I found out he’s the dude behind Sky Limousine & Futuresport. And further research lead me to the labels he head’s up – Clear Audio & Video, Slime City & Avocado Jungle. Descriptions of his jams really got me digging deeper – each seeming to contain ‘warm synths’ (can’t go wrong). In my experience, people this insanely productive are always doing interesting work (ie. Brad Rose of Digitalis, Lieven Martens of Taped Sounds, Chris Madak of Deception Island, or Pete Swanson of JYRK/Freedom to Spend). Many props to these dudes and the many others out there releasing important work on their labels and still finding the time to make their own rippin’ jams – these dude make things happen.
I acquired this tape titled Wonder released on Clear Audio & Video released in 2009. Josh Burke’s work is excellent. Light & quiet, thick and murky-mysterious, I found myself entering day dreams of green forests and blue skies. It’s soothing, emotive music, almost introspective… slightly contemplative. Synths create the landscape, melodies rise and fall, drones warp and skew, but the clouds are what lead us to our final destination. A certain weightlessness is inherent in his long form compositions, flush with oxygen and the smell of fresh rains. This Chicago-based new age ripper totally delivers.
You’ll find all of these release very limited, but each one I’ve heard is excellent. I have 4 tapes now and many more I’m in search of. If this one is no longer out there, grab what you can. I haven’t been able to get his Clear link to work, but if you want to learn a bit more about his discography, check the links here: Discogs: Sky Limousine, Discogs: Josh Burke, Discogs: Futuresport