Tape Hiss is a (semi) regular column focusing solely on cassette releases. For the uninitiated, this feature was originally run on Stylus Magazine's website, but with Stylus shutting its doors, Bryan Berge is bringing it to Foxy Digitalis. So rejoice and all that, and check out some of these recent happenings in the world of cassette labels.
Back in my day, high school kids were content to churn out Slipknot rip-offs to burn off their hormonal discontent, but apparently playing sloppy basslines with an unlit cigarette hangin’ out your mouth doesn’t satisfy the young bucks now. This generation needs something more, new, and different; they’re taking swigs from the underground chalice instead of shotgunning Natty Light, and are they the better for it?
Hardly. The humble, hummable pleasures of youth are disappearing into a deafening scree that’s shredding the very moral fabric with which we duly cover our shame. We’ve a fully blown youth crisis in our God-given U.S. of A, and the miscreants of Widening Horizons should be declared Public Enemy Number 1.
Composed of two formerly upstanding Midwestern boys, Widening Horizons stepped off the straight path via big bro’s early Sonic Youth records, detoured to the SYR series, and then reappeared as deadheaded DIY jokers to deliver sonic death to Billy and Susie via the JK Tapes and Arbor labels.
The only redeemable quality of this filth is its length. Fifteen minutes of warped guitar wreckage, demento howling, and afterthought percussion won’t transform your honor student into a glue sniffer, but it will damage a cochlea here n’ there. Hopefully American parents have adequately prepared their children for the challenges of adolescence. If so, a simple “no sir” and a quick tap on the stop button can nip this vagary in the bud. If not, kids everywhere will be swallowing this like the newest magic pills wrenched from the sweaty palm of the hooded ex-con on the corner.
The lesson here: curiosity (and its insidious twin, creativity) kills the cat and everything nearby in a wanton godless slaughter. If experimental music is fine for you and yours, you might as well pack school lunches with matches and meth.
Crash Your Putrid Minds
My attitude towards this tape has been hopelessly changed since I read an offhand forum post by Black Horizons proprietor James Livingston linking "Crash Your Putrid Minds" to dance music. He, of course, noted that the party at which this was played would be screwed in a serious way. Ever since then, when I find myself shuddering to Anakrid’s bleak beats and lost-in-the-funhouse whirls, I try to imagine the perfect party for this piece.
The music is head-bobbing for sure, conjuring up the slightest foggy memory of some very dark chop n’ screw, so the attendees of our monster’s ball would certainly be long gone on lean, and their dancing would be more of a comatose wriggle. The environs would be mostly black, though phosphorescent paint would be hand-smeared along the walls to bathe the mute seekers in sickly greens. Masks would be mandatory, and all would have sharp teeth.
"Crash your Putrid Minds" would sound good through a PA—the production on this beast is of another order than the usual noise-label fare. Chris Bickel has had a long time to practice his craft, and his dedication to sonic detail shows. Beefy, echoic beats plod through a deftly-spun light ambience that births shrieking, metallic near-melodies; all is cast in a shadow of secrecy and horror. So tilt your party hat over your eyes and drain that plastic cup—it’s gonna be a long night.
From what I’ve heard, a Burnt Hills session could cause some permanent and crippling finger damage what with all the axe-grinding that goes on. So It comes as no surprise that for this side project two of the BH boys tone it down a bit. "Without Mercy" starts off slow with the twenty minutes of “Floating Elemental.” The track begins with searching yelps just as soon sourced from sea lions as frets that reverberate and repeat until a crunchy feedback blanket adds volume and tension. Delayed guitar scrawl then loops around a muffled, mangled voice, lifting the track from its restful-if-bizarre bucolia into urgent, anguished confusion. Proceedings slowly ebb until the sound returns to the void from which it innocently sprang.
“Matching Wound” concludes the side with four minutes of lonesome-drifter guitar work before the side-engulfing mind-emptier “Photosynthesis” commences in a fog of electricity. Though “Photosynthesis” musters less energy and mystery than its A-side counterpart, the sonic journey still broaches some interesting territory—diluted crowd noise, goner, lost-garage psych moves, and feedback meditation, namely.
please submit any tapes to be reviewed to the regular Foxy Digitalis address (found HERE). Thanks.