Book of Tapes — Fort Evil Fruit

Cassette_tape_DJ_equipment_by_DJ_ArtyomMp3’s don’t melt in the back seat of the car on a scorching summer day. You can’t pull tape out of a CD and use it to hang a mobile of rodent bones over your kid’s crib. You keep dropping your $30 records on the floor. You don’t think you’ve ever actually seen an eight track. What’s the solution? Cassette tapes, my friend. You need them: the minimalist form of them, the colors, the labels with their own distinct aesthetics, the misguided nostalgia, the music that exists at the wild and rich edges where CDs and LPs fear to tread. Where to start, you ask? Well, friend, it’s true that I know a few trails and backroads, and I suppose I can take some time to be your coyote guide to a few of the wild places, the Fort Evil Fruit, the Brave Mysteries, the places with No Kings.

Something I don’t intend with these explorations: Consistency. This week I’m focusing on a label. That might not always be the case. I won’t be making regular outings. A certain week might see multiple posts and one (or three) month(s) might see none at all. This could potentially be the only trip I’ll ever take you on. Sometimes the consistency might be that of undercooked oatmeal, other times it might look more like icicles hanging from the roof of a gas station in Poland. I may decide to cover things that aren’t tapes. I will almost definitely decide to cover things that aren’t tapes. I am already planning to cover things that aren’t tapes.

What will be constant is a musical edge-walk that is as experimental, captivating, and slightly-shitty-in-a-charming-way as most of the music that gets released in the vibrant and strange world of the tape ‘underground’.

Down with the intangible! Down with the easily scratched, the over sized discs, the formats with costs in the double digits! Hail the cassette! Onward!

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Logo_red

Just say the name out loud to yourself, really savor how weirdly satisfying it is—the texture of the F’s coating your teeth like the fourth can of Miller High Life you’ve had this morning. Fort Evil Fruit is a label operating out of Ireland, somewhere on the border of Tír na nÓg and Hy-Brasil. Their collection is boundary crossing, fielding filthy-bleeding-gums black and doom metal, the best of the Irish experimental folk scene (United Bible Studies and related folks, to be specific), dirty drone bands, and so on. What ties it all together is their consistent visual aesthetic (scroll down to the bottom of the page for an example), general weirdness, and the fact that everything they release never fails to be worth the purchase. For sanity’s sake (to be determined if that’s for yours or mine), I haven’t covered all their releases, but everything they’ve put out is worth a peak from your ears.  What follows is only an account of my personal favorites from the champagne of tape labels.

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In Print

Baldruin & das Ensemble der zittrigen Glieder

Sound of a hand pushing lenticular clouds into lakes of salt.

Baldruin’s seventh or so tape in the past three years is an oddity in all the most fascinating of ways, not the least of which is the sonic appearance of a guest-artist from the far reaches of weirdness on every one of the twenty three tracks this lengthy tape features.

Sound of a woodpecker pounding on a warped record that’s been hung from a branch on a dead elm.

Someone besides myself might describe it as ambient, or even krautrock-ish. I’d say it has elements of those, but it seems more like a sound collage than something belonging to an easily definable genre. I don’t think anyone else will call it a sound collage.

Sound of a snowdrift spinning in the alcove of your left lung.

The songs here are more like a series of vignettes, usually short and focused around varied, but aesthetically cohesive, atmospheres and techniques, creating an experience that could be called, as Fort Evil Fruit’s blog describes it, kaleidoscopic, but which I would relate more to the effect of looking at an old, stereoscopic View-Master reel.

Sound of eye floaters leaking out to slide down a featureless face.

That is to say, each song feels like a slide, or a photo in a gallery. No doubt the great number of hands contributing their own unique voices, instrumentation, and spirits to the album are responsible for each short song holding such a distinct identity.

Sound of sweeping glass off the sidewalk behind the collapsing facades of a shopping mall.

And that variety is a big part of what keeps this tape interesting throughout; at one moment you’ll be hearing what sounds like the gurgles and nervous chatter of a family of ghouls, then following that will be a lullaby tune of softly sung vocals and opium-drenched arpeggios floating towards the ceiling, and later still there will be the static-rich clip of a news broadcast.

Sound of words stuck in your teeth and coating your tongue.

Weaving all of these scenes together is a sense of vertigo that’s just startling enough to be oddly comforting, even warm in a strange sort of way—

Sound of small and blurry figures running circles through a topographic map of your brain.

—a hypothermic delirium to the tune of music boxes, warped and warbling human voices, aging synthesizers, scarcely recognizable field recordings of objects being rattled or shuffled around.

Sound of mussel shells whispering into the soles of your feet.

Sometimes the variations feel endless, at others a melody or fragment of sound rises out of the medley, resonating with a vague familiarity that can hardly be traced (in a sense this is a reflection of one of the best qualities of the tape as a format—no easy back-tracking).

Sound of typewriters ejecting papers for a book composed solely of empty spaces.

On second thought, perhaps it is kaleidoscopic in the way that these separated songs have a tendency to subtly interpenetrate each other—a kaleidoscopic View-Master you found buried beneath stacks of sun-bleached magazines in your grandparent’s attic.

Sound of organs blaring from a church that’s been buried in the body of a sand dune.

I’ve mentioned already that it’s quite a long tape, but I should reiterate that: often tape releases are quite short things, maybe a twenty-minute demo or something, but this feels more like a full listening experience. I’m not going to sit here with a stop watch and time it or something, but you know, it feels like a long time whenever I listen to it.

Sound of an archaeological dig floating through an aurora in the mesosphere.

I’m surprised Baldruin hasn’t seemed to have received (as) much attention (as I think he should) from this tape. It’s an endlessly fascinating series of aural experiments, and it would have ended up on my year end list for 2013 had I heard it a couple of weeks earlier.

Sound of falling further into sleep until you can’t speak for your body unfurling into gray ribbons that resemble folded wings on a snowy television screen.

Hammemit – Morthworks

Gray sky on a cold spring morning and the wind is rolling over stones and down rivers and over the old church where the bells never sound and the pedals of the organs have forgotten feet and where there is no congregation anymore but the few songbirds that perch on the trees that brush the eaves of the white building with twigs and buds still folded and those birds sometimes fly and sometimes speak a language that cannot be illuminated in any manuscript and far away under the hills is an illiterate who never speaks but with his fingers on the strings of a guitar alone and it is a strange instrument that echoes and follows no tuning known to me and at times resembles a memory of those same trees acting out a dance with the wind and at other times seems like someone who is forgetting and walking thoughtlessly with bleeding ruined feet and a dark cloud filled with black stars passing over his eyes and the illiterate who once howled and spoke and let the organ speak into his feet still speaks only through those hands with strange chords and a meandering dark still behind his eyes like the eyes of an animal illuminated in the night and it is a captivating dark and a song that brings me to strange places that many would not like to go but a few would likely follow him into the church where the dome is carved into the floor and leads to a catacomb that was built before words and where no eyeless thing watches or speaks and soon it will be night with only the owls speaking behind the trees that cannot be illuminated in any manuscript or memory.

Buchikamashi – Out of Body Experience

Abstract

Synthesized sounds: Deep, floor-is-falling-out-beneath-your-feet drones, airy drifts of melody, glassy shimmering noises, oscillating sequencers making quiet journeys from the left headphone to the right, digital stridulations and chittering computer chips—all flowing together, one element burying another before fading out for a new one to take it’s place.

Field Recordings: Less common, consisting of clinking chains, birds, wind, inchoate voices, clanging metal; I think I heard some dripping water at some point. Usual stuff.

Tibetan Prayer Bells: Yep. They sound the way they always sound. Which is a good sound.

Concrete

It’s sort of new-agey. Not that new-agey, but the vibe is there. It works well in a Steve Roach-esque embrace of dissonance and darker tones for balance. There aren’t any moments I would call saccharine here, and a few I would even call quite beautiful or ‘transcendent’ or something. You know what I mean. Buchikamashi stays busy, with more than enough layers of texture melding together at any given moment. There’s actually one part with a techno beat that’s strikingly interesting and disappears way too quickly. Actually, I may have just imagined that. Sometimes things almost feels a little too active—the way everything blurs together can drown out the structure entirely. That could be a good thing depending on your mood and the length of time it’s been since your last cup of coffee.

Like a slow fall through infinite space, Out of Body Experience has a lot of depth and beauty and wonder, but if you spend enough time listening to it you start to wish that maybe something else would happen. Maybe there should be a guitar solo, you might start to feel like you’d rather be riding bikes on a cold spring day with a pretty girl who has great taste in twentieth-century Russian futurist poetry, you might get distracted and start feeling bitter that Twin Peaks never got past its second season. I think I’m trying to say that it’s really good, but it’s a mood album—the kind of thing you’d put on while you do something that’s just uninteresting enough to let you focus on the sounds, but demanding enough that you can tune it out if you need to. Something like writing an album review, or heating canned soup, or reading a non-fiction book that’s just okay. Eventually though, you’ll finish the review, force down the soup, get too tired to continue reading the page, and it’s in those moments that this tape will crawl into your attention like a soft but scab-covered cat slips under the blankets of your bed.

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Out of Print (But totally worth hunting down and/or buying the digitized, not-real versions on FEF’s Bandcamp page)

Whirling Hall of Knives – WHOK Lab Emissions Vol. I

Screaming table saw teeth lurk in the same space where hypnotic drones get drenched with crackling, dissonant noise, like so much acidic confetti exploding from the mouth of a jeweled skull. Slowly building, always intriguing.

Innercity – Mental Institution for Outsider Drone Music

Crumbling tones, weirdo rhythms, alienated thoughts, deranged melodies. Surprisingly great, like Tangerine Dream with gray matter dripping out of their palpitating nostrils.

Romannis Mötte – Kozmische

Tangerine Dream / Klaus Schulze styled synth-music. That sounds a little aesthetically boring in 2014, and, you know, it kind of is. It’s not likely to take you away from your Jean Michel Jarre records, but Romannis Mötte is no amateur either. The spaced-out melodies and sequencers should be more than adequate for a thoughtful night drive or an evening spent on the toilet, staring at low-resolution pictures of nebulae with your 3D sunglasses, if that’s what you’re into.

Hammemit – The Ghastliere Morrowe

I reviewed this excellent tape back when it was released, employing such descriptors as “half remembered dreamscapes,” “wreathed in strange echoes,” and “oft appalling music.” Translated into human: really, really good.

Richard Moult – Rodorlihtung

One of my favorite tapes in the collection and coming from one of my favorite artists (musically and visually), Rodorlihtung is composed of delicate, icy piano and synth meanderings, with Michael Tanner of many excellent projects contributing some bowed guitar. It’s the soundtrack to underwater streams beneath a full moon at midnight. Any money you send Fort Evil Fruit’s way for this one goes to the Scottish Wildcat Association.

Áine O’Dwyer – Music for Church Cleaners

Solo, improvised organ songs accompanied by the sounds of elderly folks cleaning a church. The organ itself has a great tone, and the songs are varied and interesting enough, but something about the background noises—the muted hum of a vacuum, coughs, shifting furniture, an old woman requesting that O’Dwyer stops playing only one note for a long time—adds a bizarre sense of being present to the recording of this meditative tape.

Courtesy of FEF's Facebook page.

Courtesy of FEF’s Facebook page.

-Jake

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~ by jakemoran on January 15, 2014.

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