(5cm Recordings, 2015)
The main thing you need to know about 5cm Recordings, based in Des Moines, Iowa (the best of the Midwest, said no one, possibly ever – sorry, couldn’t resist!), is that it’s home to Underwater Escape from the Black Hole, aka one-man post rock/electronic/experimental artist Mathias Timmerman, who also runs the label. The small cassette imprint hasn’t been around for that long, swinging open its welcoming batwing doors like the nicest Old West saloon sometime in 2014. Does that make Timmerman some sort of gunslinging Svengali of the Iowa tape scene? Your guess is as good as mine on that one. But what I do know is that we have new UEFTBH tunes to listen to, along with tapes from Person Whale and Erases Eraser! And that’s as fabulous a gift as I could get for my birthday (which was the last week of November if anybody cares to send their wishes). So let’s dust off those old cowboy boots and 10-gallon Stetsons and dive in, leaving any further western metaphors in the dust of our passing, content to blow in the wind alongside the majestic tumbleweed.
Underwater Escape from the Black Hole – A Thousand Echoes
Oh yeah, does that name ring a bell? If you’ve ever heard it before, you’ll never forget it, and I haven’t of course – I covered Timmerman’s split with Petrified Heart of an Air Whale on Adhesive Sounds, and I still love that thing. On his new EP, A Thousand Echoes, he’s right back in the same vein, covering similar ground, hitting that sweet spot where post rock meets electronic and synthesizer music, with a few samples thrown in for good measure. Think M83’s more expansive, instrumental passages and Jatun’s industrial tinkering and you get the idea. Distorted guitar even finds purchase on “Upon the Mesa,” a title just begging me to wrangle back my dustbowl metaphor from only a single paragraph ago. I won’t, though, because it ends with a Tangerine Dream-y pulse and wraps the tape masterfully – it deserves our respect, dagnabbit! That’s not where the Tangerine Dream comparisons stop, either, and that’s a good thing in my book. “The Gap” begins the tape with sparkling synthesizers, and the song ends with a decidedly not synth-prog sample, cloaked in grot and grit, lifted from The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” which, of course, was lifted from The Rolling Stones. Samples of other songs, some obvious, some not, pop up here and there. “Tumbling Down” sounds like it borrows The Beatles’s “Hey Jude,” but that one’s a little more iffy since I’m only getting a couple of notes at the beginning. “Other Words” samples what sounds like a pop song, but I can’t place that one. The track covers some IDM ground, like instrumental King of Limbs–era Radiohead. That’s a pretty good place to be for UEFTBH – hang out there for a while and keep these coming.
Person Whale – The Fool
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times, and the universe unravels in paradox. I think that’s how the saying ends. Anyway, Person Whale’s tape The Fool (there we go) was recorded on a cell phone and sony tcm-353v cassette-corder, and boy does it sound like it. I was tricked into thinking this would at least come close to the fidelity of UEFTBH, but it doesn’t. It does, however, sound like it was recorded underwater, perhaps during an escape from a black hole. If this is your thing, you’re in luck – Person Whale does experimental psychedelic guitar noodling just right, and cassette is pretty much the perfect format. If you’re like me, you dig the warts-and-all approach of contemporary solo recording, with fidelity less of an issue than it would be for, oh, let’s say Steve Vai. Side A is called “Does She?” and side B is called “She Does,” meaning Person Whale has been absolutely duped or dumped by a female, and he is the titular fool. Or is that me? Am I the fool for bearing the weight of these emotions? Are you the fool for taking my or Person Whale’s advice? So many questions. So much unraveling of universes.
Erases Eraser – r
Tanner, also from Des Moines, is Erases Eraser, and instead of trying to describe this to you, I’m going to let ol’ Tanner do it himself. See, he’s a “glitchadelic, post-microwave and toasterwave artist,” and some of these words have never even been printed in the English language before, until now of course, where they have manifested themselves in the Erases Eraser bio. They’re fun words, aren’t they? I love making up stuff like that to describe music, like post-banana or modern cynical. Anyway, these words that Tanner has graced us with actually make a whole ton of sense when you’re listening to Erases Eraser. The lowercase-only r, successor to e and precursor to a, is Tanner’s second album, and he’s presumably going to record twelve albums before calling it quits. (Because e, r, and a are the beginnings of what word? Anybody?) Each song is named after a breakfast cereal, a totally Dan Deacon thing to do if ever there was one. And believe it or not, Dan Deacon is a good starting point when discussing the manic percussive music that you’ve come to expect from the Erases Eraser brand. There are very few vocals, except in a couple places, notably on “Fruity Pebbles” where somebody’s had too much sugar and they’re heaving up the contents of their stomach. I call this style “puke disco.” Dan Deacon did the puke disco thing at one point too, right? The severe coronaries brought on by the sugar rushes of things like “Lucky Charms” and “Raisin Bran Crunch” are all actually worth the trip to the ER, as this stuff is wild and inventive and fun. There’s even a post-smokewave/pre-carnival house psychedelic experiment called “Honey Nut Cheerios” that lasts for over twelve minutes. I’m making up words because I’m on medication and I’m actually being MK Ultra’d with r here! Help me! But don’t because I love it!