rafi bookstaber - still way (azriel, 2013)
a transmission from a dank little house in asheville with a muddy driveway sandwiched behind two other houses.  rafi's a good friend of mine and we play in a band together.  he's also one of those pals who has been an enormous impact on my understanding of music in the past decade; when a new tape shows up in the mail, it's an occasion to listen and learn.  his solo work seems to fall on a spectrum between light and lyrical on the one hand (greener pastures) and dark and abstract on the other (a gossamer veil).  historically, the dark and abstract titles have resonated with me the most, especially a gossamer veil and rafi's work in aswara with paul grimes.  the present cassette is interesting because it seems to fall between the two extremes--on the surface, the tone seems fairly light, but its slow pacing, enormous sense of quietude, and bare-bones nature reflect elements of rafi's more abstract work.  instrumentation on this tape is electric guitar with subtle looping/delay/reverberation effects--not as rhythmic as greener pastures and more understated, but still "plugged in," if you will, relative to a gossamer veil.  in fact, on still way, the playing is so quiet and unassuming without any moments of overt development that it's quite easy to let the whole thing slip by without giving it a second notice.  like a very tender and fragile flower growing in a sidewalk; if you aren't walking slowly, one might miss it or step on it.  both sides feel like snippets of longer "jams"--the sonic density at the beginning of "sun stream" on the a-side is held more or less constant throughout, with a few layers of subtle guitar loops gradually evolving underneath a lead guitar.  nonetheless, i'd hesitate to call this drone--everything still feels like a guitar, and it still feels folk-y.  on the b-side, "stellar sky," the line separating the loops and the lead blurs into a blissful aura.  the sound is both expansive (if you stand on it, you can see pretty far off into the distance) and intimate at once.  the titles and packaging are perfect in transmitting the feeling of open possibility; this is ecstatic music at its most subtle.  a heartfelt and enriching response to a world of "more, better, faster."

screensabers - 7 brothers (outside steppers session vol. 0) (rdc, 2004)
one of my all-time favorites, had to pull it out for a revisit.  basically it's 7 japanese kids who usually make really trashy breakcore, jcore, and gameboy chip noise (cdr, amnjk, etc) doing a capella outdoor recordings at 2 am.  it's all improvised and breaks down to a total cacophony because they're all going for it at once.  however, roles are pretty dilineated, there's usually a beatboxer or two, someone hitting a piece of cardboard or clapping hands, a couple melodic-focused fellows, and a couple "rappers" (almost all in japanese or gibberish).  there's plenty of "wicka-wicka" mock turntable scratching and little pop culture appearances including "rock me amadeus," more rap stuff, star wars, and, of course, the super mario brothers theme.  a couple tracks also have cool call-and-response bits and free-freakout imitated-animal outbursts.  the reason i love this recording so much is because of the unadulterated collective joy in it; everyone is having a blast and giggling the whole way through.  no attention to technique or anything.  super infectious.  it's a great reminder that music should be fun, and don't worry if it's listenable.  also, it's great to hear musicians (especially laptoppers) without their gear.  seems like more groups should try at least one album like this, just themselves and the outdoors.  it's pretty informative, and, after society collapses, it might be the best/only option for making noise.

aaron dilloway - post live at coda lunga (hanson, 2012)
fabulous "wtf?" recording i got from aaron at his latest appearance in san francisco, which itself was totally nuts (but that story can wait).  this is one of those "so when does the music start?" tapes.  it starts with what sounds like a room of bar chatter and stays that way for the duration, with the following exceptions (spoiler alert): the b-side begins with "blue velvet" in the background for a few minutes, after which the sound is reversed, "blue velvet" is heard backwards along with all the chatter.  also, for the last couple minutes of the b-side, the sound drops out entirely and is replaced by very a quiet field/interference loop which is not dissimilar to the tone of the "medusa" track on chain shot, a style of dilloway's that i really like.  okay, so the chatter.  it's interesting for a bunch of reasons: firstly, i can't make out a single word.  that, plus the "coda lunga" title makes me question whether this was recorded in an english-speaking country or whether the voices were somehow processed to make the language indiscernable.  having said that, the chatter *sounds* perfectly normal, it's just unintelligible, which allows me to focus on the musicality of the voices, the rising and falling of pitches, the general wash of sound, incidental sounds like glasses clinking, etc.  the overall effect is very relaxing and comforting and fills a very musical function: feeling less alone.  i feel like i'm at a very well-attended show with all my friends; it puts a smile on my face.  neat.  another interesting thing about the recording is the absence of music in it--seems almost impossible that there'd be this many voices at any occasion without *something* playing in the background.  so when "blue velvet" finally makes its appearance as the only song on the recording, it sounds quite beautiful mingling and echoing in the room and makes the party feel complete, so to speak.  and if there was music throughout, it'd probably be too distracting from the intermingling of the voices.  the quiet loop that emerges at the end seems poignantly lonely after 25 minutes of chatter.  as familiar as the sounds are, it's hard to tell what the intention or message is in this recording might be, if any: the possibility that it could be a joke recording is pleasant to think about; and, although i don't listen to it as such, it's in the back of my mind and improves the experience significantly.  this is also a lot more fun than most field recording albums i've heard, probably because it's actually a field recording of people having fun.  whatever the case, it really caught me in a way that another tape of 8-track scrap metal loops (as great as that is) might not have.  last remark: great thematic blue hue and recursive drawing for the artwork.

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