Ghost Miner is Nick Cabrera (also of harsh noise project Ascites), and he joins the canon of other great releases on Out-Of-Body Records with this C25 titled “Shadow Factory.” A factory is correct – of loops, that is, because the eleven tracks on this cassette are full of repetitive minimal tracks with heavy beats and drum tracks. It’s a lot different from the expected assault of Ascites, and a nice change of pace at that.
The first side is filled with seven quick cuts, the second with four longer offerings. These tracks are filled with beat-driven noise that compiles synth layers and drum machine programs, softly alternating their rhythms with minimal texturing changes. The A-side really flies through its 12 minutes without stopping, and it’s often difficult to tell the shift from one track to the next; these are good, but the B-side shines with the longer cuts, allowing Ghost Miner to add more detailed and nuance to the repetitive tracks.
These are moody synth scores in the vein of ’80s industrialized movie soundtracks, and Shadow Factory adds a number of atmospheric songs. “Evasion” is the longest at 5 minutes, operating with an echoey synth and drum duality and adding in ghostly vocals throughout; it’s the sound of a sinister toy-making facility, all off-key and atonal, and it shows how successful Ghost Miner can be with drawn-out pieces.
Shadow Factory is a great release of minimal noise-driven beats, and it’s interesting to hear Ghost Miner’s dark dancework in comparison to Ascites blasts of noise. Like everything Out-Of-Body Records has put out so far, this is material that’s definitely worth picking up.
Matthew Akers explores both the digital and analog side of synths on his tape for Out-Of-Body Records, A History of Arson. The cassette features a match that comes with inside the case, in case one decides that the music makes them want to go and commit a crime; but Akers’ music swells and vamps, instrumental songs that capture a light, or a flash in the darkness.
The first side of A History of Arson is somewhat uplifting. The rhythmic vamps of synth work in “A History of Arson Prologue” wash over the listener, a soundtrack to a climactic act to come. Akers works with repetition but adds key riffing to the context late in the track, a new synth beat that works off the staccato punctuation. It’s at odds with the opening to “Bad Wolf,” a melancholy dirge, but that quickly picks up into a Zombi-esque prog-synth rock session, completely with some fantastic programmed drums with just the right fade into the mix. “Bad Wolf” would fit right at home on an Italian giallo soundtrack from the ’80s, and indeed Akers’ work seems to hit that nostalgic itch.
Side B is the darker part of A History of Arson, opening with “Voyeur”‘s minor chord swells and a slight martial beat from the drums. “A History of Arson Epilogue” continues the brooding atmosphere with Akers’ sustained synth notes, while “Midnight in October” features a dance beat and busy note alternations.
A History of Arson is one of those rare gems, the kind of thing you might happen to stumble across on accident but get hooked on immediately. Matthew Akers’ synth scores – because that’s what they are – are suited for the movies you’d watch on a late night, with the wind blowing outside your door. The compositions are refreshingly original, and I look forward to hearing more of the artist’s work.
OPPONENTS is primarily a group focused on darkwave synth and rhythms, looping patterns that use drum machine-style beats to produce a gothic industrial tone at times reminiscent of Swans, at others a dark, swelling mass at a rave. Their tracks utilize the momentum of loops to add layers to the tunes, giving five tracks of dense but strangely catchy noise dirges.
The first side features three tracks. “Psychosexual Spiritual” opens the cassette with the pattern that I explained above, with lots of percussive elements and a heady bass beat driving the track, with the occasional inclusion of vocals. The second track expands on this idea – “Strip Off Your Skin” is a compelling, echoing track with stuttering drum beats and various synth additions throughout; the title phrase is repeated and refrained, but additional vocals meet with the monotonous, bored tones of A. Feinstein’s voice to add surprising depth to the lyrics. Finally, “The Centipede Elixir” ends the side with a rather simple drum line, but with the warblings of celestial synth and a vocal delivery akin to early Wolf Eyes.
The second side features only two tracks. A looping repetitive synth line leads “D4,” a track that pulsates and writhes with bass punctuation. Most hypnotic is the humming and pitched vocals that blend into the track’s layers; it’s my favorite out of this release because it utilizes all of its parts to greatest effect, and the loop is mesmerizing enough to carry on indefinitely. This is not so with the longest track on the tape, “Death to All.” At over ten minutes, this lofty cut overstays its welcome as it drones on. It’s a catchy tune but the single notes that keep the track on keel don’t have enough pull to warrant such a lengthy tune.
OPPONENTS have released a tape full of sweet synth sounds, and if you’re into the sort of gothic industrial vibe they have going on, Psychosexual Spiritual is a strong tape with layered sounds and a great vocal delivery. But some of the tracks stretch on for too long, making this C38 longer than it needs to be.
Anduin is the project of Jonathan Lee, and on this tape it’s sort of a revolving door of artists that stop by to help him out. His sound is primarily characterized by droning rhythms; Anduin is not quite noisy, but it can also feature tones considered unsettling. Whatever the label for his project’s music may be, it’s clearly built on ethereal synths and a focus on soaring textures rather than noise extremes.
Opener “Ginter Park” is a short track with a dark synth pulse; it’s only a minute in length, so the sound quickly disperses into the next track. Unfortunately, I wanted to hear a little more of this, because the transition is abrupt – it’s not the best lead-in to “Sleeper” despite being a hypnotic track. The lengthier “Sleeper” is a beautiful droning melody, with a wavering, echoing tone mixed with quiet percussive elements. It’s joined in the middle of the track by a smooth saxophone improvisation, and I can’t imagine anyone hearing this piece and walking away unhappy. The final track for side A, “Fever Dream,” captures its title rather well – it’s a dark, slow-burning drone, the kind of unsettling sound I mentioned in the introduction to this review.
Side B starts out with “Strangers,” a steamy track with only a couple of note changes from the synth. That’s more of a background texture, as well as the percussion chimes, that is meant to accompany the sax solos and the heavy string chords; it’s a track reminiscent of what you might hear during an 80s movie about the grittiness of the city. “First Life” ends the tape with a dark flow of sounds – the rustle of leaves or brush, the melancholy chords of a wavering guitar. Then it shifts into a percussion-heavy pulse.
Anduin weaves fantastic instrumentation into this tape; his use of sax, strings, and found sounds add a lot to the basic drones, leaving the listener with excellent floating pieces to get lost in. It’s a fitting end to the first set of the Richmond Tape Club: sometimes melancholy, never dull.
The RIchmond Tape Club is a set of four cassettes, although for review purposes I will be doing each tape individually. It’s easier to cover and fairer for the artist. Volume 1 of the series features Negative Gemini, the dark synth/witch house project of Lindsey French. It features four tracks of synth-based textures along with drum machines and pedal-warped vocals.
Each side gets two songs, the longest being track one, “Negative Gemini.” The project itself tends to be rather melancholy, with the synths tuned to a colder, vibrating sound rather than any sort of resonance. The most striking feature of Negative Gemini is French’s vocals; most of the time, on the aforementioned track and also “Eulogy” and “Slit Show,” she uses pedals to give her voice a hushed, ghostly sound, even though she actually has a very pretty voice. The juxtaposition between the two highlights the “witch” part of witch house, but the emphasis on darker synth tones provides a haunting subtext to each track, even when the lyrics are difficult to understand.
On the tape’s final track, “Ghost World,” Negative Gemini branches out for more of an upbeat club mix: pounding bass and cymbal splashes mix with synths played in higher keys. French’s vocals are brighter and more vibrant; she doesn’t drape them in reverb or echo as much, and there’s an uplifting light about the song.
It shows that Negative Gemini can produce both brooding and lighthearted tracks. For the most part, Richmond Tape Club Vol. 1 is ethereal and eerily distant, but it can also be surprisingly beautiful when French decides to lighten things. It’s a great start to the series.