Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ian william craig - zugzwang for fostex (tape/digital, patient sounds)

for tape player, for modifications, for voice, for piano, for hollowed out heavenly sample.

drips of clouded hiss, layers of deeper and grainier white noises accumulate, wordless voices match blown-out tonal structure in a minor-rounded looping and descending wall of sound, but not hitting or reflecting back, just swinging and shaking in the open air, like a physical feedback with full-on ragged/caked edges attaching to a warmer film, or being extrapolated from the worn-down and dying tape, but yet breathless, gorgeously living. 

a pure gospel stuck on three or four notes of vulnerable song stuck inside crusted magnetic dust gripping and disseminating, repeating the part that holds the most truth.

momentous modern play-around, the simplitude and time-frame that can be found in the length of a cat’s majestic yawn brought out into infinite working graphicality, unconstrained and fully self-supported, risking erasement by altering/faltering gear choice. edited new melody from pause and record situationalism/sensationalism.

drafts of piano touch and transcend fidelity, acting as stand-alone in the recorded field and as a conduit to explore the megaphonic roaring as the tracking hits capacity. there’s a great balance between softened quietude and small speakers distorting into grander big-picture building/overflow. 

the recurring structures and run-through continuousness completes the ‘fostex’ work, tapes and times and progressions are cut up and rearranged for an ultimate playback. the last squeeze out of the machine at hand, the personalized machine’s last funereal singing and chorality before that bummer of a gear-death breaks down. the send off then.

Monday, February 22, 2016

rotational riff: field recording b/w breathing blues

giving away the fucken secrets, but that’s okay and that’s part of this mirror showing, have to be able to know how to turn it and know what to look for.

best sound of the day was the neighbour scraping away at the smallest bit of ice forming that wasn’t quite snow and wasn’t quite ice yet, and it made a softer sound than you think, knowing that the shovel was hitting fairly pure at the spot of contact. 

anything can be recorded and listened to later, the role of the receiver is to discern what makes sense and what is interesting. the verite style of kitchen sink recording/reporting, put the mic in the room or in yr pocket, forget it’s there (or realize it’s there the entire time), go back and see what you got, add to it or leave it be, all these possibilities are finger-tip selections away but the soul or spirit of the piece (or future piece) has to create a theme or narrative. and maybe that narrative vision is simply letting the reproduction of the time/place be that thing itself, that’s the object that comes out of the speakers, as it was recorded. that water lapping against the side of the boat is more than good enough, the rainstorm as well, birdsong and tree branch sway are great sounds too. 

we can insert ourselves into the picture, taking away from the purity of field recording and into a more processed or treated sound design, maybe it’s records being played in a room with a tape recorder catching muffled conversations and glass tinkling, cars driving by in the near-distance. but we can’t let ourselves and our everyday movements be that important to be listenable all the time. if it’s an experiment in ‘sleeping’ style camera-capture, sure, i’ll go along with it, won’t want to listen more than the novelty it grasps at, but if we’re aiming for a deeper listening, a more attuned listening, the environment and our direct surroundings offer a plenitude of dynamic and interesting elements, sometimes it’s best to get out of our way. 

but i’m not a grumpy old man, and i try not to be a generalizer, rarely do, and the more we get of field recordings and more non-musical collage enterprising, the more i can hear when it’s seriously captivating and when it’s a person just sort of fooling about. and i get to be that judge, and both have their place. i’ve tried my hand at and will continue to look for odd stuff when i’m riding the subway or when i’m in a crowd or in my backyard or near water, i’m always ears for trying to tape what’s happening around me. and i know when it won’t translate. i’m so impressed with the musicians and recorders who can get all these great little moments/slices of life, the tiny little fragmentary transactions or vignettes building towards time standing still. and the long form buzzing industrializational machinistic crap all loading up around us all the time, equal parts drone and depression, leaving footprinted matter of philosophical origin/rootedness. and i think i’m coming back around to the everyday mundane, the conversational impasse, hums and air-clatter nothingness, beckett-like emptiness in single stated drift/rift. an existential moving past the sounds and music and likeability, moving into the real and the documented and the almost fictional drama that can turn into. has to have a place.

the surprise, having things unfold in a realer time, out of nowhere, things emerging and fading away into the taped-over past, life moving along with the gears and wheels and digitalization of recording the now, waiting patiently for something to appear and waiting patiently to have nothing be the chair in the center of the room with the bulbs and windows sending out hazey and tick-tocking frequency. the house settles and the furnace flames. the return of the long takes. you don’t need to be a ‘musician’ to go out and record. that’s rebellion to the cause right there, the full-on subversion of musicianry is getting started with nothing in mind. bottom center blues. you don’t need that guitar. maybe somewhere right now as i’m thinking/typing someone’s out on a street in busking-time, playing tape recorders and a cellphone filled with voice memos of the world around them. maybe the recording is when they were at that very spot the day before, fucken with our perception of time and how we come to it and how we can change it and adapt it. it’s time under modification. extended technique with the second hands. 

the great diarists of sound are the ones who accumulate libraries and archives of detailed and specific situational geography-like mapping banks. quadrants of days and motions and winds and water levels. like trying to write out all the dreams you remember when you wake up and before you forget, the first real artistic move is getting things put to tape. run the microphones, run the machines, let them roll for long periods of time. you can skip around on play-back (and this ties in with the earlier thought of knowing when to edit and when to know what you have is boring) as the excited listen is a great thing to do with headphones and an open mind. take some notes, like figuring out the first part of the lucid dream, the magic is placing vision and circumstance to the recordings. note-taking is the new score, time-mapping the design. 

one of the great things in life is to just listen, just sit and listen to what’s around and moving and clicking away. take it in. let it all pass by and come anew. find the meditation standing by the passing train with the handhelds in yr grips, arms getting tired while you listen deeper than you ever have before. hearing the slowest of whistles forming underneath the trebled and motoristic thickness in sharp shrapnel-sounding harshness. too close and the whistle gets swallowed up by the sheer weight of it all, too far away and the whistle is the top-end sheen of the brighter tracks squealing along with the occasional horn call-out. catching the catching out. without jumping aboard and turning the audio into novel/book shape. just sit and listen. turn yr body into a part of the device doing the work. but get outside yrself. but if need be, keep yr body and self in humble get-along with the proceedings, be a part of what’s about to take place, but have it be one part of what’s becoming action. blues isn’t just playing or singing an instrument cold to hot, it’s having what builds up and is inside with all the other bullshit from the day to day, everything involved now, heavy shit right beside the boredom of it all, but it all comes out in hollering moon-pointed real-being, it is yrself being put to the test, yrself being put on the line, everything on the table, even if things are being shielded or held back, that’s the you-thing that is the blues, it’s you, nothing more to it. and as much as it’s wholly about you alone, and finding what that you is, it’s about being a part of something much bigger, a spirit flowing through from way long ago and will just blow right by you too into the long-off future. it’s the universe tuning up (or detuning depending on preference) and matching instrument and voice and sound and life and the personal with the moving parts of traditional ecstaticism. 

a history of things being blown open, dimensions crossed, everything bleeding together in perfect story gather colourization. the blues turns into yellows and reds and greens and the action painting is the scattered mind trying to empty and make sense of it all. so blues is life and life is always happening, but it isn’t always blues. there’s a formula in there somewhere, but that takes away from the mystery and the aspirational/apparitional real-nature. nature has the blues if you look long enough. we can create it, or we can let it all flow right by in the eternal river logging the universe’s minutes in a glorious broken stop-watch miracle. but miraculousness is humanity’s way of letting us remember stuff. that people before us, and long before us, worked their damndest away at finding momentary peace. and art and the art of discovery were the guides shaping the notes along the way and they’ve either ended up at the dump or in the water at our feet lipping against every single coast. and long story short, recording any of this won’t mean a blip at anything, and our lives aren’t ever that important to be fully recorded, that’s far too dystopian-novel on that angle, and our collective and individualizing blues are just one short and sweet way of laughing at it all, and the creative act of getting out and seeing what sings (sounds) is sometimes all we’ve got/need when in that moment. the long takes of momentary pause and collection. recollecting invisible and oral traditionary heartsong. maybe we sing it or maybe we play it or maybe we hear it and maybe we record it and maybe we share it and maybe it passes by. we’re open to place and shape and echo, our noise-making sounds/selves are trying to stay free, things coming to and things being sent out, trying to be present/silent to hear it and to match it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

matt weston -skate for the lie (tape, tape drift records)

a-side a whopper of squealing and high-volume startle cymbal scraping feedback. metallic dissonance-shimmer in freaked-out surprise settlement. where the plain dying silence gets filled by concrete what's-this. then later, once the broken outer space glut of highest ratio to damage kicks up, in elephantine moan, the plugs blow into an acidic rock, minus the rock, take the kit apart and take out all the pieces and lay them on the ground and kick the ones that mean the most. kick them down the stairs of backwards-rock-roll, 'cause it's rolling now. 

the dedication is pranking the haphazard technique, the playing is sound-art and flipping out. drums doing more than drum things. guitars and other shit are ripping into jams like paint spillage, the colours are way beyond the mixing stage. 

noise on noise, like snow on snow, until a bass-mining descending pattern melts it into rhythmic crawling punctuation.

b-side a monster that starts at off-jazz or what could be structuralism, then drops deep heaviest into scorching noise space-spazz, guttural whooping wails through guitar pounce timing, hiding and not hiding that purer acid rock meltdown again in a gear fry-up foray. amazing jam and when the chords are breaking up in over-gain output, that brittle and blown-out go-with-the-flow heaves it into a reddened-mud heap of sonic fuck-yes. now the chimes of overtone work their magic against the lower-fidelities, twisting out of down-strum kingdom-for-a-buck into what's too-angular to be funk (but is) rock, rambling off into another freaked concoction, led by maniac drum-play.

and i went back through a couple of times (have to with this jammer). this guy's serious and has a creatural art.

rev galen (10"/digital, okraina records)

poetry, by way of galen e hershey, grandfather of catherine hershey who sings, with instrumental and voice accompaniment by gilles poizat, voicing and finding harmony, embracingly elegant and perfectly tuned. the almost unfinished, but completely unbusy, found-photographic nature of the ballading fragments helps the creators-total find the meaningful in the words and to dress them in particularly honest and paired skill.   

celtic-like whisper beautiful singing, in rounded and shaped folk tradition, melodically in a rich as-a-life-working/lived, sometimes emptying in a cappella solo freeze, and sometimes in droning and mysterious older times of perception, a remembering of other works and belief, calling out to the fields and the day's labour, and calling out to the clouds and the sky and what may sit behind and on top.

strongest memories of family and the words written in poetic descriptatory fate, in lullaby-simplification, yet filled with ode'ing winks and the yellowing of sun-hit outdoor vibrant footage uncovered in the attics and suitcases of our wiser histories. writings of specific times and feelings transposed/translated to warmth-as-a-reminder lamp-folk, lighted by ancestry and carried by the family tree.   

lyric-songs, poetic in aged language, instruments turning to olden tones prettily adding together in harmonic match, trumpet lonely but in confidence quietly mirrors the quieter voice sculpting the two into a singular climbing breath fogging the windows and wiping clean the last notes on turning wheels and the last reverberated echo drops off into the other rooms holding the melodies tight. they'll be sung again.

Friday, February 12, 2016

maxwell august croy - kaniza (tape/digital, psychic troubles tapes)

a blurred postcard, a dream you don't remember having, sitting subconsciously within, sounding like the playing is from hundreds of years ago, invigorated and historical inside the instrument, now clashing with and making new, the electronical sound-wave inclusion, as though a victrola player is having all of the surface noise turn to lightning to make magic the koto unearthed from cave-painting accuracy, to tumble along with bamboo-rounded key strikes, to make certain the many lives, the many constructions of time-wrapping introspection finds a home, if momentarily, in the upper air. 

experiments in tape and depth and layer add ornament to the journeying full-bodied pieces solidly confident in prayer and blues and exposition. 

clusters left to sit high and be tops of mountains in the picturesque influence stay afloat and become silent, as more gregarious pitter-pattering and plucked patterns emerge to draw the emotion outward and to the sides of the now moving mists. 

all of the detail is in the ellipsis, and what's not played, or more accurately taken away as ghosts with the existing notes, acts as travel, the identifiable parts carry extra feeling, made thicker with turning reel contraptive cadence, and hiss and space and background complexion rotate alongside vistas and ranges of emerging imagination. 

this blending of time and place, by the reaching figures of interlaced years-ago-like koto with the sonic flashing and new-school adorning distortion-signal/frequency-hit, both anchors and frees, and it'll still float away, visions turning to the environment and to the ethereal, visions from within made real then carried off before they completely form.

silent isle - surrounding the dragon (digital, valerian)

the insides of a sensory deprivation tank gathering the mind's intel in wandering/pristine precision. even when its still, the cavern blesses silence into drone. thought equals decibel. 

alone to yr own thoughts, they'll gather and wander off and climb around the room and make spastic sound audible, the purpose is to clear out and settle it all, to find the quiet within the shards of chaos. the loudness or constant brain buzz is simultaneous to the body's busy biology, every little living thing is in motion and propelling, and using machine and voice to sing it out helps with the getting-rid-of and lures that heaviness into personal function. turn out what's in. 

layers, cluttered but each telling a story, the bannered/cut-outs stringing across the space in asymmetrical curves and interactivity, everything growing in the same way, all shading the same spots with texture and curl.

selecting voice-song cuts with delay and real time, establishing chance by way of structural stabs, circling back to remember and to make sense of the production, letting it breathe and jog memory, getting caught up in its cycling and phasing psychology. repetition and unresolved improv and through-composed splashing lyricality. stepping outside and retreating back. turn in what's out. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

rotational q-and-a with david perron

if you've ever wondered: who should i mail my new project to or where should i look for new music? the answer is the same for both: free form freakout. david perron co-hosts the weekly radio show with carl nordmeier in mankato, minnesota on kmsu, every thursday at 2pm, and he goes solo for his own bi-monthly fff podcast series where he's able to dig even deeper. 

david is a huge collector/selector from a massive pool of underground sound, and the show and his podcast are essential for keeping afloat (or trying to) of all the crazy and weirdo things happening around the globe really. and he doesn't just tune to the weird, tons of pop and folk and rock and ambient and electronic musics find their way into his outstretched mitts, he's a gripper of everything. 

the free form freakout empire is a great source for hearing amazing things, there's a ton of interviews and features on a whole mix of different artists and labels. david's interviews are all ace, and you never know what kind of new thing he'll have cooking up down the line. 

adding to the musical magnet powers, he recently started a new record label called round bale recordings with two excellent releases ready for yr shelves (or already on them) too. 

all of this was more than enough of a reason to ask him a few things about collecting, talk about and get inside the new label he's kicking up, and to see what else the future holds. i also thought it would be interesting to spin the chair around and put him in the answer seat, as he's always asking the questions and hiding in the background, and i think his insight and taste make him a perfect candidate for our q-and-a series. 

the answers below are presented as i received them, by email, unedited. and we hope you enjoy our conversation.


rotational: you are from the minnesota area, can you tell me a little about what that was like growing up? seems to me like an isolated situation, i'm looking at a map right now and i guess there is some larger cities fairly close by, but in my head i always think of minnesota a little like winnipeg, where everything's really stretched out and far apart. plus, mankato itself (not sure if that's where you grew up specifically, but it is where kmsu the radio station lives) is really small too.  that has to feed itself into the musical scenes, did the geography and/or tiny-nature play a part in any of the artistic movements or counter-cultural scenes do you think? does this matter to you? 

I grew up in a smaller town in southern MN, not too far from the Twin Cities, and spent the better part of the 90’s living in various locales around Minneapolis. While stretches of cornfields, lakes, and wooded areas are common sights, it’s maybe not as spread out as the open space surrounding Winnipeg (which I paid a visit to this past summer). Culturally speaking, though, it certainly felt isolated where I grew up. We didn’t have the Internet to rely on to get our fix, so blind purchases and special orders of tapes at the local music instrument store and the occasional trips into Minneapolis to hit up record stores were very important. Later, moving to Minneapolis and being able to take in live shows, listen to vibrant radio stations, discover different print publications and zines, and, again, spend ample time and money in record stores were all mind-expanding and life-altering experiences.

As for Mankato, it’s a modest-sized college town that’s located about an hour southwest of Minneapolis, so there is a certain degree of cultural exchange in terms of bands traveling through, art showings, readings, etc. Mankato does have a history of homegrown punk and hardcore/metal activity that stems back long before I ever arrived here, and one that seems to wax-and-wane depending on the availability of performance spaces and, like other small cities, who actually sticks around. Of late, there seems to be more of an uptick in hip-hop and folk-leaning music taking place. As someone who is a bit of a shut-in, I can’t speak assuredly as to what drives the local music scene here. I think being in a smaller college town in the Midwest there are quite naturally going to be periods of intensely focused creative activity followed by periods of utter stagnation. It seems like we’re in a bit of a transitional phase right now. Generally speaking, though, I think being a bit removed from larger cultural hubs affords one a certain degree of creative freedom and allows a person to forge a path that is uniquely their own. This last point is something of great importance to me. 

rotational: has there been a strong continuing vibe for noisier or weirder stuff? i know that some small places and/or places that are removed from some of the bigger 'centers' can get really heavy things going (nihilist spasm band in london, ontario as just one of many examples). is there an us vs them philosophy at work at all? or a nurturing of yr own, free from the worries of the bigger places with all of the claustrophobia and hype and trend-setting, a left alone to make what you want vibe? any stand-out acts that wowed you over the years? 

I wouldn’t say that is so much the case here. I think given the proximity to the Twin Cities most serious bands are playing shows up there and making connections with other metro acts. I think that’s probably a good thing, though, as I’m sure that playing out in such a small town can otherwise feel a bit insular at times. Some of the best local shows that I’ve seen here have been bills that have paired local acts with out-of-towners. It seems like this raises the stakes and brings out a slightly different audience.

There have been some standout bands that have caught my attention since I’ve been here in Mankato. Maths Balance Volume was a younger crew that was making some interesting junk-noise several years back. Rhythmaplex Project are a duo that still gets together for the occasional live show to play their brand of clanky, detuned garage punk. Crash Cuddle is an incredibly tight instrumental power rock duo that recently re-located to the Twin Cities. And, War Rooster and Let It Breathe are a couple of heavy doom-indebted rock outfits that are currently blowing eardrums out. A lot of the live music activity that takes place here isn’t necessarily what I’m fully into, but there are bands like these ones that are really quite good at doing their thing.

rotational: what were some of the bigger moments for you that spun you around and flipped you out, in regards to hearing or seeing or reading about strange and experimental and noise-type sounds? did you grow up a punker? were you always interested in collecting things, even at a young age? what brought you to the college/university radio scene?   

Well, my reply could go on endlessly to this question, but I’ll try to keep it as concise as possible. I’ve never identified myself as being a “punker” or anything else for that matter, really, other than being an avid listener and huge fan of music and, maybe most importantly, a compassionate human being. I started actively buying music in elementary school, mostly heavy metal tapes, and I’ve never really lost that desire to continue to discover challenging new sounds. This, of course, followed a fairly natural progression over the years through things like rap, punk, post-punk, indie rock, electronic music and eventually on into more strange and experimental realms. I suppose that throughout this it was albums like, say, “Double Nickels on the Dime”, “Trout Mask Replica”, “Parable of Arable Land” and hundreds of others that pointed me towards more unconventional types of music and improvised sounds.

In retrospect, attending the De Stijl/Freedom From Festival in Minneapolis in 2003 was also a fairly formative live event in terms of seeing such a wide array of musical acts being presented together on the same bill. Seeing people like Arthur Doyle and Bridget St. John playing on the same stage as something like Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice or Dead Machines seemed so strange at first, but you could eventually see the wild connections between these artists and the deeply personal way that they approached their music. Also, it was amazing to see the merch tables filled with things like John Olson’s American Tapes releases, something I’d never seen before in the flesh, and Ron Lessard’s massive RRR spread. I walked away from this festival with a pricey speeding ticket, a copy of a Bananafish ‘zine, and a deepened interest in discovering more about this area of sub-underground music and art.

I’ve been a long-time listener and supporter of college and community-driven radio: Radio K and KFAI in Minneapolis being two local favorites and, of course, WFMU being a HUGE inspiration. Strangely, I didn’t get involved in radio until I was out of college and grad school. I listened to some of the shows on KMSU here in Mankato and knew a few of the hosts through working at a local record store. After making a pledge drive donation to do an on-air program director slot with my friends on the Shuffle Function morning show, I was later approached by them about starting a show of my own when some afternoon time slots opened up at the station. My friend Carl and I jumped at the opportunity and would eventually start the weekly Free Form Freakout show together, which has been running for 10 years now.

rotational: yr so active in discovering and finding out about all types of different music, and yr very good at hunting some of the creators down and doing interviews via yr free form freakout podcast, etc, what keeps you so excited and so hungry for all of this? as a listener, i can tell straight up that you really get inside the music and the different formats, and how they can represent more than just a few songs on a physical thing, there is a whole life-doing, life-creating involved. why do you think underground (and everything really) music stands out so much to you and are you this inquisitive in other parts of yr life? are there any other hobbies or items of interest that get you humming/buzzing like music does?  

I guess what it comes down to is that I’m incredibly fascinated with the creative process and with creative individuals, especially those that feel the compulsion to create something in the face of near total indifference, regardless of genre or medium. I enjoy learning about these artist’s stories, understanding their motivations, figuring out how they develop their craft, and especially grappling with the work itself. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a music fan from a fairly young age, so at this point in my life it’s just simply a part of who I am or, to borrow from Jason Lescalleet, this is what I do. I find music to be life affirming, so why not spend time actively engaging with something that you enjoy. The podcast has provided an outlet to explore these interests more deeply and more purposefully, and consequently to document a lot of musical activity that I feel is often criminally overlooked. Underground and experimental music are both fairly vague and anomalous descriptors, which I’m actually quite comfortable with; there isn’t a defined sound, more a distinctive or highly personalized approach. So, there is a lot of room within that to explore different types of music that are challenging and unconventional in their own right. I like that idea of openness, and as I alluded to above, I’m drawn to artists that create something that is uniquely their own. I certainly have other interests in such things as literature, film, visual art, baseball, and beer, but given my day job and other family responsibilities, I tend to spend a disproportionate amount of my limited free time on music in various ways.

rotational: i'm sure yr listening to tons of music a week, how do you go about setting up yr radio show and podcasts, is it more free flow let the tracks take you to the next piece, or do you take notes along the way about how you want things to go? are you a detailed, organized type of guy? or do you throw it all at the wall and see what sticks?  

With the weekly Free Form Freakout radio show that I do with my friend, I tend to be very spontaneous with what I pick out and play. I generally try to grab a mixture of new releases, some artists/albums that I haven’t heard in awhile, and usually a few things that are relevant to what’s happening during that given week, be it tie-ins to concerts going on, releases coming out, or other newsworthy bits. I often do this an hour or two before I actually go up and do the show.

I’m much more deliberate with how I approach putting together the podcasts, though, which is something I do entirely on my own. There’s literally hours of listening that goes into preparing these shows. I don’t necessarily take detailed notes while listening, but I do maintain an ever-changing playlist for grouping and sequencing tracks and for keeping tabs on track lengths and other considerations like excerpts and such. Since I try to keep the show right around the 2-hour mark for re-broadcasting purposes, you’d be surprised how much of my listening involves using a stopwatch, especially with tapes and records. I’ve found Bandcamp to be particularly helpful in this regard and for helping with cuing up tapes! I want each podcast show to cover a lot of ground musically, but I also want it to flow together seamlessly like a well-considered mixtape, only with commentary that can be tuned-in or tuned-out depending on the listener’s tolerance for my droning voice. Once I have the playlist finalized, I do typically put together some talking points and information that I’d like to share about each of the artists/albums played; however, I tend to not follow much of this once the microphone gets turned on.

With the feature shows that I put together that involve interviews, I’d say that I’m even more detailed and organized. I like to have a general overview of the show laid out in advance so that I can share that with the person that I’m interviewing in an effort to be as transparent about the process as possible and to be as efficient as I can with the time I have with them. This also opens up these shows to the guests having a chance to provide input, especially when it comes to track selections, making it more of a collaborative process. In general, though, I’ve found that being well prepared and organized makes for a better interview process, at least for me it does, and it keeps the conversation much more focused. I don’t have much patience for meandering conversations or for the endless WTF-style interruptions.

rotational: do you have a preferred format for listening at home? does it differ depending on environment and situation? certain music for different stereos or headphones or car speakers? do you have routines or systems for when you listen to tapes or vinyl or digital, etc?  

I don’t really have a preferred format or any clearly established routines other than I try to listen to as much music as I can, whenever I can. The fetishization of certain formats gets a bit tiring at times. To me, each format serves a worthwhile purpose and each are perhaps better for presenting certain types of music over others. My format choice is determined more so by where I’m at, what I’m doing, and what playback device I have access to. I listen to CDs quite often from a small boombox while cooking or in the car when out and about. I listen to digital files when plugging away at mindless paperwork tasks at the day job. I listen to LPs when unwinding during the evening hours. And, if I can ever get a decent portable tape player to work for more than three months again, I like to listen to cassettes on headphones while inane TV shows play out in front of me. My musical choices are probably shaped to a certain degree by whether anyone else is in my presence or not. Let’s be honest, there’s not that many people that are overly enthusiastic about listening to noise or other non-music while hanging out making a grilled cheese sandwich. So, yes, the more challenging music is generally left to more private listening times. I suppose one routine that I am trying to work on more deliberately is just listening to things without being distracted by other forms of technology, simply allowing myself to focus on this one thing.

rotational: you've recently started round bale recordings and have a few different formats under that belt, the first release being an lp by tilth, country music being the title, which also came with a limited edition cdr with the first 50 copies. the second release is by troy schafer, untitled no. 4, and it is a lathe cut record. what is it about these formats that interest you? do you lean more towards the vinyl side of things, or are you open to anything but have just started to get going? did you have these particular formats in mind with the first releases?  

The formats for these first two releases were determined more by the artists themselves than by me. With the Tilth LP, they already had the album completed and mastered for a full-length vinyl release, so that was an easy decision to make. I had suggested including some type of bonus cd-r to include with this inaugural release, sort of ripping off what Recital does with some of their releases for people that order direct. The Tilth guys had additional recordings and rehearsal material lying around, but while waiting for the LP to get pressed up, they went ahead and recorded a few newer tracks for this release, too. So, it actually does feel like a proper EP as opposed to a collection of odds and ends. When I approached Troy Schafer about doing a release, he had expressed interest in creating something with the 7” format in mind. Given the costs and turnarounds at the plants for pressing a standard 7”, we settled on doing this as a lathe instead. Lathes can be a bit janky, but I appreciate the customized feel of them. I certainly enjoy the ritual of sitting down with a vinyl record: dropping the needle, flipping it over, gazing at the album artwork; however, from a very small label standpoint, the costs and delays involved in producing a vinyl release are honestly making it a rather impractical option. I’m open to anything and even to doing more vinyl releases, but I’m probably leaning towards doing more with tapes and CDs for the immediate future.

rotational: can you tell me a bit about these releases and how they came about for yr label? what are some of the future plans, if you can say, for the label and how does running the label overlap with yr usual digging habits? are you actively looking and searching out new stuff for release or do you have a master plan already and yr more comfortable taking yr time and letting it grow slowly? 

I had entertained the idea of starting up a label for years, but what would eventually compel me to take the leap of faith all came about quite naturally. I was having beers with Nathan McLaughlin, someone who I’ve established a close connection with through the podcast show over the years, and he brought up that there was a second Tilth album completed and in need of a home. Tilth did their first live public performance together here in Mankato at a show I had organized and I had been featuring all of the member’s various solo work on the show for years, so I sort of half-jokingly said that if no one else was going to put it out, then I would be interested in putting it out for them. Nathan got in touch with me shortly thereafter with the files for the album and a message that read something along the lines of: “Let me know if you’d really like to do this.” Unsurprisingly, I was immediately drawn to the restraint and the smoldering tension within their work, and given our history together, it just felt like a fitting way to start up a label. It seemed to be a logical extension of the podcast show, so Round Bale Recordings was born! 

The Troy Schafer release happened along similar lines. I have been playing Troy’s music from his duo Rain Drinkers for the past few years, and I’ve been particularly interested in the solo work that he has been doing, too, dating back to his Evening Song Awaken release on Recital. To me, the guy is one of the most talented and innovative artists out there right now. He has technical chops, but he is continuously pushing his work into new areas. The music that he is producing under his Untitled series of late is just amazing. So, I wrote to thank him for a tape that he had sent my way and simply asked if he would be interested in doing a release together some time. He agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I can honestly say that I’m not actively seeking out new stuff to release. As with these previous examples, I’d prefer for things with the label to develop slowly and to be built more upon personal connections that I have with artists. The only future plans that I can mention at this time are, first, a pair of tape releases from a couple of offshoot solo projects affiliated with Maths Balance Volumes, a tape-collage, junk-noise unit that previously had releases out on Chocolate Monk, American Tapes, and other international fringe labels and that has deep Mankato ties. Second, I’m slowly working on putting together an anthology for little-known, San Antonio-based folk artist, Russell Hoke. He’s someone who has been self-releasing his own music for several years now, with many of his recordings dating back to the early 80’s, and I just feel like more people need to hear his work. There’s an undeniable quality to his music that is reminiscent of other quirky yet full-of-heart songwriters like Michael Hurley, Holy Modal Rounders, Syd Barrett, and Daniel Johnston.

rotational: what do you think about the rise of digital music and digital streaming/download platforms and will it (or does it already) affect the way you run yr show or label? do you see sticking with the physical format despite the other movements and tangents taking place as digital-only, etc?  

I do see platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud as being quite helpful for previewing tracks and for discovering new artists, but it honestly doesn’t have all that much of an impact on how I operate. I get a lot of digital submissions from artists and I make an effort to check out much of what people send to me and occasionally play some of this on the podcast. I have, however, always struggled with organizing all of this material into something that makes intuitive sense. I’ve got endless playlists created according to labels and genres and it still seems like music is just floating all over the god damn place. On top of that, I’ve lost loads of digital music over the years when different devices have crapped out on me. So, I tend to pay more attention to and give priority to actual physical releases. There’s just something about a physical release, regardless of the format, that I’m much more drawn to. It’s there stacked up in my music room commanding my attention, and I have to physically interact with it in such a way. Plus, I spend enough time staring at a screen throughout the day, so it’s nice to be able to break free from that while listening to music. In the end, it may be my inner librarian or archivist tendencies that wants to be able to file something on a shelf.

rotational: to tie in with that, the internet's been super helpful for archiving podcasts and radio shows and for doing weirdo mixes and collages, and you've always been very good at getting things up for future listens online, after things have aired. when did that click for you? did you always want to have that power to archive and set up the live filing cabinet for future use? and especially with the role of the podcast as it gets to sit there and wait for our correct listening opportunities, i feel like this is the new way of getting things out there and to champion all of this great music and art without having to break the bank. and it's the timing, can be done whenever, it's more spontaneous than some other print or broadcast-only ways, can you imagine going non-internet with any of this now? i feel like we have more opportunity to make connections and to meet people whom are like-minded or into similar stuff, do you agree with that? ever want to take it all off grid and go pirate-only? 

Free Form Freakout started out and continues on as a weekly radio show that airs every Thursday afternoon on our local college/community radio station, KMSU, and you can only hear that version of the show at that time. I started the podcast version on my own over five years ago for a few different reasons. I was acquiring a lot of new music through various means: submissions at the station, promos from writing for the now defunct Foxy Digitalis website, and all of the stuff that I was seeking out and buying on my own. With the regular weekly show only filling an hour time slot and then splitting up that musical time with my co-host, I didn’t feel like I could cover all of this new music that I was getting my hands on. Additionally, I didn’t feel like a lot of this music necessarily fit into the overall flow of our weekly show. I wanted to play tapes and lengthy drone tracks and absurdist noise and other fringe sounds; and while I like to push the envelope somewhat on the weekly show, even I realize that some of this would be a bit of a stretch for a mid-afternoon radio show in southern Minnesota! So, with the help of a fellow radio station friend that agreed to host the show through his website, I came up with the online-only version of Free Form Freakout that focused on all of this underground and experimental cassette and micro-label activity. I had initially called them “webcasts” back when I started because, honestly, I didn’t even know what the hell a podcast was. I thought you needed to have an iPod to listen to them on and I didn’t have one; therefore, I couldn’t call it a podcast. What I would slowly discover, as you had highlighted, is that people were gradually checking out the show and that I was able to start connecting with other people, especially artists and label owners that shared similar interests in this type of music. I see the importance of maintaining this type of archive more so now than I ever did in the early years of doing the show. I like the idea that people can stumble upon all of this stuff and maybe be turned on to something new. Thus, I certainly don’t feel the need to pull the plug and go off-the-grid at this time; our weekly show feels pretty close to being just that. 

rotational: mail is still the best, so you must love getting packages and do you have any trade partners that you've kept in contact with over the years? how much mail do you get a week and are you still a kid in a candy store when you receive some unknown package? is the mysterious stuff more intriguing to you? 

I definitely enjoy receiving packages in the mail, especially those ones that show up out of the blue that I have no idea about and the ones that come with these personalized notes. Taking the time to include even a short, hand-scrawled note is such a simple gesture, but I find that to be so meaningful since we’re talking about such a small corner of the musical landscape. I’ll take that any day over the blanket email submissions that don’t even bother to change the contents of their message, asking me to premiere their video on my site.

I don’t do a lot of trading actually, but there are certain artists and labels that I suppose I’ve developed connections with that consistently submit their latest work to me. I still try to support artists and labels by buying direct as much as my pocket book will allow, which can be a stretch on the budget, but I feel like if I’m going to be covering this area of music in an engaged manner, then I should be actively supporting it on all levels. The amount of packages that I receive, though, varies from week-to-week, and probably isn’t as much as you might think. If I were to average it out over the course of the year, I’d say I get maybe 3-4 packages each week; however, these often include batches of tapes or multiple releases, so my listening pile can stack up on me quite quickly. 

rotational: i feel like you've mastered the interview process, have you ever done any investigative journalism or reporting on things beside music? would that interest you?

Well, I appreciate you saying that. I still find listening back to myself while editing these shows together to be a particularly cringeworthy experience! I haven’t done any other types of reporting outside of music. As I mentioned earlier, though, I’m interested in the creative process and creative people in general, so I could see myself maybe venturing into other areas in the future. I really enjoy watching documentaries, so if I could ever develop the technical skills, it would be sort of interesting to expand the podcast show out into that realm. 

rotational: what are some of yr fave musical writing/radio/podcasts found online? and what about print? what's the way that you would go about finding out about new music? going to record stores and digging in person? do you use discogs and ebay and other collector/share/buy/sell sites? are you an active bandcamp/soundcloud kind of guy?  

There are several online resources that I think are doing great work; however, given my limited free time, I’m generally just trying to keep up with my own listening and writing for FFF-related activity, so I don’t spend very much time at all accessing those. In terms of online writing, though, I do try to check out Tiny Mix Tapes, We Need No Swords, A Closer Listen, Brainwashed, Decoder Magazine (where I’m an infrequent contributor), and The Out Door’s 200 Words blog. There are a handful of shows on WFMU that I like to check out whenever I can, too. Brian Turner’s show is a long-time favorite. In fact, he was the first person I ever interviewed on Free Form Freakout. I also enjoy Strength Through Failure, The Avant Ghetto, and The John Allen Show. Needless to say, WFMU has been a massive influence going back to well before the FFF show ever existed. I think the folks behind Tabs Out, Words on Sounds, and Norelco Mori are all putting their unique stamp on the experimental music podcast thing, each providing a crucial outlet for all of the cassette activity currently taking place. I do try to carve out the time to listen to new installments of the Difficult Listening Made Easy podcast, as Tom of Crisis of Taste is someone who I share a great deal in common with musically. I have found the return of actual print ‘zines to be one of the more exciting developments over the past year or so. I’ve been really enjoying each issue of the Bull Tongue Review and other publications like Fordamning and Eyestrain. There’s still something very appealing to me about sitting down with an actual print publication. Again, it’s nice to be able to read and think away from a screen and the myriads of distractions that are just a click away. Perhaps that’s why I’ve also maintained a subscription to The Wire for all of these years despite my better budgetary judgment.

I suppose the main way that I’m discovering new music, though, is by combing through all of the mail order and label updates that I subscribe to. I tend to follow certain labels quite closely, so a lot of my discoveries simply come through keeping an eye on what they’re up to. Likewise, I get to hear about a lot of upcoming releases through being affiliated with Decoder Magazine and artists/labels just reaching out to me directly. I’m also frequently hipped to new things through friends on social media whose tastes I respect. That’s probably the main reason I’ve stayed on those sites over the years; it’s certainly not all of the other noxious content that’s clogging up the works. Being someone who has shopped at and worked off-and-on at record stores for years, I still really like to go in and make spontaneous purchases based on album cover designs and other random associations. We need places like record stores in our communities; places that we can go to and interact with people in the flesh. 

rotational: as you get older, have yr listening habits or record-finding habits changed (mine are evolving to the point where i'm buying less and less, funds/life/shelves won't allow)? and if so, why do you think that is? do you think our sped-up lifestyles play a part in how we search out or fall back into deep listening? do you have to make time for any of this, or is it really natural and a way of life for you? 

I think because of the radio and podcast show I’m much more focused and intentional in how I go about listening and finding records. For better or worse, I’m less inclined to check out music that I don’t think has any immediate connection to what I’m doing with the show; I really just don’t care all that much about or have the time for what is being deemed “Best New Music”. We are all being inundated with so much music in various forms everyday, from album streams to video teasers to mixes and on and on, so it all can be a bit much to take in and to thoroughly process. Because of that, I’m much more content now with following my own listening path based on personal connections and associations to the artists and music happening on the show. As I mentioned previously, this is just something that I naturally do at this point of my life. 

rotational: what are some of the most unique/challenging/heavy things that you've heard recently? and do you have a go-to sound or style or vibe that hits the sweet spot?  

I’ve been listening to the new Ramleh album quite a bit of late. There’s a whole lot of massive guitar sounds to sift through on that one, something I haven’t focused that much attention on in recent memory. This album has since led me back into other corners of the Broken Flag catalog that I’ve previously overlooked. That album by Hour House on Penultimate Press is another recent favorite. It just flows together so perfectly from start-to-finish. The latest from Astor, Mark Harwood’s (Penultimate Press head honcho) third album under this moniker, is also really strong and a bit of a departure from his previous outings on Kye, getting into more purely electronic textures. The latest from The Pheromoans, a band that I’ve always quite enjoyed, also veers in that direction, too. I’m not sure that I have a clear go-to sound or style that hits the sweet spot, but I’d reckon that warbly tape-based compositions and other ramshackle DIY pop and rock sounds would rank quite highly on the list. 

rotational: what's 2016 got in store for you? any giant plans?  

I don’t have any major plans that I can menton at this time. You can expect more feature shows, and I’d like to have a few more in-studio guests, if possible, too. I tend to not plan things out too far in advance, as I like to have the flexibility to coordinate things around what I’m currently into.

Friday, February 5, 2016

jon collin - interval music (tape/digital, very bon/comfortable on a tightrope)

ringing, sliding, feeding back. moving, holding, knocking, pitching up.

the guitar's being turned into a taut and testy live wire crackling with accidental-sounding happenings, tight wooden taps and raps slipping uphill and falling out of the universe's pocket, the sound of coins hitting the ground and papers whisking through air, an object of art in table-sit/knee-lap, creating every great wrinkling sound with every touch and spring-like jostling progression.

there is no a-to-z chording, the instrument is the sculpture, alive with modified being, asking natural causes to magnetize strings for enlightened sparkle, huge splashes of surprised and expert bubbles bursting in glass-sound slide/bow-held principled acts. traditionalism by way of suspended and hyper-slow escalating new music quiver.

positioning included by ear-follow curiousity writing. there are no wrong notes when the swelling and letting go and shapeless angularity resonates in combined technique, action spotting guitar art, with equal spacing for the drops and plucks and scrapes once in the performing clock.

see-sawing over feedback treble points pulling off in turned-to-a-whistle birdcall (or dog howl) holler. pitching up and down and away from definition, living within marked interval insides, where notes and time are bent away from the source and back to it in gliding freedom. 

five guitars for tony conrad (tape/digital, auasca)

five guitars in one subtle stream, moving in the same direction, thin as an inch to start, energy bow clasping the squared tone, microscopically climbing together, neither up or down, as the path straightens out and picks up. 

very little debris is collected along the way, there is no end worth applying for, picture a small camera tracking the rushing and subtle water-play, sidelined, out of the way and documenting, as nothing and everything changes continuously. 

spots of harmonic and overtonal clips brighten as though the sun is light-directing, hitting one guitar then another as they differently breathe and fall in and out of perfect lock. 

i can sense a drop coming (but it may just be a running-out-of end), but am more than alright with journeying alongside the gushing flow, letting the five-forked path return to one over and over again as it can't possibly snake away enough to be rebelling, time is disappearing within the fibers of feeling taken away and being actively reset. 

this grouping is needed for each individualized choice within the framed 'for tony conrad' installation, asking of spirit to be scaled to singular tone and pitch, and the collective decisions are ego-less and shared and filled with mesmerizing returning current. 

and there is a waterfall fortune. restraint, when played this well, can't help but create a crucial and expanding flow. and that energy, like water, and once let out, will total what isn't ready to join its force. then it'll run out restfully. it'll just run out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

acid fountain - aitana (tape/digital, hylé tapes)

going for the soft spot heart-hit in mover-shaker dance rhythms, the prettiest of melodies circling the bass foundation, kicks and snares in correct spots for head and nod station trafficking. or head right out to the countryside if you can get there, and take in the electronic brushing like you would if staring at the birds or the grasses or the oak trees and if you were trying to make it all power-driven and sequential. plug the tall grass into the deciding chain, grab at the cabling from the protruding roots and attach it to the infinite inputs.

the higher screaming and non-harsh frequency puller ties the lower end to the top in regimented shorting systems. conjunctive reverbs haloing ticking tone.

there's a city grittiness found within but it's also being scrapped for organic landscapes as the pieces and harmonies form and find their wombed center. shedding street and outskirt monochrome/dead-end zones for multi-mood colorants, counting place-time against the spatial-idea of out-in-space, but brimming with familial realities and blisses. going to yr favourite places/times. finding small beautiful beats of blooming wonder in newer appreciations when given the once-over by the pulley-structured computer mind, every turning part can be a motor.


hastío - la ofensiva interior (tape/digital, self-released)

field whistles and wind-still chiming glass trickling to passing-by acoustic guitar with accompanying humble chant endeavour. a soft breeze-like relaxer that's thick with a heavy undertone, for the long day or week's work-load and not-completely-yrself needs to be exorcised and blues-drawn while that gale/gaze's at yr back. 

time it and the stringed and sung/called stories come out in an unprepared realness of finger and searching flare, internal/external lake breaks from the complete humming picture. 

hand-speckled marks inside the vast and ever-filled componentry. be it acoustic or the dazing electric guitar in fading tension, the pacing and easiness conveys the pressure-free through patient gold unwrapping. sometimes its pointed and stinging, usually laid-back, always unfussy and tempting time in afternoon-no-worry, playing, extending the day, road-tripping the spontaneity, turning everything into the sun. even the background rain and storm dry out in sunspot turnaround. 

figuring out what you can: outside noise blending with inside point production, making both feel like the other, or rather bringing it all outside to catch the settling waves and to hear areas come alive, like the inner voice that's waiting to spring out from the life of the guitar, or the ability to turn what's under watch into the soundtracked everyday. add/play guitar, and feel it out, 'cause that's real.