So things have been busy. I recently took a trip with my dad down to the South, WE\ARE\MIRRORS had its first concert, and I’ve been generally occupied with work (I often work overtime). As a way to get back into the swing of writing, I’ve compiled a list of various albums I’ve been listening to while on my unofficial hiatus. The common element of these releases is that they have been released to cassette at some point, if not thematically tied to the tape.
Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights by Even Oxen
Even Oxen has presented in his sophomore release an aggressive interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Blending harsh noise and psychedelia with lo-fi folk, Texan singer-songwriter Bersain Beristain portrays the sense of wonder and glory contained in the apostle John’s apocalyptic vision alongside moments of terror and chaos. Though these emotions are more discretely segregated in the album than they are in Scripture, the stark and bold approach to the source material is certainly admirable. It should be noted that this album is relentlessly experimental and at moments even distressingly harsh. Sometimes even physical caution is advised, given the jarring soundscapes of the opening track and “The Dragon on the Shore by the Sea.” However, the patient listener should find a gratifying experience within Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights.
You can stream and download this record below, and there is a link to purchase cassettes from Punch Bowl Records in the album description.
Light Upon the Lake by Whitney
Whitney’s debut full length is playful, tender, and just plain gorgeous. Singer/drummer Julien Ehrlich sings at a tone which may be off-putting to start, but the band’s laid back vibe makes his ubiquitous falsetto an easy taste to acquire. I’ve probably listened to this cassette more than any other tape in my collection in the short time I’ve had it. Some of that has to do with its shorter runtime (there are only 10 tracks with an average length of only three minutes). Most of it, however, has to do with the warmth, accessibility, and brilliance of the record. I expect Light Upon the Lake to land very highly on many best-of-2016 lists come December.
You’ll likely have to dig a little bit to find any more cassette copies of this album, but you can stream some of the singles in the player below as well as purchase a digital download or vinyl.
Black Summer by Crystal Desert
Instead of following up their What Is Crystal Desert? EP from earlier this year with a proper full length, Everett’s resident goth-punk outfit Crystal Desert has set out on a cassingle series throughout the summer and beyond. The cassettes have been limited to 12-copy runs, and the first two installments have featured two tracks apiece that have further explored the band’s likable melodrama and theatrics. “Monolithica” was the standout from the first release, featuring the most expansive soundscapes in Crystal Desert’s discography. “No Fair” is the star of volume two, delivering a faithful tribute to the Wipers tune from 1981’s Youth of America.
Unfortunately, the first volume of tapes is sold out as of this writing. However, both are available as a free download and stream below.
Hoops, Tape #1, #2 & #3 by Hoops
I happened upon the band Hoops while in the iTunes “Alternative” section, and I don’t think there has been any happier musical coincidence for me this year. Since last year, the Bloomington, Indiana band self-released three brief tape collections before signing to Fat Possum and releasing their self-titled, “debut” EP. All four releases are filled to the brim with lo-fi indie rock charm and no wasted space. Every single track is great. From the syrupy cassette textures of #3’s “Underwater Theme” to #2’s buoyantly optimistic “On Top” to “Cool 2” — a Tape #1 highlight which found its way to the self-titled EP — the entire Hoops discography is golden. Moreover, you can stream and download the Tape releases below.
And here is the stream for the band’s latest EP.
For Al Tape #1 by Gregory + Friends
This tape release has not been played nearly as many times as the other ones in this post, but I thought it worth sharing due to its novelty and personal impact. A little while ago, my grandmother passed on some tapes from her brother and father for me to capture digitally. These songs were written and recorded by my great uncle, Gregory Kreider, in the 70s and 80s. He performed and recorded under his own name and with his bands Trigger and the Brotherhood Band. The specific details of the recordings and release are unknown, as is the identity of the Al for which this tape was compiled. Of the tapes I received to convert to digital, I chose to post the songs from this one because they were hand-picked by Gregory himself as a sort of highlight reel. It is also worth noting that the first eight tracks of this compilation were also released on a 1985 cassette EP titled Side Two by Gregory’s band Trigger.
You can stream this tape below.
This series will continue to next week, when I will explore in greater depth the album Gulch Days by Crater Lakes.