"Best of 2017: Noise" - awarded by Magnet Magazine on December 31, 2017.
Review by Larry Dolman in Blastitude, published on January 21, 2018:
Via international post arrives this jaw-dropper of a double-cassette compilation (two C90s!) put together by Tom Smith of To Live and Shave in L.A et al for his voracious boutique label Karl Schmidt Verlag. What a lineup: Smith opens with his own field recording of an odd disruption he and other attendees experienced at a photography exhibition, which went on to inspire the anti-fascist concept of the compilation (all elucidated on the insert), and then over 175 minutes of music follow, in two-to-three minute bursts from an endlessly welcome parade of interesting/important/fascinating contemporaries and colleagues like Charles Hayward of This Heat, Wolf Eyes, Robert Turman, Weasel Walter, Admiral Grey, Don Fleming, ONO, Anla Courtis, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Howard Stelzer, Taiwan Housing Project.... and that's just one third of Tape One. The second tape offers Aaron Dilloway, RLW (whose track "Blab" is GREAT), Rat Bastard, Lasse Marhaug (whose track is also great), Neil Campbell, Nondor Nevai, Lucas Abela, Id M Theft Able, and all that's not even a fourth of the names on here. Lots of them I haven't heard before, but can't wait to dig into under Mr. Smith's audacious curatorial eye (like Sharlyn Evertsz, who I'm listening to right now deep on Side D, her truly wild storm of a black metal power electronics track called "Bridge Build"). Great to reacquaint with old favorites too; Smith's aforementioned band To Live in Shave in L.A. close out the whole comp with an intense baroque howl of a track, and another project he's involved in, Rope Cosmetology, appear towards the end of Tape One. Julie Ann Huntington, last heard by me about 20 years ago wailing on an oboe in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the nerd noise punk band Galen, here wails on an oboe somewhere all alone, with earth-shattering ambience for a track simply called "Visceral Oboe." (Maybe she can make a For (Visceral) Oboe double LP and Delmark Records will put it out -- they are still around!)
Anyway, so much music on here, and you can call it "noise" or "experimental" or whatever you'd like, but one word can't do justice to the variety of textures and approaches, and you'll feel throughout what Mr. Smith meant decades ago when he first said "genre is obsolete," like when beautiful eldritch soft hover-drone by Jason Lescalleet gives way to saxophone & electronics free jazz blowout by the duo of Chris Pitsiokos and Philip White, or when the post-Neubauten industrial theater of "Refugees Trapped in a Warehouse" by The Karmakumulator (the track possibly most eerily similar to Smith's thematic field recording opener) goes right into the superb oceanic dark techno drive of "Twice Awake" by Cryptic Mantra. Don't worry, I'm still leaving plenty of surprises for you to get to yourself. Although the cassettes are professionally manufactured and really sound fantastic, only 100 hard copies were made, so a Bandcamp purchase is a good way to go, and you get more music (the cassette versions are necessarily edited due to space constraints), including some bonus tracks. Also, I don't know about you, but I'm always getting lost as to which track I'm listening to when I listen to cassette comps. Though of course that's fun too, and takes you out of the realm of accountant/statistician/trainspotter, and turns you into a pure music listener, in that classic cassette culture kinda way, and still you have those choice moments when an instantly recognizable artist will suddenly snap you back on track, like when the distinct solo synth styles of Three Legged Race and Andy Ortmann sandwich the spoken word fixations of Gregory Jacobsen for tracks 7, 8, and 9 of Tape One.
And, in addition to all of the ideas, inner-space imagery, and overall experimental thrust presented by the music itself, the tapes come with the aforementioned insert and curator's statement, which also cites the fascinating and new-to-me work of New Zealand-bred feminist artist Alexis Hunter as inspiration and source of the phrase "approach to fear." Also printed is a short interview with musical contributor Admiral Grey, who says "I am constantly reminding myself to try to avoid the literal. Life is literal. We need art to be something else, to perceive from another direction." This really resonates with me and I think it's what I feel in my gut every time I hate-watch episodes of Joe Swanberg's Easy. But I digress. More importantly, to continue from Ms. Grey's statement, there are at least 68 (more like 68,666,668) directions of perceptions documented here, approaches to fear if you will, that can be interpreted a multiplicity of ways: as confronting fear, as coping with fear, as outright running as hard as you can in the opposite direction, as breathing fire directly onto its face. Here's to regeneration...