Crash Symbols – Psychotropic Spools

Last year I reviewed an excellent batch from Crash Symbols. 2019 brings another diverse set of tapes from the always eclectic label. This West Virginia-based tape label casts a wide net in the musical ocean, and as usual offers up artists and projects from all over the globe.

ML Wah and Herbcraft – No Slack cassette/download (https://crashsymbols.bandcamp.com/album/no-slack)

On this release, 15+ year psych veteran Matt Lajoei brings together four of his musical groups onto one tape. This album spans a seven year period and is “under the common inspiration of spiritual roots reggae and dub.” The Herbcraft contribution was originally on a private press cassette in 2011 but seemed to call out to be included with the ML Wah spring recording session.

ML Wah side
Loose jams with clean strumming and blissed out fuzz soloing that is heavy on the percussion, these sounds are perfect for that kind of day where your head’s in the clouds, cruising along on an endless road trip. The bass guitar brings the groove with fills that are a tasty addition to the heavy jam. The Dub version is an excursion into the weeds for a little mind stretching and the backwards tape manipulation pulls the sounds back into the sky from whence they came.

Herbcraft side
Echo lift off with deep thudding bass set the pace, while slow wah filters sweep like a haze in a slow motion dream. Slapback regenerations are on tap all day, fading in on a cool down that is in no hurry to get to its destination. While both sides of the tape are from separate times and places, they are fast friends who are on the same wavelength. Clean jangly guitar and extra hot bass play progressions in unison, with the dubbed out drum kit holding the alternate timeline together.

Aghnie /seqta – House of Spleen cassette/download (https://crashsymbols.bandcamp.com/album/house-of-spleen)

This tape is a split that sees “[t]wo good boys from Georgia, Aghnie in Tbilisi and Berlin-based Seqta, unite for a distinctive shared adventure.” House of Spleen is the debut of Segta, aka Beska Kapchelashvili, while Agnhie, aka Ika Jojuaand, has a dozen releases. This outing is described as being “inspired in part by violence and poverty.”

Aghnie side
Soft synths and booming drum machines, sequencers crafting melodies that wrap around your head and linger long after… looping and techno are elements melded with the do it yourself ethic of punk, be it from necessity/happenstance instead of carefully calculated marketing. This is the output of a self-made producer creating this art for their friends and self regardless of aspirations to be heard worldwide.

Seqta side
Pieces are accompanied by samples lifted and mutated into an evening of underground dance parties, or renegade soundtracks far removed from a world of copyrights and curfews. The blur of lights and pursuit of the perfect beat. Notably there is a sense of danger with keyboard pads laying a haze in this aural city that is a fascinating visit. Both sides compliment each other nicely, and you hope these two have a chance to return with more offerings from Georgia.

Al Lover – Existential Everything cassette/download (https://crashsymbols.bandcamp.com/album/existential-everything)

This tape is from the prolific Al Lover, the psychedelic electronic project of Alex Gundlach. Alex has over a dozen releases on cassette, vinyl, and digital download. Recorded over a two year period – 2016-2018 – Existential Everything is described by Alex as “music to be introspective in public to.”

Massive kosmische styling, the music is full of synth patterns drifting in and out of focus. This is very much akin to a mountaintop meditation ringing out across the sky. Panning melodies are joined by croaking lines, inhabiting a world shrouded in mist, occasionally opening into vistas. Throughout, percussion adds a mechanical pulse like a global train system klanging along nonstop. Cello appears and is blended into the sonic landscape to end each side for a long form session with synths and drums. A mesmerizing combination of vintage callbacks and modern innovation.

somesurprises & supercandy – Some Candy cassette/download (https://crashsymbols.bandcamp.com/album/some-candy)

Some Candy, a collaborative split with Supercandy, is the fourth album in as many years for Somesuprises. Somesuprises is krautrock/psychedelic drone master Natasha El-Sergany. Supercandy is Brenan Chambers, who has recorded myriad Northwest artists, including Somesuprises. Though nominally a split release, Some Candy may also be considered something of a collaboration, as Brenan mixed Somesurprises’ side, and guests on the recordings, in addition to musical contributions from other Seattle-area heavyweights Ambrosia Bardos, Aaron Otheim, Monika Khot, and Lori Goldston.

Somesuprises side
Imagine hearing another person’s dream put to cassette – everything hazy and slightly disorienting. Natasha provides rich chords and arpeggios drenched in tremolo and tape echo regeneration. Picture a dark lounge act in a noir film surrounded by the glow of warm amplifier tubes. Trumpet and organ become waves in this swirling sea in your headphones, multiple voices reverberating and seemingly singing in a lost language – an audio document of a nameless and sleepless town that may only exist within these strips of magnetic tape. Inviting but mysterious vibes have you returning again and again to discover new sounds hidden in dark corners, in wait of Natasha’s next drifting opus.

Supercandy side
This begins with an acoustic sparkle and synth-driven dream pop delight. It feels like floating away up into a raining sky, as saturated Mellotron-esque loops blur the senses, the sounds rotating like the hands on a clock out of control. This is the outcome of a band with every instrument run through individual reverb tanks and delay units. Bass that would be at home on an old krautrock album propels the music, augmented with wild keyboard excursions. Other times clean strumming are in control, with searing lead guitar work holding each note for maximum effect. While more often he is behind the scenes so to speak, Brenan has much to offer in his own compositions.

-Jeff Brown

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