Grizzly Spectre - All of Them Witches (Self-Released, 2014)
What a difference a few years makes. Last time we checked in on Grizzly Prospector (now operating under Grizzly Spectre for this project) we heard an artist reveling in the tense and inflection of a bygone era: short depression-era folk songs that rarely ran beyond the two minute mark. 2014, the SLC-based Parker Yeats has stripped the entire apparatus down to brass tacks (literally down to sheer mechanical action of the downstroke on a guitar) and then stretched and slowed the entire composition to a fraction of its original speed. The result is a droning, ghostly masterpiece of guitar, voice and synths. All of them buried. All of them sunk. And a what a voice it is. Yeats voice floats up through the floorboards, reverberates through empty apartments and high ceilings/sealings. Echoes of Yeats' bellow creating spectre-ish doubles of each other. The synth work here donated by Michael Biggs sound impossibly organic, like a bowed cello under a thick blanket of reverb. Grizzly Spectre works well as a moniker for what Parker is doing these days. The album spectre-like in that ephemeral, barely-there connection between two planes of existence, but is also very much tied to the West. A sense of unhedged expansion and discovery, a landscape seldom seen. Grizzly Spectre: a lone pioneer crossing the plane.
Hakobune / Oliwa / Former Selves / Panabrite - Oceanic Triangulation (Inner Islands, 2014)
This is the maw-fuckin' dream team right here. Three continents, four artists, two tapes, one hour of completely zoned relaxation. Enough on here get through a particularly dense and mind-numbingly boring textbook chapter on the "History of Supervision in Social Work". Can't make this stuff up. Srsly tho, look at this line up. The Japanese sound-sculptor Hakobune, whose tape Seamless and Here on Patient Sounds (Intl). is the most pleasant and beautiful piece of guitar music produced this year, starts the tape(s) off with a confident statement of purpose. An introduction glistening in golden reverb and far-away drones. Buenos Aires-based Oliwa, another contender for most transcendentally peaceful album of the year, follows up with a slow-burn, wandering synth track. A meander under a lush, thick canopy of thick, humid drone and meditative synthesizer played in some celestial key. Former Selves, who released a genius split with Original Flowering Earth on Crawf's Planted Tapes a while back has crafted a placid, tranquil pool of undisturbed beauty. There is an unspoken sense of tension floating somewhere below this track. Like the dams and lagoons in Swaziland guarded by a seven-headed snake that controls the weather (once again. Can't make this stuff up) this is something to be approached with respect and caution. Throw your coins to appease whatever ancient God lives below and bow out. Lastly, Panabrite (Goldrush 2012 alum represent!) is on to the most terrestrial of all artists. Starting out with the damp drip of a cave dwelling before launching into some truly virtuoso Bach-style fugue synthesizer shit before exploring more tranquil space before roaring (in the way these ambient-drone dudes do) into a crescendo of sorts with soaring guitar lines and textured synths ruminating below before fading out into field recordings of an open field. Incredible stuff on these tapes.
Zach Zinn - The Spiral Organ (Live God Collective, 2014)
Continuing with the more meditative, New Age-y vibe of the first half of this Tape Haul (it is about to get real noisy real fast on the next edition) the furthest flung member of the impressive Cincinnati-based Live God artist collective, Zach Zinn (Olympia, WA) has created a beautiful collection of drone-based compositions that feature some lovely looped woodwind and thumping tribal percussion. On the heels of the excellent Time and the Diamond, Zinn joins artists like Les Halles in exploring how woodwind instruments (I think that is a processed flute...) can add a layer of density, texture and Mayan-like zen (although I doubt the Mayan was a very zen-like culture) to already dense and muggy loop-based music. The space Zinn finds is pretty miraculous. Never one to overcrowd his compositions, Zinn incorporates rhythmic looping of instrumental passages if minimal percussion (infrequent tribal beats or tape loops) are not already present. This gives the entire tape a hypnotic, slightly sea-sick lurch forward. Woodwinds ride the crest as a top-bar melodies or are folded into the frothy, roiling surf of other auxilliary instrumentation such as harpsichord, harmonica and guitar. The Spiral Organ is a confident next step for Zinn, one that I find myself returning to on a frequent basis.