Friday, September 23, 2011

Michigan Cassette Reviews

Here is the first of what should be a somewhat regular column reviewing independently released tapes from Michigan artists and labels. The fruitful and prolific nature of some of these freaks around the mitten is really unlike anywhere else, and while some may claim a throwback trending is bringing the cassette release back, I feel that the immediacy and self-sufficiency inherent in the small-scale tape world is as radical as you can get, and one of the last really special phenomena in music not yet completely co-opted and made lifeless by the culture it originally sprang from. This column may not be limited to Michigan releases in the future, but for now there is more than enough to go over in the neighborhood.

With their self-titled LP finally available to the world after many many moons in limbo, Detroit's Gardens are out and about more often, touring more and generally ruling as they always have. Their sound got deeply refined on the LP, presenting us with mostly tight-and-shiny one-drop garage trances. No one coming to the band anew would think of the record as a "clean" sound, but anyone who heard the early demo or CDR-at-a-show recordings can detect the upgrade. No doubt this might have been a conflicting feeling for the band, and "Glider Cats" brings back some of the crusty, boomboxed feel from those earlier demos. For all I know, it could be those very demos, as the notes just say "raw demo collage 2008-2010". Jammier and far less succinct than any of the vinyl releases, a little bit hard to follow in parts and glowingly, amazingly broken rock and roll in others. No label info included, but available at shows, which are plentiful in the Detroit area.

Izzy Johnson, part of Ann Arbor newcomers Chit Chat, is more the subject of this tape than the principle composer. While the focus is clearly Izzy's mostly-wordless guitar mantras, this 18-minute wandering comes off so much more like a field-recording or a weird fragment of conversation being recorded without the knowledge of all the participants. Recorded primarily in Ypsilanti's Highland Cemetery during some hazed-out, red-eyed summer day, the backdrop of birds, rain and lighter sparks meld into the lazy compositions producing something almost meditative. The intimacy of these recordings is what's really most palpable, and the vibe reigns supreme above any sound you may hear. This is release #2 from the illustrious KUMA TAPES, and ordering info/more info is right here. Limited to 30 copies.

This is the strange double-life of Radiator Hospital, 4-piece pop punk/fastcore Grand Rapids vegan soda enthusiasts by night and lovelorn one-boy acoustic bedroom bleeder by daylight. Or moreover the live band that appeared recently on a sweet 4 song 7" is absent on most of their cassette releases, save the crooned warble and kiss-me-like-we're-going-to-die vibes of singer Sam Cook-Parrot. "Nothin' In My Eyes" is an albums worth of bedroom/bathroom fuzz-fidelity acoustically rendered romance/burning heart/summer feeling-obsessed 90 second songs. Covers of J Church and the Adverts in a way gentler style give some indication of the consistent pace. Again, no label info, but seemingly released on a label called Lafayette.

Ann Arbor grindcore duo the Jobys named their band after their friend Joby, who declined wanting to play with them. Genius, right??!! Why they would change that insanely brilliant name is beyond me, but here is their first output under the new moniker, a split tape with conceptual/comedic/Void side of the Faith-Void split punk one-man maven Skate Laws. Fast, growly and sometimes sludgy breakdowns from Bitchcopter, in a style that always reminded me of a more crust, less slowed down Man Is The Bastard. Surprisingly straight-forward stuff from Skate Laws, though interspersed with freakish found sounds and the occasional anonymous spoken bit of a ruined life crying for help. Limited to 100 copies. Contact: Bitchcopter P.O. Box 7343 Ann Arbor, MI 48107.


  1. yeah yeah yeah!! mich tape revolution, good blog, feels good.

  2. btw, that glider cat looks fierce

  3. and my captcha's so far were '**** birl' and '****dip' no kidding. dipdipdipdipdidpidpdipdipddip