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“The Lavender Tattooer” is Madalyn Merkey’s debut cassette and the Irma Vep Tapes Manifesto – a critical statement concerning new female sound, a prime slice of self-released loner pop in radical hommage to Frank Tashlin’s masterpiece Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin films “Hollywood or Bust” and “Artists & Models.” Madalyn cuts up Tashlin’s work and chats over the results – it’s a girl in the ‘50s walking home from the pictures, it’s a tribute to Black Dice in a poodle skirt, and it’s definitely a waterlogged girl group cut as heard from underneath a smoky bridge. There’s a part in “Artists & Models” where Shirley MacLaine belts out the torch song “Innamorata” all Jerry Lewis can do in response is toss himself down the stairs repeatedly. The version of “Innamorata” on here definitely throws you too – only this times it’s up the stairs; the stuttering horn sample could be from DJ Premier, while the choral sample recalls switching on your best gal’s radio set and hearing J.Ferraro’s “Marble Surf” or Penderecki’s soundtrack for “Je t’aime Je t’aime”.Definite goosebump material!! Recommended for those who dig the female titans of today - U.S. Girls, Circuits des Yeux, Alice Cohen, Inca Ore, Zola Jesus, et cetera - although what Madalyn is doing is singular in her own way. Recorded live – no kidding!! – in Madalyn Merkey’s very own bathroom in May 2009. A remarkable release and the first of a brilliant body of work.
GODDESS OF THE HORIZON
“The Goddess of the Horizon” is Madalyn Merkey’s second release and it’s kind of a companion piece to her “Lavender Tattooer” but definitely sounds totally unlike her previous tape. This one is really vveird! On “Goddess,” homegirl busts out the lopsided tape loop rhythms, gloopy drum machine work, and alien dubstep. Sounds alternatively like Joe Meek instrumentals fed through a woodchipper and new age training video music. The swirlier, drone-heavy ballet moments remind me of Francis Seyrig’s score for “Last Year at Marienbad” as performed by a 12-year old boy during a thunderstorm (and this tape wasn’t???). An extraordinary, zoned-out expression of a girl recording in a janitor’s closet. Includes beautiful fold-out artwork of trance-inducing staircases to accompany your ascent.
KOMMISSAR HJULER UND FRAU
If you’re not yet acquainted with the German performance duo Kommissar Hjuler und Mama Baer, please consider this your sacred chance. For years these two have been self-releasing some of the most bravely out there tape music existent in this galaxy while constantly blurring the lines between fetishized art object and fetishized musical object. Most biographies of the duo restate the same factoids, so I’ll be brief: the Kommissar is a real-life uniformed police officer by day married to one Mama Baer and together they produce private press records, sculptures, DVDs, CD-Rs, paintings, and scads of other pieces from their home in Flensburg. Intermittently their music can switch from sounding like classic European musique concréte sides to field recordings to text-based performance to Burroughs-like cut-ups to Teutonic shouting to deconstructed cover versions to outright sexual groans, slurps, and noises - and this tape has all of that and much more! This year has seen the releases of an amazing CD compiling some of their single-digit edition releases, one hell of a sold-out split tape with Thurston Moore on Goaty Tapes, and a freshly pressed Mama Baer solo LP (featuring her mindblowing cover of Madonna’s “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” – NOT to be missed dudes!!!) all of which have helped to make Kommissar Hjuler und Frau’s music more available in North America. So there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to release “Talking Heads” and continue their ongoing story. The A-side opens with “Heranführung,” an intimate candlelight recording of Mama Baer sweetly humming a lullaby that slowly begins to echo and follow its own lead like a cat lightly playing with its tail, eventually interrupted by harsh breathing exercises and blown-out vocal loops, all riding on a low-end wall of electronic bloops from another room. How these guys even record this stuff, I’ll never know. Next track “Ischgl” is all vocal burble, tape noise flapping in the wind, a deep, deeeeep example of great noise music through sheer vocal bombardment, both beautiful, harsh, endlessly effective. The B-side is what really threw us for a loop though (and will make many of you positively giddy) – total Jandekian destroyed electric blues (think “Interstellar Discussion” level) with stream-of-consciousness vocals that are super moving and deeply emotional – totally Christina Carter league!! The poetry they deliver here conveys a certain sense of being domestic, yet rebellious, that you don’t really get from experimental music these daze. Every time I hear it, it gets to me – this here tape’s one of the great poems I’ve read this year! A-side is classic musique concréte; B-side is amazing private press loner blues - an inspiring mix of beautiful subdued vocal performance mixed with classic harsh tape noise – totally recommended for fans of music and the 21st century.
TRAPPED IN FANTASY
“Trapped in Fantasy” offers a chance for one's perception to become fully beautiful. This recording resonates in the soul to bring out deep capabilities in the art of hearing. It was 7 a.m. on an empty beach when I first listened to Bermuda Link’s “Trapped in Fantasy”. Sands of white, water of mercury and soft tones of grey in the sky created and optical awakening to a new day. With the city of Chicago directly behind me, my vision was fully engulfed by the smooth waves and the synthesized shades of elements in front of me. The elaborate ore of positive sounds created by Josh Burke and Jeff Astin exsist between one’s personal perception and actuality: like a long line of swerving foot prints in the sand, or distant waves in a seemly still lake. The impression this tape brings forth challenges the mind to live in multiple moments: of action, inaction, and contemplation.
Side A features small muffles and hisses of human voices under the balance of distinction. Synth work and a variety of harmony techniques are also prominently featured in the smooth intertwine of this recording. The percussion sounds are stellar, but the real lasting impression of the audio unfolds when encountering it multiple times. Side B is a beautiful walk in the mind, a tropical glazed music box which transforms into gracious chanting on the edge of distance.
I had the pleasure of meeting members Jeff Astin and Josh Burke before they left Chicago for their summer ‘09 tour. The first date of the tour each artist left me hammered after viewing their solo sets. The methodical message to have eyes and hearts wide open to the future was clear as these boys formed new objectives for sound. “Trapped in Fantasy” continues to fruit new accomplishment with every listen. The sounds created are breathtakingly beautiful, embarking on uncharted paths of discovery.
Cover art features a fold out black and white image of Midnight Star Media Headquarters