CASSETTE REVIEWS: A trio of leftfield beauties from Fritz Pape, Stephen Molyneux, and Laura Luna Castillo

WHITED SEPULCHRE is one of those brilliant little labels nibbling away at, and fascinated by, what’s happening out on the margins. The artists driven less by adoring teens and the bucks, and much, much more by exploring what’s possible, following their muse ever deeper into a particular aesthetic.

As la mode, many of Whited Sepulchre’s releases are that format that I, personally, was once absolutely convinced would never see the light of day: the humble cassette. Actually, it proves a neat and compact format for some deep and exploratory listening/ If you haven’t scoured eBay for a twin-deck separate, or resurrected your old boom box from the loft, well: now would be exactly the time.

Whited Sepulchre itself, operating out of Cincinnatti, Ohio, has built up a little bit of an ongoing tradition for calendrical cassette issues, bringing out a set as the seasons roll through the year, ready to preen and show out the new styles for the leftfield catwalk: come in and you’ll discover a diverse and delightful world.

Herein we’re concerned with having a squizz at the trio of works that make up the WSR Fall Tape Batch: Fritz Pape’s Ouroboros Patching; Stephen Molyneux’ Green Grass Eats the Buffalo; and Laura Luna Castillo’s Tuberose. All are out this Friday; if the romance of the chromium oxide doesn’t so it for you, all will also be available digitally from then too. In fact, we’ve embedded all three, too, in turn.

Right, let’s have a little look-see. Shall we?

Fritz Pape

FRITZ PAPE is one of those incredibly prolific experimental artists, music spilling from him in a never-ending stream. Of course, Coltrane understood this: the music never stops; it’s whether you choose to attune. Actually we reviewed his last album, From My Guitar At Homes, as recently as late August. (Read our review, here).

That was a delight of six-string drone ambience meets static crackle and blissful imperfection; and Ouroboros Patching, five further investigations of a soundscape for electronics, very much promises more of the same.

It begins with “BEDD” – as we’ll see, there’s a very definite schemata of nomenclature which nope, me neither; but trouble yourself not with such details when you have a dronescape such as this to pour yourself into. It resonates and shifts and does all the good thing finely finessed analogue ambient drone can do; there’s a little circularity of tone in the main sonic thrust, with fizzing underchatter, and a sudden buckling down through the scales. It’s cosmic; nay, kosmiche, and unfolds to conclusion in moist shore-lapping and analogue bubbling.

“PRBE” commences in a very a Berlin place; Jan Jelinek lovers, come hither for those glorious microclicks and fuzzes. It expands through higher generative swoops and dives, before a beguiling and ringing bell of a melody meanders in, adding genuine prettiness to a placid clickscape. It’s an open, chittering ecosystem of seductive sound, somewhat Japanese in its affective aesthetic. “ARPS” is a beautiful, slowly unfolding, iterative bubbling of spacious tonal wonderment. Simple, damn effective.

“DRPT” crawls from an echoic and dripping place into a more formal gossamer trill, a little repeating pseudo-guitar figure adding hushed propulsion to the free-roaming bubbling in the skies above. A close cousin might be The Orb’s undeservedly forgotten “The Blue Room”. It has a sonic cleanliness that invites you to shower yourself.

The final track on the album is the near-20 minutes of “SAWT”. Once more, protozoa of raw, unmediated and entirely beguiling generative analogue sound frames a more disciplined melodic direction of travel; here, an almost classical string thing of gradually layering tone, with a Kyle Bobby Dunn sort of modernist perfection.

A hometown artist for Whited Sepulchre, Fritz says: “Most of this music happened of its own accord, after some careful (and some not so careful) construction of circular connections between sound-making and sound-altering systems, with some gentle human coercing along the way.

“These recordings are observations of those systems getting to know themselves.”

If you like sound to airy, spacy and completely seductive, then this is very much a work for you. 9/10

Stephen Molyneux

BY CONTRAST to hometown boy Fritz Pape, Stephen Molyneux is a former stalwart of the Nashville and Denver DIY scenes, working outwith a firm rooting in that point where the avant-garde meets classic folk.

His release, Green Grass Eats The Buffalo, is simply divided into sides A and B; both are atmospheric, intuitive instrumental studies, mainly for solo piano, but with organ and acoustic guitar also contributing passages. Both sides play with a pretty hesitancy of progression, a willingness to let every melodic figure find its place. The piano sections seem to have picked up some of the tonal feel of Stephen’s current home, while the guitar works have a lovely, evocative weariness and beauty. The organ passage towards the end of Side A has the feel of a country chapel; while the opening piano piece on Side B is interjected by approaching thunder. You can almost smell the ozone.

Green Grass Eats The Buffalo is the final work of Stephen’s Denver Trilogy,  which also includes the preceding albums Wings And Circles and A Jaguar Mask, both issued on the No Kings imprint.

Green Grass Eats The Buffalo was recorded while Molyneux was preparing to move to Vietnam, already finding inspiration there. 8/10

Laura Luna Castillo

Laura Luna Castillo comes into the Whited Sepulchre fall cassette fold from Puebla, East Central Mexico, where she currently resides and creates across a variety of mediums. In her work she’s concerned with the mechanism of memory, that of imagination and the perception of inhabited spaces; and how we therefore we experience and think of those places and the objects that surround us.

Her contribution to this triptych of tape is Tuberose, of which she says: “I was inspired by the book The Art Of Perfumery, And Method Of Obtaining The Odors Of Plants, by GW Septimus Piesse [from 1857] in combination with the exploration of the study of time, memory loops, ephemeral and elusive memories.”

And one thing’s for absolute certain: you’ll find Tuberose absolutely adept at a certain clouded and abstraction evocation using a moody electronic palette. “ExudeByIncision” feels like early Aphex in its tonal palette, married to marching pulse with eerie and otherly tones swathing in the midground, neither flesh nor quite electronic enough to leave one entirely sure and settled with their origin; “WhenBruised SmellsLikePeachKernels” jars and shears with a Pierre Bastien mechanoid motif. Echo-laden clatterings suggest dark goings-on in subterranea and an eerie, processed neo-shanty pushes toward the conclusion.

“EightyPoundsOfTuberose” reminds me very much A Lily’s recent, beautiful Sleep Through The Storm; it has this understated sonic grandeur and eyes cast to Japan in some of its motifs. There’s plenty of early-90s’ Warp in there too. “ExpressionDistillation” plays out in a very similar tonal place; which, don’t misunderstand, s a wholly potable one, of repetitive minimalist figures chattering and busying away to seduce you.

“ThisProcessIsConductedColdRevisionJune29” – now there’s a cut-up, telescoped collision of a title – strips things right back to an almost gamelan percussive space, against which the muted grandeur of some very late 70s’ synths play – held back, arrested, drawing you to them and refusing to command the listening as a composer with a lesser touch might.

“StowedAwayInCasks” returns us to the creepier atmospheres of the opening tracks in waspish tronica, a little plucked guitar shimmer, cinematic washes. It’s quite a journey, is TubeRose; there’s an awful lot to respond to and in that interesting way that some records do, it seems to last a lot longer in the interplay of the senses than its strict chronological markers might suggest. 7.5/10

Fritz Pape’s Ouroboros Patching, Stephen Molyneux’ Green Grass Eats the Buffalo and Laura Luna Castillo’s Tuberose are available now from Whited Sepulchre Records. You can visit the shop, here, and order your cassette pets.

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