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Howard Stelzer's Current Cassette Rotation

On June 19, Intransitive Recordings impresario and master tape manipulator Howard Stelzer will perform live on Rare Frequency. Since the once-maligned-now-vaguely-fashionable cassette is Howie’s bread and butter, it’s only fitting that he wax poetic about some of his present tape faves below:

“I recently got the cassette component in my stereo professionally overhauled — all new insides, fully cleaned and scrubbed for maximum fidelity. It’s now a pleasure to listen to my crappy lo-fi noise tapes again! Here are the highlights of what’s been on deck these past few weeks:

V/A, “Insane Music for Insane People vol. 9” c60 (Insane Music, Belgium) — I picked up this compilation years ago, when I was in college in Tampa. If I recall correctly, it was given to me by a friend who thought I’d be into the Jarboe and Mutuel Mortuary (aka Skinny Puppy) tracks. Such was my life when I was a kid in college. Don’t hold it against me, please. I now realize that the best tracks are the ones by Bene Gesserit (weirdo synth-pop duo featuring Alain Neffe, Mister Insane Tapes) and Big City Orchrestra (go-to ubiquitous contributors to just about every 80s cassette compilation), but the real star is the fake-funk-punk rave-up by an unknown band called Dissolutio Humani Generis, who reminds me of an Italian Essential Logic. Anyone know anything at all about these guys, please get in touch!

Astro / Nave, “untitled” split c60 (Chupa Verga Rex, Italy) — I paid $20 for this at the Hospital store in New York, and haven’t seen it for sale before or since. I’ve never even heard of the label! I think the label is run by the band Nave, whose kinda silly sample-heavy rock noise takes up side 2… but I got the tape for Astro’s side, “Personal Morning Mists.” It’s typical sci-fi Moog doodle, what one can expect from Hiroshi Hasegawa’s post-CCCC project. But man… Astro on a middling day is better than so many other noise bands doing the best they can.

Brume, “Recto/Verso” c60 (Harsh Reality, US) — Did you know that the classic American tape label Harsh Reality, who in the 1980s and early 1990s published beautifully archetypal documents of the tape-trading network by folks like Minoy, John Hudak, Das Synthetische Mischgewebe, Kapotte Muziek, and Brume, will still make freshly-dubbed tapes for you for $7 a pop? Wow! When I figured this out, I ordered a nice handful, and am steadily working my way through ‘em. Holy moly. So awesome.

Emaciator, “Within” c30 (Arbor, US) — Kinda/sorta power electronics with a decidedly emo bent, by the same guy who does harsh noise as Pedestrian Deposit. Kinda reminds me of Flying Saucer Attack, actually. Short, pleasant.

Kakerlak & The Rita, “Knifing & Knived” c30 (THC, US) — When noise becomes as maximal as this, it takes a sharp turn toward minimalism… and sounds like absolutely nothing is happening. I like that. A pure wall of noise that, in its drive toward featureless power, is more like a soft crunching than the assault you might expect. The sonic equivalent of Robert Morris or Donald Judd… a big nothing, a furious blank. Apparently, each side is by a different guy, but who can tell? I listen on repeat and lose track of where the edges were.

Failing Lights, “The Foreign Land” 2xc45 (Gods of Tundra, US) — I’m a nut for anything by Failing Lights (aka Mike Connelly, of Hair Police and Wolf Eyes) and anything on his Gods of Tundra label. This double tape is one piece in 4 sections, sounding like detuned guitar drift (though of course, who can be sure)… it occasionally stirs up some dust, but it’s mostly gritty, humid, and distant grey muck.”

To learn a bit more about Howie and his music, check out this fairly recent article.


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HS does to cassettes what Keith Emerson did to keyboards .. only with much better results. Listening to Howie manipulate the humble tape cassette and create such incredible sounds makes you realise what major league wasters there out there with entire studios at their disposal.

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