In the last several years, there's been an explosion of small-scale DIY music. Altered Zones is a team of 14 music blogs dedicated to exploring these emerging musical worlds, traversing genres from psych and drone to electronic and underground pop. Our mission is to highlight the most notable and adventurous new artists, and to serve as a focal point for the flood of creativity coming from deep within the music underground.
To launch the site, we've each chosen one favorite track, cassette, and album from the first half of this year. Yesterday, we opened with tracks. Today, we cover cassettes, and albums will run on Friday. Our regular posting schedule begins Monday. We hope you enjoy reading and listening.
Welcome to Altered Zones.
No UFO's: Soft Coast
20 Jazz Funk Greats says:
No UFO's Soft Coast first found its way to us back in April, cut up and edited together as snippets. Assembled into an album by May, it became a longer-form but equally channel-hopping glide through Chris and Cosey’s early-electronic loops, cosmic Legeti drifts, and Jamie Principal arpeggios-- and that’s in the space of about five minutes. The influences here are sewn together in the best possible tradition of mix tapes; you appreciate the connections as they’re replayed in a joyous, nebulous drift. This is music by one person trying to come to terms with his influences by making something frankly beautiful.
We also dig the Juan Atkins reference.
Grimes: Geidi Primes
Gorilla vs. Bear says:
With her debut cassette release, Montreal's Grimes has created a beautifully hypnotic and eerily inviting soundscape by drawing from such disparate genres as dubstep, wobbly lo-fi bedroom disco, and more straightforward '80s pop (see "Rosa"), all filtered through a strange, vaseline-smeared kaleidoscopic lens. Spooky coos and strangely familiar, half-realized melodies drift in and out from a distantly twinkling ether, as the tape plays out like a bent, no-budget dream collaboration between Kate Bush, Nite Jewel, and Paavoharju, as produced by the low-end theorists at Hyperdub.
Geidi Primes is sold out on Arbutus
Various Artists: Dark as Night
Weekly Tape Deck says:
Dark as Night is a mind-bending four-way split that Bathetic Records has now twice released upon the world. Each side of the cassette takes you on an ephemeral vision quest of magical proportions. Though the two tracks submitted by each band (oOoOO, SLEEP ∞ OVER, Terminal Twilight, S U R V I V E) run the gamut of soundscapes from haunted to angelic, they all blend into one ethereal sound. Reactions may range from nodding your head in enjoyment to a meeting with your spirit animal.
Dark as Night is sold out on Bathetic Records
Wild Safari / Cough Cool
Yours Truly says:
Although song titles like "History of Savannah" and "Flower Reading" exude a sense of late spring warmth, you can almost see your breath around this split cassette from Wild Safari and Cough Cool. There's lava burning at its core, though, like blood pumping faster in an attempt to fend off the bitter cold. These tracks simmer beneath their surfaces, slowly building but never boiling over. Despite the cold it brings, this split cassette still keeps you warm enough to make it through any winter.
Wild Safari / Cough Cool split is out now on Leftist Nautical Antiques
Campfires: Burning Rivers, TV Flickers, Drifting Off to Bed
Visitation Rites says:
Stamped out before the three-minute mark, the songs on Campfires' debut cassette seem tailor-made to our impatient ears, so accustomed to clicking from one mp3 or YouTube video to the next. As we chase fleeting moments of musical gratification, we Y-Generation listeners may actually be using the web to actively construct our own musical narratives. Campfires' Jeff Walls seems to anticipate this, minting eight fuzzed-out musical moments that pack a strong melodic punch and then stringing them together into a yarn of his own: "The songs all occur in one evening in a place that is [...] a lot like my hometown in southwestern Michigan." Walls' concept is foolproof: rather than click on to the next artist, we await the next plot twist.
Burning Rivers, TV Flickers, Drifting Off to Bed is nearly sold out on Leftist Nautical Antiques
Active Child: Sun Rooms
The Road Goes Ever On says:
Between the sparkling beauty of “Wilderness” and the pounding drums and resounding vocals of “When Your Love is Safe,” Active Child has a knack for dreamy hooks. The six tracks on his Sun Rooms cassette may at first seem slightly stiff, but they always reach out a soft, warm hand in the end, lifting you up and taking you home. Something about Pat Grossi’s ethereal voice atop all those mysteriously airy synths makes this a great tape to pop in when you’re driving into a brilliant sunset on a quiet, Sunday evening.
Sun Rooms is sold out on Mirror Universe
His Clancyness: Always Mist
His Clancyness is Jonathan Clancy of Bologna, Italy via Ottawa, Canada. Always Mist, his first full-length release, is a tender, clean, and consoling collection of snug little dream-pop blankets to ball up in, marked by gliding harmonies into which Clancy injects his rich, wistful sigh. These are not songs that demand a great deal of insight. In fact, there's no need for understanding at all; the simple arrangements and heartbreak hooks bypass the nerd-centres, burrowing straight through the chest only to manifest themselves two minutes or so later as lumps in the throat and knots in the stomach.
Always Mist is out now on Mirror Universe (limited to 100)
Coma Cinema: Stoned Alone
Delicious Scopitone says:
Coma Cinema is the solo project of Mat Cothran of Columbia, South Carolina. Without a doubt, one of the most engaging personalities we've had the pleasure of coming across this year, Cothran's singular enthusiasm and sincerity radiates through every last note of Stoned Alone, his debut release. Falling somewhere between the writhing axe-work psychosis of Lou Barlow and the disarmingly delicate intensity of James Mercer of the Shins, songs like "Sucker Punch" or "Come On Apathy" are magnetic and moving to the point of being cleansing.
Dylan Ettinger: New Age Outlaws
Raven Sings the Blues says:
Syrupy synth projects seem to be falling down two avenues of late: either they douse themselves in the frosted pink nostalgia of 80s ski weekends and infomercial bed music, or take the scholarly high road to analog experimentation. But Dylan Ettinger is an outlier. He’s certainly not running down the Day-Glo path of banana-clipped past-gazing, but he might not possess the pedigree to hang with Analog Masters just yet. Instead, he’s captured the latter’s sense of wonder and applied it to a loose concept album of gritty crime drama and darkened noir corners. Definitely my favorite on the small spools this year.
New Age Outlaws is out now at Not Not Fun (limited to 500)
Tracey Trance: The Fountain
Chocolate Bobka says:
Slugs, beetles and worms mill about the surface of the Earth. Often the beetles will roam in a circular pattern, occasionally bumping into a termite or a fire ant as if bug life were a game of miniature bumper cars. The music of Tracey Trance-- and especially The Fountain-- combs the uneventful ether for these types of collisions. Cascading like a waterfall over endless cliffs, Tracey hits buttons and melodies that a trained musician could never replicate. Instead, his outer-worldly melodies seem more natural, as if sparked by collaboration between a plastic woodwind acolyte and a manic Geppetto with a knack for the squeeze box.
The Fountain is out now on Night People
Twins / Luke Perry: Guts
Rose Quartz says:
For all the Peace Agers mining 90210 nostalgia, these two East Coasters add the most electro zest to that hyperreal televised romanticism. Twins and Luke Perry's brand of day-glo is about as close to a VHS Supersoaker commercial as it gets; "bodacious" is about right for this ultra "Californian"-sounding sample-heavy pop, highlighted by trebly guitar wailage that sounds perfect on tape via your worst boombox. These bouncy hits may be scratchy and lo-fi, but they still fit great alongside hazy electro acts like Blondes and schizoids like The Samps.
Guts split is out now on Peace Age
Dem Hunger: Caveman Smack
Friendship Bracelet says:
I've been nothing short of addicted to the work of Dem Hunger since first coming across his free download Heavy Spinach in the first half of last year. His first physical release, Caveman Smack, has only further intensified my obsession-- a sonic patchwork of spaced-out dub, beats that snap as heavy as any other on the planet, and eerie, mind-frying vinyl samples. Scenes skip as you try to keep up, but keeping up simply isn't an option. Time flies and you're left stunned.
Caveman Smack is out now on Leaving Records
Clive Tanaka y su orquesta: Jet Set Siempre No. 1
Get Off the Coast says:
Jet Set Siempre No. 1 has two personalities: Side A is labeled "For Dance" and Side B as "For Romance." From the opening notes of the A-side, you're immediately caught in a groove that entraps you until the tape is tightly wound around its second spool. While the B-side retains the rhythm, its added sense of enchantment ensures your moves connect with the eyes you're trying to attract. With Jet Set Siempre No. 1, Clive Tanaka y su orquesta have created one of the best electronic jammers I've heard in a long time. The only downside is that I'll probably wear out the cassette before summer ends.
Jet Set Siempre No. 1 is available now at clivetanaka.jp
Cruisin': What Is Quality?/Cruising in the Year F-Zero
Don't Die Wondering says:
Cruisin' is the latest analogue adventure from the ever-quirky Peace Age conglomerate, designated to be meekly laid down as a sacrifice before the volatile drug gods. What Is Quality? brings together the collective talents of Twins (Matt Weiner), Luke Perry (Ryan Howe), CH-ROM (Charlie Lanning), E-Tip (Elise Tippins) and Alex500 (Alex Morrison), which I imagine translates into a sweaty room centered around a heap of dusty electronics which are then subjected to forms of torture the manufacturer would not approve of. The resulting 20 minutes feel like a car ride through the changing scenery of one’s psyche, peering passively out the backseat window to find sights alternately pastoral, menacing, strange, and lovely, and sometimes just focusing on your own reflection peering passively back.
What Is Quality? is out now on Peace Age