Dead Machines - The Last Pallbearer / Failing Lights - Dismal Winds / Family Underground - Risen Under Altar Souls (Heavy Tapes CSs)

Eeeyoow. I finally got my hands around a few cassettes from the heavily-lauded Mike Bernstein/Maya Miller (Double Leopards) coordinated Heavy Tapes label. The packaging is as beautiful as you've read about. Some day far off into the future when this whole thing we're in the midst of now is dead and gone, Maya's artwork will be collected into a tome to be bought and sold on Amazon as a reminder of the brain-boggling stuff that went on in the hip '00s. But that tome will go out of print, and you'll wind up paying through the nose for it on eBay...don't say I didn't warn you. Best stock up now while these tapes still cost under $10 (well, most of em anyways). Let's do this shit alphabetical style.
John Olson (of Wolf Eyes) and life-partner Tovah Olson really shouldn't need an introduction at this point, so I ain't gonna do one. Their contribution "The Last Pallbearer" (c28) hits you with a grotesque wallop of pure dark matter, definitely living up to the mental image of miles of malfunctioning mechanics their moniker mandates. Waves of bombed-black nightmares abound. The second track (still on the A side) is more organic but we're still talking about living surpressed under robot rule. Far off animal calls puncture the metallic landscape, brain-dead astral grinding and scraping courtesy desolate electronics - the soundtrack to being the last human being on the planet.
B side is more of the same alienation - like a horror flick with the picture removed. Half-alive electronics clattering and jostling up against one another in the dark, screaming beneath a thick crust of bile. I'm thinking psychedelic wheat threshers. Are you?
Next on the docket is Failing Lights aka Mike Connelly (Hair Police/Wolf Eyes) with "Dismal Winds" (c20). I guess this thing is one-sided or I didn't turn my stereo up loud enough to hear the second side. Anyway. Small collection of varying bloops and brrps, like a rat on a hot tin roof. These are super lo-fi, debilitated electronic waverings, ghost transmissions trying to break through to the other side. Remember when you were a kid and you heard about earwigs actually getting into people's ears and eating through their brains, tiny bite after tiny bite? Put that together with drained tapes, dying batteries and a seriously smoked-out vibe and you're in the right coffin.
Last but never least is a righteous monster, Family Underground's "Risen Under Altar Souls" (c44). And if the title doesn't give a big enough indication to the proceedings at hand, you're not gonna make it out alive. A holistic blast of buried Vibracathedral Orchestra-tinged exorcism. This be free, buzzed-out, blown-up, drugged knuckle-dragging in its highest form. Sometimes there's wandering voices in the background, and it basically sounds like what I imagine breaking into a freemason HQ at 2am sounds like. I've got no idea what's being played here - the Grand Canyon on a horse's-tail-hair bow, maybe? Alls I know is I feel like I've woken up in a field, naked except for the warm blanket of an orange sun.
Side B is even bigger, brighter, more acid-edged and freaked-out than the first. Vocal trepidation, jet-engine guitars (maybe?) coming in for a crash landing on your veins. Or, melted glop running down the drain, spiraling out of sight. Or, tapes spliced up with a battle axe and pieced together with duct tape. Yr call, mate. A total magnum opus of droned-out euphorium, whichever way you want to take it. This tape could easily be the winner, but I don't like to play favorites.
Man alive. If all Heavy Tapes are as bonked as these three selections, I gotta throw out my Pokemon and start collecting these babies. Great tunes, great packaging...what more could a gal ask for? Next time you're laying down a thick order on Fusetron or Volcanic Tongue or what have you, throw a couple of these in your cart and I guarantee you'll have enough meat to last you till your next pilgrimage.


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