Penetrate the Sun Compilation (Cassette)
PNM #004 - Released 6/21/2011
All of these songs are here to show a chosen selection of musicians from a perspective not always emphasized - from some of their earliest recordings. Musicians that still aren't totally convinced they're musicians, but are showing themselves to be creators without full self-awareness of the fact.
Songs don't need to follow standard structures, nor do musical templates need to be used to help kick-start a musical pathway. All of the people listed have created more recent content, but ask any musician and almost all will say they first started with dropping ideas onto cassettes. It's just the way of things for any musician that started in the 90s or earlier.
Sometimes the limitations of the process become the point of a composition - sometimes the desire to use a technology that all your favorite bands used override the sheepishness of simply not knowing what you're doing when trying to record an idea. There's multiple learning experiences going on at once - all culminating in the joy of experimenting with music and the recording process.
You can view this compilation as a random specimen - a point-in-time for a number of different musicians found between the East and West coast. I've found all of these tracks very inspiring and am proud to release them on the fourth official PsychoNot Music release.
Here's a little info about each track:
1. MJ Woodis - "Pennywhistler" - This track was layered on an old Tascam 4-trk while living in a basement in Leeds in 2001. It was one of my earlier complete song recordings (that I personally recorded) and I used the experience to help familiarize myself with track recording (and re-recording). Most everything was recorded by candlelight and recorded through very rudimentary means. The narrative of the song follows a young boy trying to gain some guidance in life from an older individual. At the same time he taunts and yet still wants an answer - a standard way of approach for all those "young, dumb and full of come".
2. Scott Smith - "Many Things To Feel Good" - Assembled from old cassette recordings, made from hand recorders and cassette deck inputs, the song is a collage of Olympia, Washington's voices from the past (but not too far from the past). While the fidelity of the original tracking was left in place, admittedly, some digital assistance was used to help arrange the final song. This was primarily done because of how the tracks were recorded - it wasn't going to be possible to layer tracks the way they were put onto the tape.
3. The Wilted - "Tsunami" - This was an old version from my friend Patrick Murphy's earliest band, from NorthEastern Massachusetts. I found this track intriguing for a few different reasons. First being that it was recorded on tape and immediately pressed to vinyl. The band was still learning how to play its instruments, and the sheer determination to have a recorded seven-inch caused nothing to get in the way. Despite the rudimentary sound, I found this track particularly inspiring from a DIY standpoint. Currently Pat plays in an angular-rock band called Hangman's Alphabet that resides in Jamaica Plain, Mass, in the Boston metro area.
4. Claude Dragonfly - "The Icicle Princess" - Andrew Rossi, a.k.a. Claude Dragonfly, gave me the original 4-track master tape of this, without me knowing what to expect. I believe he said something about them being recorded in an attic or basement while living off of Interstate Blvd a number of years back....it's hard to keep track sometimes....While I was personally just satisfied filling up four tracks at a time for my own recordings, Andrew was pushing the limitations of 4-tracking. Each song, while containing four tracks only, had countless bounces and single-track dubs. Since I used a different 4-track to pull the audio from the masters, the tape speeds were playing differently and things just weren’t working smoothly enough to mix directly from the device. It took me weeks to figure out a way to mix them all accordingly, since I had to drop each individual track into a digital program and then line up (tape isn’t great at maintaining a consistent speed with old, warped tapes). This is actually one of the more tame tracks from the session masters he gave me, but felt it had an appropriate place on this compilation. Despite his experimentalism with noises and recording, an amazingly-crafted pop song exists here.
5. Old Hack - "MyPetDemon6" - Old Hack is a bit of an enigma. These tracks were recorded in Kansas some time back, but Old Hack currently resides in Oakland, CA. I know these tracks originated from early tape; be it reel-to-reel, hand-recorder or 4-track I couldn't tell you. His flair for infusing his recordings with social commentary, blended with an almost-nihilistic experimentalism, has left me a forever-fan of Old Hack.
6. The Zells - "Putnam3" - This was recorded by myself and Jack Young, Jr., with another Tascam 4-track recorder, about 10 years back, in the basement of my friend's house in Putnam, CT. Stuttering, skipping records and experimenting with creating atmospheric mood music was starting to bloom in this track. Not all songs need to be formally structured to be songs, regardless of what you're told by more "accomplished" musicians.
7. Mr. K's Orchestra - "Crack" - Mr. K, a.k.a. The Kyd, a.k.a. Casey Robbins, of Eugene, OR, is a great song-crafter, whom I look up to with regard to his solid songwriting and production skill - even when using the most basic of equipment. His angular pop lures you in without hesitation. Inside the head of the musical mind at work – roll tape.
8. Old Hack - "MyPetDemon9" - I had to put a second track from his MyPetDemon series on this compilation - it just helped with the continuity that I had initially envisioned. On this track you hear Old Hack experimenting with the limitations of the frequency range of tape tracking (especially when dealing with equipment likely in the need of a cleaning and demagnetization). I was pulled in by this track on the sheer experimental desire to hear what an analogue frequency-sweep sounds like on soon-to-be "archaic" equipment such as a tape deck. Plus, the samples are great.
9. The Zells - "It's All In Your Mind" Cover - Drunkenly recorded in a basement with the furnace blaring just a couple of feet away, Jack and I dropped a truly ghetto version of an old Beck song off of a defunct 7" from K Records. Beck has had a multi-faceted career, but his early recordings started in a manner very similar to all of the artists featured on this side of the release. Hand-recorders, feedbacking guitars, out-of-tune vocals and nearby friends all assisting, it was only fair to give a short homage to Beck, regardless of the quality.
It sounds so basic, but the pleasure of doing the track and then dropping it down by flipping the tape backwards in the 4-trk so that it played backwards for the last half seemed so simple, yet so necessary. Not unlike the joy of spinning a record backward underneath a needle (searching for a hidden message recorded backward), the subtle reaction of the tape-head magnets in creating a backward sibilant has always made me smile. Call me a freak if you may for overanalyzing this, it was just fun to do for the first time when starting to record on my own.
10. Joel Magid's Answering Machine - "Farewell" - Joel's always had a flair for creating a punkish vibe to an otherwise not blatantly-punk song, the noisy nature of low-quality 4-track recording is captured pretty well. it actually helps give the song a certain feeling. He said he's tried recording this song many times since this early recording, but the spirit just couldn't be captured again. Something in the imperfection helped this song find its own perfection.
I asked Joel if there was anything he wanted me to comment on regarding this track, and the only response I received back was “"Pills never help write songs...except for this song". I figure that says enough.
11. Millennium Falcons - "Train Of Thought" - Ross of Eugene has been recorded by Mr. K throughout the years, and I found the overall vibe of this song to be a great way to conclude this compilation. The emphasis is not so much in the recording method - there's more at play in these lo-fi recordings. His delivery and wording, accentuated by some production and performing assistance by Mr. K, help capture a melancholy bliss that really helps this track shine. This song, for sure, wouldn't be the same if it were recorded in a $50/hr studio.