Thursday, May 25, 2023


Currently listening to this very nice gamelan album with the window while typing. The drums and the construction hammering outside and my keyboard all sound good together.

Speaking of my keyboard: I've been switching off between my two cheapo FreeGeek-sourced Das Keyboards: a brown-switch one with blank keycaps and a blue-switch one with non-blank keycaps. I had thought I preferred the noisy blues, but they kind of drown everything out and make my ears ring. So browns it is. But I'm not enough of a wizard/zen master* to work with blank keycaps. I use too many keyboard shortcuts. So I've been swapping keys out as time permits:

I appreciate the fact that it looks like a molting bird, kind of awkward-looking while it gets its summer set of feathers.

The kid is just about finished with a year of Spanish-immersion kindergarten and I'm amazed at how well he's taken to it. We're reading a library-discard Spanish translation of Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouse at bedtime and it's amazing hearing him interact with me in Spanish. As an American I get thrown off by all the vosotros pronouns (did no Latin American version of this exist, Multnomah County Library?), but kid rolls with it. I always admire attempts to translate abecedariums (abecedaria?) Also, I am going to need to seriously up my spoken Spanish game.

*Note: "Jedi" is probably the most appropriate term to use here, but the official position of this blog is that the Star Wars film universe does not exist.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Steven Arntson _The False Voice_

Friend of Tape Mountain Steven Arntson has a new concertina-and-voice album, The False Voice, and you should get it. 

Without Haste, Without Rest, his previous concertina-and-voice album, came out in 2017 and soundtracked a lot of my sleepless days in dark times with a new-ish baby. I remember listening to it, just completely delirious from not sleeping and from it being the dark days of 2017, coming home from going hiking with the kiddo, how he had fallen asleep in the Ergo carrier while we were on the trail, and now he was awake in the car seat, no nap, no future, all future. It was perfect.

The new album moves on from the "yodels" of the previous album and dispenses with all non-false voice and verbal singing. It feels purer for it. I'll report back once I've absorbed it a little more fully.

Secret live appearance/Wild Carnation/Brenda Sauter

Long-time Friend of Tape Mountain Chris emailed and asked if I wanted to be a game show contestant at a live podcast taping at Passages Bookshop. Of course. All the questions come from 1930s-era trivia books. FOTM Ned R. was also there doing a podcast about J.R.R. Tolkien. Ned is serious about J.R.R.T. - the first thing I saw when I entered the grad-student apartment I would share with him in 1995 was a pen-and-ink drawing of Mr. Tolkien himself. Serious!

Aquarium Drunkard's email list noted that Wild Carnation's album Tricycle was getting a reissue. I had somehow completely missed the boat on this 1994 album* featuring the bassist from the Feelies Mk. II. I checked it out on the YouChoob and it turns out to be totally great, an oversized jangly comfy sweater, the apple that didn't fall far from the tree.

And it helped me realize that I had highly underestimated Ms. Sauter. Her bass playing was always there and I always enjoyed it, but I had never put her on my list of great bassists. But she is great! Her bass playing helped propel the Feelies and Wild Carnation's music, kept it in constant motion, but it was never showy in the sort of way that drew attention to itself. Hearing this album (and comparing and contrasting with some contemporaneous-ish Wake Ooloo stuff) helped me realize what a crucial piece she is/was/will be.

*To be fair, I was in Peak College Radio Mode at that point, so I should have been aware? I don't think I would have ever been too cool for a Feelies offshoot. Maybe the record label didn't send promos to radio stations who, as my favorite promo said, featured "more power than most light bulbs!"

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Grunge Hummel Figurines

 The internet fails us once again:

As Gen-X inches closer to the Precious Moments grandparent portion of its life (don't talk to me, I'm a procrastinator), someone needs to fill this niche!

Tuesday, April 4, 2023


In a moment of work-related desperation, I grabbed the K-Tel compilation Emotions - "Today's Love Hits" (if "today" is 1978). Sick!!!! Why do I own this???? 

What a weird time the late 70s were. These songs do hit some sort of weird nostalgic twinge center of my brain, but I'm mostly struck by how BAD the songs are. In the case of Mary McGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers," so BAD that it wraps around to being good again. They spell Crystal Gayle's stage surname "Gale." A Seals & Crofts song that is not "Summer Breeze" or "Diamond Girl" is featured. A Player song that is not "Baby Come Back." The album ends with two Brothers Gibb compositions (Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" and Samantha Sang's "Emotion") that wipe the floor with everything else here. They feel like an apology.

While some K-Tel compilations have their own terrible charm, this one is just P-U city. 

Side note: I did not know that K-Tel impresario Philip Kives hailed from Oungre, Saskatchewan, which as of 2021 boasted a population of 11 and which looks pretty bleak on Google Maps, even more bleak than my own boyhood stomping grounds. He made it big in Winnipeg, though.

Accordion solos of note


Wait for the accordion solo to come in around two minutes in. Way to make an entrance!

Friday, March 31, 2023

Australian bands, long bus rides, long books

Update: I saw the Dippers/Collate show and it was great. Both bands played with urgency and freshness. Really looking forward to the Dippers record. Collate have shifted to a higher gear since I saw them last and have added some, dare I say it, swagger to their presentation along with the usual fierceness and sterling set of post-punk/no-wave influences. I stayed to the end of their set even though I could have saved myself a $2.50 bus fare by leaving a few minutes earlier. 

Speaking of the bus: I love the fact that I can take an hour-long single ride on the 72 bus and end up someplace cool despite living in a highly marginal neighborhood. I used my bus time to finish up my epic journey through The Books of Jacob. I loved it, by the way, even though it took me forever to finish it. And it's the longest book I've read since I plowed through Infinite Jest back in my days after escaping grad school. In retrospect, I love the fact that my way of celebrating post-grad school was to read long books. That and One Hundred Years of Solitude, read in coffeeshops in Orange County as I waited to file the paperwork for my consolation master's.

Shuffle play led me back to Restless Leg's exuberant "Oblivion Banjo". Over-the-top handclaps in 6/8 time talking about vague memories of some time long ago - sign me up! Now I've arrived at the part of the album with flutes where they talk about trees.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dippers "Tightening the Tangles"


Australian band Dippers have a new single called "Tightening the Tangles" that hits a lot of my personal pleasure centers - wild guitar, Farfisa-esque organ, taut feeling. They reference the Cannanes and the Chills, but my personal antipodean reference points would be Scorched Earth Policy fronted by one or both of the Jefferies brothers.

It goes through some quality modulations midway through (including a bridge that actually works) and ends in a different key from how it started. I'm not sure if I'm OK with using "fester" as a transitive verb, but "festered to the surface" is pleasing phonetically at least.

They're playing in Portland on Tuesday the 28th at Turn! Turn! Turn! with no-wavers Collate, whose office-product-intensive Risograph visuals also activate weird pleasure centers in my brain.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Bratko Twins

In Ukrainian-Canadian music news: The Bratko Twins' Kolomayka's on Fire is super great and I may have just won a copy on a certain internet auction siteThanks as always to POLKADONDB for bringing it:

Bio copied from the YouTube page:

This band originated from the Winnipegosis Mb area. The twins started their music career at a very young age playing home made violin and cymbaly. As they grew older their sister bought them a violin and a brother in law made them cymbaly. 

They were part of a large family of 13 children, money was scarce in the 1930's playing weddings and dances was a valuable source of income for the family. Being identical twins made them a fascinating novelty. People traveled long distances by horse and buggy to see them play. Later in life as children and farming took priority they played less frequently, but music was always in the home. Each twin had one son and as they grew older they too joined the band one on accordion and the other on guitar, we now had a 4 piece band. This however did not last long as the youngsters soon moved away making their own way in the world. These two recordings were made in Winnipeg with very little or no rehearsal, tunes were picked and played at random.We recorded about 2 hours of music and out of those tunes 2 LP's were released

They play with absolute abandon, like they're compressing their entire lives into a 2-hour recording session. They do that thing that I wish I had the music theory chops to explain where they play minor chord melodies on top of major chords or vice versa (a trick I blatantly stole on my most recent album), but they take it to the next level - intentionally or unintentionally, I'm not sure ("very little or no rehearsal"), but it's totally spellbinding.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Every decade or so I need to figure out a new way to watch Jan Svankmajer's Dimensions of Dialogue. When I was in college, it was through the Film Club and the brilliant love interest who knew all the cool things, later it was through beloved Portland institution Movie Madness, and now, of course, we're at the point where it is through interlibrary loan from the library. Picking up high Czech surrealism along with Japanese kitty manga for a kindergartner, at no cost. Watching it while riding the exercise bike during my work-from-home lunch break. 

No matter how many times I see it, I'm still amazed. I can only hope that I live long enough to have multiple new perspectives on the toothpaste squeezing itself out of the tube onto a pencil sharpener on a meat tongue.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Album sequencing, more Roches

When I was young and chronically bored in the car (in the 80s - we had car stereos and tapes but did not yet have handheld devices) I would go through my folks' collection of boomer tapes (James Taylor, Marty Balin solo, etc.) and my various embarrassing Sting tapes etc. and develop theories about which songs would go in which positions in the album. You start off with the strongest statement, go into something more conventional but still strong with the second one, end the first side with something memorable and optimistic, start the second side with a hey-we're-back, and then the penultimate song is the most enigmatic, the grace note to the strong and memorable closer that is the final song.

The position that I could never quite figure out is song 2, side 2. In many ways it seemed to be the place where the weakest material hung out, at least according to my very scientific study of approximately 20 over-the-hill boomer tapes.

I mentioned a few posts again that I've been getting into the Roches. Keep on Doing has a very interesting side 2/song 2 in "The Scorpion Lament," a slice of deep melancholy about almost getting caught doing something regrettable at night. They can't resist clever clunker couplets like:

faithful and unhenpecked
I somewhat recollect

but then it has just an awesome line in

God has let me release a sting
in my own eye

It's the only obvious reference to a scorpion in the song, and then it incongruously ends on a major chord as they sing "it's not alright with me," and then there's a super jarring transition into "Want Not Want Not." I like it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Swim lessons, The Tubs

Registering a kid for swim lessons in 2023 is totally nuts. The moment registration opened, I breezed through all the waiver stuff and got him registered and paid for. Mere moments after I hit submit and got confirmation that my boy had been registered, all the classes showed up as being full. Wow. Like piranhas, man.

I mentioned to my wife that hey, now he'll be able to pass the freshman swim test when he goes to some fancypants college. She was not aware of swim tests being a thing and we both agreed that it is kind of crazy. I was glad to see that my fancypants alma mater will allow you to take a PE class for a quarter if you do not already know how to swim, because swimming pool distribution is, let's say, not exactly equitable in this country.

UNRELATED: Reliable old Trouble in Mind Records just put out The Tubs' Dead Meat. In the words of the old Dark Beloved Cloud catalog describing the Clean's "Late Last Night," it is "like the best parts of all your other records." Perhaps too much so, but it is hard to deny that it is well-crafted. The song "Two Person Love" is the second song on the album, as it should be*, all the performances are spirited, and the algorithms have decided that since my peers like it, I will also like it. And I do, more or less. I do wish they would FIUM** a bit, and I wish the mastering job were less heavy-handed and allow for a little space here and there, but it fills in the workday and complements a second cup of coffee just fine.

* Everyone knows that if you have a number in the title of the song, that is what its position in the track listing should be. Souled American's Around the Horn has "Second of All" and "Six Feet of Snow" in the appropriate positions, one of many reasons I love that record. My various 33-track albums violate this rule in favor of maintaining an alphabetical order track listing, well, with one exception, namely, a song about choosing which set of rules to prioritize.

**F--k it up more, my standard instructions to the folks at my songwriting group, and, in general, a good guiding principle for making music.   

Sunday, January 29, 2023

And finally, old media and realizing how far we've come

My beloved has a cache of old Flipside punk rock magazines from the early 80s. Kind of great to read all of the eternally-hashed-out punk rock arguments when they were relatively new and fresh. But also kind of shocking to 2023 ears to hear endless SoCal bros endlessly tossing out homophobic slurs. Man there are so many of them. Flipside 32 has an interview with the Big Boys in which Randy Biscuit Turner talks about his pink cowboy boots, and there's a picture of him in a tutu. and reading about him in the face of all of this F-word garbage in the Letters section makes me appreciate them even more.

I've been riding my new exercise bike up in the office during lunch breaks at work in the rainy/cold Portland winter. I bought it from some lady in a Clackamas mobile home park - I drove into this weird manufactured-housing labyrinth in winter-solstice darkness - and that was weird, but eventually I found her and thankfully it folded up into my subcompact just fine.

This winter I've been replaying the Fable series of video games while riding the fake bike - turns out endless fetch quests in a pretty world are just what the doctor ordered for exercise entertainment (exertainment) - and when I finally finished the main quests I went back to playing Madden 12. I don't really see the point in buying any more recent pro football games, particularly since I haven't watched the real thing in years anyway - and there's a lot to be said for just annihilating one's opposition while also crushing calories.

It's hard to believe, but endlessly destroying the digital NFC North gets boring after a while, so I'm rewatching old 30 Rock episodes, starting with season 2 because that's what I had on hand from some garage sale or other. Pretty funny, and "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" will be in my head for a while, though it's weird to hear this show that's otherwise so smart using transphobic slurs and playing up the gayz for the laughz. 2007 doesn't seem that long ago, but I guess it was?!?!

Videogames part two for the evening

The boy (now 6) has gone head over heels for Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I was playing that game during his first year or so of life, digging up fossils and catching fish with a little guy snoozing on my chest, and now here this kindergartner is just devouring this really text-heavy game with a passion. Today on the way to the library he asked me "when did you move to town?" "Oh, Portland?" I asked, prepared to tell him stories of young and zitty me in a Reagan-era lumber town. "No, Animal Crossing," he said. It is nice to see this thing that I spent a lot of time on through young and totally obsessed eyes.

I've still never played the new version for the Swytxch. I have this good/bad habit of not buying consoles until the next generation comes along and everything is really cheap. I figure I'll give things another year or so post-pandemic and see if prices come down. We'll see if I can hold out, though, especially once he starts going on about it to his classmates and realizes there is a new and shinier version out there.

I've been playing this loony Bubble Bobble sequel called Parasol Stars. As ridiculous as a game about dinosaurs blowing bubbles is, this sequel is even more ridiculous. It is delightful. Like any game requiring any coordination whatsoever, I'm terrible at it, but it's fun.

The best webpage, plus joysticks

I understand there may have been some arguments about this subject, but for me, the best webpage is obviously Atari Compendium's list of VCS controllers. It goes on and on, telling the story of a million ideas, mostly bad, crapped out in a gold rush environment in a very short period of time. Boy does it go on. There are so many of them. Mercury-switched Le Stiks that kids held in their hands? Check! Combination joystick/paddles, almost none of them usable? Checkarooni! Shapes that no hand could ever really grasp? You got it! Something called the "Obelisk"? There is an obelisk. It goes on and on and on and on.

"Retrogaming" is, as we all know, a pretty stupid hobby, especially if real money gets exchanged in the process, but I might make an exception for weird old joysticks. I don't need them to plug into any authentic hardware - the 2600-daptor works fine for my purposes - but there's something tactile and pleasing about these old crapsticks. And unlike the mechanical keyboard thing, joystick hunting remains clunky and funky and resoundingly uncool and, therefore, largely cheap.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Roches/Fire Roast

I've always had a maybe/well-maybe-not relationship with the Roches. They're one of those bands whose sublime/ridiculous ratio seems to have a very high standard deviation. Did I get that right? I did badly in stats class several decades ago. Anyway, I picked up their "Collected Works" AKA best-of album for a buck at the library's used book store last weekend, and it does a pretty good job of making their case. "Hammond Song" is pretty perfect (though the collected-works version maybe turns down the guitar solos a bit?), "Want Not Want Not" is at a largely unplumbed intersection of novelty-music/polka/bad-trip/experimental, "Nurds" is a lot more compelling and horrifying than I had thought, "One Season" hits a totally unexpected and perfect spot at 2:00 in or so. Getting their killer minus the filler helps me go back and appreciate the filler a bit more. My family members remain unconvinced.

Fire Roast is one of a million Nina Ryser things, and I'm not sure what happened with this particular outfit - they put out a tape on the great Single Girl Married Girl smack dab at the beginning of the pandemic, and then silence. It's been next to my tape deck ever since. Ms. Ryser's work in Palberta, Data, and solo is also at an uncomfortable intersection between genres at times, and I don't always click with all of it, but this album is great and consistent from start to finish. ZoĆ« Talkin's shredding bass work takes things to the next level. (Shades of Cris Kirkwood, maybe even Trefor Goronwy's work in Camberwell Now if you squint.) It's one of those albums I always gravitate toward on Monday mornings, when "Back in the Sulfur" feels a little too real. "Desire's Hold" is universal and confounding in all the right ways.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

_Gelatin Duplicator_ on the way (plus Cromemco)

Today I fired up the IBM Wheelwriter 5 and made some covers for the new Spirit Duplicator album Gelatin Duplicator. My typewriter's 1984-era brain is able to store an album cover's worth of liner notes in proportional-spacing type* (Thesis PS in case you were curious)**, so I stored a bunch of text in memory with the intent of mass-producing album covers on a typewriter. 

This is obviously a situation in which nothing could ever go wrong. I realized something was a little screwy and the left margins were going all over the place. A competent typewriter technician could fix this, but I decided to live with it. I mean, you could make your Chartpak/Letraset lettering straight, but that would not be very punk rock, would it?! So this is like a lazy version of that.

With all that being said, it is totally impressive visually and sonically to let a Wheelwriter go nuts. I took a slo-mo video and it is pretty hypnotic. And toward the end of the batch, the typewriter appeared to ungum itself and create consistent margins.

I'll draw a bunch of ring modulators with silver Sharpie in the next few days and put this thing up on and Blandqlampt. Watch this space.

* I could store a lot more monospace type - Letter Gothic has featured on multiple album covers so far and will come up again I'm sure - but come on, proportional spacing on a typewriter!

**OK, rabbit hole descended into with Currently looking at a 1980 Cromemco catalog and totally loving how neatly it sits at the interface between 70s and 80s aesthetics. Calligraphy on a computer front panel - how much would it blow up the world if a modern computer used hand lettering on its front panel? I could go on.