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agf02I’m going to go ahead and say that this is one of the best cassette releases I’ve heard in a while. I Think this one, the Letha Rodman-Melchior on Robert & Leopold and the Bjerga/Iversen on Cae-su-ra are now on the top of my list for best cassettes of 2012. It really doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard in the past year or so, which gets me all excited to be hearing something new and different. It also doesn’t hurt that the label, A Giant Fern, is also not based in the U.S..

What’s up with all the anti-American sentiment you ask? Well, my general dissatisfaction with a lot of what I’m hearing and seeing from fellow U.S.-based cassette labels is that a lot of us are always playing it safe by taking turns at releasing basically the same artists over and over again, many of which honestly don’t sound all that different from each other. Lately I’ve been putting most of what I hear into categories, which while possibly unfair, I think are a reflection of a greater problem (probably ME). People hear one thing they like and then they go out seeking the next thing that sounds as close or similar to that one thing as possible, so in a way both the listeners/buyers and the labels and artists fall into a vicious cycle of “repetition” and “predictability” because it’s so easy to do without really giving it much thought. Now, in my head (through my ears) we have the analog-modular synth school, the arpeggiated ambient/drone school, deconstructed dance/techno music, the new-agey “I wanna be Klaus Schulze/Conrad Schnitzler” thing, the vintage tape loop guys, the Fahey/Basho guitar guys, the guitar+delay crowd, the laptop-gazers, the unfinished-song indie rock/psych instrumental jams, the banging on a sheet of metal with contact mics while screaming into a microphone dudes, the Grouper cult (funny that she was in fact raised in a cult), the “put a rune on it” basement 5th gen black metal, the dark-ambient-goth thing, etc. And while there are definitely a lot of people who stand out, who go all out and make amazing sounds, and who avoid the pitfalls and clichés of all these genres here and there, I have to be honest when I say I have to make an effort to get excited about much of what’s out there these days.

So… what is so great about this tape you ask? Actually, it’s just the complete lack of pretension and simplicity of it all.

Side A starts of with playful and abstract sounds and textures that to my uninformed (because I can’t see what he’s doing) ears sound like metal ball bearings or marbles rolling and colliding against each other over wrinkled tin foil while floating tones swerve in and out creating different tones that after a while begin to create newer and different tones. It all flows really well. The sound is so crisp, clear and loud that it almost sounds like this is happening right here in my living room (if only I didn’t have upstairs and across the hall neighbors!). Side B grows in complexity, with the same playfulness of Side A, but things get a bit more melodic. There’s also a rising distorted hum that fades in and out, which makes me think of electro-magnetic generated frequencies (yes, a bit like some of Christina Kubisch’s work). Towards the end of the side there is a sampled dialogue which to be honest I didn’t really pay much attention to, so I can’t remember what it was saying but the exact words probably don’t matter here.

Kanukanakina is the alias of Miguel Pipas and according to his website his specialty is home-made electronics, modified and circuit-bent effects, toys and noise makers, which really explains the element of chance and playfulness of his sounds. I imagine that both sides were improvised pieces, and if so, that makes me like this tape even more.

Given the title of the side-long tracks, “Arrival” and “Departure”, the cover art with it’s film roll of the partial view of an airplane’s wing tip, and the photograph of an unmade bed with a screen showing the image of a highway included as an insert, the theme here seems to be “movement”… and if so, I was happy to join Miguel on this 40 minute trip, maybe you should too.

Great sounds, and very beautiful cassette art. Keep an eye/ear out for this great artist and label.

Get it here – http://agiantfern.tumblr.com/

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