// Tristan Bath // Writer // Musician //

Spool's Out

Spool's Out is a monthly feature on The Quietus, and weekly radio show and podcast on Resonance FM delving into the subculture of new music released on cassette tape, aiming to find the very best new releases from around the world. The radio show has featured a myriad of guest interviewees, live sessions, and guest DJ mixes.

A new edition is published on The Quietus every month, and the column has previously included additional contributions from Quietus editor, Guardian blogger and Vice columnist, John Doran.

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Extracts from Spool's Out on The Quietus

First published in Spool's Out on The Quietus 16th December 2013

Read the full column here

Katie Gately - Pipes
(Blue Tapes)


This tape of is one that has actually gathered a considerable amount of heat (or at least as much heat as a cassette tape release limited to 200 editions can be). From the outset it’s pretty blindingly obvious why, as Pipes is simply exploding with inspiration and fires on all cylinders for almost the entirety of the 14-minute track’s runtime. UK-based label, Blue Tapes (three guesses what colour the tape is) put this one out, and oddly enough, the release is a double-sided single (same song on either side), with a second track available as a bonus via download.

Sonically, it’s unlike anything else out there. While the likes of Julianna Barwick have spent the year spinning soppier and increasingly Enya-like one-woman choirs, Pipes presents us with the sheer antithesis. Made up entirely from Gately’s own snipped, processed and layered vocal lines, it’s explosive. The opening hums quickly develop into a loudening dissonance, suddenly snapping into a series of surreal marches and chants littered with tick-tock rhythms, and saturated with a nightmarish peril. Perhaps it’s her experiences with video editing, but Pipes is the year’s best example of mind-numbing aural extrapolation, and Katie Gately’s destined for further greatness. Let’s hope she doesn’t jump on the inevitable plane to Reykjavik to start pumping out ethereal new age bullshit.

First published in Spool's Out on The Quietus 27th January 2014

Read the full column here

Stephen O'Malley – TEMPESTARII + DISintegration
(Editions Mego)

Completing a trilogy of cassettes released on Austrian label Editions Mego, the overly capitalised TEMPESTARII + DISintegration is music composed by the Sunn O))) co-founder and all-round drone dude for a film and exhibition, seemingly set in Iceland, filmed in monochrome and aiming to be very slow and presumably surreal (see cover art) – but it's of little consequence when spinning the tape. The trilogy in question (parts one and two were 2010's Cocon & Oiseau De Nuit and 2011's רומיאו) centres around structure and drone guitar, with this climactic edition marrying itself with field recordings of Icelandic coastline made by the filmmakers. Side one sees a single seamless guitar hum gradually overpowered over the course of eighteen minutes by increasingly powerful wave crashes, unmoving from its coldly aloof stance for most of the duration. Even when the waves give way to pillars of cosmic static ambience, that drone persists. Multitracked (or perhaps looped) strands of snail's pace amp buggery gradually spiral together and onwards and upward, not so much with the cloaked menace of Sunn O))), but rather with the meditative and introverted intensity of an oil tanker's hum.

The eighty-five minutes of music on this tape bring together the influences of several disparate fragments present in much of the music O'Malley's either sponsored, released or played on since the last in his tape trilogy. Gravetemple's Ambient/Ruin used field recordings to devastating effect (again, mostly the sound of water), Ákos Rózmann's Images Of The Dream And Death - put out on O'Malley's Ideologic Organ label - had similarly testing minimalism stretched to even longer lengths (it required three LPs), and KTL's masterful fifth album investigated the affronting microtonal hum of Phill Niblock's work. Epic durations, Niblockian meditations and a field recording-fuelled approach to structure conclusively merge on this tape. It's typically mind-blowing music from O'Malley, and is perhaps his slowest work to date. It's certainly his bleakest.

First published in Spool's Out on The Quietus 27th March 2014

Read the full column here

EQ Why - Chitokyo Mixtape
(Orange Milk)

Although hardly forgotten, Chicago's footwork phenomenon has been at the very least drowned out here in the UK by the sound of us falling back in love with our own club music (having perhaps neglected it for a while). Chitokyo Mixtape by EQ Why - put out by the fittingly brilliant Orange Milk label – is so blindingly good it's tough to argue against footwork being henceforth declared as the ultimate dance music and the hoards of British DJ/producers being ordered to simply give up and go home. Presenting the light-footed, insanely paced music as two gapless sidelong mixes adds to this music's stream-of-consciousness composition stunningly well, elevating the whole thing to inebriating heights if listened to en masse. On paper it amounts to little more than hundreds (or maybe thousands) of chopped up and looped samples sewn together with relentless MIDI percussion. In practice though, it's an unremitting maze, and appropriately a real minefield of non-sequiturs for dancers. While semblances of melody still lingered in some of the genre-defining works from last year by the likes of DJ Rashad and RP Boo, EQ Why's all but abandoned tunes in favour of sheer rhythmic attack here. Tracks like 'No Return' from RP Boo'sLegacy (sections from which are in fact sampled on side B of this tape) prophesised a future where dancefloors never hear a melody when more beats will do the trick, and this tape takes blistering fast-paced footwork to its next logical extreme, and latest high watermark.