Premiere: Orchid Mantis – “Porch Song”

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At one point in my life, I took a very “slow burn” approach to music. I needed the stories, the emotions, the animus behind every tape I played. I guess feeding into that ritual made them feel more authentic, reading the interviews of how something related to someone strumming far away as opposed to how I actually felt. For reasons unknown (fewer bugs up my ass about myself, maybe), I’ve kind of moved away from ritualistic experience. Less ideation on the machinations of the shit wrapped up in a C38, and more self-alignment with the sound right in front of me. No trim, or dressing.

I can’t pretend to understand how difficult (or easy) it is for others to create. Orchid Mantis’s ephemeral, daydream strumming has me speculating again on what led to this spectral-pop moment of a track, “Porch Song.” The sunbleached, frayed tapestry tones of kulla sunset are present, known, and welcome but they’re certainly sublimating now, pulling up the threads with them. The eyes are just directed straight ahead now, not looking up and wondering if this is the right way or not. There are probably words for the new Orchid Mantis sound but I’ll let it ground itself. The brief, blushing yellow moment that it is, it needs no frame but appreciation now. Every moment tumbling, sliding apart on parallel tracks, rolling back together for this alignment.

♫ Listen: Bellchainedbodies – Drift

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I’ve got a very thin envelope of what I remember from my late high school years. Of course, I’m somewhat nostalgic for them, probably more so than most. What little glints of those memories I retain mostly concern the cozy moments of the garage attic, absent substances or really any higher experiences that would come later. My friend had a simple garage insulated with solely cardboard and heated by a propane tank but that didn’t stop us from marathoning films upstairs to exhaustion. If it was late Fall (and a weekend), you could count on us being up there, watching something mildly exotic and listening to Tobacco, Surfer Blood or other flavors of the month.

Tonight, it’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit when we begin and the film is The Sasquatch Gang, a needless Napoleon Dynamite cash-in that quite honestly, none of the “core” wanted to watch. In spite of us having seeing it already, it’s a guest pick by a newish girl within the group and her friend so we put it on. I suspect I might add two and a half more viewings to my brain by the time 4 am rolls around. Cleverly we wait until the pizza has arrives to start, in hopes of changing their minds. My girlfriend lives across the street (and probably would like the movie) but I don’t think to invite her. It’s not really her thing. Realistically speaking, I just want to listen to music but company is its own type of good intoxication

The temperature has dropped considerably within an hour, probably in the mid 50s, and we’ve gotten about halfway through Ichi the Killer. Truth be told, we did watch a tad bit of The Sasquatch Gang before the girls left. Now the core remained, bundled up in blankets and bullshit. Mine, like all times prior, is about a foot too small; soon enough I would be in a feverish conflict of cold and hot. The pizza delivery guy, an aloof friend, watches Ichi with us on his shift as our other aloof friend offers me PBR with heavy insistence. I think this is the tail end of my straight-edge phase, spurred mostly by being an involuntary geek. I refuse to even touch the beer, aloud. But I do think about it.

I can’t remember when I passed out but when I wake up, it’s to the sound of gunfire and with a grogginess I haven’t felt since last weekend. Everyone else is passed out on the grubby couches we’ve pulled up into the garage attic and at some point, someone put on Pulp Fiction before we all fell asleep. It has to be close to freezing, nothing short of that would fit Ohio. The three pervading thoughts of my head are of how cold it is, how greasy I feel, and why the movie is playing so damn loud. There’s a fourth, about how I forgot to text my girlfriend back. Naturally though, as a moronic teenage boy, that’s just a fleeting “oh shit” moment.

With some effort, I turn off the TV and close the windows, knowing full well there’s a propane tank running full blast in the attic. The cold is too much though. I wedge myself in the cushions of my couch in search of any heat and try to resume sleep among everyone’s snoring. The battery on my phone is kinda dead, otherwise I would text my girlfriend. She understands though, I hope. We’re just having fun.

Drift by bellchainedbodies

Premiere: Awenda Provincial Park – Tenderness

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Faint voices and delicate melody amble on bravely though still gentle, still soft. Hands that once shook, now steady at last. The Western sky glows too red-hot to look at, stare into it anyway; beyond this sunset lays the promise of evergreen boughs hanging heavy under soft rains, heavens hidden by thick fog; a solemn vow that this world is still enough. Tree trunks scarred deep, now healed, gnarled bark grown back and burled; different now but still standing, still thriving.

Memories forced to fade now flood forward; river hard frozen for decades long winter thaws at long last, and flows again. Moments flicker to life in golden light, glowing from within, bright behind closed eyes. Mourn the loss of these days but do not forget them; lay to rest the part of you that still haunts the house you grew up in. Seek solace in knowing that the bones buried in the backyard did not turn to dust—marrow turned to earth, paperwhite narcissus still spring forth from them each year near your birthday. They grow from loss and so must you. Grief like a phantom limb; dull and unending pain from something that is not there, will never be again, and maybe never was. Carry on still, anyways.

Recollections, fragmented into obscurity still must be pieced together again; sometimes looking back is the only path to guide you forward. Free yourself at long last from the tomb you buried yourself in so long ago; the blame is not your burden to carry but still you must be your own resurrection. Patron saint of the weary, do not yet resign yourself to succumb to unforgiving desert sun. Martyr no longer, move onward; footsteps over parched miles become your gospel; glory still within your reach so long as you are ever in motion. Where you have been, who you once were is not predestination; trace the broken lines on the palms of your hands and take comfort; through destruction or decay, a path is hollowed for new passage. Step steadfastly from the shadows; a final ritual farewell to the specters of your past.

This is dedicated to my father; not to the person he was, and still is, but to the ghost of what could have been, but never was.


Tenderness is available for pre-order on cassette through Z Tapes. Listen to the album for yourself below:

tenderness by awenda provincial park

♫ Listen: Orchid Mantis – “sunlight”

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This one is definitely coming with me throughout the year. I don’t know where Orchid Mantis has been my past few years of walking around, but this tape has been an utter trip for me.

When I heard “sunlight” for the first time, I figured this was going to be a gorgeous listen. I took it with me on a little nature excursion a few days ago and it couldn’t have been a more vivid walk. Orchid Mantis is the sort of dream pop that’s closer to a patchwork than a sunbeam, but no less sun-bleached. Thomas Howard’s cotton-wrapped vocals become just another part of the melody collage in “sunlight,” a piece of its own, but essential to the entire track.

Amid some dormant trees, fresh water, and stellar sun, Orchid Mantis has me on another wavelength, one of textile memories. If there’s anything this project is a testament to, it’s the power of found sound. Man, am I glad to have found this one. Head over to the very cool Z Tapes to grab this lovely tape.

kulla sunset by orchid mantis

♫ Listen: trashton – blankets

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“Yeah, living on your own, being free. It feels great. But living by yourself can be a real drag, too. Still, if you’ve got some really tight friends somewhere nearby, then you know it’ll all work out.” – K.K. Rider

As we grow, the subtle sweetness of everyday fades into normality. It’s an evolutionary trick our brains use to make less overwhelmed so that it can process our surroundings more efficiently. Z Tapes, a label that specializes in twee, bedroom cassettes often occupied by Bandcamp comments along the lines of “<3 reminds me of a winter morning from my childhood <3,” is a comely reminder of the joy of getting off the bus or reading fiction with a flashlight past bedtime.

blankets , the label debut from trashton could be the poster release for the Slovakian label. Tiny melodies on glockenspiels cover up intimate conversations, all under the covers of grainy synth pads. It’s not complicated, not boundary-pushing, just heartfelt, maybe that’s something we need more of.

Grab a cassette copy of blankets on Z Tapes Bandcamp, and pick up a digital copy of the label’s discography for only a euro!