Z Tapes: Bedroom Pop, Bratislava, Slovakia
Taking a break: a note from Brady Gerber, founder of Headphone Nation
Dear reader, wherever you are in the world:
Goodbyes are always weird, and, in my experience, rarely final. So instead of saying goodbye, I’ll say that Headphone Nation is taking a break.
At this moment, I no longer have the time it takes to give this website the attention it needs or deserves. If I were to continue at my current rate, my posts would get shorter, my writing would grow lazier, and I would only post just for the sake of posting. Headphone Nation is entirely a labor of love, a mostly one-man effort and an ad-free, SEO nightmare that, with just me doing pretty much everything, is not sustainable. I still believe in this website’s mission to share excellent music from around the world outside the United States missed by the major publications – if, for whatever reason, I don’t return here, I hope someone will pick up where I left off and make it even stronger. And if I do return here, it will be after I’ve learned the best way to come back and make the website what it needs to be.
Though I’ve never been so busy, I am busy with exciting new opportunities; I’m continuing to write through freelance work and my weekly newsletter, and I am working on a few writing projects that I can’t wait to share once they are ready. I’m writing more than ever, but, ironically, I’m not sharing as much as I used to. That’s OK. Writing and creating content are two separate skills, as much as social media has blurred those lines. They can both be related, but I want to dig deeper into the former. (It doesn’t require Wi-Fi.)
When I started this blog, I was 18 and had too much to say, with no place to say it. The Tumblr boom and the novelty of having a blog had passed, but a blog was exactly what I needed at the time. I decided late that I wanted to write and did not pursue writing in college, and I didn’t know the first thing about getting published anywhere. But I knew I wanted to write, so I made my own platform to write, and I wrote. At first, I wrote about whatever I wanted, whether it be two sentences about a song I liked or, like my very first post, a poorly written review of my favorite album at the time. I wasn’t a good writer! I was still learning how to write well. I’m still learning how to write well, and this blog has been a huge part of my growth. I cannot overstate the importance for any writer to have a place to have total control and where you can write “bad” in order to write well. My place is now journaling, but everyone is different.
Seven years ago, I would have never guessed where Headphone Nation would take me and the doors it would open for me. I’ve always written these posts for myself, the artists, my family, and my friends who paid attention to stuff like this, so to grow an audience with pretty much zero marketing and to introduce people to new music has been fulfilling and an honor. To anyone who has ever read a post, interned at the website, contributed words, shared this website with someone, liked or followed one of its social media platforms, or heard music that made you stop and go wait wait, what is this, thank you so much. I’ll gladly take another email from an artist thanking me for taking a chance on their music over any number of likes.
You, reader, are the reason I’ve kept going here. You’re the reason why I’m stepping away, so I can grow as a writer and share with you something even better. I’m taking a break here, but we’ll talk soon.
Hastings of Malawi: “They recorded the album in one night in 1981 with no plan and no idea of what they were doing.”
Hastings of Malawi‘s Vibrant Stapler Obscures Characteristic Growth, released on Brussels experimental Sub Rose Label, is, uh, something. Best to let the music speak for itself.
“A classic masterpiece from 1981, never re-released before. Originally 1000 copies pressed on orange/red vinyl. 120 copies were sold through Rough Trade and Virgin Records. 800 copies were bought and later destroyed by the United Dairies label, making this record even more rare.
Hastings of Malawi were Heman Pathak, David Hodes and John Grieve.
They recorded the album in one night in 1981 with no plan and no idea of what they were doing.
They played drums, clarinet, synthesizer and piano but also made use of things that they found lying around the studio – old records, cookery books, telephone directories and a telephone.
The recordings were played down the phone to randomly dialed numbers and the reactions added to the recording.
All three had been involved in the recording of the first Nurse with Wound album Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella and had contributed metal scrapings, piano, effects, clarinet and guitar during the session.
The album was released in 1981 as Vibrant Stapler Obscures Characteristic Growth by Hastings of Malawi on the Papal Products label.
The star of the record is Pat Simmons who was the voice of the UK speaking clock between 1963 and 1984.
In his book Lipstick Traces writer Greil Marcus seeks to draw a line from Dada through the Situationist International to punk rock. If this line exists then this record sits on the end of it.
The only review that the album received was from Steve Stapelton who suggested that “nobody should miss this vinyl disaster”
Good or bad are not concepts that can be applied to this recording.
The record stands firmly in opposition to the now all pervading concepts of commercialisation, celebrity culture and the commodification of creative activity.”
Lump Records: Chile indie label “in search of sounds of contemporary expression with identity and root”
Lump Records is a label based in Valparaíso, Chile with a mission to find “the sounds of contemporary expression with identity and root.” The label’s latest release, Nochi’s El Baile Del Naí (Anthropological Research), could be taken as an assured electronic project, but the label’s insistence on connecting the music to a history elevates the listening experience.
“The sound material presented in this production is a recorded directly on the ground of some indigenous communities of Talamanca, in cooperation with my research as an ethnomusicologist and anthropologist of music. Many thanks to the great contribution of Jorge Luis Acevedo Vargas from the Conservatory of Music of the University of Costa Rica for his great inspiration and work.
“Within the sound material selected in the research we compiled Cantos de Sorbón (bul), Cantos Sukias (awapa), songs of worship and some magical elements of some animals that describe characteristics and skills typical of the jungles of Talamanca such as the tapir (Naí) the gavilan (Tsai), the armadillo (Tsawaí) and the tiger (Nmú), with the aim of publicizing and promoting our varied musical and cultural manifestations of our original people, produced with much respect and admiration.”
Lucid: Arabic Classical Music from Israel
This album cover is fitting since the music of Israel’s Lucid, especially “10,” sounds as timeless and beautiful as a night full of stars. There is only one EP out so far, and the first single, November’s equally grand “Winter Path,” is also worth checking out. “10” takes me to a world like the open plains of The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and I never want to leave. There is little other information to know or find regarding this group except to seek them out and be ready for them when they hopefully release new music soon.
HURT ‘EM: Indonesian Hardcore Metal With Punk Spirit
I get the name – if you’re not ready, Indonesia’s HURT ‘EM will hurt you with its blast of fast and furious hardcore metal. I love it. The Depok trio’s debut, Condolence, came out in January on Lawless Records and is 16 tracks long, with the avenge song time of one-and-a-half minutes. (Personal favorite is “Avarice.”) Listening to Condolence is like listening to Minor Threat’s Out of Step for the first time; though this is metal, it is as fit and shares the same energy as hardcore punk.
Condolence is also out now on Bandcamp via Red Truth Records.
Nihiloxica: A Darker Take on Traditional Bugandan Drumming
In the constitutional kingdom of Buganda – located in central Uganda in the heart of East Africa’s Great Lakes region – the people used to hold the drums in higher regards than the king. Drums were the most widely played instrument of the region and were a marker of one’s identity; you could tell a drummer’s clan by how he or she played a specific rhythm. A drum was used in nearly every activity, ceremony, and dance, and drums were played for every birth and funeral. The drums of the Kabaka, the Buganda king, were considered holy. And when women were finally allowed to play drums, it was the sign of a strict patriarchy loosening its grip. The kingdom has since embraced the sound of globalization, but the drums still serve as a sort of beloved mascot of its past.
Nihiloxica, an Afro-techno fusion group via Kampala’s Nyege Nyege Tapes label, celebrates the drum’s special place in Uganda, but with a twist. On their self-titled EP, Nihiloxica (Nii-lox-ee-ca) present indigenous Buganda drum patterns juxtaposed with blossoming techno synths. At first, the mix seems like a quaint showcase – something like a hip-hop artist sampling Johnny Cash as a gimmick rather than color – but these drums and electronic patterns soon grow louder with each other. They fight, bite, and blend into clouds of glitch. Eventually, there are no drums or synths; there is just the sound of frenzy, and suddenly, a Buganda village becomes a Leeds rave.
The result is dark, more human, and wonderful in an otherworldly way.
“A darker take on traditional Bugandan drumming. Comprised of seven percussionists, one kit drummer combined with an analog synth player. Recorded live in single takes at Boutiq Studios in Kampala, Uganda between the 26th and 29th of August 2017.”