Ok, normally for a compilation on krautrock like this, I’d introduce you to the genre a little bit, give you some historical context. We will get to that, but let me just show you the tracklist of this juicy box first, because oh man! It’s a doozy…
LP1: 1. Giacomo & Carolina – Sunrise, Part 7 (5:05) 2. Silver Vials – Follow The Sun (6:05) 3. Das Blaue Palais – Zeitfeld (Dusseldorf Motorik Mix) (8:11) 4. The Love Explosion – Anarchy! (3:58) 5. David Oakes – The Sahara (2020 Remix) (5:04) 6. Sonic Trip Project – Getaway (11:10)
LP2: 1. Moon Goose – Shiny Man (5:41) 2. Oslo Tapes – Obsession Is The Mother Of All (5:54) 3. Jay Tausig – Ecstatic Engines (8:42) 4. Son Of Ohm – Telefunken Baby (12:52) 5. Alber Jupiter – Martine A La Plage (7:15)
LP3: 1. The Lost Stoned Pandas – Motorik Wah Nine (10:16) 2. Motor!k – Tyrants (10:28) 3. Culto Al Qondor – Ei (12:19) 4. Psychic Lemon – Jam 7 (7:01)
bonus CD: 1. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 1 (3:56) 2. Vince Cory – 69 Wheeler (7:53) 3. Psychic Lemon – Jam 5 (8:26) 4. Audio Cologne Project – Grobmotorik (6:51) 5. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 2 (5:15) 6. Icarus Peel – Der Wald (14:14) 7. The Legendary Flower Punk – Watussi Live (30:25)
Ok so krautrock, or “Kosmische Musik”, originates from 60s/70s era Western Germany. From there it developed not so much as a genre, but as a state of mind. Bands like Amon Düül, Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, and Guru Guru all had completely different means to achieve the same goal: a higher state. A head rush of sorts if you will, achieved by hypnotic, sermonic beats and chants, although a lot of this type of music is actually devoid of any human vocals. The music could vary on a wide range from experimental progrock to dense electronic beat music. On this Fruits De Mer records compilation twenty-one contemporary psychedelic bands remind us that luckily the movement is far from dead.
Personally I prefer guitar based krautrock to its electronic counterpart, although there are some crossbreeds on here that are definitely worth your while as well. I won’t go over everything, but I will feature a couple of my personal highlights:
First of all my fellow Dutchman Leonardo Soundweaver needs a mention with his mesmerizing Son Of Ohm. The song Telefunken Baby! isn’t stingy on the reverb which is just the way I like my kraut, check it out here:
Another real banger are the Belgians of the aptly named Motor!k. They bring a flawless example of that quintessential kraut characteristic: the motorik beat. On Tyrants we are served ten minutes of it, sprinkled with subtle keyboards and plenty of delay pedal doodling:
Another real gem can be found on the added bonus CD, that closes with a real treat by Russian weirdo psych band The Legendary Flowerpunk. Their 30+ minute version of the song Watussi is half an hour of pure instrumental bliss. It’s such a pity that covid ruined their European tour or I would definitely have checked this out in its true form by now:
Other cool recommendations without online previews are Taras Bulba (with a “reworking” of Popul Vuh’s Vuh in two parts), the always awesome Psychic Lemon with another one of their numbered jams (5), and Oslo Tapes with a preview track from their adventurous new album ør, out on Pelagic Records in June (and of course featured on this blog). But as you can see from the tracklist above, there is plenty more to enjoy for kraut heads here. Get a copy if you’re lucky, because I think I just saw that all the pre-orders had already gone.
There are so many labels out there, and a lot of them are the same. It’s hardly the case that a label in its set up is more interesting than its bands, but Histamine Tapes actually tickled my fancy quite a bit! A strong aesthetic, a roster consisting of otherworldly sounds, and of course the fact that they only use re-used cassette tapes. I just had to talk to the owner Nick Dentico. Here is what he had to say:
Hi there, how are you doing these days, and how was your first year of Covid?
I’m forever balancing the demands of my five year old, my desires for intimacy with my partner, my full time gig baking bread, my work as a sound artist, the needs of a burgeoning homestead and last of all the label. I feel like it’s a familiar trope, but I feel I’d be remiss to not say it can be kind of depressing at times. Especially when having to put my current passion project (the label) at the end of everything else
Covid felt like an impossibility. Then add to that all the protests to get folks to care about black lives, and it just felt necessary to go on hiatus for a few months so I took the rest of the spring and all the summer off last year. It felt really vain to take any attention away from the BLM protests and so promoting music just seemed so shallow.
Taking time off was a real eye opener for me. I came back ready to promote fewer albums and felt like I was rewarded for that. I really learned I needed to step back, stop trying to release so much music and just focus really hard on each individual album.
Can you tell me about your label, what made you start it, and how long have you been at it?
Histamine Tapes began late in 2017 with a compilation. Originally I wanted to do a label that was totally free of synth. But I realized quickly with my love of ambient and drone, that might rule out a ton of music I really like, so I settled for this comp: The No Synth comp (Now the annual Antihistamine comp). I figured starting this way might work as a vetting process. Which was effective, I tapped a bunch of folks from the comp to populate the tape releases the following year
I got to this stage from my own quest for labels to release my stuff. My own music is very centered around field recordings and DAW based processing of these sounds. At the time 2013-16 I had trouble finding labels that felt adjacent to what I was doing. What I found when looking for experimental tape labels was a lot of modular synth jams and vaporwave. That was a light bulb moment for me. I realized there was a whole niche underrepresented. I set out pretty quickly to learn how to make my idea a label.
What is your aesthetic as a label? Are there any ground rules?
I use only reused tapes and hand cut and assemble jcards out of found material. Generally things I find at thrift stores and free piles. I strive to make things as abstract as possible, but nature and the climate factor heavily in that aesthetic. This aspect of reuse and respect for the environment are crucial parts of the overall aesthetic of HT. It’s non-negotiable which is problematic for some artists who are more accustomed to the consistent look of a more mass produced cassette package.
This aesthetic tends to bleed to the music as well. I think by nature of the fact that I’m so public about the reuse/recycled aesthetic of the label, it attracts folks who work centers around ecology and climate change. I tend to lean toward ambient and drone music that make use of field recordings from nature.
Can you tell me about your current roster? Perhaps some of the highlights?
My current roster is a bit different musically. I’m not completely abandoning ambient music, but I’ve been looking at supplementing that with more improvised music, dark ambient, noise and even more rhythmic music. I just released a tape by Japanese electronic music composer Takahiro Mukai who works with Synths and effects to make very simple and repetitive beats. Its still fairly droney, but more clearly rhythmic than Histamine Tapes typical fare. I’m following that in late March with a tape from Finnish noise, dark ambient producer GRM under their COLDSORE moniker. This is the fifth installment in series they been doing called Pollutant (again the climate change theme) this is easily one of the darkest noisiest albums I’ve released as HT. They create sounds with hand made oscillators, which are very beautiful machines in their own rite and tend to incorporate repurposed housing.
I have 5 more releases slated for the rest of year that run from ambient lowercase field recordings, to free jazz noise, and more straight up harsh noise tape. 2021 is going to a fun year that sort of redefines the label.
The packaging is an important part of the label, right? Can you tell me more about that? And how do you decide which packaging goes with a certain release?
Yes packaging is super important. It began quite pragmatically. I just didn’t have a ton of money when I started out, being a baker with a 2 year old daughter. I really wanted to come up with an iconic design that can I could plug artists images into and but keep a consistent look. I’m thinking of labels like Lurker Bias, or Astral Spirit’s where each album has its own art, but you know it’s an Astral Spirits release because of that design. Well I don’t have a design background, and had no money to pay people to do that. I also was nervous about regular printing costs since running an experimental tape label isn’t really a money maker.
But I love collage and I love finding free shit, so I combined those passions and started scouring free piles for things I could assemble into jcards. This began at the bakery I work at. We have a regular free pile where folks bring stuff before they haul it to a thrift store. I found a cook book with really beautiful pictures and nice thick matte print pages. I saw it and immediately thought: “I want to cut this up and make art with it.” This became the jcards for one of my first releases.
For most releases I sit for a long time with the music; a process of synesthesia occurs. I start to see certain colors associated with the music. Then I’ve got my pallet. I go from their looking through the library of discarded books and thrifted craft material I have amassed and construct a design. I typically bounce ideas off the artists, but for the most part they have trusted my intuitions and given me free reign. I’ve only had one artist ever tell me they didn’t like something, but that was because they really wanted all the jcards to be exactly the same. The lo fi diy aesthetic isn’t for everyone and I totally get that.
What is the best thing you have released so far?
I’m not into playing favorites, but I’ll say I’m partial to the cut up sound collage pieces. So first off my own albums (Subversive Intentions) and the albums I did for A Forest Opera, Greg Nahabedian, Zawns, and mourning dove. I really dig those multi audio source sorts of pieces where you’ve got field recordings of certain places, mixed with recordings of physical and virtual instruments, and heavy DAW based audio processing all hacked up and reassembled William S. Burroughs style.
In terms of sales and listens, the albums from Anne Sulikowski, Peter Kris, The Corrupting Sea, and the latest by Marstrand will likely always be my most popular releases. Those sold out the fastest and continue to get listened to daily.
How do you gain new artists and how does the selection process work for Histamine Tapes?
For most of the first year or so of releases I selected from artists who submitted work to my annual Antihistamine No Synth Compilation.
I have generally selected artists who sent me unsolicited demos, though there a few exceptions where I asked the artist to make an album for me. I get a lot of demos probably not more than I could listen to, but enough that I end up ignoring many of them. It can feel pretty overwhelming at times. If your going to send me an email with just a drop box link, and no info about yourself I’m just going to delete that message. Generally I hope to hear something before I download an album. At that point it’s honestly pretty random what things I choose to take on, if I’m not in the right mood for a certain kind of music (even music i would typically release) and your demo comes across my desk then, I may not be into it. And sometimes I’ll say yes to something that’s totally outside the norm of the label, because in the mood for something fresh (the Takahiro Release for example) I also get a ton of emails from white cis male presenting folks, and I’m definitely working hard to not be a place for just white dudes. I’m now opting to rely less on unsolicited demos for this reason.
What are the big advantages and disadvantages of running a label like yours?
The biggest advantage has to be the costs. Most of my tapes I have gotten for free. The most I have ever paid for a tape is 20 cents. I also do everywhere aspect of the label so that saves me money. So the disadvantage is that it’s very time consuming. It’s difficult to balance with being a dad, a full-time baker and a musician. Also just by nature of being diy I feel like I’m not taken as seriously as other labels that may get there tapes dubbed “professionally” (a term I find derogatory), work with a design company for arts, and have publicists on staff. But that may be my own fear, and imposter syndrome.
What is so great about tapes anyways? And will they prevail in the future?
Tapes really haven’t gone away. Folks like to talk about the cassette tape revival (which is certainly an observable phenomenon in popular music) but in the experimental music world its been a constant since diy labels began. When I started HT it was a few years after the Gaurdians of the Galaxy movie, so everything you researched about cassettes at the time referenced that film and the revival and how nostalgic this format is. It felt pretty lame honestly. I didn’t want to be viewed as just another millennial trying to reclaim their youth. I chose cassettes because of the long tradition of them in the punk and noise communities. Even when the CDR was at its height there were still many folks preferring the tape format.
I have this, perhaps irrational, fear that I will run out of a source of tapes to reuse. Even if that does become the case tapes won’t be going anywhere. With just a remedial understanding of tape transport any deck can be maintained for many years, and there are still places manufacturing new cassettes. Its a surprisingly durable format. I have cds that won’t play anymore due to a single scratch, while I have cassettes whose shells are all cracked but will play fine.
Are you a sound artist as well? What inspires you to make and release music?
Yes. I make noise/cut up sound collage as Subversive Intentions, drone and ambient beats as nd dentico and doom metal as Parenthetical.
Mostly I’m inspired by all the creative folks out there in the world of experimental music. I’ve never really thought of my music as being very unique. I find something I really like and try to emulate it putting as much of my own spin on it.
How do you see the future, for you personally and for the label?
That’s something I think about semi constantly. Everytime some mysterious thing goes wrong with a dubbing deck (i have about a dozen with 6 in production) I ask my self what am doing. Maybe I should call it quits. Last year I nearly gave up and had planned on going on hiatus for a year. But there is such a lure to being involved in music in some fashion and running Histamine Tapes has been the most rewarding experience of my music career.
The goal from the beginning was to never fold. I hope that is the case, but I can see a few scenario that lead to the end of HT. I definitely fear becoming redundant with jcard art (I’ve already repeated myself a couple times). Cassette tapes are becoming more scarce at thrift stores. But my daughter will only get older and more independent, which I imagine will give me the freedom to design more. I’ve reduced my number of releases for the time being, but I definitely hope to go back up. My immediate goal is to be able to work less at my full time job, and get my release schedule to once a month. I get demos from so many amazing artists. I would love to say yes to everyone!
I also look forward to dipping more into the local scene. Over the years I’ve discovered a number of folks in Vermont making music thats very complimentary to HT. Last year I put out two tapes by Vermont artists (not counting my own) and this year it will be three (though one is a trio I’m in).
Final question: if people want to start collecting tapes again, what would you recommend? And could you perhaps recommend any other Tape labels that you like?
I really love the cassette tape subreddits, and the tapeheads.net message boards they’ve been a real asset to me for getting info on tapes, especially deck maintenance. Tabs Out Podcast and Cassette Gods Blog are other great resources especially for the more experimental stuff.
Don’t forget to check out thrift stores and your local record stores, a lot of those places are getting back into stocking cassettes, even newer releases.
What, no trick or treat!? No dressing up?! No freaky shenanigans or zombie walks?! No way! Like pretty much every social event Halloween is pretty much cancelled allover the world, but that should not be a reason not to get into the holiday mood. Luckily there are a bunch of bands who take on the challenge of fixing Halloween in your very living room. Bands from all kinds of different genres from psych to garage and afrobeat stoner to mathcore and metal have delivered some pretty scary tunes to release this month, most of them even with a little something to watch as well! So without further ado: let’s bring on the Halloween Stay Inside Party Pack!
Death Valley Girls- I’d Rather Be Dreaming (2020 Suicide Squeeze Records)
First up in our haunted house is the magnificent Death Valley Girls and their single I’d Rather Be Dreaming. They have just released their fourth album Under The Spell Of Joy of which this is one of the quieter, more mysterious tracks. Up front in the mix is a very characteristic creepy crawly organ that makes it an excellent fit with our Halloween theme. Make sure you also check out the rest of the album, if only for the crazy amount of sexy saxophone that is on there! check it here.
Here Lies Man-I Told You (You Shall Die) (2021 Riding Easy Records)
After that tasty morsel, we are ready for something a little different; well we have come to the right address for that with the new single by Here Lies Man. They are ready to release their fourth album of their own special brand of afrobeat stoner, which is still complete and utterly unique and a very interesting listen indeed. I Told You (You Shall Die) also perfectly fits our Halloween theme, as it would be a perfect match for a terrible 70s horror flick! Keep on eye on these creeps here.
The Paranoyds- Pet Cemetery (2020 Suicide Squeeze Records)
Next in line another Suicide Squeeze band with a Halloween-sized single: LA’s The Paranoyds bring the Stephen King scariness on Pet Cemetery, which they will also release as a 7 inch vinyl on cool coke bottle vinyl. Soundwise it is a little different from their otherwise pretty cheerful 90s-inspired indie rock, being a little gloomier and campier in the lyrics department. Still great fun though, check it all out here.
Komodo- Zig Zag (2020 Komodo)
Our next stop is a band from The Netherlands called Komodo! Not unlike their fellow countrymen My Baby they are playing an exotic, danceable type of blues-y 60s rock that would be perfectly suited for a Halloween party. Just put on your monkey suit and shake your bananas on the beat! Zig Zag is not (yet) part of a bigger release. You can find the song on all digital platforms here.
Gong-Wah- I Hate You (2020 Tonzonen Records)
From The Netherlands it is only a short drive to Cologne, Germany where we meet up with Gong-Wah and their infectuous new fuzzpopping single I Hate You, which would be perfect to play loud at those annoying people that refuse you candy during trick or treating, or well, there really are plenty of people you could play it to these days, just pick one! Keep a look out for the new self-titled album out on the brilliant Tonzonen Records in November. Check out more of the band here.
Crayon Sun- Roaches (2020 Sacred Love Records)
We stay in Europe with Belgium’s Crayon Sun, a band led by Aldo Struyf who you might know from illustrous bands like Creature With The Atom Brain and The Mark Lanegan Band. Their new single Roaches is not that much different soundwise from some of Lanegan’s work actually, and singer Dave Renier also has a characteristic, gravelly vocal presence. The music is cinematic, mysterious and danceable. Quite perfect for our Halloween evening I would say! Check out more Crayon Sun here.
The Glasspack- Candy Apples and Razorblades EP (2020 FREE DOWNLOAD)
Next up is a special Halloween release by Kentucky southern stoner rock band The Glasspack who you might know from a couple of pretty cool releases on the Small Stone label. For the fall holidays they have recorded a set of Misfits songs that would turn any Halloween party into a raucous pumpkin-punch throwing debauchery. And it is also a free download overhere!
Blood From The Soul- Calcified Youth (2020 Deathwish Inc)
Something really special is next with Napalm Death’s Shane Embury’s sideproject Blood From The Soul. In the early nineties he already released an album with Sick Of It All singer Lou Koller on which both unleashed their combined industrial fury. For Embury’s second outing he asked Converge caged vocal monkey Jacob Bannon for an even gnarlier result. I am quite sure I will talk about the album more in the future, but for now check out the Killing Joke-like Calcified Youth, and make sure you don’t sleep on the release of the album on November 13!
Walt’s Frozen Head-Walt’s Frozen Head (2020 Learn Fear Records)
Bringing back the weeeiiird from Leeds, UK is Walt’s Frozen Head with an absolutely mental self-titled single. I really don’t know anything creepier for Halloween than Walt Disney’s frozen head, or it must be that the punch would be so extremely laced with LSD that the party turns into this video. Check out more about the band here.
Another one right for the pumpkin season is this clip for Spearfinger by New York finest psychedelic stoner outfit Shadow Witch. Their album Under The Shadow Of A Witch came out right before the corona outbreak in February of this year, and we all know what that shitstorm meant for bands worldwide, so if you have some coins to spare,do not hesitate to order one of those scrumptuous looking brown vinyls directly from the band here.
Afterparty: Ghostlawns- Breaking Out (2020 Sub Records)
And that is all for our Stay Inside Halloween Party Pack! But no! Not yet! There is room for a little after party, isn’t there? Well, Ghostlawns straight out of Wales are here for the rescue. With an album called Motorik you might know what to expect, although the album itself has a lot more than just Kraftwerk-stylo beats on offer. The mellowed-out electronics combined with a real life drummer and shamanic Welsh-spoken lyrics are really something you should experience for yourself, Halloween hangover guaranteed! The album is out soon and can be purchased from the band here.