The Week in Creative Tape Music, Maverick Pop, and Portals

Categories: Hidden Agenda

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Voyager's The Sounds of Earth, recordings from which will be played at the S.F. Tape Music Festival.
[Professional publicists ceaselessly implore writers to preview shows, but often the most worthy events lack such luxuries. The Bay Area is both actively producing and attracting experimentalists, multimedia performance spectacles, cult punk rituals, and innovative anti-socials with no capacity for self-promotion. Hidden Agenda is a column to let you know about their performances.]

Sentimental justifications of the tape hoopla are tiresome. It's mostly another symptom of our retromaniacal music climate. But avant-garde men and women who throw around terms like musique concrète and "acousmatic" are the most believable cassette advocates, once you wade through the academic explanations and get to the experience. For them, exploring the natural decay and spatial presence of tape is a means of composition where sound is a malleable material to be sculpted, like clay. This is a distillation the San Francisco Tape Music Festival's guiding principles.

Performers manipulate and deploy magnetic tape phenomenon throughout the venue's elaborate, surrounding sound system to create an immersive sonic environment for attendees sat in complete darkness. The San Francisco Tape Music Festival unspools across three days starting Friday, Jan 3, at Z Below Theatre.

The Mantles are a maverick band. They reluctantly participate in the music industry, yet still squeeze substantial returns out of it. With a 7-inch debut on bassist Matt Roberts' own Dulc-i-tone imprint in 2007 and two full-length albums since, The Mantles' sporadic discography of jittery psychedelic pop rejects the conventions of timely tours and press cycle adherence. Obtuseness usually confines groups to a low rung in today's annoyingly stratified world of indie "success." Nonetheless, Slumberland Records released The Mantles' second album in six years, Long Enough to Leave, to significant critical enthusiasm. Refreshingly, the band's quality music is enough to warrant a career without playing the game. The Mantles' show with Muscle Drum on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Bernal Heights bar the Lucky Horseshoe, of all places, speaks to their individualistic take on running a band.

Former Mallard guitarist Dylan Tidyman-Jones now creates music as Fronds. His meditative and consummate eponymous debut presents a deft command of rich guitar and keyboard texture. Fronds is a Where the Wild Things Are-kind of record: Tidyman-Jones imagined another world and possessed the creative capacity to make it real. It's often a scary place. There are garbled voices emanating from some secret source and seemingly serene scenes turn treacherous as they unfold. Considering that it feels so personal, like a portal into the product of Tidyman-Jones' solitude, the prospect of witnessing it live should excite listeners' voyeuristic impulses. Visit Fronds' world on Saturday, Jan. 4, with Dim Peaks at the Hemlock.

-- @Lefebvre_Sam



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