Label spotlight: Eiderdown Records

After a debut LP in 2011 and a pair of tapes in 2012, Eiderdown Records ramped up their 2013 release schedule to six potent cassettes. While the cassette label scene feels pretty crowded right now, and there is a really humbling amount of great music to be heard, none of these Eiderdown tapes ever make it far enough away from my decks to get shelved. Eiderdown batches show excellent curatorial taste and incredible attention to design, balancing great sounding pro-dubbed cassettes with gorgeous screenprinted j-cards. It's not just some of the best psych/drone music around: the striking yet intimate handmade vibes of the Eiderdown artwork mean that you recognize these from a mile away by sight or sound.

January brought the first pair of Eiderdown releases for 2013, both with covers by Max Clotfelter in a very original Monster Mash-filigree kind of style, rendered in deep oranges and yellows. Datashock's "LIVELOVEDATA$," containing a couple of outtake recordings from the "Pyramiden von Gießen" sessions, was the release that first made me aware of Eiderdown, and it's a serious burner. If tracks as good as these had to be left off their double LP, I suspect there's no such thing as a bad Datashock jam. As always, these guys and gals sound deeper, darker, and drone-ier than their OG Kosmische ancestors could ever have imagined. Wicked highly recommended. Since this tape, Datashock released one more cassette called "Status Blod/Modus Dummheit" though Meudiademorte that is apparently a sort of anticipatory set of outtakes from their upcoming double LP "Keine Oase in Sicht," one of the records I'm most looking forward to this year.

Released simultaneously with the Datashock tape, "Cosmic Job" was my first exposure to Planets Around the Sun. Having gone back to hear some of their older recordings now, I think this is the best distillation yet of their driving low-fi psych with folk overtones. When I listen to this tape, I wonder if reverb and delay are getting pressure from their parents to have kids, and I hope they get prodded a while longer. Sadly, the physical copies of this one are already sold out.

Eiderdown's spring pair of releases featured cover designs by Aubrey Nehring and Rena Luelle of Ecstatic Cosmic Union, with labyrinthine clouds of metallic silver ink on black-ink backgrounds over blue stock (screen-printing is crazy!). And their release in this batch, "XCU," is a six-pack of satisfying ideas ranging from drones to spacy pop. My only complaint about this tape is that I'd love for every one of these tracks to be extended to album length--I'm bummed every time these great pieces end.

Also in the spring batch was Jon Collins (himself of the venerable Winebox Press label) with "The Great Stink," a heavy album of out-guitar ideas. As a (somewhat) reformed shred guitar dude, I'm always impressed by guitar work like that of Mr. Collin, able to say so much through understated changes in texture, timbre, and acoustical space. He knows when to overheat his tubes, and he knows when to let touches of field recordings or subtle percussion peek through. The long B-side piece, "Furniture Makers Medley," is my favorite here, embracing the sounds of the large space he's working in with some extremes in slide guitar approaches, from gentle and elegiac to aggressive, overdriven passages that take on violinistic qualities. 

Autumn brought us another pair of Eiderdown releases, again with creepy-melty designs courtesy of Max Clotfelter. I've been following Argentina's Ø+yn (pronounced "Omasin") for a while, and their new collaboration with recent Finland transplants Uton, "Solid Geometry and the New Mental Order," is a warped field recording and drone-lover's dream come true. Managing to feel both intimate and hauntingly alien, it's no wonder this had to be recorded on two other continents considering all of the anti-drone legislation talk in North America. As drone/psych-oriented projects go, I find Ø+yn's work notable for how non-electronic it feels within a scene often fixated on relatively synth-heavy soundscapes. While I love the wild potential of modular synths, it's refreshing to hear so many acoustic instruments prominently featured in this kind of music--it creates a very different kind of musical space that I find comforting. They venture into the often ignored potential of alternate tunings and mircotones, too, which feels quite organic and even inevitable with a thoughtful approach to stringed instruments. With careful employment of tape manipulation techniques, and a great feel for bringing these arrangements down to just an instrument or two in all of the right places, "Solid Geometry" is deeply contemplative and solid, indeed.

Another great guitar recording, "Colour Breathing" by Endless Caverns is a quartet of looped guitar improvisations recorded straight to tape, complete with EQ recommendations (boost yr treble a touch). I especially dug the little staccato scraps of "Indigo Eye" that patiently build up to a consonant wall of sound. If you want to spend an afternoon with some free-psych guitar, grab this and the Jon Collins album above, add a little Beard Closet via Horror Fiction Tapes, and let your cares slip into fuzz tones for a while.

It seems crazy, but all of these releases except the Planets Around the Sun are still available both physically and digitally via Eiderdown's Bandcamp page, so dig in while you still can--with editions of 100 each, these tapes can't last much longer. And seriously, even if you're not usually into the "tape thing," brush off your old Walkman and enjoy these the way our analog overlords intended. Not only are most of these recordings analog from birth to duplication, which makes tape playback a no-brainer for me, they really are too beautiful too behold for digital. These aren't your dad's stash of car tapes from the early 80s with poorly-printed fuzzy square album art reproductions--you probably haven't held such beautifully designed cassettes before with such artisan-level screenprinting work. Treat yourself.

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