Inbox #03: Serene Pathways

For the third instalment of The Inbox, we’re delighted to haul Jason Cabaniss aboard the good ship Underscore. Our links with Jason go way back to the Foxy Digitalis days and through Decoder, so having him here with us now is cause for great celebration. Jason also wrote for the great Tiny Mix Tapes, which should speak volumes for the quality of content he will bring to Underscore. Welcome Jason! 

To begin, Jason wanted to ensure he paid attention to a whole bunch of releases he’s been digging recently but had no soapbox upon which he could holler their praises. “That sounds like a job for The Inbox!” we said. And so it was. 

Take it away, my man! 

V. Kristoff – Golden Pacific (Umé Records)
Japan’s Umé Records has been on a tip since its founding in early 2019. The label specialises in loose, trippy techno, ambient, and new age cassettes from artists around the globe. V. Kristoff (Jared Carrigan) co-runs the Los Angeles-based Jungle Gym Records (with artists who have also released on Umé), and Golden Pacific follows last year’s Sydra along similar foggy yet mellow terrain. Is this music to chill out to or music to get lost to? I’d say the latter, as the lugubrious electronica of “A17” had me so entranced that I almost missed my stop on the train ride to work.  

X.Y.R. – Waves Tapes (Constellation Tatsu)
At this point, anything from X.Y.R. has my attention as soon as I’m notified of a new release. This Russian synth guru weaves sonic tales straight out of old pulpy paperbacks, from Antarctica to humid jungles to desert islands. Waves Tapes collects previously released EPs into one cassette or digital collection, and it shimmers like a mirage on the horizon. Lullaby-like synth melodies ebb and flow through these 12 tracks, as X.Y.R. guides you along a serene pathway towards musical nirvana. 

Akasha System – Ancient Path (self-released)
Pacific Northwest fourth world eco-techno courtesy of Akasha System (Hunter P. Thompson). This self-released quartet of songs picks up where last year’s Geomind left off: lush, adventurous rhythms primed to soundtrack your next hike or solo zone sesh. Thompson’s production style weaves live instrumentation (flute, kalimba) with dense synths and beats that makes for a unique synthesis of natural and machine sounds.

Wave Temples – Sun Drifting the Phoenix Coast and the Man Eating Probability and Pillars of the Shimmering City (both self-released)
Who, or what, is Wave Temples? I interviewed them and I don’t feel like I’m any closer to knowing more about the person(s) behind the moniker. References to philosophical texts and forgotten TV shows come off as misdirection, as nothing they told me provided clarification on the project. As an interviewer and fan, it was frustrating; however, with the passage of time, the intentional anonymity of its creator makes Wave Temples all the more appealing.

After the late 2016 album Isle Enchanted, Wave Temples disappeared beneath the waves. Aside from a Not Not Fun reissue, not much has been detected over the sonar these last four and a half years. Lo and behold, they resurfaced in April with two EPs. Sun Drifting the Phoenix Coast and the Man Eating Probability and Pillars of the Shimmering City continue the sea-faring odyssey of the project. Both releases contain submersed hypnagogic ambient sounds that could soundtrack an imaginary new edition of the game Myst, where you explore the ocean floor and encounter nothing and everything. As we head into the dog days of summer, let Wave Temples wash over you and sink beneath the waves with this mysterious and groovy pair of EPs.

Bitchin Bajas – CUTS IV (self-released)
Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas evolved from a side-project of Cave to become one of the most prolific and consistent ambient/experimental/new age psychedelic outfits out there. The title of their first release, Tones / Zones, says it all about the vibe they’ve curated over the last decade. Across the group’s discography, Bajas moves between intimate keyboard ragas and full-band free jazz/krautrock hybrids. Their latest, Cuts IV (the previous three editions were tour-only), fits neatly into their recent iterations of free-flowing ambient synth excursions. If I hadn’t read that the tape is made up of “demos, rehearsal jams and b-sides,” I would have thought this was their latest full-length. Bitchin Bajas have it down to the point where they can summon a deep groove at any time. More than just a placeholder to whet your appetite before the next Bajas LP, Cuts IV is stronger than any odds and sods collection I’ve encountered.