Volume #1: Birth – A Musical Gift for Zine Subscribers

This is an outdated post with links to now dead forms. Volume #1: Birth is now available on Bandcamp here!

This is something we’ve been planning and working on in the background since we announced our physical zine. While Issue #1: Birth is 100% free, including postage and packaging, we want to give all we can to subscribers. Therefore, anyone who’s signed up will also receive an equally free tape of music and MP3 download of the contents. For those who don’t make it onto our mailing list before publication, Volume #1: Birth will be available on Bandcamp. However, this initial run of tapes is going to be unique. Your only chance of a physical copy, featuring music from Vic Berger, DJ Douggpound, Professor Elemental, Nick Lutsko and more, is to sign up.

Now, there’s a fair bit to talk about around this, so I’m going to approach it point by point. I’ll come to the actual music itself soon, which is exciting enough to detail. Firstly, why a tape? Why not a CD, exclusive digital download or, even, vinyl release? It’s a good question, deserving of a good answer. I’m not sure that I have a good answer, but I’ll try to outline my reasons for choosing tapes regardless. We wanted to select a medium that speaks somehow to our overall tone, evoking similar notes to our surrounding content. CDs are a format that has always lacked a certain magic; that choice could be thrown out almost immediately. Alternatively, bringing out Volume #1: Birth as MP3s (and nothing more) seems to devalue both its constituent tracks and the very concept of being a gift for our subscribers.

21622105_775120236001749_1616065566_n

It would make no sense to send our fans a digital version, while leaving it unavailable to the public otherwise. On the other hand, releasing it digitally with a universal scope would make its attachment to Issue #1: Birth rather tenuous. Suffice to say, a physical edition was the only way we wanted to move forward. In the end, that left us with a choice between vinyl and our eventual decision of tape. Thanks to vinyl being the unofficial mascot for the hipster generation, using it would make a statement I’d rather distance myself from. In addition, mastering music for vinyl is a tedious business. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s possibly the most expensive option to manufacture. Since, for this first volume, Benjamin and I are funding it entirely ourselves, that’s a consideration I’m willing to admit to.

Tapes, unlike CDs, bring with them a great mysticism and appeal. Though they come with problems, particularly concerning fidelity, they have a presence. They can enhance the aesthetic of an appropriate album. An example is The Archives: Volume 2, a recent tape-only release from DJ Douggpound (who also appears on Volume #1: Birth). On this compilation, Doug Lussenhop showcases music he wrote and recorded before his work with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. As an owner of this tape, and an MP3 rendition, I can comfortably assert the tape’s effect on its tracks. Evidently, and I won’t deny it, Lussenhop’s tape is a huge influence on our own.

douggpound_-_the_archives_volume_two

Boards of Canada began their legendary career with a series of tapes they distributed among an exclusive collective. These early tapes are a source of maddening desire for the Boards of Canada faithful. Some anonymous digital transfers have made their way onto the internet, where their original homes on cassette are clearly audible. For me, and many other fans, this adds to their draw. It’s a shame that better quality versions aren’t available elsewhere, but that’s precisely why each recipient of our own tape will be e-mailed 320kps MP3s of the whole compilation. We hope that our tape will be treated as an interesting way to own music in tandem with more traditional means.

With that explanation aside, the most important thought concerns the featured artists themselves. I’m immensely proud of our line-up for this first volume, which boasts some well-known names alongside more independent artists. Of some note is the inclusion of compositions from Benjamin and I. It’s not an underlying narcissism that places them on the tape though. In fact, when we first had the idea to publish music in this way, we thought it would consist of nothing but our previous work. We didn’t expect other artists to be sold on involvement, so I did everything I could to corral acceptable work from our past. In time, we realised that several of our friends and acquaintances have recorded music we greatly respect. Once our playlist expanded with contributions, we wondered if any previous podcast guests might be similarly forthcoming.

To my amazement, and eternal gratitude, everybody we approached agreed. The first to come forward was Professor Elemental. He’s been a huge supporter of Secret Cave since we interviewed him for SCP2, and I predict this is only the beginning of further affiliations. For followers of Super Deluxe, both Nick Lutsko and Vic Berger were almost as quick to get back to me. In my as-yet unreleased podcast with Berger, we focus heavily on his background in music. It’s an honour to have some of his songwriting on our tape, and subscribers to the zine will get some unique context from Berger himself. Lutsko has been kind enough to put up Grinning Like a Barracuda, a brilliant track from his upcoming new album. His sincere work away from such series as Emo Trump is a powerhouse that I’ve always held deserves more attention.

At the last minute, as I was mastering what I thought was final, Doug Lussenhop sent me an e-mail. In it, he gave me permission to use whatever I like in a move that blew my mind. I’ve been a fan of his for longer than I can remember, and the chance to release some of his work next to my own is still something I’m coming to terms with. He gave me a wide pool of material to choose from; mostly from his own aforementioned tape. In the end, I settled on the churning Ice Cold Homies, for several reasons that I’ll get to soon. Despite some of the impressive names joining us for Volume #1: Birth, the lesser known artists included are just as worthy of scrutiny. As such, I’m going to take the time now to write a little about every track on Volume #1: Birth:

[Side A]

01. Nuclear Winter [BABY MAWSON]

This was always destined to act as the opener. Since our very first podcast episode, this has been our theme tune. We play snippets of it to bookend our ramblings, but it’s far better when heard in full. In actuality, it’s quite an old piece; composed by my brother in his university days. I contend that his electronic music should have gone beyond his bedroom, so it’s gratifying to eventually give it a wider release myself. There’s a lot of Baby Mawson, the alias my brother took for this style, over at our YouTube. Originally, Baby Mawson took up the majority of the tape. Thankfully, we were able to achieve more variance when other musicians came forward. However, there will always be a place for Baby Mawson on future Secret Cave volumes. The above is a video I edited together for it from stock footage, with unmastered audio*.

02. Come Around [MARCH]

March is an intriguing figure. A friend of Benjamin’s, this fifteen-year-old rapper displays a talent that vastly betrays his age. His Latvian background offers him an accent that I’ve never heard before, with some clear American twinge from wherever he learnt English. The subjects of his lyrics are often strikingly honest, performed with an earnest, engaging cool. March is set to take a grander role in Secret Cave beyond this contribution too. When SCP3 kicks off properly after the publication of our zine, he’ll be joining us for several episodes. We’ve already recorded one with him, where he instantly gave the dynamic a new verve. This track is utterly exclusive to Volume #1: Birth.

03. A Different Story [OLD GHOSTS]

I’m a little uncomfortable writing about this one, so I’ll attempt to keep it brief. Old Ghosts is, in fact, the moniker I eventually chose for the bucket of old songs I have lying around. Many of them don’t come close to being good enough for this tape, but I was always rather happy with this one. Considering that I don’t despise it every time I hear it, like the bulk of my music, I thought it might plug a gap in the tape nicely. In the end, I don’t think it’s too out of place or arrogant of me to throw it in the pot, so I merely hope that listeners take something from it. It’s also purely for reasons of coherent running order that it appears so early.

04. L-128

There’s not much need to go into depth with this one, even if I wanted to. Instead, I’d rather let this sit largely unexplained. I will say, as two small titbits, that it was created by Benjamin and represents an attempt by us to achieve a certain ambience and atmosphere.

05. Fat and Glamorous [CELEBRITY LOVE CRISIS]

Celebrity Love Crisis were an acclaimed band on the local music scene in York several years ago. I was in touch with them, and other key members of the scene, through my elder brother. They played vicious prog-rock and black-metal fusions to small crowds underneath cinemas, and I adored them. At the time, when I hadn’t even finished secondary school, I idolised their proficient musicianship and contagious tenacity. I remain on good terms with them, though many of the bands faded as members filed in their own directions to disparate corners of the country. Having gotten in touch with their constituent players, Celebrity Love Crisis were happy to have their excellent music heard through Secret Cave. Come [Side B], you’ll hear more from that once-bustling York scene too…

06. Wallpaper Cages [ROUGH DRAFTS**]

 This is another piece I wrote, when it comes to the music at least. Benjamin provides lyrics and vocals, under his previous guise of Rough Drafts. We made music together in this way for a couple of years before various obligations forced us to slow down; eventually stopping altogether. As the last thing we came out with together musically, it’s incredibly significant to both of us. It was part of a concept hip-hop album once which, predictably, never saw completion. Its first half is still available on Bandcamp, but Wallpaper Cages is one of two surviving tracks from the unfinished conclusion. Sonnets of Solipsism, its prequel of sorts, is a terribly produced affair for those with the inclination to go back and listen. Benjamin and I have often discussed a remaster, so who knows what old flames Volume #1: Birth is setting alight?

07. The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial [BEAR FLAG]

My close friend, Jack Lawtey, has made two appearances on my Office Charts in the past. In those cases, his featured music comes from his solo album, Spiralling. That record consists, mostly, of sincere songs from Lawtey, with lush and clever arrangements. Outside of such a setting, Lawtey has lent his hand to a large number of different projects and bands. My determination to secure some of his music for Volume #1: Birth led me to Bear Flag; a fascinating undertaking in collaboration with Tom VanDeven. Their LP, Everywhere, sails through jazz, alt-country, experimental and even pop tropes with a maniacal ease. Full of colour, Bear Flag helps to bring our first side back to life after a handful of more introspective minutes. Click below to hear The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial:

08. Grinning Like a Barracuda [NICK LUTSKO]

If you don’t already know Nick Lutsko’s music, you’ve probably at least come across his work for Super DeluxeThe humour of videos like Office Life is clear, but Lutsko’s true strengths lie in his full-length albums, Heart of Mold and Etc.. It’s clear that composition is in his very life’s blood, from the adept charm of his folk songs to the relentless energy of his rock and pop. Grinning Like a Barracuda originates from his upcoming new album and, until then, is unreleased and exclusive to Secret Cave. This track is unique, in that only zine subscribers will be able to hear it; it will not be available on Bandcamp after our first run of issues. Out of respect for Lutsko’s promotion for his impending album, the Bandcamp will instead feature By & By, my personal favourite from Etc.. Click below to hear By & By:

[Side B]

09. Sunset Yellow [NATIONAL GRID HIGH VOLTAGE RESEARCH PROJECT]

National Grid High Voltage Research Project were another band from the same, long-dead, York scene that birthed Celebrity Love Crisis. As a matter of fact, the two bands share members. Although both wrote instrumental music, and made liberal use of guitars, there’s little more in common. National Grid, as they were often abbreviated to, performed much longer songs that leaned more towards post-rock. Taking cues from bands like Mogwai, some of their dynamic shifts could be epic; in the true sense of the word. Sunset Yellow is a prime example of their gargantuan merits, moving effortlessly from gentle finger-picking to tsunamic waves of distortion. In my opinion, this was the perfect beginning for [Side B].

10. B-402

See “L-128″.

11. 2 Minutes 2 Live [PROFESSOR ELEMENTAL]

Other than on Volume #1: Birth, this lovely little track from Professor Elemental is only available to his Patreon subscribers. It’s short. but it manages to stuff far more lyrical skill into its time than others could fit into something twice its duration. Add a strong, catchy backing track from the ever-reliable Tom Caruana, and 2 Minutes 2 Live was always going to come out strong. I’m humbled to have it on the tape, especially since it’s not something widely available otherwise. Trust Paul Alborough, one of our loudest supporters, to throw something so valuable our way. It’s, basically, a diss-track aimed towards anyone he can get away with. Funny, deeply smart and simply great fun to listen to, I’m forever in Alborough’s debt for its inclusion.

12. Take Me Back [VIC & HIS BAD SELF]

Vic Berger is a very friendly individual. Quite unlike the “creepy” caricature that true creeps like Mike Cernovich would have you believe, he’s thoughtful, accommodating and a joy to converse with. An interview with him is one of the key features of Issue #1: Birth, within which he speaks at length about his history with songwriting and production. Though editing has become his calling card, music is a founding passion for him. This gives our talk in the zine an extra dimension, by providing readers with something that ties-in directly to the interview. His songs are a rabbit hole all of their own which, with an album out coming soon through Flannelgraph Records, might just start to pick up the audience they deserve. Click below to hear Take Me Back:

13. Yo VIŅA, What’s Up? [MC KAT]

MC Kat made quite a storm in her native Latvia (yes, that’s two Latvian rappers on the tape) when she released this diss-track. While I don’t understand the fallout completely, because of the ineptitude of online translation, I do understand how much I love Yo VIŅA, What’s Up?. I might as well be honest too; Benjamin had a large part in the production of this. Yet, after repeated listens to the tape throughout the mastering process, I regard this as an exceptional piece of hip-hop savagery. Even more impressive is the fact that MC Kat had only a month or two of practice before bringing this out. She’s an exciting performer to say the least, and she’s continued to release music through her own YouTube and Soundcloud. Along with March, MC Kat will be a recurring guest on SCP3. Click below to hear Yo VIŅA, What’s Up?:

14. Small Cloud [MIRROR MIRROR]

Like Baby Mawson, Mirror Mirror is a project of my brother’s. Concentrating on heavy, chugging guitars and an almost frightening atmosphere, it’s deserving of being saliently separate from Baby Mawson’s sleek synths and tight production. This was the only piece that Mirror Mirror ever released, and I would have preferred to not include another contribution from my brother. But, it paints too good of a picture to ignore. It’s been discussed how this could be seen as Baby Mawson from an alternate-dimension. While there’s truth to that, with Mirror Mirror exploring some of the same emotions, it remains surprising that the two are spearheaded by the same person. My descriptions aside, zine subscribers and Bandcamp chancers will have to wait for our full release to hear just what a different beast it is to tracks like Nuclear Winter.

15. Ice Cold Homies [DJ DOUGGPOUND]

This isn’t at the end of the tape because of Doug Lussenhop‘s last-minute e-mail. It just worked so nicely after Small Cloud‘s dark stabs that it wouldn’t have been as effective elsewhere. At first, Volume #1: Birth ended with acoustic-guitar ambience from Bleak Russian Soundscape; another one of Benjamin’s creative avenues. Instead, I’m ecstatic that we’ve been able to end extremely strong on this contribution from DJ Douggpound. As previously stated, this dates all the way back to before Lussenhop crossed paths with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Like Vic Berger, Lussenhop’s long musical background would become a catalyst for his more famous career in editing. This makes Ice Cold Homies a genuine relic, which its dope beat and infectious bass-line lives up to in spades. Click below to hear Ice Cold Homies:

For Volume #1: Birth, that completes the line-up. I’ve worked hard to make sure that the whole has a thread which makes for a compelling listen. I have enormous faith in the recordings we’ve gathered together for this tape, and I firmly believe that it will enhance your experience with our zine. Don’t forget that you can get your own physical copy of Volume #1: Birth completely free by filling in this quick and easy form; we don’t ask you for card details and will not send you spam of any kind. Our priorities are only in spreading around these rare tracks to as many listeners as possible. So, whether or not you sign up for our zine, make sure to come back mid-November to get your own free download from Bandcamp!

Keep in mind that only subscribers will receive this one-off, limited run of tapes. We may produce more on CD or vinyl in time, if there’s any demand, but a tape of Volume #1: Birth can only be acquired with a copy of its sister issue. The tape is also the sole edition that will feature Nick Lutsko’s Grinning Like a Barracuda; an exclusive pre-release that beautifully rounds off [Side A]. The zine itself, Issue #1: Birth, is just as much a labour of love for Benjamin and I. As such, I make it my personal pledge that #1: Birth will not disappoint you, be it through the tape’s music or the writing, art and photography printed in our pages. Join us in the Secret Cave, and we’ll do all we can to be the hosts you deserve. Until release, thank you.

Click here for more information on our zine, along with the form to sign up! If you’re new here, why not stick around the site to read some of our articles, check out our podcasts on YouTube or follow us on Twitter? We’ll be regularly posting updates and news as #1: Birth moves along!

*The entirety of Volume #1: Birth has gone through extensive mastering. Many tracks, such as Nuclear Winter, are far louder than samples provided here. The whole tape plays at a consistent volume.
**The version of 
Wallpaper Cages available on this Soundcloud is mastered completely differently to the one appearing on Volume #1: Birth. Neither Benjamin or myself consider this Soundcloud version well-mastered enough for wide-release.

British fellow consumes media and regurgitates back what you should think about it.