Wool-E Tapes is a Belgian tape label with an emphasis on dark and experimental sounds. The compilation tape The 15th was released to celebrate the first anniversary of the label. The artists from the first 10 tapes all appear here with an exclusive track, plus there is also an exclusive track from Onrust. The tape is divided into sides entitled Dream and Dance, each showcasing a different aspect of the label's output. The Dream side comprises ambient/drone-based soundscapes from Cinema Perdu and Woodbender, an evocative instrumental from Kingstux which fits just as easily into the ambient, film soundtrack, or neoclassical categories, and Onrust who juxtaposes a delicate keyboard melody with a relentless rhythmic noise onslaught. The first four tracks all share an atmospheric, dreamlike quality and are relaxing yet with a dark undercurrent. Whilst Onrust is more forceful and noise-oriented, the music still has a hypnotic quality with its repetitive rhythm. This side of the tape is an ideal introduction to well crafted experimental music.
The Dance side is dedicated to underground electronica and synthwave. Hidden in Treetops provide two electronic instrumentals that are uptempo yet with a certain cold, dark atmosphere. Luminance make a sort of underground dance music based around beats, synths and spoken word samples; if gothic aesthetics were transplanted into 1980s house music, maybe it would sound a little like this? Unidentified Man make dark synthpop with a chugging synth bassline. Transfigure could be described similarly, only their track adds spoken vocals and electronic drums that replicate the sound of banging on sheet metal. True Zebra make synthwave, or dark synthpop, with synthesised violins and harsh noise aspects. The gruesomely named Breast Implosion make a kind of harsh and dark electronic dance music topped off with deep gothic vocals. Whilst the music here has its roots in the 1980s - synthpop, house, and the various wave subgenres - it still manages to sound futuristic. This tape has much to recommend it as a snapshot of a vibrant and creative underground scene existing beyond the genres I normally cover.
Wool-E Tapes have released the cassette version of Factice Factory's album The White Days, which includes a bonus remix track not available on the CD or LP versions. The band comprises Fabrice Lefebvre (Rajna), Théotime Lefebvre (Thermafrost) and songwriter François Ducarn, along with Jeanne Lefebvre (Rajna) who provides backing vocals on three songs. Factice Factory have a dark atmospheric sound that brings together post-punk, cold wave, and ethereal aspects, along with occasional psychedelic tinges. Spoken vocals, washes of ethereal noise, synths and electronic beats are all combined to create an icy cold gothic atmosphere, yet one with a certain woozy, floaty, expansive, mood-altering nature that may appeal just as much to fans of psychedelic music, or indeed dreampop/shoegaze, as those involved in the dark scene. There is also much here to appeal to those who appreciate the darker and more experimental side of electronic music. Factice Factory bring these various elements together into a cohesive whole, and in doing so have the potential to appeal to fans of a broad variety of underground genres.
Kinex Kinex, the solo project of Raphaël Haubourdin of Organic, has a tape out on Wool-E Tapes entitled Polytheistic Christmas, characterised by dark and experimental synthpop. Downtime is cold and eerie synthpop, incorporating experimental sounds, emotional vocals, and even a touch of jazz improvisation. There's a synthpop cover of The Cure's 10.15 Saturday Night, featuring guest vocals from Claire Wilcok. Porn Movies takes a dark, harsh-edged and mechanical approach, kind of Kraftwerk meets industrial music. Falling Apart is spooky and surreal. Hope is best described as 'motorik goth', combining a chugging synth rhythm with a desolate atmosphere. Christmas Time is a surreal and dramatic experimental pop track. Slaves of Venus is an atmospheric instrumental that combines a sparkling synth melody with synthesised choral vocals and what sounds like chilling incidental music from an imaginary psychological thriller. Challenging and inventive, this album shows there is far more to synthpop than just manufactured chart music.
Rather different from the other tapes here, though staying with the dark and experimental theme, is Midnight Folk by Howling Larsons, an experimental psychedelic folk duo comprising R Loftiss (The Gray Field Recordings) and Alan Trench (Orchis, Temple Music, Twelve Thousand Days, Cunnan). The tape comes packaged in beautiful swirly artwork based on paintings by Alan Trench. Ragged Ritual sets recited occultic vocals to an atmospheric soundscape made up of drones, found sounds, synth and xylophone. The bleak traditional folk song The Butcher Boy is set to a beautiful, dreamlike psych-folk arrangement. Sound of Light is atmospheric psych-folk with an experimental edge, incorporating meandering wooden flute and swelling drones. Goat Song is an inventive dark folk piece with soaring flute, experimental sounds, bells, drones and zither, all combined to create an atmospheric psychedelic listening experience. Beach Flute Song is eerie and surreal experimental folk with chantlike vocals. As well making his own music with the various bands named above, Alan Trench also co-founded World Serpent Distribution back in the early 90s. Landfall is a track that would have fitted right in among the World Serpent roster with its combination of chilling experimental music and world-weary dark folk. There are also a couple of 1960s cover versions here; Pink Floyd's Matilda Mother is given the psych-folk treatment, while The Zombies' Time of the Season is reinvented as surreal experimental synthpop. The tape is well worth investigating if you enjoy psych-folk and especially the darker and more experimental side of the genre.
These tapes and more can be found at www.wool-e-shop.be
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