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cassette craze chronicles XXXIII feat. AIDAN BAKER, AVI C. ENGEL, MAIRU and MONOVOTH

Cassettes, cassettes, cassettes, ca...? Wait. Something feels weird, I don't know...

Well, let's just - sloooowly - get started with a serious statement of Doom:

MONOVOTH - Pleroma Mortem Est (2024)

After playing with several adjacent influences on the rather Avantgarde self-titled debutLucas Wyssbrod's solo project Monovoth now dedicates itself fully to pure Funeral Doom in a flavour close to Bell Witch. Albeit not being equally colossal in size "Pleroma Mortem Est" breathes a similar air of cosmic magnitude with heaviness and beauty seemingly not made for our limited mortal perception.

It's just that brand of the genre I totally love to let myself fall into. The cassette format enhances the impression of a forever returning cyclic nature just by "Grata Mors" and "Somnia", the respective first tracks  of both sides beginning with deliberately similar intros, which can make it hard to determine where you are at first. In the end it doesn't matter, because from this album's perspective the listeners' little matters are just small insignificant specks on specks of stardust anyway.

MAIRU - Sol Cultus (2023)

Sometimes huge and aggressive Post Metal can feel a little stale and tiring, but this band just has that certain it, which captures me. I just have difficulties putting this tape into my play... Ok, now I get it! Something felt strangely off about this cassette since the moment I opened the package from Trepanation Recordings. My dear Dan, you sent me the wrong format! No worries, that's not a biggie actually, CDs are fine and both have the same price, so this doesn't bother me.

It disqualifies the release from being featured here however, so I have to stop this mini review at this point and carry on with the two *checks twice* actual tapes which I recently got from Cruel Nature Records... 

AIDAN BAKER - Everything Is Like Always Until It Is Not (2024)

After Monovoth already taught us that most of all is Death Aidan Bakern continues our philosophy lecture with the observation that "Everything Is Like Always Until It Is Not".

With each of its eight tracks named after one word of the album title, this is an album which undergoes an according subtle dramatic change during its runtime. It starts as if the typical sound of Aidan's band Nadja had been reimagined in a relaxing Ambient Doom Jazz setting, with synth and flowing guitars meandering in slow waves above smooth bass lines and half deliberately-amateurish / half Smooth Jazz drumming.

There is a monotonous undertone lurking somewhere in the background, which in the beginning is providing a sense of comfort. During the second half however it grows to an ominous Drone, which takes over more and more of the sonic space, making it more and more uncomfortable until with "Not" the album ends in an openly contorted reflection of its beginning.

No doubt, mister Baker knows what he's doing with this fearless exploration of (un)easy listening. And Cruel Nature Records know how to pack and design a tape release. Perfect concept and execution all around!

AVI C. ENGEL - Too Many Souls (2024)

I didn't hate it, but partly I felt a little lukewarm about Avi C. (formerly Clara) Engel's last album "Sanguinaria". "Too Many Souls" however is a different beast. Not that the general approach of Engel's music would have changed - that's not something anyone would seriously expect I guess. They still cultivate an intimate, very DIY kind of acoustic singer/songwriter sound, based in equal parts on Folk, Classical, Alternative and in lack of a better term Experimental influences.

The seven tracks of this new album - including a wonderful cover of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger", which joins versions by Oceans Of Slumber and Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter in my collection - all just find the right tone of introspective, but still interesting and listenable brooding. Among the minimal arrangements of guitar, percussions and occasional melodica, which carry Avi's soothing vocals, especially the gudok, a lute-related Slavic string instrument, is the emotionally captivating star of the show.

A beautiful, poetic album with the same nice (even though not necessarily most convenient) cardboard packaging as seen with Aidan Baker's cassette, including Engel's own artwork and a great looking shell.

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