By Ted Jamison /// Staff Writer
TED’S MISSION STATEMENT:
All right, let’s get some things sorted.
I’m not here to lecture you on Pitchfork’s “Best New Music,” nor will I sit here and recite what I just read on Stereogum. My goal: cassette tapes. Pure, D.I.Y. archaeology.
St. Louis has been getting well-deserved attention of late, and in my first column of the semester I wanted to begin my digging there. Enter Travis Bursik’s tape “Slow Milk.”
What is it about the St. Louis indie music scene, anyway? When asked in an interview what he liked about the city’s music community, Bursik replied with: “The hard work I see people put into their sets and their shows. No one is in this for the money. … People are supportive, and there’s not a lot of the cutthroat behavior you’d expect in larger markets.”
This blend of dogged determination and non-competitive spirit is audible in Bursik’s “Slow Milk.” It’s a drone album after all—full of long song (the shortest is six minutes) peacefully relentless swathes of sound. Listening actively to the tape is not the easiest task; you’ll have to fight to keep active ears through its three tracks of milky, opaque soundscape. I listened to it in many different settings over the week and found it was most enjoyable when I wasn’t fully engaged—when I let the album wash over me as context. According to Bursik, I may have had the right idea.
In the cassette notes Bursik states, “Part of the idea is that people don’t have to pay attention. You know that moment when you catch yourself in a kind of reverie, just staring off unfocused into the distance, oblivious to your surroundings? That’s the goal. I want the audience … to have a chance to be alone with their thoughts, whatever they may be.”
Bursik’s tape shines brightest when played in the midst of poetry writing, a late bike ride home, a deep conversation with a friend. The vibe is similar to what Brian Eno threw at us in his album, “Discreet Music,” in ’75. Bursik himself has been making experimental music since 1995, and this tape is proof of how far he has come. If you don’t listen to the whole thing, at least give the title track, “Slow Milk” a listen—it is exquisite.
ABOUT THE LABEL:
Already Dead Tapes is a Chicago-based tape label. Label-head Joshua Tabbia proclaims to be very into the idea of tape as a collectible. This is indicated in the label’s unique packaging and eye-pleasing aesthetic, which is one of the main reasons that Already Dead has rocketed to the fore of my favorite tape labels. The label advertises itself as “very DIY”—Tabbia does a lot of the tape dubbing and j-card artwork himself.