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From Tandem Tapes: Makunouchi Bento / Somnoroase Păsărele

This week’s submission comes all the way from the DIY cassette label Tandem Tapes, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. As the name suggests, Tandem’s focus is split releases, and their most current, that also happened to make its way to my doorstep, is from a pair of Romanian projects: Makunouchi Bento and Somnoroase Păsărele. It’s housed in a simple yet elegant b&w j-card with strange cover artwork that looks like a landscape collage with a small house and maybe a moonrise in the background. Home dubbed on Ferro/Type 1 tapes in a mere edition of 25. Hard to believe one could even be spared for review.

It would take only a slight familiarity with tape labels of this kind to know that one is in for some esoteric sounds here. Some of the world’s most interesting and challenging music is spawned out of the cassette underground, but I’ve unfortunately been out of the loop with the movement for some time now, so it was very nice to have this gem arrive. A small part of me feared that I was in for an overdose of uninspired noise, of which there are countless tapes out there, but one minute into Makunouchi Bento’s piece vanquished any such fear.

The Bento in this box is the duo of Felix Petrescu and Valentin Toma, who seem to have come a long way since doing their part in pioneering Romanian IDM. Their music here is likely not too far removed from those early days, albeit I sense it’s become more skeletal with time. The piece is a skittering, gently unfolding fusion of dark ambient and electroacoustics. An effected or modified flute, and micro-percussive elements float through the track over a swath of wavering drones. The mood of this work is worth noting, at very least for how it seems to effortlessly enfold the listener in creepiness, never threatening but always lurking around the bend.

Somnoroase Păsărele’s piece picks up seamlessly from the A side’s close, and although he immediately seems unsure of its direction–maneuvering through a bit of a clunky portion for electrified strings–it soon settles down and finds its footing. The tape’s final quarter, specifically, is its finest stretch, as Păsărele dials in a compelling blurred-edge synthesis into one of those grooves that can mess with one’s perception of time. Very nice. Great to have these artists on my radar now, along with this modest yet spirited label.