One of James Ferraro’s many, many, many…

James Ferraro

It’s hard to figure out where to start with the dudes in The Skaters.  James Ferraro and Spencer Clark are crazy productive, sometimes releasing five things at once.  Most of these are released as CDRs, some as tapes, and there are few LPs out there.  Approaching their stuff is a difficult task, and I have a hard time figuring out how to do it unless I relay my own experience with their music…

I first heard The Skaters a few years back.  My first reaction was to put something else on real quick. Every now and again, I found myself going back to it. Something about their work made me curious.  A friend of mine touring in California played with them one night.  He described the Skaters as two weirdos playing all their sounds through some ghetto karaoke box.  I remember thinking that that was an extremely good description of what the music sounded like. But after I heard that, I began downloading tons of their stuff – in hopes of figuring out what it was they were trying to do.  Like I said, it is not immediately apparent.

Months later I was completely stumped by one of Jame’s Ferraro’s side projects: Lamborghini Crystal.  Discogs credits two members: both him and JC Peavey (I noticed in the comments of a post on the Root Strata Blog someone posted that this guy is from Canada). I remember finding about four releases on someone’s server somewhere, not knowing this was at all related to James Ferraro.  Again I was just completely baffled.  What in the hell is even going on here?  All the sounds exist in such a limited frequency band that you’ll be lucky to recognize anything as even remotely related to reality.  And this is what got me hooked…

My first Skaters related purchase was James Ferraro’s Last American Hero-Adrenaline’s End. It’s a fairly recent tape released near the end of 2008 and on one of my favorite labels: Taped Sounds (which by the way, I just noticed has been restocked by Tomentosa).  This tape sounds like the cover looks – like a bar band of badasses in a small town’s back-corner tavern.  Bluesy guitar riffs over synth and drum machine – but with an odd twist: would-be ‘powerful’ transitions are left out, as if the material was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.  Ferraro applies some less than subtle re-edits to take out some of testosterone.  This elevates the work to the place where earth’s sky reaches outerspace.  Not only do these tracks hit, but they surprise the listener.  Another thing I should mention – this isn’t the typical ultra lo-fi sound Skater’s related projects are known for – there’s actually a little low end happening here.  An excellent work and a huge congrats to Ferraro.

Also, if you need a primer on Skaters-related stuff – I recommend checking out this blog: There’s a few blogs and other sites out there that make it easy to find rips of their releases, but please support artists by purchasing their works.

GT Tape Descriptions/Distro: Tomentosa

I took a little time to write up some detailed descriptions of the first batch of Gift Tapes releases. We’ve got a few left here at Gift Tapes, and in a few days Tomentosa should have some available as well (thanks for your support Josh!).  Also, I should to mention that we’ve got some killer projects in the works for our next GT batch – I can’t say when yet, but it looks like it could be as early as May.  Stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, enjoy these descriptions of our first tapes.  (I’ll be back to reviewing tapes with the next post.)

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Spare Death Icon, Northwind, C30, Gift Tapes (GT001), 2009, ltd 50

Multiplexed visions: A starship draped in eagle feathers. Pedal to the metal in a 1970 Chevelle on a desert highway. The unidentified bird whose song is only heard once a year. All of this, blowing in a winter wind… Northwind is Jason E Anderson’s first release as Spare Death Icon. Layered synthesizers make up this work, nearly half of which was recorded in a fire lookout in NE Oregon. The wind and the natural landscape as inspiration, offset by an urban-dreamscape subconscious drenched in sci-fi/action film realities.

Stella Haze, Thaw, C30, Gift Tapes (GT002), 2009, ltd 50

The transition of cold, cracked earth to a soil fit for promoting life energy, Stella Haze traverses seasons and dimensions. Weaving thick fields of synthesizer, Wurlitzer, and voice, the formation of a weightless aura that sifts through the air molecules like an eel through dark waters. This is Cristin Miller’s first as Stella Haze, a digression from her former work with avant folk-rock duo Emma Zunz. Thaw is a magical minimalist affair that leads it’s followers into eternal light, like the spirits of newly formed clouds awaiting their entrance into the evening skies.

Million Mists, Haleakala, C30, Gift Tapes (GT003), 2009, ltd 50

Jamie Potter’s new side project, Million Mists, is an acid Christmas covered in a blanket of thick smoke. Haleakala emits odd atmospheres of thrift store keyboards etched into tape. FM synthesis becomes helium balloons, nestling into a freshly burrowed cavern of magnetic detritus. Out of the long form minimalist improvisations of Bonus and the positive islander synth jams of Brother Raven, Potter’s current solo work slowly rises like morning dew in a sea breeze, painting new age dreamscapes for the hearing impaired.

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Buy tapes from Gift Tapes here:


Check with Tomentosa here:

Gift Tapes 1st: The Brother Raven tape

Brother Raven, 'diving into the pineapple portal' (GT000, January 2009)
Gift Tapes logo
Back in mid-January, I started sending out the first Gift Tapes cassette: Brother Raven’s diving into the pineapple portal.  I had convinced Jamie that we should release this tape as a gift.  So… we mailed out our first gift to the people who inspire us most – both friends and artists currently making work we admire.

Brother Raven is currently working on 3 new tapes and is planning shows in NYC from May 7-14th.