Dearest E. Cottage Dwellers,
This is a story with a soundtrack that will challenge the sanity of even the most noise-loving listeners in our community. To set this stage, we go back to a sunny Saturday in February, 1982, to a decaying old house located at the corner of Ashby Avenue and Sacramento Street in Berkeley, California. There, C. Goff III and Steve Schaer – the duo leading the project known as "-Ing," made an entire day's worth of absolutely unique reel-to-reel recordings. Goff and Schaer were joined that day by Killr "Mark" Kaswan, who was, in fact, making his debut as a member of the Taped Rugs family of artists. Also present were Steve's friend and punk rock photographer: Raye Santos, as well as some actual residents of the old house, and some of their friends.
The original reels of tape that were recorded at the session have long-since disappeared from the Taped Rugs archives, although a few short bits that were excerpted out years ago have long been passed around to curious listeners. Recently, however, a cassette recording of one entire side of one of the reels, made by Schaer at some undocumented point before he passed from this life in 1998 (RIP), was unearthed by Steve's widow, Dee Ann. She passed this tape and several others that Steve had made over to our long-time Taped Rugs brother, Robert Silverman, who then forwarded the lot to Goff about a month ago.
Before I continue with my story, I must pause a moment here to say that Robert was hospitalized with a massive brain tumor only days after he mailed off the tapes to me. Surgery has helped him some, but his recovery is proving rather uncomfortable. Robert has been making Taped Rugs recordings since before Taped Rugs even came into existence (1980), and is well-known to the world as a founder of Herd Of The Ether Space. I ask any and all readers of this post to focus whatever healing energies that they might possess toward Oakland, California, and to Robert specifically. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated, thanks very much.
Anyway, back to the story… the side of the reel of tape that Steve had recorded was dubbed "Mushroom Showdown" by its creators back on that fateful Saturday in 1982. The sounds on this recording are challenging to the point that I can imagine certain individuals suffering a severe psychotic reaction after listening to all 50-plus minutes of the tape. Certainly the members of the "audience" that day were something more than bewildered by the experience. Here's a link to get YOU started if you are up for this challenge:
And here's some details of how the tape was made:
The recording set-up consisted of two reel-to-reel tape recorders, tilted on their sides to accommodate the sharing of a single reel of tape in a Frippertronics-style audio loop arrangement. (for readers unfamiliar with Frippertronics, a rudimentary explanation is available here.) These two tape recorders, made by different manufacturers, had a tendency to run at different speeds that day, creating variances in the timing of the loops and gaps between recorded segments. At intervals during the recording session, Goff and Schaer also intentionally set the decks to run at very different speeds, causing the playback to sound as if it were being sucked through some sort of recording vortex. They also physically manipulated the reels of tape with their hands during the recordings, punctuating the playback with sudden jumps in speed and pitch.
Goff played a 1950s lap steel guitar and a bass with a warped neck. He also vocalized into a microphone. He modified all of his audio inputs with a wah-wah/volume foot pedal. Schaer played an electronic guitar and an ARP Odyssey synthesizer, modifying both through an analog delay effect box. Kaswan played electrified cello. Bits of a pre-recorded Brian Eno lecture and a field recording of Gibbons howling at the San Francisco Zoo also were occasionally input into the session.
The recordings offered in this archive reflect Schaer's personal interpretation of how the playback speeds of the original tape should be arranged. Any number of playback options would be possible to make from the original reel, although none could represent what the participants actually heard during the session itself. Goff broke up Schaer's hour-long recording into segments, editing out long gaps of silence and occasional bits of muddled babbling.
My congratulations go out to anyone who endures the entire Mushroom Showdown experience. I will be sharing more of Schaer's recently unearthed cassettes with you all soon, if everything goes as planned. None of these other tapes, however, comes close to challenging a listener's sanity in the way that Mushroom Showdown does.
I am one of the several alter-egos of Charles Rice Goff III. I am best known as a radio host, although I have had some of my reviews published here and there over the years, and have even been involved in occasional recording projects.