With a global heartbeat, Lisbon-based URUBU Tapes are a hidden gem in the tape music universe. Reflecting a sense of ‘doing it here and now’, the Portuguese label has gathered an inspiring collection of delightful experimentations in its existence. It’s hard to define URUBU’s aesthetic; however, that’s part of its magic—to expect the unexpected. Thus far, its output has been diverse and the independent label has kept a steady rhythm.
As is the norm on the tape circuit, releases are of a limited number, with the design crafted with care and consistently captivating. It’s not a secret that nowadays some of the most interesting and forward-thinking sounds are coming from DIY labels in particular (e.g., Where to Now?, Opal Tapes or Hausu Mountain, to name but a few), and the decision to consistently follow a cassette-based format is not so much for the retromania appeal but rather for the usual reasons—that cassettes are cheap, easy to distribute and wrap the recordings in a dusty warmth. All the same, in 2017, amongst flac files and easy-access to terabytes of cloud-based storage, quality and distribution no longer pose the same challenges for labels; however, in all honesty, for someone who loves and cares about the entire concept of a release, a tape—or should we say, a damn pretty tape—is always an object to fall deeply in love with. URUBU knows this and makes an effort to keep its releases engaging to the eyes, most of which are personally signed by the artist André Trindade, the man of the house.
If the latest chapter drills found sounds into a surreal, foggy collage of a humming dream from a soviet ghost-world, what comes before brings a deluge of magic dust to the mind. The sketchy forms crafted by self-styled British noise goon Panelak somehow succeeds in repelling the electrifying energy balls hurled by Porto-based F_nt_sm_ (pronounced Fantasma). The sonic tunnel extends deeper still when jumping into Jejuno’s cave train, taking the listener on a slow-moving ride to stellar, fucked-up territories.
This amusement park, much like Eraserhead or Pynchon readings, also brings Bartholins Glands’ crystal cracks to light in a live bar recording from one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods. Accidental or not, URUBU manages to capture the shady goings-on in the cultural reshaping of the city through the process of gentrification, which started a few years ago and continues at a relentless pace. In full combat mode, Trindade steps up with his amalgamation of circuit-bent gear, churning out rough textures and loose spheres in ‘Museu Geológico’—one of a number of excerpts taken from his improv sets. In addition, the label hysterically claims to offer us “the only transparent mineral tape ever produced” via new-age visionary Garcia da Selva. The possibilities of getting lost in time and space are pretty limitless, and at the end rests the flow of URUBU: endearing vibes for disintegrating souls.
By Nuno Afonso