Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

Analog Addicted Label Lighten Up Sounds Prepares to Unleash the New CLEAR FLUIDS EP Via VHS for Your Fix of Fantasy SciFi Synth Sounds and Analog Era Insanity! And Did I Mention They Release 8-Tracks? BELIEVE IT, MY MAGNETIC MANIACS!

Lighten Up Sounds proprietor Matthew Himes has certainly assembled an impressively prolific avalanche of analog creations over the past several years. His active roster and alumni of audio entities span the globe, harnessing aural inclinations from sci-fi tinged soundscapes to head-throbbing experimental harsh noise. His passion for high quality packaging and physical presentations mixed with an ardent affection for warm formats has shaped the meticulous artistry that defines Lighten Up. Read on, my fellow Videovores, and prepare to possibly trade in your spare VCR for an 8-track player…


The Lighten Up Sounds Logo. Cryptic, man. DIG IT.

LM: Can you tell us a little bit about Lighten Up Sounds? How and when did it start? MH: Lighten Up officially began in Pittsburgh early 2008. I had been self-releasing cassettes and various documents for years but without any real label, so to speak. There needed to be an imprint to glue everything together and serve as a home for the art and sound being produced. As a working musician, it is always nice to have some killer releases in the merch case at a gig. It can be the difference between eating a big pizza or not. But more importantly, it is just a part of constantly creating music and art; you need an outlet for that work and hopefully are able to find an effective way to share it with other people. The label has evolved quite a bit since the early days, but it is really not much different from where it started. The quality standards are set extremely high, prices kept reasonable. I do everything myself, try to ship orders ASAP and work very hard to give the material the physical presentation that I feel it deserves.

Burial Ground8

The insanely groovy BURIAL GROUND 8-Track release influenced by exactly what you think! This is analog awesome.

You’ve already released an army an analog awesomeness, including cassettes, lathe-cut records, limited edition VHS… and… 8-track?! DIG IT. Tell us all about the releases you’ve put together thus far. This new batch will bring the catalog # up to 75, so I will mention a few but it would be difficult to cover everything here. There are Discogs and Bandcamp sites that aren’t complete but have a lot of the past releases documented. I put out things that speak to me personally, and I have what could be considered an extreme ear. Lighten Up releases dominantly cassettes, but I work to put things out on all of my favorite formats. The artist roster ranges from all over the US, and sprawls into Russia, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden. I do have specific focus on representing my favorite artists from the Minneapolis, MN area which is where I’m from. Some beautiful things happening all around us. Past examples might include the BURIAL GROUND - “Pieces” eight track cartridge which came out January of ’13. BURIAL GROUND is a solo project from Wisconsin, easily one of my favorite harsh noise artists working today. He is also a serious VHS collector; he does extremely brutal wall noise which is always focused on his favorite horror flicks. The “Pieces” 8-track was limited to 22 copies, and sounded really great when they were finished. Love that sweet warm ANALOG sound! Nothing compares… it is like my ultimate audio format. Another cool example from a while back might be THE HOWLING HEAD – “Nausea Swamp c20” cassette. Short and harsh static noise w/ tape manipulations, feedback and extreme amplified motor sound… no instruments! That one came with a custom printed vomit bag. Some packaging is very simple, others elaborate, whatever seems best suited to the work. There have been tapes screwed into wooden objects, sewn shut packages, painted cases or screen-printed tapes and artwork. We’ve done two VHS releases in the past, both of which were documents of 8mm film loops and Super 8 / 16mm film experiments with live improvisational sound. The lathe cut records are particularly beautiful art objects, each hand cut one at a time on an antique machine.

Howling Head

THE HOWLING HEAD - "Nausea Swamp c20" limited edition cassette release. Harsh enough to make you honk up your nachos, mang! Good thing you got this doggy bag with it, eh?!

You’ve got a bunch of releases in the works, too, due out this Winter (AKA soon!). Can you give us the specs and details on these upcoming projects? How do you even go about producing an 8-track, man? Too groovy. Really excited for this upcoming batch! New GERMAN ARMY - "T’rung" cassette is a burner. They are a mysterious Southern California electro duo who straight kill it. Check the fresh video for Six Leg Counterpart from the upcoming cassette right here. A new cassette album coming from TIREHOUSE TAPES, a duo from New Mexico. They’ve been building a house out there in the desert and make amazing and detailed electroacoustic non-music with curious sources. New jams coming from THE HOWLING HEAD - (Harsh motor sound); TWIN WHIPS - (viola / electronics / tape duo swamp attack); MEN OF SCIENCE - (tape / violin / medicinal dirt). I like to keep a few surprises, but this upcoming stack of stuff should be a whopper. Yeah, really stoked about doing a new long play 8-track release for BURIAL GROUND, dedicated this time to the amazing film CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. Making functional high quality 8-track releases is extremely labor intensive and time consuming… really a labor of love for the final result. I personally collect and listen to 8 tracks anyway and own a high end eight track recorder that is a great joy of mine. It is a format that I love, and I had wanted to release work that way for a long time, so finally decided to make it happen. I recycle cartridges for these projects, but I am extremely picky about it. I have been using only the most carefully chosen tapes, nothing even remotely grimy or with foam pads ever goes in the machine. I use only the nicest felt and metal padded tapes and then sort them to be approximately the same length. Variables can be frustrating and quality control needs to be very careful to make sure they turn out exactly right. I cue that mint condition Lawrence Welk – “200 Years Of American Music” cartridge to the beginning then bulk erase it clean with an electro magnet, de-magnetize it and record over it. It is actually quite satisfying to give these things new life as a contemporary music artifact worth having. They are duplicated one at a time that way in real time from the original source audio. Quality tested again to make sure it is 100%. Labels are removed and new artwork is made for the cartridge. The final results are remarkable I think… so warm. It definitely caters to a limited audience. Last but not least there is a CLEAR FLUIDS - “After Dark” VHS / lathe cut / cassette release that has been a long time coming. Very happy to finally make that available! CLEAR FLUIDS makes what I would call erotic science fiction music. It is very strong thematically, more like a distinct persona than a band with songs. There are two public videos from the upcoming release up on You Tube to give folks an idea of what to expect:

Fluids lot 2

A look at the upcoming VHS release for the CLEAR FLUIDS EP due out any time now. Dig that classic MELT sticker, man. And huh-whut's that on the edge? NICE.

Why put this music on VHS? Why do you think CLEAR FLUIDS a good fit for these slabs o’ analog? What will the visuals consist of? The CLEAR FLUIDS - ”After Dark” music video EP was put together specifically for release as a VHS tape. In operating the label, I put out art and music on my favorite formats; they are what I feel to be superior formats and I do it with the hope that other people appreciate them for the same reasons I do. The physical format of any release is an integral part of the way the work is intended to be experienced. If I really love a movie, I would prefer to have the original VHS release of the film for my personal collection. I suppose that is telling of me and my personal taste, but VHS is what I like. These new videos and music recordings are worth experiencing. The material is strong so I feel that it demands a certain significant physical presence. If I could choose any format on which to experience music videos it is obviously VHS, so the choice is easy. Nice big clamshell with plenty of room for artwork. The video sources are various and vague but are directly related to the golden era of tracking-issue home video taping and grainy cathode ray transmissions. Kaleidoscopic exercise programs, camcorder spelunking, midnight movies, romantic pantyhose advertisements, everything layered on top of each other and heavily zonked. Each song has a respective theme and individual music video, but they all relate to each other and are presented in a series to form a sort of psychedelic electro-opera. CLEAR FLUIDS definitely has a sound and vibe of its own, with a distinct agenda, but I can see some inspiration from and connection to some of the classic B flick sound-trackers. While the work isn’t exactly “horror” music, it definitely carries a sense of cinematic tension and at points has a thriller vibe and driving synths that might appeal to fans of John Carpenter, Goblin, etc. Folks that appreciate that sort of thing should check it out and hopefully groove upon it. The release will be limited to 33 VHS copies, all of which will include an audio cassette version of the album. The cassette features audio material not featured on the VHS and vice versa. 23 copies are the standard edition, and 10 will be the "deluxe" version, which will feature different artwork, lime green clamshells and different color tape stock, as well as including a lathe-cut flexi 7" record featuring an exclusive CLEAR FLUIDS track otherwise unavailable. Should be very cool. A crude science fiction synthesizer fantasy. Strange and banging soundtrack for deep head space and cruel libidos.

The Omen

The absolutely stunning ultra-limited edition cassette collection featuring BURIAL GROUND's harsh noise tribute to THE OMEN TRILOGY. Limted to 13 copies. And a lucky 13 those are who were able to snatch this up. Lucky 13, indeed. But, luckily for you, you can DL it RIGHT HERE.

What is it about physical, analog media that really does it for you? How about VHS specifically? What’s the attraction for you? I guess it comes down to personal preference. Physical interaction is the way that I think music and art are most powerfully experienced. I think analog sounds and looks better, is more personal, warmer and more character. It is what I relate to. Cassettes are more portable and durable than a CD-R without question. In my opinion tape has a sonic color that cannot be reproduced. People try to digitally emulate it, without ever really capturing the secret touch of that sweet magnetic tape. While it is not advisable, I can throw my bare VHS tape across the room, carve my name into it with a pocket knife and still pick it up and play it without any problem, or at worst simply repair it and keep rolling. DVDs and CD-Rs feel so fragile and disposable. I want to be able to put something on whenever I want, hold it with weight in my hands, read the box and check out the artwork, spend time with it while not attached to a computer. Analog is what I am most comfortable with. I love vinyl, but honestly I don’t go around buying a bunch of $30 LPs every month. I can however buy a couple of cassettes for a few bucks each and check out interesting new music pretty much whenever I want to.


Another sleek analog assembly from LUS, featuring the experimental sounds of MYRRH. Dig it RIGHT HURR.

Do you collect VHS yourself? What are your thoughts on the current resurgence in interest in VHS that’s happening? As far as VHS, yes, I am a hopeless collector. Sometimes it feels sort of out of hand. I have been wanting to thin out my shelves but there are always plenty of tapes I am specifically looking for so it feels circular. There are a lot of reasons why I collect, many of which feel sort of obvious to me but are difficult to explain. It feels historically significant to the films. With VHS being the first, sometimes only format that some of these films were originally released in, it makes sense to want to own the original release. Thrill of the hunt, inferior DVD prints, cut and edited versions, beautiful artwork, you know the reasons VHS rules. They bring me joy. I hunt in the wild steadily, and I have found some surprising things for it. I love discovering films that I never knew existed by finding that random tape, or learning about a new distributor to get into. The online digital consumption of music, movies and art has taught people to expect these things for free, almost with a sense of entitlement. But there is so much history that has fallen through the cracks, so much I just don't know about yet... and there is always new work being made. There is nothing quite like having a tape in your hands, rewinding it and just physically experiencing it on a different level. I think digital technology can serve as an excellent tool to help share and archive some of this work, but I think VHS, and analog tape in general is such a powerful method of ultimately experiencing the work. I find it completely irresistible. As far as a resurgence, I don’t really know. VHS is a beautiful format; I understand why people collect. Certain tapes in excellent condition can get expensive because they are sought after by collectors, which makes it all the more satisfying to find a cool random gem out in the wild, or to finally score that most wanted tape. Everybody collects in their own way, for their own reasons. I just try to find the way of collecting that works best for me and appreciate the VHS. Having people so fiercely dedicated to preserving the format is a good thing. If I can score a few cool tapes, I’m into it. Folks have been releasing some crazy films, dedicated to supporting some pretty obscure work. I see that as only positive.


A beautifully constructed cassette edition for the experimental guitar musings of JOHN ZUMA ST. PELVYN. Get drifty, wispy and chill, mang.

Anything else you want shout out to all the analog addicts out there? Thanks for the interest and support. Clean the heads, adjust the tracking, and dub it loud.

Matthew Himes gets it, Tapeheads. There’s really just no other way to put it. He’s honed in on the essential beauty and joy of analog formats; and personally, I’m absolutely elated that there’s a person of Matt’s taste, drive and understanding handling limited edition releases of analog-inclined art and music, adding his flavor to the melting pot of warm format creations that seem to be more steadily swirling into our modern world. And as you’ve read above, Matt and his Lighten Up Sounds label deals with extremity in every sense of the word… including availability! So, my fellow analog aficionados, be sure to groove on over to Lighten Up Sounds Official Facebook, Twitter and Blog to get your fill of some outstanding analog obsessed appreciations, manipulations and celebrations. Remember, my frands: Only Analog Is Real.

Groove and Groove and Stay Warm.

Josh Schafer

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