Radio 3 Witness

From Kabbala To Cassette Culture

Phrases like “Lo-Fi” and “4-Track” generally have a real specific usage for us Music Critics, as signifiers of a pared-down, witty style of pop tunage played with more soul than skill. Toronto cassette label Radio 3 Witness is going against the grain of this format with releases that apply the low-tech, DIY ethic of post-punk to noisy, improvisational projects with their roots in jazz, avant-rock, and a tinge of Jewish mysticism – resulting in an unlikely intersection of Kabbala and cassette culture.

Radio 3 Witness (R3W) has a dozen or so tapes available or in the works at any one time, most of them in very small runs of 50, 20, or even fewer copies; most of them are also anonymous and cryptically titled, which is the way R3W’s producer and main creative force, Milky Roxx (not his real name) wants it. “It’s not about me,” he explains, “it’s about the music.”

Roxx’s conceptual crossover from indie-DIY to free-improv isn’t surprising, given the popularity of free jazz with Toronto’s indie and hardcore fans and the musical precedent set by bands like Joan of Arc or Ottawa’s late, lamented Lockjaw.

“It’s the spirit of the thing,” sez Roxx. “[Free jazz] people are hardcore people. It’s the idea of going all out, whether you play hardcore, improvisation, or even blues, anything.”

In addition to R3W’s cassette releases, Roxx has formed a CD label called Ain-Soph, a Jewish mystical term that he translates as “a total sound which is all-encompassing.” Ain-Soph’s first release is a solo CD by New York saxophonist Arthur Doyle, and Roxx is interested in releasing material by American avant-guitarists Alan Licht (“the Evan Dando of noise,” he says) and Rudolph Grey.

As for upcoming R3W projects, Roxx is reticent about the details. “If people are interested in listening to themselves, experimenting with themselves and with how they listen to music, they’ll get into it.”

Radio 3 Witness
92 Tanjoe Crescent, Willowdale, Ont. M2M 1P7
All tapes

R3W #01: The Battery Lye
This is rawk, all right – this guitar/bass-and-drums duo tape begins with a blast of arrhythmic punk-rock drumming and builds into a big, stuttering mess with truly sick-sounding guitar tones and bits of tuneless singing – imagine, if you will, a Twilight Zone episode scored by Jad Fair or Lou Barlow.

R3W #05: Adox Sans “Aft”
The most subdued of these three tapes, this is a long ambient piece reminiscent of NYC guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors’ stuff – piano and crackling guitar drones exchange melodic fragments over a background of soft drumming.

R3W #22: Chukei Choshekh “Peace on Earth”
The name of this projects translates roughly as “Laws of Darkness,” and it’s mighty dark – this guitar-drums duo incorporates siren-like icepick stabs of delayed guitar, spastic lo-fi drum breakdowns, and the ominous whine of electric drills and other power tools as the whole thing collapses into a big slab of distortion. Is it safe?

Milky Roxx recommends the following distros/mailorders:
Broadcasting for Reels c/o Centre for Art Tapes, 5665 Cornwallis St. #104, Halifax, NS B3K 1B6
Surefire Distribution, 186 Lincoln St. 2nd Floor, Boston, MA 02111 USA
Revolver, 2525 16th St. 3rd Floor, San Francisco 94103 USA
Ajax, PO Box 805293, Chicago 60680-4114 USA

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