Joss — Billy Hwang's Roadside Con — Joss is Ambrose Liu, a singer/songwriter/home-recordist from West Windsor, NJ, who counts Tom Waits, Daniel Lanois, and REM as influences. Liu has been doing solo-acoustic shows for the last several years and in 1998 he decided wanted to record. He went into a "proper studio with decent gear and an engineer," spent $600 to record one song, and ended up being less than satisfied with the results. It was then that he decided that it would be better to record on his own with his 4-track. Liu, despite being a solo-acoustic artist live, wanted to make a rock album — something more in line with his listening tastes. To record, he would take his Yamaha MT4X 4-track over to drummer Tom Kale's house to record the drums. This was done by setting up three mics — on the kick, snare, and one overhead — and recording to tracks 1-3. Liu's scratch vocal and guitar would go onto track 4. He'd then go home and bounce tracks 1-3 to track 4. The first three tracks were now free for guitars, bass, vocals, and other assorted instruments (accordion, tampura, Chinese hammered dulcimer) played by Liu and various guests. Next, he'd transfer the tracks to ADAT and add some additional instrumentation at John Bailey's SS Sound studio (Hamilton, NJ). Some of the tracks were mixed by Bailey to DAT through the studio's board, while others were mixed by Greg Frey (who also mastered the album) on Pro Tools at his Graphic Sound studio in Ringoes, NJ. Liu says he found that mixing on Pro Tools was definitely more flexible. Billy Hwang's Roadside Con has a complexity and depth that grows more apparent upon each listening as well as an accessibility that makes it easy to enjoy the first time around. The CD can be ordered for $10 through Liu at Paper Scissor Music, 25 Birchwood Ct., West Windsor, NJ 08550, or through www.cdfreedom.com/joss. Check out the Joss website at www.houseofjoss.com. Email: liuambrose@juno.com.

Best Kept Secret (Cassette Label) — So... I get one of my regular packages from TAPE OP headquarters chock full of self-released music. I look inside and there's A BUNCH OF CASSETTES! I find this pretty cool 'cause I don't get many cassettes these days. Upon closer inspection I notice that they all look kind of similar, even though they're from different artists. It turns out that they're all from the same label, Italy's Best Kept Secret. So what about the music? Well, in all I received eleven tapes from Best Kept Secret and there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. Much of the music sounded like home recorded four-track stuff, but that varied depending on the artist. England's Vinyl Bill offered atmospheric pop, Chicago's Twelfth House had fine folk-rock, while Montana's Lettuce Prey's tape featured good indie-rock. There were also great tapes from Sweden's Moonbabies and popular cassette artist Orange Cake Mix. Those new to Best Kept Secret might want to start with the compilation We Are Not Alone — Songs For The Lo-Fi Generation. This tape includes songs by previous Under The Radar/Cassette Corner artists MJB, Ray Carmen, and C. Browne Jr., as well as tunes by legendary cassette artists like K.D. Schmitz, Linda Smith, The Laces, and Dino DiMuro. Most cassettes sell for only $4.00 (send well concealed cash, please) from Best Kept Secret, c/o Alessandro Crestani, Via Biron di Sotto, 101, 36100 Vicenza, ITALY. For more information go to the official website at www.indiepages.com/bestkeptsecret.

Nerve Generator — Longtime readers of Tape Op may recall my fondness for Philadelphia's Nerve Generator. Their1998 CD, This Is 4-Track, was great and contained "The Death Song", to my ears the quintessential example of what can be done on a cassette 4-track with proper planning and ingenuity. A cassette, Void In The Picture, followed before leader James Botha moved to New York. He released the very fine solo album, appropriately titled The Generator, consisting of tracks recorded over a period of several years. In late 1999 a new Nerve Generator CD EP, More Songs About Mountains And Movie Stars was released and found the band moving in more of an electronic new wave direction....

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