Last week, we told you about Soap Library, the “holistic” tape label specializing in cassettes that are not just objects to behold with your with your eyes and ears, but with your nose too. The brains behind this operation, Kerry Santullo and Rachel Barnhart–former co-workers at the Greenpoint-based Mexican Summer and, uh, current friends–decided to branch out from the predictability of the music industry machine, and go it alone with releases that are anything but “mechanical,” and instead occupy “more of a softer space.”
Soap Library’s latest, Mary Lattimore’s Returned to Earth, officially drops on New Years Day, the minute we escape this rotten hell-spiral of a year (RIP Princess Leia, who just this morning joined the legions of awesome dead people killed by 2016). While you wait for the pain to subside, the tape is now available for pre-order.
So there’s that. But we also caught some whiffs of tape numero tres, rising somewhere in the near future, when the horror of this year will be nothing more than a dull throbbing in our stomachs (or a pang so unbearable that it pales in comparison, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes, eh?).
We already told you a bit about Returned to Earth, a two-track cassingle accompanied by an aromatic “sniffer,” as Kerry called it, and a packet of flower seeds. And now we’ve got this delightfully sketchy animated trailer (created by John Andrews of the band Quilt). It’s all just part of Soap Library’s mission to take what’s a decidedly simple medium contained within handheld plastic capsules, and expand their sonic spew outward into much larger multi-sensory experiences. They actually end up kind of straddling time and space, if your really stop to think about it.
Simply put, while listening to the music and gazing in wonder at the album artwork made by Jon Campolo (of the band PILL), stick that sniffer baby up your snout nozzle for delicious scents of lavender, rosemary, nutmeg, and sweet orange (which admittedly sounds a little bit nicer than eau d’horse piss— but to each her own). As Kerry pointed out, scent is one of the more powerful memory triggers, offering potent trips back in time. Soap Library’s betting that they can carve out some new neural channels, so that pressing play will also cue a deluge of sounds and visuals.
There’s another layer to all this too: tapes are especially prone to disintegration and transformation over time, and that’s just part of what Kerry loves about their chosen format. “Tapes are like soap in way — they evaporate as you use them,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “Roughly the same size and shape, too.” Even the trailer vid embraces the ephemeral, flickering shapes vanish as if rendered in disappearing ink, and figures fall apart and reemerge as something entirely different from their original form.
Oh yeah– and Lattimore’s music ain’t half bad either. Returned to Earth is dedicated to Scott Kelly– the tweeting, social media-capable, flower-sniffing (literally) astronaut who recently returned from a stint aboard the International Space Station where he grew the first orange zinnia plant in space. An annoying friend might declare this “sooooo random,” but Lattimore’s angelic harp serenades, intermittently whimsical and downright epic, are the perfect homage, as they mirror outer space and its ability to be at once incomprehensibly infinite and vastly simple.
For track two, the harpist brought on Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, who plays both the guitar and piano for a six-minute improvisational space jam, which launches the cassingle into a whole ‘nother galaxy.
Elaborating on the ultra-soothing relaxation vibes that run through their two releases so far, Soap Library’s putting together yet another tape in the same vein. Meta Flux from Jacob Becker is equally worthy of rewarding yourself with a sage-smokin’, steam-soaked jacuzzi float, complete with a Coca-Cola Slurpee. “He uses samples and blends it all together to create this sort of dreamscape,” Kerry explained.
Since Becker’s sound is more “city-like,” as opposed to Lattimore’s earth/space dichotomy, they’re cooking up a special salt scrub to go along with the cassette. It’s a rather appropriate accessory seeing that the tape is due out in early March, when winter misery reaches its ultra-awful low point. You know exactly what I’m talking about– those last few weeks when we’re forced to trudge through a gnarly mix of salt, yellow snow, and garbage that fills the streets until true warm hits? Thought so. “It gets all over your pants, in your shoes, it gets all over you, it really just becomes a part of you,” Kerry rightly observed.
That’s also an apt metaphor for Soap Library itself, which the founders explain is “holistic” not just in terms of creating mega-chill, all-encompassing experiences for their listeners, but for the artists as well. Often, their musicians are caught up in bands or other projects, and rarely do they get the sort of individual attention that they deserve as solo artists, composers, and instrumentalists. “We like to think of ourselves as this full-service library,” Kerry said.