Parlour Tapes+

a contemporary classical cassette label



Our debut release CHAMBERS (by the illustrious / awe-inspiring / Michelin FOUR starred Chicagoans of the Year the Spektral Quartet!) turns five years old TODAY. 0_o

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of this CATALOGUE CLASSIQUE, we’re offering the album for (you guessed it) $5:

For those of you have been with us since CHAMBERS’ debut, you may be asking yourself: “wow, damn, shit-ass: has it really been five years?” Well, fourth-dimensionally speaking, yes. But don’t worry, we here at Parlour Tapes+ haven’t changed much. For example, we still use iMovie to make most of our promo videos:

I MEAN LOOK AT THAT COLOR EDITING. TRULY. WHAT A GEM. Er—sorry, that’s for the 15th anniversary. WHAT A WOOD / SILVERWARE.

Though in some ways, CHAMBERS does seem like a distant, beloved artifact to us. In the five years since its release, Spektral’s roster has changed significantly, nearly every composer on the record has moved away from Chicago, and somehow we managed to release 11 other albums.

Chicago’s contemporary classical music scene (yikes, do people even say that anymore?) has grown a lot since PT+001. Look no further than at all the GLORIOUS RECORDS that have been released since our inception in 2013 (not even counting our own)! We started this label because being among all these wonderful artists was an exciting moment that we wanted to capture, however fleeting it might have been.

Five years later, we’d like to reflect on and honor the moment that is CHAMBERS, even as the specifics of its creation have begun to dissipate in our memories. Like the coveted scent embedded in an article of clothing that’s hidden in your bedroom drawer, it fades a little bit each time you put your nose to it. As does this cassette tape’s sound each time you listen to it.


Needless to say, we’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic over this anniversary, so we thought we’d reminisce with the performers and composers who made this beautiful record possible. Take it away, loves!


“I can’t believe it has been that long… and that it’s only been that long,” is what Russ just replied to me when I mentioned that we’re right up on the 5th anniversary of our debut album, CHAMBERS. 

Sweet merciful jeebus, that project felt so intimidating when we were planning it, and then was so gratifying once the cassettes we’re heading out into the world. Six new or recent works by living Chicago composers, many of them friends, and not an even remotely straightforward/easy chart in the entire bunch. Certain moments form that time stand out to me, like working with the Arditti Quartet cellist Lucas Fels on Hans Thomalla’s onion-skin-paper-thin textures in Albumblatt. Or stressing about gouging my 150-year-old instrument with a guitar pick in Ben Hjertmann’s thrashy String Quartet No. 2, Étude.

And then there’s the recording process itself: setting up shop in a different venue for each piece – from the ultra-wet acoustic of Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston, to the ultra-dry “acoustic” of the Mucca Pazza rehearsal space…which come to think of it, that one was on July 3rd. 

We scheduled a recording session. In Chicago. On July 3rd. It was a photo finish, getting in the last take just as the fireworks began to bombard the block.

Looking back, I’m really proud of this album. It was kind of a bold move, choosing these pieces, embracing vastly different acoustics to match the vibe of each, and deciding to have some supremely weird and wonderful music be our first-ever sonic business card outside of Chicago. Oh, and I’ll always be proud of the fact that our first record was a cassette. We’re a bunch of weirdos, and I love that we partnered with a bunch of weirdos to release this album.

Parlour Tapes+ 4lyfe.


My composing life, as I perceive it, has two phases: before string quartet, and after string quartet. While writing String Quartet No. 1, which Spektral recorded so beautifully in CHAMBERS, I finally figured out how to work productively across a set of musical interests and concerns whose integration had eluded me for... my entire life, up to that point. The pieces and artists represented on the album, and the concurrent launch of Parlour Tapes+, feel like a similarly generative moment in the life of new music in Chicago: the album brought together many people who had come to Chicago from different places, who had become increasingly active in the increasingly active Chicago scene in their own ways over several years, and who were drawn together into this one collection point of CHAMBERS. All the matter concentrated in that point - the album, the moment of my composing life it documented, and the people it brought together - has continued to be a source of creative energy and connection for me during the five years since the release.


The undertaking of rhythm & guitar pick technique that Spektral exhibits Étude, remains a testament to their traiblazery.  The close-up studio recording by Parlour Tapes+ emphasizes the Prog-Rock & Metal flavor of its conceits.  I’m re-inspired 5 years later!


Nostalgia does not accrue to the past moments of our lives with anything approaching linear regularity; it does not accumulate the way hard water cakes the inside of a kettle with mineral sediment. It seems to bunch up around certain knots of memory, self-mythologizing scenes that bear some yet-to-be-articulated significance in the emergent coherence of the narrative we call self. As a way of re-living the past, nostalgia is self-defeating: the substrate moment was never suffused with the same air of portent and never as invested in its own mythic perpetuation. But, with alacrity, we believe the pleasant deception that our lives were ever anything beyond an ongoing process of coping and improvisation.

Whereas, in considering the future, we allay the anxieties that attach to its ineluctable uncertainty by clinging to the hopefulness of possibility, in considering the past, we distract ourselves from our failures (or worse, our unsound successes) by embracing and monumentalizing the fact of its fixity. Of course we do—fixity is our reward for having endured the dissonance between our lofty ambitions and their necessarily incomplete consummation.

The moment I inhabit when I listen back to CHAMBERS is a pleasant one. I enjoy re-enacting the experience of wonder for the possibilities in my life that it summons: the possibilities of a new city, the possibilities of intellectual and aesthetic experimentation, and the possibilities of the beautiful and exhilarating community of individuals in which I found myself. That moment as I now re-live it undoubtedly never existed, but it is no worse for having been as provisional and halting in its time as the present moment is in its. Alongside the happily deluded indulgence of its mythologization, I will celebrate the memory of its complexity and its imperfection, and of the complex and imperfect people that lived it alongside me.


The Party (2016): I DO WHAT I WANT

On April 30th, Ensemble Dal Niente is throwing a huge party. They throw it every two years. Their first was in 2012, a collaboration with sassy scoundrel Marino Formenti. This time around, Parlour Tapes is a co-conspirator in the planning and execution and performing and VIP hour game-show hosting.

What we, PT+, do might not exist without the experience that was The Party (2012). For many of us, the way we listened to music really opened up that night. I remember lying on a mattress in the middle of the floor, eating Nik Jirasek’s gourmet popcorn and listening to Feldman next to someone I didn’t know, feeling kind of like I was in an opium den (a very fancy, less toxic opium den). I’ll be honest, I DID fall asleep for a minute during the Feldman, AND I FEEL NO SHAME ABOUT THAT. It was great. I woke up eventually, kept listening, and focused more on my own listening desires than on what I thought the composer was trying to tell me. Good, bad, I dunno, but that encounter spoiled me. From then on, I embraced that, for a lot of music and for a lot of art in general, I can effectively curate my own mental experience regardless of a piece or event’s framework. I just have to remember the feeling of the fancy opium den.

And it is that mentality (the fancy opium den mentality) that fuels our work as PT+. As an organization, we wanted the freedom to do basically whatever we want, and to curate our own experiences on a larger scale. In pursuit of that goal, we help produce the projects we're excited about, we get to work with big weirdos on a regular basis, and we’ve all found that PT+ is a place where we can access and indulge those creative crannies in the far corners of our brains that would otherwise atrophy from lack of use in our day jobs.

All of that to say that when Dal Niente approached us to play a role in this year’s Party, we were all “OMAGAAAA DUH YESSSS" and peed our pants a little. This is a primo opportunity for us to dig around in the aforementioned brain crannies.

AND SO, in grand metaphorical-opium-den fashion, this month, we bring you The Party (2016). We’re feeling very lucky that we get to be a part of it. Come out and do what you want while we do what we want (but, you know, maybe go downstairs if you feel like chatting during a really quiet piece of music—BUT OTHERWISE WOO DO YOUR OWN ADVENTURE).

* a word from co-founder J. Lyle*





Remember those remixes we were talking about for the Parlour Pagananza? Well, we're sneaking you one sous la table:

And there's eight more where that came from! We're going to be gyrating INTENSELY to these jams come Saturday, and we'd like to gyrate in or around your general vicinity.  Unfortunately, we don't think we can pull a Seven Veils to get you to our little masquerade, but we can definitely throw you a discount.

SO.  Buy your tickets to the Parlour Pagananza today and they'll only cost you $20! That's right: twenty bucks for earth's enriching bounty (foodz / boozez), the summoning of nature spirits (live musicz / performance artz), and the blessing of renewal and rebirth (remixz).  And remember: you get to take those remixes home with you at the end of the night! Call it a Parlour party favor.

Offer(ing)'s good until 7pm so BUY 'EM RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW!

Who knows, you might even see these weirdos at our party:

Hello World: Doug Perkins Guest Blogs

“Hello World” or my impromptu collaboration with the Westminster Abbey 

Company of Ringers

My project for *AND came out of a fit of inspiration and serendipity (as many good 

things do). When I signed on to this project, I did so out a sense of possibility more 

than a long desire to collaborate with someone specific. My strategy was to spend 

the summer being creative with friends and having something to submit by the time 

the deadline came along. I assumed that my submission would be with one of my 

close friends or regular collaborators. I definitely did not expect it to be with some 

famous bell ringers that I never met.  


I went to London in July with my wife and 5 year old son, Jacob, for some vacation 

and we inadvertently found ourselves in the middle of the birth of Prince George. 

We were staying across from Kensington Palace (where Kate and William were 

waiting for the baby), accidentally outside the hospital when they were laboring, 

and even outside of Buckingham Palace when they made the announcement of the 

birth(just driving past in a cab with stomachs bursting with too much great Indian 

food). We were just accidental participants in the frenzy (and I cant believe I am 

telling this much detail…)



This all took a fantastic turn for the musical when we were strolling back across the 

Thames the following afternoon. As we were walking, I heard an incredible sound 

and did the annoying that that music dorks do (to the initial chagrin of my family). 

Jake's pic of me at the Abbey.jpeg

We followed this sound as it reverberated through the streets until I came upon 

Westminster Abbey. They were pealing the bells in honor of the new prince and it 

was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! It was beautiful, chaotic, hypnotic, and wonderful. The grass 

outside of the bell tower was littered with people taking in this sound, so we joined 

them. My son engaged in trying to wrestle his mom and I got out my recorder and 

went to work capturing some audio. We eventually all laying around for an hour 

and I ended up with some great recordings of the Ringers doing their thing, mixed 

with street noises and my sons occasional comments and other interruptions. 


Once I was home, I wrote some music for me to play on some chimes, mixed it 

with some of the sounds from the Abbey and the end result is a beautiful fanfare of 

Trans-Atlantic chiming. Jacob even makes an appearance toward the end with one 

of his “woo-hoo’s making it on the tape. (I should note that he takes great pride in 

his contribution.) I guess this is my audio postcard and response to what I did on 

my summer vacation.

Jacob walking in London.jpeg

*AND: Cracking Open the Cortázar

On the upcoming *AND project album, you’ll hear a track recorded collaboratively, but with great distance between each layer, by 6 people in 3 cities and 2 countries. First, Katherine Young, bassoon and pedals; Joann Cho, piano and mallets; and Jenna Lyle (me), voice; recorded a little something in Chicago. We made 4 tracks, chopped them up, inserted silences, and mixed them into one file. We sent that file to Mauricio Pauly in Manchester, UK, where he forced distortion by close-mic’ing a small orchestral bass drum and a floor tom, then layered that with, and I quote, “a beat up Rhodes [synth] amplified with contact microphones on its chassis and then put through a hot feedback loop through a guitar amp.” Mauricio mixed his work into the Cho/Young/Lyle track and sent it on to Ariana and Chris Warren in San Diego. Ariana threw some subtle, yet intense Eb and bass clarinet into the mix, and Chris worked his impulse response magic to make the piece’s ambience travel between about 30 different acoustic realms in the course of 6 minutes and 20 seconds. When you listen to Cracking Open the Cortázar, you’ll hear a piece that not only traveled to become what it is, but also embodies the idea of traversal.

We thought it might be nice to let you in on our ludicrously involved google-doc brainstorming session (color coded of course). Peek into our process and be enlightened . . . or . . . just . . . SO confused. You’ll most likely have a similar experience listening to our track. We like that about it.

Jenna rambles:

Create some kind of narrative of the piece traveling?

-I mean it’s going to travel anyway, 3 different recordings, over time, resulting in a single 5 minute simultaneity...

-Maybe the content could be about direction in some way or trespassing or traversing IS THAT CHEESY?-makes me think of the Partch Western Walking music...



Katie: travel influences: The Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortazar

I’ve been obsessed with and interested in this book for a long time because of the way they slow down time on the journey that is documented in this fanciful travelogue. They slow down time by carefully investigating minutia of the places they go. (They stop at every rest stop between Paris and Marseille, which is a pretty short distance, but a lot of rest stops.) Mauricio: love this book - definitely a nice image. There's something iterative in each stretch - like each new stop starts a new layer at an ever-fattening zero point. Kind of like what we are aiming to do here!

Jenna: or should the piece be about one thing, and then its process be another thing?

-like it could be a piece about plants that travels. Katie: I kinda think if we have a general enough idea, it can work for both...or maybe a few ideas that people can apply to their process/materials however they want.

jenna: Do we want to interact with or deeply consider the end result recorded media (cassette tape--intentionally low-fi)? How can our piece comment on its media? What does it’s embodiment on cassette tape mean for the way that we approach our artistic product?

Joann: I would personally rather get a high quality recording, just so the layering stays transparent on some level. Jenna: Truth, it’ll probably be mastered with something a little closer to pop-music compression after our final submission. But I think high-quality recording is best for the first layer. I was thinking more about the manner in which the material itself in some way comments on it’s final product. In some way, that’s already happening here. It’s a piece that can really only exist in recorded form. And I like Mauricio’s reference to splicing, which evokes ‘tape’ music specifically. I don’t suggest we do things to make our digital product sound like a tape, but it IS pretty interesting that a digital recording will end up in analog form. Could just be something we keep in our performative consciousness without explicitly making a statement. -jl

katie: Thought: tapes loop.

04Aug2013 Mauricio says:

One of the more interesting things for me in a project like this is the ability to recontextualize work already done through subtle (or bold! or whatever) addition of layers whether these are applied at the foreground or the background or by inserting memory markers which upset or redefine those already established.

A question:

Is the process unidirectional? Meaning - it passes through each of us and then is finished? Unidirectional works for me. If the final product leaves something to be desired, however, and we feel the need before Sept. 1 to make edits, I’d propose group- suggested and approved changes. Exquisite Corpse is beautiful, but if we wanna make changes, I say we do. Jenna. Exquite Corpse is interesting....but how would it work? Would Jenna, Joann and I “fold” our recording to allow for the next? Or would that be part of Mauricio’s job?-Katie

I ask not necessarily to suggest it being iterative but actually to suggest that at each stage we can retrieve previous states within its structure. For example, as Ariana receives mine she also has access to the original Katie/Joann/Jenna version and can build an edit that at some moments bypasess (erases!) my layer. That is, we all have not only additive but also subtractive powers at a layer by layer level. Or would this beat the purpose of the original idea? I’m great with that. Each time, we pass on raw original tracks as well as the newly-edited comprehensive track?-JL I really like the idea of erasure or forgetting being a part of the process....Here’s a thought: you know how when you go somewhere it takes so much longer than when you return? This concept might offer a structure... And it relates to Jenna’s idea of there being iteration somehow in the piece.-Katie

Pulling together these ideas, here’s a proposal:

Step 1: KAY-JL-JC record a 5 minute piece
Step 2: KAY-JL-JC “fold” their piece - ie. disguise it’s linear form somehow by chopping some bits out and leaving silence.
Step 3: MP receives this and records his piece - working around and with both the sounding and silent materials he’s received from JL-KAY-JC
Step 4: MP “folds” this composite piece, erasing either his layer or both his layer and JC-JL-KAY’s layers before passing it onto Arianna
Step 4: Arianna receives this and records her piece - working around and with both the sounding and silent materials she’s received
Step 5: ??? does Arianna make a “fold” before passing it off? Or is Chris’s reverb the final “fold” / “unfold”

Mauricio: My exquisite corpse analogy was an untidy one... there is indeed an inherent folding already in the sending of a mix...[I mean: when k/j/j send me their file it will be a bunch of things already mixed (folded!) into one which I won't be able to edit] ...but the content is not hidden from the subsequent composer.

Re the prep:

There are a great deal of decisions which even if made verbally (e.g. on this document) will not pierce the inherent exquisite corpse nature of the project. As I receive the recording, what will influence what I add onto it will be mostly the recording itself - perhaps very secondarily, the verbalized content. [Please disagree - let's add a big bold 'in my opinion' to all I'm writing here]

good questions! I agree and, just to be uber clear, I think that the hierarchy of priorities should be: (1) follow the simple rules we’re outlining below; (2) listen to the recording and respond to the sounds and structures you perceive; (3) use whatever sound sources you want to do so -- everyone involved should leave his/her stamp however they want and have been invited into this project trusting the aesthetic and future choices in the project!; (4) keep in mind discussion in this document - Katie

Maurcio: With this in mind, I think an important question would be: What decisions can we make collectively, verbally, in this document, before we start working?

1. duration
5-7 minutes
2. limitations of (perceivable) source (that is, if we want any constraints of the sort) I don’t think there should be any limitations on this, personally
3. rules of practice (e.g. "don't cut the flow, just add to the mix but don't splice"...or perhaps "everyone is allowed a maximum of 1 splice") Perhaps a limit to the number of erasures of previous material? Yes - I think a limit to the number / duration of erasures would be important. But I have a question: is a splice an erasure or a re-ordering of the linearity? I think a reordering is ok, but allowing for this would inform how we construct this first layer, I’d think
4. Do we have an overarching “MESSAGE”? i.e. “place,” “travel,” “reel,” “applesauce is delicious”....?-JL I like it being about travel and memory (forgetting) and distance....Physical distance, but also emotional distance /proximity (?)’s like we’re in a long-distance relationship...-Katie M: beautiful!

Jenna: final product to look something like the following?



. . . . or something

Recording at Joann's; Baby Elaeth supervises.

Recording at Joann's; Baby Elaeth supervises.

Things Katie, Joann & Jenna did & thought about today 08/07/2013:

We recorded preliminary materials in 4 takes, which we’ll edit this weekend into our layer--probably a series of blocks (provided that’s approved by all collaborators?).

-Take 1: proximity/closeness, molecular obstacles to absolute closeness, transients

-Take 2: journey to and from; processional & recessional

-Take 3: evocation of “place,” stagnation, 3 places far apart simultaneously, leaving open space, deconstructing sound production and individual parameters of a single material

-Take 4: Risk, the actual moment and act of risk taking, not the anxiety preceding or the fallout/reward following; the RISK; the cliff-jump--within the constructs of a “comfortable space

Mauricio's recording setup

Mauricio's recording setup



What I've done so far:

I've recorded a series of layers between 2'20'' and 4'40'' that, amongst other things exaggerate the gestural contour of the k/j/j original. At this point (this may change as I move fwd) I think this will be my busiest participation - the rest will be more contained within the original texture so as to allow this current bulge to stand out.

Today. . .

. . .  is the first day of the rest of our label lives.  That's right: our water has broken, we're working the Lamaze as best we can, and this baby is coming out feet first, STOMPING & SCREAMING.

We're talking, of course, about our first ever release, CHAMBERS.   We just got the final ultrasound back this week and it's looking to be a hefty carriage:


Of course, none of this would be possible without the wonderful fathers four that helped us bring this bundle of joy into the world, the Spektral Quartet.   It's been an undeniable labor of love working with these gentlemen, from the exhausting recording sessions to the sedentary mixing sessions to the ever-present promotion.  We'll be honest, at first we thought it was only physical; they got us in the studio fast and it was all business:


But we soon learned that even after the deed had been done (SIX.  TIMES.), these guys we're committed to us, and us to them.  And even though we're out of the studio now, Spektral still knows how to show a record label a good time! Post-production, the chemistry has never been stronger.  I mean, my goodness, we're still swooning over this video of Russ:

Needless to say, it's been fun making this record.  So what better way to give the warmest of welcomes to our newborn than by throwing it a spectacular release party? If you're in Chicago, come out to the Constellation tonight for the celebration.  Tickets (which include a pretty lil' cassette tape with your purchase) can be found here.

And if you can't make the show but want to send us good vibes and help us with our breathing, spread the word today! Share our promo videos.  Tune in to WFMT at 5pm Central and listen to our interview on the radio show  Relevant Tones!

Oh.  And please buy our tape.  You've seen them stacks grow. . .

Tape Staxxx.gif

. . .  Now make them disappear.

We'll see you all once we're out of the delivery room.