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Earlier this month, they are gutting a body of water reissued their formidable 2019 album Destiny XL on Citrus City Records. The tape sounds as fresh as any rock music born in our time, but lives quite alone on the fuzzed-out extremities of shoegaze – like familiar post-punk turned inside out, upside down and occasionally backwards.

Led by frontman Doug Dulgarian, TAGABOW recorded their albums gestures been and Destiny XL in Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019 before shifting to become a solo project. Destiny XL, their most recent and most singular album, was recorded mostly in a West Philadelphia house (formerly named All Nite Diner, among other names) with engineer Heather Jones (of ther, and recently profiled in our Behind the Scene piece on local mastering engineers), as well as at Headroom Studios in Kensington with engineer Scoops Dardaris (Adult Mom, Another Michael). The record features a host of contributing musicians from Philadelphia and elsewhere: Dulgarian, Ben Opatut, Juli McCue (Lester), Cooper Swan Beaupre, Josh Lesser (Blue Smiley), Evan Moffit, Pat Quigley and Genevieve DeGroot (Sadurn).

From the top, Destiny pummels us with contradictions, as glassy melodies that might have been wailed or whispered disappear into power chords churning like concrete. Galaxies of sound get tucked inside tack-sized tracks with lowercase titles like “french” and “texas instruments,” which remind me of the touch of plastic in my hands – “asleep to the music of you brushing your teeth,” Dulgarian sings. Every full-band composition establishes its own impressive sense of inertia, but remorseless tempo shifts lurk around every turn. The sudden tape-warp sounds closing “texas instruments” and triggering “mother plus” keep me feeling unsteady too, like this whole cosmos starts and stops on the push of a plastic button.

Within the language they’ve developed, they explore a surprising range of emotions, from the abject melancholy of “eightball” to the devilish fun of “double apple.” Even more surprising are the trips through seemingly disconnected languages, like cold-blooded claptrap on “i would love u,” “mother plus” and “ES beautyhand,” or acousmatic collage on “moerenuma park” – named for a public space in Japan designed as “a single sculpture.”

As a whole, Destiny builds a sense of constructedness, of stickiness, too, with five of its eleven tracks lasting under two minutes, and some longer tracks (“eightball,” “french,” “double apple”) split down the middle by mutations in speed and style. Each moment’s novel power comes from its situatedness, and the tape makes conglomeration sound like a blast. Citrus City’s Bandcamp reissue doubles down on this process, fusing eleven tracks into a starker “SIDE A” and “SIDE B” to celebrate the tape format.

I feel behind the curve as I write this, having never witnessed the band live, and seeing that almost all one hundred new tapes have sold and only a dozen remain. Still, I hope anyone who hasn’t heard TAGABOW will explore what they’ve created and look for them to return with new music and live shows before too long.

Destiny XL is available now on Bandcamp via Citrus City, and it’s the first cassette release of 2021 for the Virginia-born, Brooklyn-based label. they are gutting a body of water will also be performing in MECHAFEST on March 27th, a virtual benefit for the National Independent Venue Association.

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