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Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and more

Eighteen bite-sized reviews of physical releases from the musical underground.

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Original artwork by Cap Blackard (Buy Prints + More)

Next Little Things is a monthly round-up of limited-run, mostly experimental vinyl/tape releases reviewed by Grant Purdum.

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In 2002, this college radio kid told me he was putting the latest Talkdemonic album out on tape.

“On … tape?” I cracked, much like a lot of the disbelieving recent articles about the cassette resurgence. “Why, man?”

I seem to remember that I never got a satisfactory answer, and seeing as my vinyl addiction was in full swing, I didn’t think anything of it. Now, 13 years later, Jon Dobrolowski, former editor/publisher of Left Coast magazine and heavy metal cover art guy, looks like a damn genius. How did this happen?

Easy: He believed in what he was doing and didn’t care what the trends were. I’ve seen dozens of Dobrolowskis make waves in the indie rock world by sticking to their guns and ignoring the scoff-wielding majority. If you have a vision, don’t let anyone tell you it’s far-fetched because TAPES CAME BACK. If that can happen, anything can. (Except eight-tracks. Those are gone for good, unfortunately for your used Camaro.)

Here are 18 bite-sized reviews to tide you over while you work on your forward-thinking masterpiece.

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Jerry Paper – Carousel LP [Bayonet]

jerry paper carousel Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and more

Jerry Paper, aka Lucas Nathan, first blipped the sub-indie radar back when he was dubbed Zonotope™ and put out a tape batch on the Tonstartssbandht-run Does Are label. Since then he’s changed the wallpaper in his bedroom and pumped out strong vapors on choice outlets like Patient Sounds, Orange Milk, and Hausu Mountain. He stands out now just like he did then, albeit for different reasons. At this point Paper has committed steadfastly to a heightened brand of cassette-culture pop so clean-cut and incidental it makes you feel tense. Carousel is a K-Mart elevator. You’re going up, way up, wearing a festive sweater, and there’s Mr. Paper, the Neil Hamburger of the post-drone circuit, deadpan as the day is long, crooning about “greedy motherfuckers” in a tone not unlike the first Grizzly Bear album (check out “Perma – Song” — you’ll see). If this doesn’t make you at least a little bit uncomfortable I’m a little bit worried about you. I’m also concerned about sarcasm, as in, what if JP isn’t being sarcastic here? “Continuum” presents another problem because it’s so catchy it almost sticks in your mind in a bad way, like King God (mid-aughts band on Hot Dog City Records) in surreal, post-vaporwave suspenders. There’s an endearing passivity to Carousel, coupled with corny, sub-Casio synth lines and drum-machine accompaniment full of hand-claps and deliciously fake-sounding snare and toms. Jerry Paper will leave the party without a fight if you ask him to, but why would you ever want him to go?

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Ben Pritchard – A Drawn Out Line CS [Wagtail]

ben pritchard drawn out line Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and more

Ben Pritchard’s ability to dance around the very idea of songcraft is uncanny as he fractures time signatures and employs silence like another instrument at his disposal. Lonely guitar lines, hewn to no discernible meter, stretch out and flail in a distinctly bittersweet manner, the notes slightly sour yet crudely cogent. Strings scrape and moan, evidently not happy about being treated so shabbily by their owner. Every so often, a SLAM lets us know this isn’t a passive listening experience — more like an album that might have appeared on Chicago’s Locust Music in its heyday. I also should mention a post-blues anomaly that finds Pritchard singing (successfully, at that) an out-sound ditty reminiscent of Vincent Gallo’s long-lost solo material. Ashley Paul’s resurrected Wagtail label struck gold with A Drawn Out Line, a spare masterpiece so short you’ll want to set your tape player to auto-reverse so you can listen straight through a few times.

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DJ Nigga Fox – Noite E Dia 12-inch [PRÍNCIPE]

dj ngga fox Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and more

Frankly, I’m not a huge ‘DJ’ guy, particularly when the DJ name includes a word I’m not comfortable saying aloud much less printing or posting online. Then again, DJ Nigga Fox isn’t your typical one-man electronic magic show. His style is suspiciously distinct, an uncouth combination of jerky rhythm schemes, mind-scrambling bleeps and bloops, what I’ve chosen to call baby-elephant dub, mutant house, EDM, and any other electronic persuasion they haven’t yet pinned a name to. Perhaps distinguishing the Noite E Dia 12-inch most, however, is the eerily organic nature of many of its sounds and samples. Whether it’s the warm slap of an actual (seemingly, at least) tom-tom, the crisp snap of a snare, a mellow-gold dub swirl, or even many of the buttons he pushes, DJ N-F manufactures living, breathing environments that feel authentic even if it’s all coming from patched-together pedals and digital mainframes (for the record, I have no idea how this guy rolls, equipment-wise). Not only that, but he derives so much from so little, feeding thousands of mesmerized minds from little more than a few interweaving elements. Grip Noite E Dia quick and get in on the ground flow.

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Cuushe – Night Lines EP 10-inch/CD + bonus remixes [Cascine/Flau]

cuushe night lines Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and more

I’ve been obsessed with Night Lines for a good while now, and for reasons I can’t rightly understand. A Kyoto native, Cuushe trucks in an intimidatingly appealing brand of dreampop that is charming almost to the point of complete shut-down. I heard “Tie,” in fact, and was reminded of the first time I heard Portishead. Wha? That’s a little much, I know, so when I “guushe” over Cuushe a bit below, don’t be surprised. Even songs that I normally would skip over in a heartbeat, such as “Shadow”, are put across with enough zeal it’s nonsensical to cherry-pick tracks. My guess is it’s the vulnerability of her voice, so open to the hurt of the world despite the potential consequences. The productions behind her prop up her voice gently like a feather-down pillow, eking every last bit of intrigue from beats and patterns that, when isolated, don’t seem like much. Night Lines is all about widescreen thinking, big-city loneliness, and digital high-hats clicking in double-time as fluorescent lights flit along the passenger side window like lasers. I must also mention the import CD version, because its remixes are mini-revelations in themselves. Populous’ recasting of “Daze” is such a bouncy delight you might end up bumping it on the beach instead of the original. You’ll have a hell of a time getting burnt out on Cuushe; just remember to save some for your friends.

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Wei Zhongle – Nu Trance LP [Hairy Spider Legs]

wei zhongle nu trance Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreDamo Suzuki of Can might not have invented wordless chanting to askew rock compositions, but in the case of Wei Zhongle, it’s safe to say his solo material has had an influence. Nu Trance represents an attempt to employ vague facsimiles of Suzuki’s incantations as a jumping-off point for all manner of odd hijinks. Guitar arpeggios and electronics mostly hide out in the background, while a randy clarinet player, methodical bassist, and head-stomping drummer stand front and center, ensuring songs like the mellifluous “To Woman” will sound like nothing else, ever. Nu Trance is a vision quest set to music, an attempt to reach the unknown via a group of unbridled spirits, levitating as they play like the ghosts of avant-prog past. Peers include Gong, Degenerate Art Ensemble, Point Reyes, Ruins, and Deerhoof, so if you’ve spent time with any of these folks, or need a quirky new thrill in your life, welcome to the Zhongle, baby. To paraphrase Hella, you’re gonna LIVE.

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Upsilon Acrux – Sun Square Dialect LP [New Atlantis]

sun square dialect Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreUpsilon Acrux, known to dip under the surface like a submarine only to re-emerge with new members, to these ears sound a lot like they did in, say, 2003: fantastic. Sun Square Dialect is familiar territory, replete with video game references, loose-limbed drum-bombing, guitarists and a bassist blessed with fleet-fingered finesse, and, above all, NO VOX. And believe me, you wouldn’t want a singer messing these compositions about. Upsilon Acrux keep a busy schedule as it is, crowding their arrangements at every turn and betraying jazz sensibilities along the way. I’m loath to compare them to math-y indie-rock bands like Tera Melos, By The End Of Tonight, or Don Caballero; every Hella album and side project mixed into one, plus Random Touch and Portland’s inimitable Dilute — that’s the ticket. Sun Square Dialect is a powerful return, nay, statement for an ensemble with a lot of rich history in its hometown of Los Angeles-by-way-of-San Diego and beyond.

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André Foisy & thisquietarmy – At the Institut Für Neue Medien in Frankfurt, Germany CS [Broken Limbs]

andre foisy thisquietarmy Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreAt the Institut Für Neue Medien in Frankfurt, Germany is a strange set-up, so let me fill you in: Locrian’s André Foisy plays on both sides, and on the flip is accompanied by thisquietarmy (Eric Quach). The side exclusive to Foisy is an extremely welcome and rewarding diversion that sees his potential as a solo artist stretch even further into the stratosphere. Armed with little more than a guitar and a gang of self-created loops (unless the liner notes are lying to me and he’s actually joined by Quach here too), he weaves “Gesellschaft” into a tapestry of intersecting riffs and fills it to the brim, eventually burning down the whole enterprise as if to cover his tracks. “Gemeinschaft” seems to encompass a cello drone that falls in and out of consciousness while an acoustic guitar meanders about. Or at least that’s how it starts; check this one out yourself, no spoilers. Another worthy workout, yet I was itching to hear what Foisy and Quach could accomplish in tandem. The 17-minute track that fills side B provides what I might of expected from a purveyor of blackened drone like Foisy, the rougher edges sanded down by the softer presence of thisquietarmy/Quach. Then again, I’m not sure who’s doing what here, as info is sparse as the recording. What I do know is Live in Frankfurt serves as another satisfying chapter in a solo oeuvre that’s been mired in the great audio unknown for a half-decade and counting.

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Metasplice – Metasplice 2LP [_bruxist]

metasplice Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreThe Philadelphia duo of Kenneth_lay and V. Hold, who perform together as Metasplice, came to my attention when a split between Dave Smolen and hair_loss (the names these two originally performed under) showed up at my door (on lovely green-smear vinyl, no less). Following their output has been an inspiration ever since. After a stint on Morphine Records, it appears they’ve returned to releasing albums on their own _bruxist label, and, though maybe it’s just me, it seems like they save their more experimental exploits for material they put out themselves. Metasplice is a galaxy that follows an orbit all its own and eschews all pretenses of “dance” with a scientific approach to electronic experimentation. Linear rhythms are vapor-locked out in favor of beat sequences that can be almost impossible to follow. The hooks you remember from early IDM? Hacked to death and left squirming on a cold, metal floor, to be further dissected until they’re damaged enough to have never come from an organic sound source. Or maybe they’ve been cryogenically frozen, shattered into smaller, (mega)bite-sized pieces and reassembled. The more fragmentary work of Autechre and the output of several old-school electro-acoustic musicians form the fulcrum on which Metasplice rests, but it’s not that easy with these two. I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is Metasplice do, and that continues to make all the difference.

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Tashi Dorji – Appa LP [Bathetic]

tashi dorji appa Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreAppa is a record for the serious listener, and yet it works well as an accent, too, its gently plucked six-string carrying on a conversation we can only observe from afar. Tashi Dorji doubtlessly knows of the late, great Jack Rose and John Fahey, not to mention Loren Connors and the rest of the solo-acoustic giants, but his approach is more contemplative, rarely taking a plunge into rapid arpeggios without foreshadowing the move with minutes on end of soft guitar play. It’s like one-half of New Bums playing on a foggy dock, workin’ it out, or maybe Plante gone acoustic. A full LP of such spare, meandering improvisation, when it’s performed in an almost casual, low-profile manner, seems like a lot to digest for today’s file-uploading masses, but that’s why Appa makes sense more than ever. Challenge listeners to meet a concept halfway and, more often that not, they’ll make the effort to give it a chance. See that you do that for this Dorji chap, as he’s not going to knock down your door promoting himself. He’ll likely, in fact, be playing in the corner the next time you go antiquing. Say hello, then go pick up Appa instead of the next few apps you were going to blow your foldin’ money on.

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TRTRKMMR – Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur LP [Iron Lung]

avec la souillure Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreIs there anything about the lovingly packaged Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur LP that isn’t mysterious? From the band name to the title to the insert stamped with reputedly human blood to the audio contents found therein, there’s remarkably little revealed. TRTRKMMR maintain an almost discouraging artistic high-ground as they rifle through choice genres like vinyl racks. Most prominently, they tread an ever-dissolving line between black metal and hissing noise, yet at their best moments betray aspects of neither, such as mesmerizing album-closer “I Bewail the Dead, and Restore a Serene Sky”, a plodding digital ice age stunner that rings of indie-electronic renegades Retconned. At other intervals, a little Racebannon-vs.-Merzbow with more restraint seems an apt doppelganger, or maybe lofi BM bangers Striborg battling it out with Sutekh Hexen. Then a relatively docile stretch will have you thinking how beautiful the proceedings have become (this is usually a sign you’re headed back to the dungeon forthwith). No matter the lines drawn, Avec La Souillure Nous Entrons Au Règne De La Terreur never settles for the ordinary, and neither should you.

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Klaus Lang – Organ Works Vol. 2 LP [GOD]

klaus lang organ Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreMy mom used to play pipe organ at church. I felt strangely hip knowing my NZ-transplanted mother was up there ticklin’ the ivories. I used to sing her phrases from video games like Simon’s Quest and she would play their busiest passages back to me flawlessly. But that’s not important right now, because Klaus Lang, at least judging from Organ Works Vol. 2, is the least fleet-fingered organist in the galaxy. He doesn’t spend any time skipping around between notes like a water spider. Everything rides on the spare tones he commits to with ceaseless dedication as they spiral through space, so I’m comfortable letting you know your tolerance for drone is going to be the determining factor here. But I also must warn you: This isn’t just a drone; it’s the drone. I listened to “ABD” the other day and I’m pretty sure it’s still spinning like a plate, into perpetuity. Lang is monk-like in his respect for the statutes of audio drift, honing in and zoning out like a daydreamer in science class. Organ Works Vol. 2 abides like The Dude, in particular the second half (or so) of the aforementioned “ABD”, a plank of sound so powerful it’ll pin you to the wall and melt your face quicker than any guitar solo I’ve heard.

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Bary Center – Endless High CS [MJ MJ]

bary center endless high Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreBary Center maintains a preternaturally catchy flow by adhering to a simple, laid-back method of groove. His drum machine programming is stellar, the beats taking a nonlinear approach while continuing to perform their essential purpose in the mix. Usually, in fact, the songs of Endless High consist of a rhythm track that takes on the brunt of the compositional burden, followed by various manipulations, mostly synths and percussion. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t sound simple when it bursts from the speakers, much like Helena Hauff’s recent cassette on Handmade Birds. BC doesn’t deal in dance music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dance; he doesn’t necessarily try to trip you out, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a cosmic experience, and so on. Such a low-key effort could easily find itself swept under the rug, inundated as we all are with daily premieres designed to lure you in like an MSN homepage story; see to it that this fate doesn’t entrap Endless High, as it’s worth skipping a few high-calorie, low-substance sugar rushes over.

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Peter Kris – Nunavut CS [Tymbal]

nunavut Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreIt’s tough to imagine a more nihilistic entity than German Army, unless of course we’re talking about the man behind that infamous underground fixture, Peter Kris (I doubt that’s a real name; could this guy be a Kiss fan?). That’s what I was anticipating here: an even more menacing version of his full-time project. His second solo offering under the PK moniker isn’t as intimidating as a GeAr recording, though. It’s a more personal, bare-to-the-world statement that’s lost in its own complex math, to the point where many of Nunavut’s equations fall short of “song” status as they chase their tails. This tape most likely would blend into the drone landscape like a lost chameleon had Kris not flooded the limited-run networks with dozens of superior cassettes beforehand. That’s most likely why Nunavut had to exist, a short break from the stresses of constant artistic advancement that scratches out a comfortable climate to hibernate in. He deserved it, and you probably do too.

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Jon Gibson – Visitations LP [Superior Viaduct]

gibson visitations Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreOne word that often doesn’t come to mind when listening to unusual audio is “cool.” Jon Gibson’s Visitations, though, is quite cool, like smoking a cigarette on the roof while you illicitly distance-watch a flick from a nearby drive-in, or playing a laid-back jazz session for three people in a musty basement dive after 3 a.m. Originally pressed to wax in 1973, then reissued on CD by an obscure Italian label in 1996, Visitations is like a guide map for many of the modern misfits we’ve deputized over the years (Caboladies, Avarus et al), offering a little bit of everything from drone to found sound to maybe even ambient (depending on how strictly we’re policing the use of that term). Above all, Gibson is frosty, calm, and collected like baseball cards, enlisting all manner of chirps and buzzes to fill out his compositions while maintaining a sedate, wharf-late-at-night feel. He toots his flute a little, dips into woodwinds, and finds pleasure in the randomness of his inventions, but most of all he betrays the depth of skill it takes to play in ensembles led by the likes of LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. If those four names don’t get your attention, what will? Drop by Visitations for a purview of out-sound, as it once was.

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Bitchin Bajas – Transporteur 12-inch [Hands in the Dark]

Bitchin-BajasBitchin Bajas, originally a side project of CAVE’s Cooper Crain, began with such a bang on the heels of a trifecta of LPs (Tones/Zones, Water Wrackets, Vibraquatic) a few years back it was an open question as to whether their longform Harmonia/Neu worship could be expanded in any meaningful way. Now that they’ve launched even more material into the void, including a double-album on Drag City last year, the time has come for the Chicago duo to shift into a fruitful second phase or take a break. The Transporteur 12-inch is emblematic of BB’s continued viability, stretching their extended vistas into fresh territory and adding new instruments to the mix including a surprisingly spaced-out clarinet. They also patented the prog-drone and as such are obligated to take it for another test drive, care of “No Tabac”. The true spirit of Bitchin Bajas, however, shines through “Rias Baixas”, an ethereal 10-minute progscape abetted by fluttering flutes, programmatics, and digital elements that mimic the time-setting task of the traditional motorik drum beat. Falling well short of a reinvention, Transporteur nevertheless indicates this tandem aren’t going to be resting on their considerable laurels anytime soon.

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Charles Barabé – Cicatrice, Scar, Éclair CS [2:00AM]

cicatrice scar eclair Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreYour spine starts to melt, your legs turn to jelly, and you have nowhere to run, or perhaps you’re falling, and fast. Your only salvation is waking up to another day of drudgery. Anxiety dreams can be a troublesome occurrence, so give Charles Barabé credit for replicating the experience sans the drama. Cicatrice, Scar, Éclair came into being on the heels of a 2014 that saw Barabé flooding the market with at least nine releases, and its narcotized, half-awake state might be the result of this dude working a bit too hard. Songs don’t end as much as they melt into the ether; many entries seem overworked or undercooked. Visions of piss-takes and crumpled-up first drafts abound, yet a coy continuity underpins the endless keyboard constructs and thick waves of bass. Barabé never loses control of the mood; let the disembodied voices narrating the action be your guide as you tunnel through the anti-tunes of Cicatrice, Scar, Éclair.

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Ekca Liena – Graduals CD [Consouling Sounds]

ekca liena graduals Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreEkca Liena’s Graduals CD (yes, this is a CD; you can still play these, right?) tends to get lost in itself, floating over a sparse landscape of drone fallout. It’s like a ghost choir is trapped under the desert dust, singing for the lost souls of eternity. And I’m not just being creative here; this is an actual choir, whipping up a stone-cold drone of their own on “Mattie Devore” that offsets what can be an intimidatingly earnest, academic piece of work. I should have expected no less from Daniel Mackenzie, who also records under the moniker Plurals and is the master of the multi-subject newsletter (in fairness this is because he is extremely active). Even when compared to most experimental types, he’s a serious fellow. That intensity is written all over Graduals in double sharpie as Mackenzie leaves glistening little hints as to where he’s taking you. I won’t give those away; just be ready to fasten your ears tightly to tracks like “Fields Forever” and “Ky Ra”.

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Raica / Timm Mason – Division CS [Further]

division Next Little Things: Jerry Paper, Cuushe, Bitchin Bajas, and moreOne of my aims for this column is to objectively cover obscure releases you haven’t heard about. Simply put, I don’t want to play favorites, feeding you the same “pet” labels/artists each edition. That said, Raica’s Chloe Harris (and by extension Further Records), also covered in the March edition of NLT, forced my hand on this one. Not only did she team up with Timm Mason (Midday Veil, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, the Mood Organ label), a musician I’ve praised in the past, but she also presented an entirely different side to her artistry on Division, a limited-to-20 cassette whose day of release coincides almost suspiciously with this column’s publishing date. Now that I’ve fed you the background, allow me to reveal why this tape shreds so hard without possessing any sharp edges. Harris’ half of the cassette, a sidelong jam dubbed “Farrago”, is a stark departure from recent full-length Dose in that it incorporates all its ear-teasing cosmic elements into a singular movement rather than cutting them into sections. And she sounds even less like a DJ this time, dedicating herself to longform drone even though she was quite a successful one prior to her reincarnation as Raica. Mason, on the other hand, is opening a jar full of bugs for us, like a kid who spent all day in the backyard, and the murky smell is intolerable. Yet his contribution is much more subtle, forcing the listener to squint one’s ears to hear the tiny, barely perceptible shifts. “Ranger 3” is a tone exercise that, on its own, likely wouldn’t make much sense. As 50 percent of Division, however, it contributes to a greater good with its vague, soupy cloudiness. Only 20 people get to own this art-eye-fact; see that you’re one of them.

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Grant Purdum is a writer living in Corpus Christi, Texas. His work has been seen at Tiny Mix Tapes, The Wire, and The AV Club. He tweets.

To submit for Next Little Things consideration, mail Grant Purdum at:

2714 Bretshire Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78414

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