The February Tape Round Up: My Walkman Weighs A Ton


One of the hazards of wading through the tape label quagmire for your benefit, dear reader, is that some (perhaps a majority?) of the fine releases sticking out of the mulch are produced in such limited quantities that they’re rarely around long enough to be in stock by the time I hand-crank the organ to peal out these scattered notes. The question is, does that negate their noteworthiness? Of course some labels are noble enough to sell a digital alternative for interested parties who missed the boat, but others such as ever crucial outfit The Tapeworm resign their sold out charms to the oral tradition of the tapeworld, to only be uttered in passing by those who have clasped the music with their own ears. And that’s what the tape scene is all about really, isn’t it?

As such, you will simply have to imagine what Jay Glass Dubs’ first release of 2017 sounds like, but rest assured that Dislocated Folklore was another fine step forward for the Bokeh Versions-affiliated producer, and the premise was just as fantastic. “Two 30 minute long tracks that incorporate mainly stretched-out three-second sample recordings of 90s ragga 12” single intros combined with recordings of a Quran recitation from a Turkish TV channel.” Even if the name of the artist, the release and the label all turned to dust tomorrow, the description alone would surely lead an inquisitive traveler to the correct sonic destination.    

More tangible for now is the wonderful new collection of vignettes from Roger Robinson on Jahtari. Disrupt’s bright and playful riddims are a crafty foil to the honey-coated heartbreak of Robinson’s urban tales that first came to light on 2015’s Dis Side Ah Town. While that was written as a direct response to the London riots, new album Dog Heart City takes the temperature of London society in 2017 in all its gentrified, socially-divided glory. Clothed in artwork by Robinson’s fellow King Midas Sound vocalist Kiki Hitomi, it’s an absolute gem of a tape from start to finish. 

To date Tokyo-based Kebko Music has only dealt with two releases, both by Akiko Kiyama back in 2015. The reasons for their silence and tardiness in returning to the fold are not clear, but it matters not when a project as enticing as Magamura is the end result. It’s a surprising combination that finds guitarist Erin Fjord and minimal techno maverick Laurine Frost teaming up for an album of experimental, synth-led pieces that gather together as Supernaturals. It’s a diverse and distinctive listen loaded with the kind of grubby sonics and curveball composition choices that we so love here in the cassette realm. 

Also transmitting from somewhere in Tokyo is the new release on Not Not Fun by Unknown Me. The collective of artists involved includes Yakenohara, P-RUFF, H. Takahashi and OsawaYudai, and between them they make their second album, subtropics, a blissful trip of plaintive atmospherics and light drum machine pulses. Bathed in glorious yellow, it’s a beacon of light when so many tapes seem hell bent on plunging you into darkness.

Step up Always Human Tapes, doggedly determined to bring you something far more gloomy to contemplate. They’ve got a lot on as 2017 greases up its loins, with No Knon in particular giving you something to worry about with the scratchy noise of their new 45 minute ambient piece for the label. As they so proudly state, this unnamed exercise “avoids both house plant-loving, home listening tropes as well as directionless industrial excursions.”

Marginally more structured but no less oppressive is the other forthcoming spool-set on Always Human, coming from the Seagrave's Blood Room and hyper-prolific Polish experimentalist Micromelancolié. There are some crushing rhythms to be feasted upon within Creek Trax, not least on Blood Room’s side of the tape, but crucially everything’s balanced very finely between spooked textures and warm analogue percussion. If such considered electronics tickle your synapses, you can nab a copy of it right here.

Meanwhile Seagrave is in fine fettle of it’s own accord as well. The next release comes from TANS, the Berlin-based artist whose Die Unsichtbare Überall revels in micro-detailed sonics rendered with impressive sound design skills to create a dense and utterly immersive kind of electronica. It’s been pro-dubbed on “transparent ‘prison’ cassette, no less. 

For something more meditative, why not keep an ear out for the bucolic delights of Sylvia Monnier’s Stock Shot & Addictive Sling, forthcoming on Sacred Phrases in March. At this point we’ve only been privy to the gentle lull of “Theresa Russell”, but the glacial pace of the drones and the soothing field recordings are enough to make us want to plunge further into these shimmering waters. 

Jungle Gym are doing some fine work in rapidly expanding their catalogue to become one of the big hitters in the tape (and beyond) game, striking upon a sound that aligns with the likes of 1080p, Not Not Fun and the like. There’s plenty of scope for eclecticism in such reference points, and so there is in the latest salvo of releases from the Seattle label. First up is Richard Francés, a French artist making his first appearance under his own name with 01112012, a wonderful and expressive ambient work with plenty of grainy overtones to the warbling melodies contained within. The digital can in fact be grabbed gratis here, but of course we know you want the tape. 

Meanwhile Prehistoria is a split tape from Dravier and V. Kristoff that finds the two artists taking similar approaches in using arpeggiating monosynths and guitar pedals to make long form meditative pieces, and the results are just lovely. Apparently they were trying to be prehistoric in their music-making methods. Judge how caveman the sound is for yourself. 

As is customary on the end of our joyride through the ferrous marshland, there are also some mixtapes well worth tracking down if you can. Mother’s Finest is a Berlin-based party run by Franklin De Costa, generally known for doing some excellent parties at Griessmuehle. He’s accosted Bristol bass-wielding bad boy Hodge and German rhythmic agent provcateur Don’t DJ to each provide something special for the first Mother’s Finest mixtape, which has previously been available at select parties and hits the (online) streets at the end of February. 

Meanwhile the Altered Soul Experiment project hits its next installment with a rather special offering from Rush Hour founder Antal, who indulges his love and knowledge of Japanese music from across the ages on a mixtape sure to transport you to exotic places whenever you pop it on. 

After all, isn’t that what a good tape should be there for? A momentary escape no other audio vessel could provide, taking you to a place laden with nostalgia and hiss, sure to age gracefully with you as you return to it again and again. Well, either that or a nightmarish chasm down which to masochistically fling your cerebral cortex while trying to distinguish mechanical malfunctions from deliberately recorded sounds. Is my walkman playing up? 


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