After last month’s awkward stumble in a tape-wardly direction, at the behest of the overlords at The Ransom Note HQ I’ve relented to plunging myself into the peaty bog of cassette releases in all their murkiest forms. Murk is a word that naturally attaches itself to tapes, not only because of the DIY-friendly format’s appeal to less-than-crowd pleasing artists, but also because of that feeling tapes conjure up – mildew infested inlays curling up inside scuffed, cracked plastic cases, piled up in dust-dusted boxes in damp corners of gloomy attics. It’s a format that makes material wearing out sound sexy, to a certain kind of mind at least. It’s also a safe haven for all sorts of sonic deviants, and as it turns out, there’s a lot more of them than you might realise. If you already thought there was an over-abundance of daywalkers ‘smashing it’ on the electronic & other music scene, wait ‘til you see what comes out when the light grows dim.
Clan Destine is a fine place to start. Christian Donaghey’s Autumns project was last seen lurking around the none-tapier label back in March, having previously surfaced on Downwards and Soft Power. A Product Of 30 Years Of Violence is fresh out of the stocks steeped in metallic guitar squall, distorting monosynths and Christopher Lee-In-Dub vocals, occasionally punky, elsewhere ambient, and consistently excellent. Elsewhere in the Clan, Marshall Applewhite lures you towards Detroit with the wonderfully decadent Suburban Boredom. Preview track “Cum, Blood, Sex, Evil” is a pumping blast of erotically inappropriate party industrial that manages to be quite deft even if the premise almost sounds daft.
Keeping up the noisy angle for just a moment, it’s worth shouting out No Rent Records and their quintessential spool based subversion. Paranoid Time (also known as Sperm Fastener and The Mutilation Man) has been locked into a messy tryst with the tape world for more than ten years, and rips out a monstrous sonic belch on “Crushing That Pisshole”. It’s as visceral as noise can get, although it’s hard to tell whether the album title All Knobs To The Far Right is a damning attack on the political climate or a celebration. Such dubious wares doth the tape scene incubate.
If you haven’t already been scared off, let’s try something a little less frightening. Where To Now? are surely one of the most trustworthy outposts for quality cassette releases, and they’ve just unveiled their latest batch of new releases to see out the year. James Booth (previously spotted on 100% Silk and others) has only been out once before as North Vest, but the scuffed drums, heavy flanging and wobbly synth of “1/2 The Battle” manages the tricky art of being willfully lo-fi and equally refined. Micromelancolié’s “Izonefa”, while painfully quiet, packs hidden depths in its oceanic drones which may reveal themselves to you just in time for the tape hiss to take over and wash it all away.
Isshu purports to hail from “no ordinary universe”, and that’s quite believable as the mutant wares of Greyscale fire up on Seagrave. In a style that’s quite prevalent across younger producers the world over right now, a lot of reference points get chucked into the blender on this album, but it’s all stitched together with a tuff house gait that, paired with grubby production values and sample-adelic attitude, makes for a comfortable feeling akin to sketchy free party.
Vincent ‘Drvg Cvltvre’ Koreman’s New York Haunted knows a thing or two about appropriate soundtracks for break-n’-enter dancefloors, and the acid leaning outpost has a formidable salvo of rough n’ ready roustabouts primed to knock you into next year. Chris Moss Acid throws down some of his gnarly 303 spits and snarls on the Nazareth EP, Stuffmodula makes some very modular-sounding modular noises and then SB51 conjures up dusty rave demons with the beguiling mysticism of Tractatus IV.
If there’s one label that places the tape format aesthetic on a pedestal, it’s surely Frankfurt’s MMODEMM crew. Their five-tape, one-track-per-side box set releases seem to encourage DJs to mix with the tunes within without having to fast-forward to their track of choice. There are after all DJs out there taking to tape-only sets (Ossia I’m looking at you). Fortunately, MMODEMM have the wares to back up such a notion, and on MDM G it’s no different. The quintuplet of clear cassettes features deadly box jam business from AVV & Makoto Murakami, playful jack from Tuff Sherm, crafty broken techno from TRP, rowdy beatdown from Minimal Violence and a killer boogie-inflected funker from dane//close.
It’s not all noise and beats though. There’s a lot of more reflective material out there to be enjoyed as well. Discrepant are a highly professional, continuously adventurous outfit who present a project of real intrigue with Anatologia de Musica Atipica Portuguesa Vol 1. Taking the custom of Portugese ‘work songs’ and handing them over to a range of contemporary artists has resulted in some beguiling modern folk variations. Meanwhile Ross Wallace Chait seems to excel in bridging the divide between a winsome singer-songwriter tradition and heavy electronic processing on Rocking and Rollin’, his new album for A Giant Fern.
Matthew Barlow releasing Sound Meditations on Sounds Of The Dawn probably doesn’t need much description, but needless to say it’s very lovely indeed. While Barlow’s intimate synthesiser meanderings are on a one way trip to a very comfortable place, Autumn Pool’s contribution to the Aster Shroud split on Vienna Press is an equally emotional journey albeit with a more ambiguous destination. Special mentions also go out to the limber Balearic funk of Euglossine with Puzzle Gallery on Apothecary Compositions and Strange Rules, whose Winter Cross 2016 10-strong cassette batch features an embarrassment of rich drones to keep cockles warm in the cold season.
Before signing off from this admittedly monstrous dispatch from the auto-reverse underworld, it’s worth taking a look at the rising tide of mixtapes coming from trusted sources these days. Sheffield’s premier panel beater Beneath has just announced his own series, It’s Been A While, starting with a mix from him naturally. Glasgow’s maternal figurehead Mother has been steadily making a nuisance of himself in ever-increasing circles lately, harrying himself onto not one but two mixtapes, the first for Braindead and the second for Nina Golden Püdel’s V I S label. Speaking of which, Nina and Good News have been snapped up by Blackest Ever Black for the first in the new Id Mud mix series, and Conor Thomas is next in line on the Naples-based MBE Series (after a strong opening bout from Beatrice Dillon).
If you’re still craving more tape-based action after all that I suggest you consult a GP that grew up in the 1980s. If however you want to let me know about any of your tape related woes, you can find me at bmotapes [ at ] gmail.com