cool tapes i find and cassette related equipment.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

the principle reason you should get your hands on an old tape deck

this should be reason enough for any true music fan to scrounge up an old working cassette deck: there is an incredible amount of new, great, interesting music, that's only coming out on tape. that's it. you can stop reading this now.
the main criticism i come across in regard to cassette releases, are complaints such as "but it's such a small, tiny insignificant trend, it CAN'T POSSIBLY CATCH ON!!" well, guess what? you are too late. it already caught on. the cassette underground never went away and it's exploded in the last five years. there's probably more cool, interesting, well-thought out, badass music that's been released in the last three years on tape, than a person could possibly keep up with. new stuff comes out everyday. if you count yourself as a true music fan, how can you not enjoy the fruits of all this labor that's just laying there, waiting for you to dive in? most of the stuff i buy is in the 6 dollar range, and the labels have great brand identity where if you like one tape, odds are you going to dig the other things offered so it's easy and fun to experiment. it will truly restore your faith in the joy of the gizmo of music to dive into some of this stuff. it sure is exciting to do an end run around all that other... whatever in the heck all that stuff is.
let's look at some of the reasons tape is an effective medium for music. why are these artists using it to begin with? of course you'd have to quiz them all personally as there must be more motivation than i can get to here, but let's state a few.
     one that i don't think folks are talking about too much is how effectively it weeds out the non-music fan. generally folks are used to getting this giant, free, easily obtainable spectacle. like a free super bowl concert. the people have spoken, and what they want en masse is high unit volume/thin margin/low quality. one of the neat aspects of art, is you can weed out all those folks pretty quick, and the only folks left are the ones that actually give a shit. one way is to perform music that doesn't resemble the top tier {mainstream}, or the next tier down {the copy of the mainstream, which is genre based music}, and play something kind of weird or different {underground}. most folks are waaaay too busy to listen and don't really care about music that much anyway, and you have work so freaking hard to get them to "like" you, if you are participating in that lottery. they won't even be able to recognize what you are doing as music and they all go away. another way is to put your music on tape. here's a quick example. so i started self producing stuff in about 2000 and i made this sample based freak out record called oft mended raiment that was made all at home on an mpc 2000 sampler. and there was this kinda snarky and mean journalist that i wasn't too keen on that wanted to "review" it. so i hand it to him and he took it from me like he was getting a dirty diaper and he never spoke to me again. awesome! it's way more fun and rewarding to play for friends and folks that i like and think are smart and have interesting things to say and stuff like that. it's okay if the Mechanism can't understand what it's about. the benefit? this way you don't have to deal with them!! {i just read an article about a fellow from a weekly that tried to interview a local noise guy that put out tapes and was refused. the artist said something like, "i don't need you to cover this, i already have a supportive audience and your article is just going to folks that don't care about what i'm doing anyway."} by the way, oft mended raiment, to date, has been my most economically productive record to date. followed by barnyard electronics, another self-release.
     so if you have some weird idea for music, and you put it out on tape? your audience is other folks that put out weird ideas on tape, and folks that are rabid, real music fans that are hungry for new sounds and scour the world looking for something good they haven't heard yet. this group is a lot more fun. the folks that are all worked up about the mainstream, or the copy of the mainstream, are used to a business model that's just not that interesting. if there's any amount of work involved, they drop away like flies. my friends and i never had a problem with driving to the worst part of town in the middle of the night to go to the crappiest venue ever with the worst sound system, to hear a band doing something cool. sorry, but i'm still that way. i don't mind putting out effort.

     those are the main drivers of the movement as i see it, here are some additional concepts:
     it's an artists prerogative to repurpose stuff they find/ and it's cheap to make them. there are stories about some of the early new batch of tape labels where someone was walking down the street and they found a few hundred motivational tapes in a dumpster and went home and put out their friend's music on there, re-recording over the top of the motivational speaker. THAt's a cool idea. cost = zero. cool = astronomical. also even if the artist goes the route of professional tape duplication you can get into 100 tapes for 145 bucks. 1.45 each. so either for free or for a little over a hundred dollars, you are in business. economics. bricolage.
     tape sound quality is nice. {i grew up with tapes, i'm comfortable with them and i like them. there's lots of young folks that are into them too.} when folks squawk BUT THEY SOUND TERRIBLE THEY DON'T SOUND AS GOOD AS MY CDS!!! first off, if you get right down to it, cds are kinda weird in their own trip. there's problems with that medium too if you want to know the truth.  the party line of the indoctrinated is "wave files are so great, mp3s are terrible, and vinyl and tape are such a small hipster thing that NO ONE CARES!!!" yeah well go ahead and keep repeating that. yeah yeah we all like to listen to crap music at the highest resolution possible.
     with tapes i like being able to control how they sound. in making a mixtape i can play with the bias of the tape and how hard you hit them in the recording to highlight certain aspects of the program, that's pretty nice. most of the time, when i find something i like, i'll write the label and tell them so, and usually get a response back from the artist! that's pretty cool. the network is friendly and supportive. remember that while attending your next music conference.
     another reason tapes are fun to play with artistically is that you have to listen to them as they were intended, from beginning to end. it's a lot trickier to skip around. there's a long side A with lots of songs that go together, and then a long side B with lots of songs that go together. artists can also work with the gaps in between the songs, that can really make things flow nice on a well made tape, how the gaps work is super important to the experience. having two starts two middles and two ends for an audio work of art is really nice. having them arranged all in a line like a cd, where it's really easy to skip around, means you tend to get bored about halfway through. kind of like when they have two fast food places combined into one at a gas station.
     one other bonus of tape is my beloved noise. the hip hop guys know about this. lots of these great hip hop tracks have vinyl surface noised DUBBED BACK IN! why? well if you spend a lot of time with old records and stuff, you realize that music sounds kinda weird if it's too clean. my analogy is if you shine a light on a stage, it doesn't have anything to reflect off of. but if you pump the stage with smoke, the light can bounce of that. the noise is something for the music to relate to, it's a great filter. with technology we can make music cleaner and cleaner and cleaner, but it doesn't make it better.