cool tapes i find and cassette related equipment.

Monday, December 19, 2011

a possible aesthetic for acoustic music.

here's an idea for an approach. let's say you are a singer/songwriter/guitarist, or have a small acoustic type band, possibly based in some form of roots american concept, and you have some songs and you want to make a record.

Monday, November 14, 2011

i don't know how this happened

but i'm sitting here juking to a new cassette of my music that just came out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

the tascam four track

wikipedia article on the tascam four track

ahhh, my beloved cassette four track. here's the deal if you see one of these, and it works, you better snag it. they sound great!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

practical uses for an old cassette jambox

just like old motorcycles, reel to reel machines, banjos, accordions, or any mechanism of that ilk, if you see an old one laying around and it works, snag it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

review of julia ladense- bored housewife

i have no idea what is going on with this tape but it's really cool.

review of cough cool's clausen

i love this music. the second song on the B side is called sucker and it's really great. there's lots to grab onto here in regard to layers and textures and songs.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the live tape experiment of july 2011

hey musicians. here's an experiment that turned out great. i played a show recently and just set a jambox down on the stage at my feet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

new jam box

just got this jam box from a friend of mine in nyc. it's a big old GE 3-6000.

panda beach, last days ashore

i fell in love with this tape. aesthetically this is very well put together on every level.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

two new tapes, apache and cleaners from venus

i think one of the coolest labels ever is burger records. they have lots of great stuff on tape that you've never heard. the quality is really high. i've never been disappointed in any of my purchases. today's offering is two tapes, cleaners from venus {english electric}, and apache {radical sabbatical}.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

new mixtape from rick shithouse

i just got this in the mail. it's been rolling for two days non-stop. it's on a regular high bias tape {denon dx1-90 with head cleaning leader} and it's kinda grainy and cool sounding. he did a great job of song selection. i only knew two tracks off the whole tape previously. i am listening on a jambox on my kitchen counter. it still is an amazing feeling to get an actual mixtape of a bunch of new stuff. {if you haven't heard it, it's new.} great getting a hand written note of the track listing. makes me want to go back and make a track listing for my last mix, but i'm afraid if i posted it, someone would make a cdr of the mix. which is like getting a henna tattoo of a real tattoo. mixtapes take time and effort. there's a line on my new record where i yell "i'm a mixtape junky, it might sound a little funky but baby do you know what i mean!!!!??" haha

Friday, March 18, 2011

mark rubin on cassettes and music and life.

if anyone was ever into music, my good friend mark rubin was/is really into music.  here he writes:

If the truth be told, cassettes are how I got here. I can remember quite vividly when it started and why too.

In fact I had a very active relationship with music already having been raised by two amateur musicians who filled the house with radios and record players and even a “Happy Days” era jukebox that played 78’s. I loved the big LP’s and the large pieces of furniture that played them. For my 11th birthday I got two items for my birthday, a camera and a radio. I was so thrilled with the latter that the very first picture I took was of the former. I took it everywhere with me, oft infuriating my parents. I reveled in the idea of taking music with me everywhere I went.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

barnyard electronics is available on cassette

this is my effort for musically pushing the banjo forward. i never felt like the concept of using  jazz fusion aesthetics as a basis for new music, counted as a new idea. my feeling was that a more futurist manifesto type of ideology would be more apropros. i don't think soloing in straight un-swung 1/16th notes in an ionian or dorian mode, really qualifies as a new idea. so within this work, my goal was to destroy that. and use the banjo in a truly contemporary way.
here is a link to the futurist music manifesto: article
such a work would incorporate noise, spoken word, loops, cut and paste, glitch, and computer processing.
i hand drew the cover and color them on my kitchen table.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

so i met the ramones when i was a kid

       i grew up in belton texas, just north of austin. and in the seventies, music was a big deal, you could see lots of shows in austin. lots of the stuff i was interested in like punk rock, reggae, blues. anything different and not mainstream i guess.
so a crew of us went down there to see the ramones play {1978, i was 16}, in a white senco nail gun van. we had a keg of beer inside the car. so someone in our crew wormed their way backstage at the armadillo and discerned where the band was staying. at a la quinta inn up on i-35. so after the show, we drove over there. and there they were, hanging around. at first they looked at us suspiciously. we roll up slow in this van. but they figured out we had that keg of beer in there (it was after hours) and suddenly, we were whisked inside. so we found ourselves in there drinking and hanging with those guys. mark bell had just joined but i think it was before road to ruin came out.
joey had this battered old yamaha acoustic, that didn't have all the strings on it and he had it tuned to an open chord so he could just play with one finger and he sang some of the ballads that later came out on road to ruin.
but the coolest part was, he had this old jambox with him {i don't recall the model, but it was a one piece, single deck unit}, and the ubiquitous cardboard box with lots of lovingly made mixtapes inside. i believe he had hand drawn the covers, which is what folks used to do back then. but it was kinda cool cuz back then that's how we dug music was on jamboxes and mixtapes. it was cool to see these hep guys from nyc doing the same thing. i remember he had lots of trex. and being a trex fan myself, we chatted about that for a while. {that record tanx, helped me survive my childhood.}
we also discussed david bowie, and slade. it was pretty cool. and he had that deck, and he could carry it everywhere and jam. what i liked about him, was that he was a fan. and as a fan myself, we could relate on some level. {strangely, you can meet lots and lots of people in "music" that don't seem to really care for music that much.}
i recently was given that book the boombox project by a friend of mine, and was reminded of this story. the way those guys back then juked was on a jambox with lovingly made mixtapes. as i write this, there's about 30 cassettes on my kitchen table.

Friday, February 25, 2011

great article on cassettes

npr article on tapes

got sent this link. great article. new stuff to forage through. have fun.

recent LA trip

so i went to LA to make a new record at my friend's place at the village.
article about the studio
it was a great place and we had fun. however, i kinda wanted to put my mixes on cassette.  and they weren't able to find a working deck in the place and no one had one.  last time i make a record without taking my own jambox, haha.  anyways.  so they had this room, where all the old tape machines went to die i guess, and i got to walk around in there.  i shot a movie on my phone, if you ever run into me somewhere i'll show it to you.  it's amazing. i did find this panasonic deck in there.  here's  a pic.
which was a pretty cool looking unit.  it was on a shelf in a storage room. all across the world there are stacks of cool gear like this waiting to be repurposed. let me know what you find.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

if you needed a cool jam box, this is one.

decent jam box to buy

this would probably be a pretty good one. i just found it on etsy. it's a good price, and that's a pretty cool unit. i have a few of that series and they are pretty nice. it's not super-collectable or anything, but they are built pretty good and they'll crank. battery life is pretty good and they make kind of cool live recordings as well. someone should snatch this one up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

sanyo ms 560 jam box

i got this for 85 bucks including shipping from this guy i know in nyc. it's a really cool balance between size and sound. small, but jukes pretty good. one thing i really like about this unit is the switches are all real nice and solid feeling. the five band graphic is pretty handy.  rca ins. real solid little design and sounds good. it sounds crisp and tight. full range except for the super low, on account of the speaker surface area, but still a really nice unit. it's a three piece but i never use that feature i like the focused sound of just the box itself. tape transport works perfectly. obviously you can see the soft touch buttons. only thing is the receptor plug for the wall wart is loose, so i'm just running it on batteries right now. i'm thinking that i have a different plug somewhere that might have a slightly larger barrel and would hold in there better. may have to replace that, just jamming on batteries now. also, the dude sent this badass mixtape with the unit, the first song is planet rock that old song, and then a whole tape of stuff like that, haha!
great car, hotel unit.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

list of 101 cassette labels and assorted other cool links

101 cassette lables

"In the age of GarageBand, Myspace, and file sharing, it may come as a surprise to some that cassette labels are still very much in operation. Tapes now function as a basic form of patronage between musicians and their audience; since a physical format is no longer necessary to send or receive music, these objects become a gesture of support. Tapes act to make tangible the connection between a creator and their listeners, and the attentive and often handmade packaging speaks to this exchange."

this will take you hours to go through.  there is more cool new music being done right now than a person can even keep up with.  and it's not expensive to get.  what else can a music lover do but simply dive in, find cool stuff, and inform their friends of the best stuff?  music is badass. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

free gift for you

the first five folks that write to me on danny barnes will get a free mixtape.  thank you for reading this blog and thank you for being interested in tapes. include your physical address, domestic only.
danny barnes

article about a new cassette label in pitchfork

link to article

there are some pretty interesting links buried in that article.
and some pretty hep tracks to stream.
link to the label discussed here

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

an article about plustapes

link to article about plustapes

"Listening to a tape is different than listening to a CD. Big time. ‘Cause you can’t really fast forward. So listening to a tape is an all or nothing sort of experience. I find a lot of times when I’m listening to tapes, I actually have a walkman input in my car now. I would just leave the tape on and let it flip, and keep listening to it. So you get this kind of circular listening experience. And it’s the same thing with vinyl where you have to get up, flip a side, and you’re not just gonna listen to one track and get up again. No, you just listen to a side. The same thing with tape, where you can give pp - it’s almost like a mini show. They’re listening to a whole side, whereas CDs, 'No, I don’t like this song, this song blows, blip blip blip, OK I’ll listen to this song again. 'You don’t do that with tapes. Yeah you may not like the middle part, but you’re still there and you’re in it, and that’s awesome," Drase concluded.

Monday, January 31, 2011

review of faux jerome

okay.  get this one.  no kidding, this is one of the best records i've heard in quite some time.  not only is the music cool, but the packaging was really great.  this is an awesome tape.
first off, the music.  really cool samples, drum loops, drum machines, recorded in a kind of grainy way.  it's sort of like an 8mm film in audio.  each piece is kind of a scene.  some of the tracks are songs and some are cinematic event things that build and shift around.  i was really happy with the sound, ideas, and the execution.  the music is it's own stew that draws upon many sources.  some dubstep type basses waft in, and samples off old records and movies.  always around a pretty interesting drum concept. this music works great in the cassette format.
secondly, the box.  this was probably the coolest package design i can remember seeing in any post LP format. the picture won't really do justice to the tactile experience, there's a swatch of red flannel in there, and this picture out of an old magazine ad, and this cool light blue cassette.  i was really impressed with the interesting package design.  it reminded me of the music, low tech, but well done.  {maybe a better term would be it's-own-tech.}
overall i thought this effort was fantastic.
on lost sound tapes out of seattle.  i got a hand written thank you note from the owner of the label inside the envelope.  there were only 100 made.  it was only five bucks.  i can't say enough about how much i enjoy this tape.
lost sound tapes

Sunday, January 30, 2011

a person asks for an ipod/walkman comparison

the advantage that a walkman has over an ipod is tunable tape compression.  if you've been making tapes for a long time, and you make lots of mixes on certain brands of tape you can get your touch together on hitting things to tape in a certain way that brings out the bass and squishes the cymbals in a really cool way.  i haven't been able to replicate this in a DAW.  one can get fairly close but it's a simulation of something easily done on tape.  also like if you watch a movie, they use filters to adjust the color palette in certain ways.  most films aren't just a "picture" of a scene.  the colors are processed to create a thematic unity therewith. a really badass filter to run music through is just a slight amount of surface noise or tape hiss.  this is why many hip hop records and experimental guys will cut in a sample of a run out groove off a vinyl record.  it adds a very flattering filter to the music.  one which a person making a cassette can control.  {tape type, machine type, how hard the tape is hit} if you ever go to a live show and you see the lights on stage, they'll pump some smoke out there to give the light something to bounce off of.  filter.

i'm a big believer in using the right tool for the job.  if you want to take a zillion songs and pack lightly, of course the ipod.  if you really want to juke, you're going to need some cassettes, a walkman, and some badass headphones.  

i should also mention pause button editing, and controlling how tight the gaps are.  this can be done digitally in a DAW, but the basic itunes software does not allow this type of creative listening as far as i know.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

review of resonars, lunar kit/nonetheless blue

burger records is doing great stuff.  it's really exciting to find a label that you can buy things blind from, and the transaction works out great.  i think this business model is a good one.  it seems that sometimes record labels will put out so much stuff in quantity, i guess in hopes that something will stick, that the overall quality ratio goes way down.  and if every entity does that, we have too much crap to sort through and brand identity is lost.  if cds cost 20 bucks, in a cash strapped world, who is going to gamble on that?  they'll just buy things they already know, or steal it.  what's so difficult about that concept?
but burger records is nailing it.  companies like this make the world a better place.  win/win is the best social model.
i bought this one blind off their site.  i think with shipping it was seven bucks.  it's been in the player for going on the second day.  i like to spin just one tape for several days.  two records on one tape, we get here. the playing, songs, arrangements, overall vibe are really great on this.  fans of like, and i'm terrible with those catch-word things, garage pop or whatever are going to love this.  there's a kind of a small faces/jam vibe going on.  it's all very well rendered.  it works great on cassette.  i'm very happy with this purchase and would recommend it.
the only place they kinda lost me, and this may just be that i was alive the first time that came around, are the kinda overt beatles references.  they do their own take of it and it's cool, it's just that's not my fave stuff.  i love that band, but kinda quoting them for some reason makes me wince just a little.  in my view it's a little like quoting bob marley or bob dylan {quoting in a sonic way}, those guys are such a fabric of our landscape, we can just go listen to that, if it isn't already permanently wedged in the cortex already.   but that said, the resonars have plenty of other stuff going on,  forgive me for the slight offhand comment.
jangly guitar riffs aplenty.  there are moments of kind of  an early stooges thing, the pre-punk punk rock and all that stuff, that to me is the badass part of this tape.  there's a couple like mc5 jams on here that kick some major ass.  good singing.
overall they have a cool sound, set of references, and great songs.  the recording oeuvre fits tape very well.  it sounds great to smoke it on a jam box pretty good.  especially a mid-size one, cranked up till the bass breaks up just a little.  i was having a weird day the other day, blasted this and felt better.  it's like safe dope.

jam box collection from gluecifer

gluecifer's jam box collection

my friend rick put his collection up on youtube in a short video.  he lives in australia and some of the models don't look like they were available here in the states? i'm not sure.
a box that's kinda piqued my interest is the jvc that has the detachable walkman, the pc rm 100jw.  in red.  i don't see that in there, looking again.  here's a video of that particular unit.  jvc pc rm 100jw  i'll email him and ask him.
however, rick has got stacks of the classics and some weirdo ones too.  check out the 777 still has the stickers on it!! this is some serious geek-age.
there was a fellow over here in vancouver ca that had that jvc i'm referring to on ebay last year and i watched it like a dog looking in a butcher shop, but it went kinda crazy towards the end of the auction.  it had a slight belt issue seems he said the REW was slow. sometimes if auctions end at weird times of the day you can get in there and get stuff cheap.  i'm up at all weird hours and i check.  i never understood folks that would bid their max amount and then walk away.  it just drives the price up for everyone else.  i think the best form is to lurk and then hop in there in the last 45 seconds.  but then again i buy on there and never sell anything.  you have to be really careful on ebay, there's lots of shitheads on there.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

fixed this one today

fixed this one today.  one of the guys on a jambox forum told me how to make it happy again.  it's smaller but is a pretty good travel box.  metal case.  the tape counter is nice.  it's not very bassy but it's pretty cool.  the belt is really tight, the FFW and REW blaze along pretty good.  i bought it for my collection to have a jambox for the suitcase.  one that wouldn't take up too much room, but with which you could still do the hotel juke.  with headphones it has a fair amount of  boom, but it's not great.  and the antennae has this weird trip where it goes down inside.  like an old cadillac.  most of the boxes, the antennae rides on the outside.  it's pretty well made and the switches are nice.  also instead of a balance fader, it has two volumes, left and right.  i think i paid about 40 bucks for it.

review of the homostupids, great music collection

short version, badass hardcore.  23 songs under ten bucks with shipping.  fits tape format perfectly.  great lo-fi cover.  yellow shell.  they did a great job on this.  on fan death records, how can  you resist that name?  there are these little commercials at the top of A and B side, then then the boom starts.  highly recommended.  there are times when this is the perfect music.  haha, so i go to the mailbox and that's in there.....this is gonna be a good day.  found out about this band from this skater friend of mine.

notes from the format war

there is some type of analogy i'm playing with here.  i'm not sure, but this is just an off-the-cuff hypothesis.  forgive me if this is conceptually a bit slapdash. as usual i reserve my right to preface everything with "i could be wrong about the whole thing," but here goes:
back in the eighties, certain guitar manufacturers started making these really flashy guitars.  they had these bigger exaggerated bodies, neon colors, and floyd rose tremelo systems, active pickups, all this stuff.  and for awhile they sold tons of these things.  there is a certain type of mechanism at play when companies make a lower quality product, make it easier to get, advertise the crap out of it, and make it really flashy to the eye, and ofttimes shallow to the spirit.  it attracts folks that aren't that interested in the subject in the long term.  more folks that are dabblers will pull the economic trigger on something like that, then put it in the back of the closet and move onto something else.  it looked really good in the ad.
from my ad 101 class i had at the university of texas back in the day, the suits consider this a success.
anyways, after a few years, the dust settled and folks figured out, you know, these things sound like crap without tons of distortion, they are heavy, and they kind of look like musical leisure suits.  and folks started going back to playing les pauls and strats and teles more.
i believe there is some type of analogy to be had here with audio formats as well.
there are some industrial designs, that are just very usable friendly designs.  another example is the colt 1911 semi-auto pistol.  that's one of the most enduring designs ever made in the history of american manufacturing.  that design is still kind of the standard.  much like the les paul and stratocaster, or telecaster.  sometimes folks stumble onto designs that stand the test of time. { i read that the wright brothers kind of just stumbled onto a propeller design that was very efficient, without the aid of computer modeling. that perhaps they just kind of eyeballed that one. }  the big block chevy V8 is still the screaming hot rod engine.  the cessna 172 is still an awesome airplane design.
i think cassettes are somehow like the telecaster of the audio formats.

there is a universe of great music, that you are probably missing

animal psi

this site is amazing.  tons of tapes of music i've never heard before.  i like to shop here and randomly buy things.  lots of stuff with shipping is under ten bucks and they throw in stickers and stuff.  like, way under ten bucks.  it's pretty cool, you make your order, and then go about your business, and then a few days later you get this gift to yourself at the mailbox.  it's really fun to go down the list of labels on the left side and just randomly read and listen to samples.  when i hear someone whining about music, how they just don't make it like they used to and music today is so predictable and uninspired, i just let 'em go.  there's more stuff out there than a person can even listen to in a lifetime.  there's always great, creative people doing badass stuff for the win/win.  and figuring out different ways of making it available.  this is a great time to be in music, and to be into music.  i have a need to stimulate my brain with different sounds.  cassettes are really the format for this right now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

cassette walkman = boom.

bought this for ten bucks plus shipping on ebay.  it's brand new and works perfectly.  with a good set of headphones, juke shall abound.  old school hip hop, metal and punk rock really sound killer on here.  especially with homemade mix tapes on a good blank and you smear the levels on there.   i did an experiment where i burned some mp3's really hot onto a good cassette and it was badass.  that's definitely the trick for making downloaded songs rock.  not as hep as vinyl to tape, but surely better than an ipod.  there is a bass extender switch on the unit which is pretty hep.  ten bucks.  i never use the radio feature.  it has auto reverse but i'm not a big fan of that because i like to pop the tape out, flip it over and close the door.  but i can live with it.  the thing about auto reverse, as well as the impetus in the current age to arrange the program linearly,  i don't like hearing albums or cds or whatever straight through. i like the way a side A and a side B work out.  you get the program in two chunks.  which is more flattering to the music to me.  if all the dramatic plays in the world were suddenly run straight through with no break, it would change everything.  they have Act 1 and Act 2 for a reason.  did you ever notice how you'll be over at someone's house and they'll put a cd on and about the fourth song in they'll start talking and forget what's playing and then go over there and turn it down?  more likely the middle of the first song.  i can't really dig music like that.  when i was a kid my father would play records and you had to sit on the couch and stare at the record player like you were watching tv and you couldn't talk.  which is why i feel comfortable in a studio.  staring at speakers.  that's why i like 45's too.  i like to play one song over and over all day.
i couldn't believe i got this thing for a ten spot.  it's brand new.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

fixed this one. now it's rocking

bought it on ebay for 20 bucks plus shipping.  needed a few things, but it's all happening now.  sony cfs- 3000.  check out how i got the bass cranked on the three band eq in the pic.  it's smaller but sounds pretty good.  the belt seems really tight the FFW and REW fly pretty good.  playback speed seems pretty good.

review of pizazz, get out of my house

so i like to just buy tapes willy-nilly from some of these labels that i like.  one of the coolest labels i've found for twisted pop music {one of my favorite genres} is burger records.  that's how i found the pizazz.  the tape is called get out of my house.  i'm not super familiar with the references or parameters these guys are working with.  there's a particular sound they work with on here and develop.  not knowing too much about it is kind of a relief to me.  it's nice to just to get into something because one likes the songs and the playing and the way it's recorded and the aesthetic, and not because you have a bio and narrative all memorized.  i really thought these guys were from england, there are some kind of mid-period british pop motifs on here. turns out they are from detroit.  anyways, i really like this tape.  the songs are really well done.  the poetry is well rendered.  and it's recorded kinda hot and mushy which highlights the material in a very flattering way.  it's a very interesting combination of well done and lo-fi that is compelling.  it's cool the way the beats swim around in places, in other words, it isn't quantized.  and that's pretty hep.  this tape represents what i think is cool about this stuff.  an interesting label, putting out cool music, and it's inexpensive so you can buy things just because you want to find out about it.  there are some really good songs on here.  my copy is number 85 out of 250.  it's nice the way the cassette format kind of forces you to listen straight through.  i just put one in and play it over and over for a couple days.  the font on the cover reminds of the ones i used to get from columbia house or whatever in the 70's.  but in kind of a funky funny way.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

how to buy a jambox

basically what you are dealing with, are old units.  they don't make them anymore.  what i'm referring to are the single unit, one piece construction, single deck machines.  to me those are kinda the coolest ones.  like the panasonic 5000 series, a personal favorite of mine.  however the early attempts at the three piece unit {detachable speakers} are still kinda cool.  my favorite jambox of all time is of this ilk {sanyo c 30}.  however usually i prefer the one piece. i would never buy a jambox with a cd player in there because that is really uncool.  single deck, one piece, no cd player. hopefully with aux ins/outs.

there are all these "holy grail" models that i would probably just stay away from.  those are "collectable" items that are too expensive typically. {i just want to jam i don't want to impress anyone.}  instead, you should look for a good basic working jambox in the 50 dollar range.  i wouldn't jump into an 800 collector model for the first one.  look at a lasonic brand monster on ebay. those things cost a fortune.  badass, but expensive.  {no no no no NOT the ipod one.}

here's what typically will be wrong with older jamboxes:
a.  belt issues.  when powered up, if you hit play and the little wheels won't spin, yet you can hear the little motor going, usually that means there is a loose or broken belt. this represents the majority of cassette player malfunctions. it's not a very difficult repair, however sometimes getting the jambox apart is really hard.  they were made to sell not fix.  if you are fairly handy, learning to do this would be a good idea if you want to get them cheap, fix them and offer them to your friends or whatever.  usually when the playback is slow, the belt has stretched.  you can download repair manuals and find info on the net to fix.  you kinda need a bench and some badass light.  and lots of screwdrivers of various sizes and lots and lots of patience.  if you learn to do this simple repair, you can buy badass units all day long and fix them really cheap.  it's not quite as easy as it sounds as they can be really hard to take apart and put back together again.  jamboxes weren't really made to open up.
b.  button/knob issues.  sometimes you will hear crackles and stuff when you turn the volume up or down or move the selector or whatever. over time, the contacts will oxidize. there are two types of sprays you can buy. one for metal to plastic contacts, and one for metal on metal.  if you don't know which switches need which spray, stop.  typically the unit will need to be taken apart to really get to the potentiometers good.
c.  jack issues.  the headphone jack may not work.  the proper spray often fixes them right up.  sometimes if a unit won't make sound but the mechanism seems to work, you can clean the jack for the headphones, and it may then be able to pass signal to the speakers and start playing.  the little audio cut-out device in there that turns the main speakers off when the headphones are plugged in can get dirty.  easy fix.
d.  head alignment issues.  this is a tough one without the proper gear.  i would pass on this one.

really your best bet is to get one that already works.  remember these things are more than thirty years old.  so over time, the rubber and resin bits will dry out and sublimate. but you can still find units that work.  that's your best bet.  just get one that already works pretty good. clean the battery compartment, perhaps with some fine sandpaper on the contacts, clean the heads, demagnetize them, and treat the rubber.  you can research how to do all that stuff.  it's really easy and cheap to do and will fix about 40% of the problems roughly speaking.

here's what to test for.  make sure it powers up.  check the battery compartment.  for some reason knuckleheads will leave those batteries in there for years and they will corrode all over the place.  {i've even had guys ship me jamboxes with ten of those big dead corroded D cell batteries still in there. probably would have cut the shipping weight in half to remove them.}  it's nice if the battery contacts are super clean.  pop a tape in that you know works and you know what it sounds like.  hit play.  it should play full range out of both speaker sides.  move the balance knob back and forth.  both stereo sides should sound the same.  if there are woofers and tweeters make sure they all work.  sometimes this can be just a lose wire, if one of the speakers isn't functioning. overall the knobs should move and properly affect the sound without crackling.  though, from sitting around, they likely will make noise.  some of this will go away with use, or it may have to be cleaned.  again if it pops badly, you might want to pass on the unit as it will need to be taken apart.  check the FFW and REW and see if it works.  the tape should move quickly and smoothly.  any issues here are likely belt stuff. make sure the cassette door opens smoothly.  they lube the pivot at the factory and that will dry up after a few decades.  that is a super easy fix.  heck i have a couple jamboxes where i just have to help the door a little bit when changing the tape and it's no big deal. i have a unit that doesn't rewind that great, but i don't care i just keep playing it.  part of the deal of cassette over mp3 is that you kind of listen straight through anyway and don't do much rewinding. {have you ever noticed that most folks rarely listen to a whole song on an ipod before they change the song.  please stop doing that.  about the time i get into the jam, they'll switch the song.  arthur "no guitar boogie" smith.}

that's about it.  the best deal is if they work already. if there's a little bit of crackling with the knobs, it maybe plays a tiny bit slow, and there's a slight hesitation on the FFW or REW, don't despair.  if it's a cool unit you really want and it's cheap go head and get it.  i have purchased units like this that continued to work for years.

now about ebay.  it's a real crap shoot.  i have bought units off there from guys that had a real high rating and they guaranteed the unit to be perfect, and it showed up and would not play.  more than once this has happened to me.  so be warned about that.  if you go back to the seller, they get all sheepish, "well it played when it was here la dee dah".  so i assume that if i buy four units off ebay, only one is going to be in great working order.  one will need some minor work and two will need lots of work.  even if the rating is high and the guy assures you they are all perfect.  i speak from experience.

your best bet is to find them in the wild {pawn shops, garage sales, thrift stores…hey while you are there, buy a bunch of tapes}. that way you can test before committing your hard earned dollars and/or time.  never let a good one that works get away.  ask your friends and family about them.  if someone has one, lots of times, they never use it and you can just have them. i repeat, never let one that works get away. if you find one, buy it.

repair places.  i have never found a place that will work on units that aren't backlogged for months, and staffed with unfriendly guys that do NOT want to work on those things.  they typically will try to talk you out of the repair and/or quote you some really high price to make you go away.  if you find a place that's worth a damn, please tell me, i don't care what state it's in.

you will most likely have to find them in working order and/or undertake minor repairs thyself.

great radio show featuring tapes

c 60 radio

brad does a really cool show.  download some of these things.  lots of music you've never heard that is well conceived and well short, killer.  there is a great list of links there as well.  bone up on the underground cassette world.  good stuff.

i like to order from these guys.

lost sound tapes

the service is really good.  the fellow is really nice.  they have all this music i have never heard really cheap, so i can afford to buy things on a whim.  i really enjoy buying music like this.  it's really cool waiting and then i kind of forget and then one day i go to the mailbox and boom, there's a gift that i bought for myself in there!  i really dig those funky covers.  one of the badass things about this aesthetic is that the boneheads get weeded out so fast hahaha.  cassettes also sound slightly different to me on different machines which adds a whole nother layer of mystique to the proceedings.  i highly recommend this company.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

my friend jack's tape collection

how to spot a music fan.  look for this type of behavior.

review of seth bernard's warm/cold

mr. bernard personally handed me this tape last year when i worked a show with him.  i really like the design of the tape.  it's homemade looking but well done.  the overall aesthetic was pretty hep.  i like the way it looks.  it's pretty punk rock the way the tape is labeled with a piece of tape.  side A is called warm inside on a cold day and side B is called cold inside on a warm day.  sonically there are some really cool ambient textures on here.  the playing, songwriting, and the vision are all great.  what's cool, is there are some ambient bits that roll along and the songs kinda pop out of there and then something else comes up that kinda bridges it until the next song happens.  the overall effect is really pleasing.  it sounds like you have some really good friends in the next room playing this really cool kinda chill music for themselves, and you are overhearing it.  the use of space on here is very hep.  sometimes i kinda felt like the levels might be a little low and that nailing them on there would give another layer of compression and would also bring the apparent noise floor down a couple db, but the way it is is pretty hep….there's my beloved tape noise.  so, however it was made, i'm all for it. music like this where you can still see the brushstrokes as it were, is really appealing.  a couple of really great lines from the songs that stuck out are "you don't have to keep it to yourself, but you can." and also "he who dies with the most toys, leaves the biggest mess."  the songs, recording, poetry, playing…the whole thing is great. i also like how you can hear other things going on.  at one point i think i heard a bird outside.  it's very refreshing to hear music like this.  what's badass about lo-fi, is that when things sound really clear, that gives a whole other perspective.  so there's another layer of interest in there.  there are some stunningly beautiful moments on this tape.

dear musicians, stop handing out cds.

i guess it was in the late '90's or so, when one day, everyone in the biz suddenly had a cd.  looking back, i don't guess we were quite up to our collective necks with the things like we are now.  and it seemed like a real legit thing to do.  to make a cd.  make it look all good.  and hand them out like candy to anyone that would accept it.  wow this person has to be good, they have a cd.

roll the tape forward a few years.  now the deal is, whoa.  the truth is, no one really wants these things.  if you hand them out to people you just met and all that, the recipient doesn't really know what to do with them.  the point is not to say that all cds are bad, but the value of the concept of promoting oneself through handing out cds has waned.  i'm not really sure that was ever a really great idea to begin with.  {my idea is to focus on making the music badass.  don't get sidetracked by having the world's greatest 8x10 or worrying about networking and all that, make the music great.  that's what the world needs.  not another well written bio. i think self-promotion should be called bothering others while making yourself look like an idiot.}  it would be a fair guess to venture forth that just about every person in the music line of employ has a giant box of promo cds that folks have given them.  what does one do with these things other than trash them?  perhaps you listen once, but then what?  it's a waste of resources. in the event that there's some groovy music on there, pretty much the thing to do is rip what you like off there, but then you still have this big plastic thing that has no re-purpose.

here's my suggestion. make tapes. because then you are giving someone something that has intrinsic value. tapes can easily be recorded over and re-purposed.  even if the music is awful, you have something.  {hopefully, they went all out and put it on a position 2 tape. boom. i'll put that dr. alimantado stuff on there.}  

i'll come back to this in a moment.

see, here's a problem.  many years ago, the weirdos were the only group all into music like crazy.  there was all this great stuff, and not much effluvia actually…..well less anyway. records had to be hunted like wolverines.  they didn't just appear.  currently the problem i see with music is that it's too easy for people that don't really like music to consume it.  we'll call them "boneheads."  much like middle aged guys that decide they are going to watch baseball, and then follow the yankees or something, because they don't want to be on the losing side, boneheads get all into these big bands and stuff… and it's really easy for them to consume the product.  the issue is, boneheads are so thick in the head that mountains of crap must be made for them to notice, for they do absolutely zero research on their own.  enter the cd.  cheap to make zillions.  just like big macs.  there's just too many of these things and folks can't figure out what to do with the ones they paid 20 bucks for, why burden them with another one featuring the music of someone they barely know and are likely completely disinterested in…if they were, they would have already gone to the site and streamed the songs for free.

here's the solution.  stand out.  make something interesting.  put your music on cassette.  {it's not going to be in your advantage to attract a bunch of boneheads to your shows anyway.  money is NOT everything.  it's probably best to weed those bastards out right up front.  and believe me, if you try to hand one a tape, they will shudder as though you handed them a dirty diaper.  it's like an automatic rat deterrent.}

one day last year i was playing at a music festival in one of the northern states.  and was talking/hanging with some younger scruffy musician folks after my set and we were talking about music and stuff.  the fellow says "hey can i give you a cd?" i said…"well, do you have anything on cassette? i like tapes." and his eyes lit up and come to find out, he had tons of stuff he was doing himself on cassette.  now THAT's some badass shit.  his name was seth bernard and the tape was killer.  he had several. i'm still listening.  his tape is going to be my first review for this blog.  he made a impact on me.  the odds were that he was really into what he was doing. the way it stands now, pretty much the only folks aware of cassettes are folks that are really into music in a big way.  boneheads think cassettes or other analog formats are "dead." great. that way i won't have to listen to their bullshit.

see, if somehow cds could be made onto useful objects like a carrot peeler or something, one would at least have something.  tapes are intrinsically useful.  man those position 2 and 3 tapes are hard to come by.  those things are real gifts.  very useful for a music fan.  fan as in fanatic.  think of it as putting one's name on a trinket like they advertise for in the bonehead magazine on the airplane.  put your firm's name on a pencil eraser or whatever.  tapes are valuable unto themselves.  

i think the thing for an independent musician to do is to use soundcloud.  they will host your music for free and if you want someone to listen you can just email them and direct them there, or tell them verbally.  {actually, kind of like no one needs to give directions on leaving a message on an outgoing voicemail message.  we all know to leave a coherent message after the beep.  everyone has a site.  everyone puts their music on the site.  stop giving me these cds. stop wasting your own resources on them.}

that way the person can listen at their leisure.  then they aren't stuck with this useless cd, at the end of the process.  in my worldview, the best model is to make cassettes with a free download card.  or a 45 with the free download.  {i think a really good way to do a record would be to record the whole thing as a body of work, stream the whole thing on the site, make cassettes, and a 45 of the two best songs.}

when i go to a real record store and buy some tapes and some vinyl, i can hardly wait to get home and listen.  when someone hands me a cd, i feel like i'm being asked to watch home movies of someone i don't know.  and i can't think of anything less interesting than your vacation.

the conclusion is my suggestion to stop handing those things out.  if someone asks for one directly by all means give them one, but try making tapes.  heck just make a tape of the cd.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

these things are like little boxes of gold.  this is an old unopened blank.  position 4.  metal baby.  this will make a cd hide behind the couch in fear.
this is another jam box i got from one of my friends on  it's smaller and the bass isn't super hep, but it will fit in a suitcase and rock a hotel room.  it plays perfectly.  it makes pretty cool recordings but doesn't have aux in/out.  its amazing how long the batteries last in this at full blast.

this is my favorite one.  it came from a thrift store in arizona for just a few bucks.  the sound quality is really good, plenty of bass.  it plays just a little slow which is actually pretty cool.  it had one cracked transport button, but i fixed that with some epoxy and a clothespin.  cleaned the heads and pinch roller and boom.  it runs on 8 D batteries.  the five band graphic EQ is pretty hep.  i could just listen to this thing for the rest of my life.  it's so fun.