Posts Tagged ‘Cassette’

Burn Church Press – 26th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Just because I’ve spent the last decade whittling down my cassette collction from over 500 to fewer than 50 doesn’t mean that I don’t think the tape renaissance isn’t cool. It represents a return to the appreciation of tactile, physical media, as well as a format that has a certain fragility which adds to its appeal: the idea that the cassette was cheap, convenient but also potentially damageable and disposable means that it’s possible to enjoy something of an ambivalent or even conflicted relationship with cassettes, often on a tape-by-tape basis. The return of the cassette suggests bands are haring back to a bygone age when acts – before the advent of the CD-R – would sell tapes at their gigs. These were often bands too new or too skint or too unsigned to have any vinyl releases.

The title of the debut release by Newcastle post-punk band Lost on Me also reminds us of the pre-internet era when bands would cut a demo and send it around gig promoters and record labels the like in the hope of getting gigs and more exposure, or even a recording contract and the chance to record in a proper studio rather than on a beaten-up four-track borrowed from a mate.

‘Protection’ bursts from the speakers in a blizzard of fractal, interlooping guitars, a mass f chorus and delay, and one might be forgiven for an initial thought which incudes Editors by way of a reference point – I’m thinking forst album era, I’m thinking ‘Munich’ in particular. But then Martin Downing’s dense, dark baritone enters the mix, and its heavy timbre has far more ‘gothy’ connotations, calling to mind Chris Reed from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

‘Landslide’ is a chiming pop tune at heart with a nagging guitar line, but the throbbing bass and deep, growling vocal casts heavy shade across its sunny surface. Third track ‘Balance’ brings a sinewy tension and a density that, again, is reminiscent of the Lorries.

The stuttering bursts of drums propel the wistful, emotive closer, ‘New Beginnings’ into territories which bring together contrasting dynamics to good effect, and once more indicate that these guys have studied the darker (and often more drum machine driven) side of the early 80s alternative scene. The production also contributes to the effect in a major way, with deep, deep reverb all over everything and a slightly hazy, murky analogue veil hanging over the guitars, in particular the thick bass tones. It’s all in the details, and they’re certainly not lost on me.

 

Lost on Me - Demonstration

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GoldMold Records – 10th February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Once upon a time, everything was tapes. The romanticism of a frustrating and often inconvenient medium has endured perhaps largely on account of the potential impermanence of their nature: how many music fans of the cassette age mourn the loss of a beloved recording on account of a moment’s forgetfulness which resulted in overrecording, or some freak event which resulted in demagnetisation? How many hours spent spooling and respooling tape which had become mangled in the heads, or otherwise stretched or snapped? The albums of yesteryear, all recorded to quarter inch tape, slowly decaying are an integral backdrop to our appreciation of the existence of the sounds they contain.

But is with books in the printed medium over digital text, it’s easier to form a bond with an artefact which feels somehow personal and personalisable. Just as a book with various creases and marks, perhaps even annotations develops a tangible, unique sense of ownership a Kindle edition never can, a playlist can never have the same resonance as a lovingly-sequenced mix-tape with hand-scribbled notes accompanied by a creased post-it or page from a spiral-bound notepad containing a covering note, folded into quarters and stuffed inside a scuffed case. On an emotional level, at least, sonic fidelity counts for less than fidelity to a pure moment, and it’s the thought that counts: those analogue documents of yesteryear can contain the entirety of a crush that dissipates in weeks or the early stages of a lifelong relationship on any level.

While the debates over the nostalgia ‘industry’ continue to rage, it’s fair to say that the renaissance enjoyed by the cassette is not a purely economic one. After all, the costs involved in burning a bunch of CD-Rs and stuffing them into handmade sleeves is negligible, and even though a bulk batch of 100 C30 cassettes can be obtained for in the region of 55p per unit, the time and effort required to dub even a small run of tapes is proportionally greater than any number of CD-R burns. But the changing nature of the music industry means that where it’s at now is in the small-scale, the personal, and the idea that an artist or label has invested time and personal attention on a product imbues the object with an instant emotional resonance.

The debut release from Glasgow’s Forehead – the vehicle of Sean Garrett (said to be ‘the shyest frontman you’ll ever meet’ and mother goose of the Lovely Ladies) – is appropriately named, as it is being released – if you hadn’t already deduced – on (baby blue) cassette, in a limited edition of just 15. It’s also being released as a download of course. Because no artist makes a release exclusively for 15 people.

The blurb notes that the four tracks contained herein ‘have been about for a while but are only being released now, a testament to Sean’s wholly unwarranted modesty’. And yes, the songs are superb, in a sketchy, nervous, hesitant yet achingly sincere way. You get the impression that Garret’s shyness is integral to the material, to the extent that its awkwardness defines what makes it special. And by no means interpret awkward as clumsy: there’s a skilled songwriter hiding behind the sonic fog here.

Regardless of the protracted journey between conception, recording and release, in keeping with the EP’s title, Bedroom Tapes conveys the spirit of 90s analogue enthusiasm. Low-key, lo-fi indie rock songs, reminiscent less of Pavement and more of Silver Jews, define the Forehead sound. This only serves to amplify the nostalgic quality of the release, evoking the excitement of hearing something stubbornly lo-fi, dubbed from a cassette or a record, the grind of a worn stylus on cheaply-pressed vinyl, for the first time.

Forehead also captures the awkward shyness of J Mascis on ‘Honest’, and the swampy plod of ‘Corner Pieces Falling Apart’ bursts into slanted psych-hued noise before crawling off to hide under the table.

 

Forehead