The Wire

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In Writing

The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

D30, D60, D90 Go

Derek Walmsley

Myself and Nick Richardson will be hosting a tape-only extravaganza on the Adventures In Modern Music show tonight, with music new and old culled from the cassette archives at The Wire office and various other sources, to celebrate the thriving cassette music underground in the US, UK and beyond. You might ask... why? And why now?

Over the last year or so the number of tapes coming into The Wire office have increased steadily. It started with Noise heads, but electroacoustic musicians and field recordists have followed down the same route, and Hypnagogic Pop has taken to the cassette form like The Skaters to the music racks at your local charity shop. Record labels have even used them for promo purposes (to avoid pre-releases getting ripped and spread on the internet).

We were musing as to what's the appeal of the format. First off, fidelity: cassettes hiss like hell, but they've got good bass response (remember LFO pre-recorded "LFO" onto a tape cassette with the levels in the red, to get that distortion effect). Tapes hiss is part of the music, obviously, but this can be embraced – abrasive fidelity is an appealingly rough hewn surface which becomes part of the work, like painting on a found canvas. Also, tapes are reassuringly three dimensional, which refreshing if your desk (like mine) is covered with promo CDs in slipcases. They feel like art objects, which you can appreciate from all angles, and which can be painted, stenciled, graffitti'd. Opening a tape is like unlocking a treasure box. Perhaps most important is the continuous nature of the cassette experience, where often (if you don't know side A from side B) there's no specific start to the album, and no particular end, you just dip in and out when the mood takes you. Of course, you can't easily skip through the piece so you don't get the digital OCD twitch of clicking through the piece to see how it ends. You have to listen instead.

Like CD-Rs before, tapes have become the medium of choice for quick-fire bulletins from the underground. You won't find much of this music digitised on the web – and that's part of its appeal, it's an underzone of modern music which covers a huge swathe of what's exciting right now, from psychedelia to analogue electronics to field recordings.... and beyond. Expect the likes of Spencer Clark, The Rita + Werewolf Jerusalem, Meat Sweats Mark McGuire, KGB Man, Afric Simone, Unity Sound 1999 Ragga Mix, Kommissar Hjuler Und Frau, John Clyde-Evans, Devil's Dung, Pascal Nichols, Skin Graft, Skullflower, Keith Fullerton Whitman and many more

We'll be playing everything off walkmans, so get your D90 at the ready. Join us tonight, 21:00-22:30, Resonance 104.4FM and streaming online.