Wheezing Spools: Cassettes in Electronic Music – Part II
A half-dozen tape bombardments that hardly toe the line
By Conor Walker, 12:30PM, Wed. Jul. 23
Cassettes occupy a reclusive distance from the whims of the masses. Since tapes aren’t enslaved by prescribed pop expectations, a history of idiosyncratically edgy music endures. The following music is separated from the popularity contest vomiting forth from dogmatic dance formulae layered amid the babble of social media.
Away from such toe-the-line bombardments, cassettes remain a sanctuary fluttering from the fringes. Here are a few of my favorite tape releases. However marginalized they may be, they negate the urge to follow lackluster trends.
Severed Heads Since the Accident (Ink, 1983)The original LP was scrapped and expatriated to cassette, which despite the deficiency of industry backbone remains the quintessential platform for symphonies of quivering tape loops and off-kilter samples. Because the Accident has since become a cult classic amongst industrial and synth-pop pundits, its latest reissue arrives on Medical Records. Think Dome and the Art of Noise, as in pure misery and ecstasy.
Frak Tempo Hits (Börft, 1990)
Frak might be considered the electro-acid equivalent of Captain Beefheart – soldered to a hall of mirrors under blinding Scandinavian summer light. The Swedish trio flies its frequency flag high above the rest given that its tape discography dates back to 1988, when techno tapes were about as in as techno 8-tracks.
Ü Great Dose of Monotonous Techno (Börft, 1992)
Joel Brindefalk’s early-Nineties opus features 22-minute unedited sides of untethered techno terrorism. Digitalis re-released Great Dose of Monotonous Techno on LP last year. I’ll spin its sequel next time I find myself in Dripping Springs banging my head against the pavement.
Vatican Shadow Pakistan Military Academy (Hospital Productions, 2011)
Dustin Fernow (Prurient, Christian Cosmos, Vatican Shadow, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, et al) takes his cue from Muzlimgauze’s brand of nationalistic desert electronics. A substantial portion of Fernow’s prolific discography encompasses harsh noise, yet Vatican Shadow stretches into a terrain of desiccated ambiance, unsettling power electronics, and imagery of a CIA-infected Middle East. The opening dirge, “Whitewashed Compound Stealth Helicopter Crash,” evokes Western Asia as a dilapidated junkyard for the U.S. Military Industrial Complex. Unfortunately, Fernow lacks Bryn Jones’ (Muzlimgauze) political consciousness, needlessly since Vatican Shadow’s atmosphere alone exposes our fascist imperialism run amok.
Bronze Age Antiquated Futurism (Bed of Nails, 2012/2013)
Bronze Age is the kind of terrible name birthed when a Gothy noise head gets into techno. The result: three flawless concrete belters echoing collapse and coagulation. Antiquated Futurism was also released as a 12-inch. Each number offers an ideal urban club banger. Both formats do the release justice, as it hovers like a drone between techno for the dance floor and techno for reclusives.
Joane Skyler Orz (Reckno, 2013)
Orz arrived as one of those bedroom albums that tickles like a hash pipe left on the mattress. It rolls around a pillow top topography, giggling and hiccuping resin at will. It’s got a playful British IDM feel with plenty of Aphex-esque fuckery thrown about, but there’s also a cozy Midwestern basement vibe, as if it was unearthed in a squat built by Italian stone masons. Orz closes with the aptly named “Dinosaur Dies Alone” under a synth-laden haze of grey machine clouds.