Author Topic: Just bought a TAPE  (Read 1091 times)

Just bought a TAPE
« on: April 04, 2021, 01:34:00 PM »
Counterflows is our local[1] underground music festival. In normal times it is a cultural highlight of my year. To support it in a tiny way during lockdown, I just bought their "zine and tape" bundle.

I'm genuinely excited to receive this as I know I'll enjoy reading the zine and handling the tape for a few minutes having not so much as seen one in years. I have no way of playing it though. Will I get a sense of the music if I unspool and eat it?

https://counterflows.com/shop/
 1. locally-based; internationally stocked

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2021, 02:10:47 PM »
I too dig Counterflows

We've probably stroked our chins mere inches from each other, nothing but Russell Haswell between us to prevent intertwinement.

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2021, 11:10:48 PM »
Cassettes are definitely making a comeback. There still seem to be lazy as fuck articles about how vinyl is making a resurgence, something anyone who's been in a HMV in the last six years knows, but tapes are kind of where vinyl revival was in 2011ish.

I mostly resisted the urge to start buying cassettes from charity shops, but would occasionally find the odd gem, but then just before Christmas I bought a job-lot from an older couple who were moving and down-sizing.

Got about 125 tapes, around 20 home-recorded (commonly inaccurately called "mixtapes") and a couple of those 2X16 carry cases all for £35.

There were some real gems in the collection, including The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, Japan, The Doors, Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Miles Davis and loads more. Spent the last couple of months cleaning them up and gauging the value via Discogs - Going by the "median" cost of each tape, the total collection would be well over £500 - Although I've got no intentions of selling any of them.

I've noticed that whenever I post a photo of cassettes on social media, I get a lot of likes and interaction from "kids" (ie: under 25s) who don't show nearly as much interest as when I post pics of vinyl finds. This leads me to believe that vinyl is already kind of passé
with Gen Z-ers and it's all about cassettes.


purlieu

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2021, 01:01:16 AM »
Tapes never really went away in the underground, particularly around noise and black metal artists and labels. For reasons that are still slightly confusing to me, a number of the artists who went on to pioneer the new agey analogue synth revival sound in the late '00s (Oneohtrix Point Never, Pulse Emitter, Emeralds) came from the noise scene, which massively expanded the whole cassette thing. CDs being exceptionally uncool in some circles, but vinyl being expensive, the format became more and more popular within underground electronic / experimental stuff. And then vaporwave happened, and suddenly there was this huge boom in professionally made, far too expensive tapes with limited runs to create artificial scarcity, released and bought by 17 year old American kids. And then the mainstream picking up on various underground trends, it started filtered through to there.

A lot of my own music has come out on tape in the last ten years, partially out of necessity (finding an underground CD label willing to put out music that isn't ambient, field recordings or digital sound art these days is bloody difficult), partially out of design (some of my lo-fi synth stuff fits the format fine). I don't buy too many as I prefer CDs and vinyl, but I have a decent quality deck which has very little hiss and a decent frequency range so I'm happy to play stuff on it as and when required.

The vinyl revival thing is still staggeringly overhyped - despite continual growth, the numbers are pretty much peaking in the UK, sales having grown by a few thousand in the past couple of years. And vinyl sales are still nowhere near CD sales, for all the "who buys CDs anymore?" stuff you read on a fairly regularly basis. Tape sales are up but I don't think they'll ever reach the same level - LPs have a certain perceived authenticity (plenty of musicians stating they're the way music is 'meant' to be heard and such guff) and also go nicely on the wall. I enjoy the pocket-sized feel of a tape, but even that has a certain novelty to it.

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2021, 03:49:38 PM »
A lot of my own music has come out on tape in the last ten years, partially out of necessity (finding an underground CD label willing to put out music that isn't ambient, field recordings or digital sound art these days is bloody difficult), partially out of design (some of my lo-fi synth stuff fits the format fine).

I'd give your stuff a listen mate. Do you have anything online on Mixcloud or similar I could start with?

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2021, 03:54:13 PM »
Cassettes are definitely making a comeback. There still seem to be lazy as fuck articles about how vinyl is making a resurgence, something anyone who's been in a HMV in the last six years knows, but tapes are kind of where vinyl revival was in 2011ish.

I mostly resisted the urge to start buying cassettes from charity shops, but would occasionally find the odd gem, but then just before Christmas I bought a job-lot from an older couple who were moving and down-sizing.

Got about 125 tapes, around 20 home-recorded (commonly inaccurately called "mixtapes") and a couple of those 2X16 carry cases all for £35.

There were some real gems in the collection, including The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, Japan, The Doors, Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Miles Davis and loads more. Spent the last couple of months cleaning them up and gauging the value via Discogs - Going by the "median" cost of each tape, the total collection would be well over £500 - Although I've got no intentions of selling any of them.

I've noticed that whenever I post a photo of cassettes on social media, I get a lot of likes and interaction from "kids" (ie: under 25s) who don't show nearly as much interest as when I post pics of vinyl finds. This leads me to believe that vinyl is already kind of passé
with Gen Z-ers and it's all about cassettes.

Very nice haul.

There's definitely an aesthetic to the tape era that is appealing. I'm newly a vinyl boy and the feeling I hanker for is that of the 1950s-60 (the music I listen to on the format is largely jazz) but these kids have a real thing for blocky/plastic '80s tapes and cartridges and whatnot. I watched that Turbo Kid movie (2015), which seems to be that aesthetic as it appeals to younger people who grew up in the late nineties/early noughties. Pretty good btw.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2021, 04:00:45 PM »
Looking to trade






Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2021, 06:40:38 PM »
I've bought a lot of tapes in the last decade, they're popular in the indiepop scene. These days they're really only physical objects to attach download codes to.

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2021, 05:41:32 PM »

The vinyl revival thing is still staggeringly overhyped - despite continual growth, the numbers are pretty much peaking in the UK, sales having grown by a few thousand in the past couple of years

Are you sure? According to the BPI "Sales of vinyl records continued their resurrection as a premium and collectors’ format, increasing for the 13th consecutive year, by 11.5% to 4.8m copies purchased".

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2021, 07:23:09 PM »
Very nice haul.

There's definitely an aesthetic to the tape era that is appealing. I'm newly a vinyl boy and the feeling I hanker for is that of the 1950s-60 (the music I listen to on the format is largely jazz) but these kids have a real thing for blocky/plastic '80s tapes and cartridges and whatnot. I watched that Turbo Kid movie (2015), which seems to be that aesthetic as it appeals to younger people who grew up in the late nineties/early noughties. Pretty good btw.

There's something kind of magical and indefinably cool about the blocky dimensions of a cassette case. Similar size as a pack of cards or cigarettes.

Even though I was super chuffed with my haul, going through them all the other day only made me remember just how many awesome tapes I had in the 90s and got rid of because I never thought they'd hold their value in the way that vinyl would. First heard Ill Communication, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Appetite For Destruction on cassette.


purlieu

  • Gertrude Stein said that's enough.
Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2021, 07:41:14 PM »
Are you sure? According to the BPI "Sales of vinyl records continued their resurrection as a premium and collectors’ format, increasing for the 13th consecutive year, by 11.5% to 4.8m copies purchased".
Hmm yes, my post was probably a touch of an exaggeration - although 4.2m were sold in 2018, so the rise isn't quite as stratospheric as people are making out. Admittedly, calling 600,000 'a few thousand' was wrong, but the rise seems to be slowing. In contrast, despite 20 years of falling sales, there were more than 16m CDs sold last year. And yet numerous news sites ran the story of "vinyl outsells CD for first time!" because mid-year sales in the US showed that income from vinyl sales topped that from CDs (largely because it costs three times as much).

I actually quite like vinyl records, for all their numerous problems, but I do get really irritated by this message the media loves that it's the only format people are buying these days. It's still only second to cassette in terms of the least popular format in the UK.

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2021, 07:55:03 PM »
Surprised tapes are coming back, particularly with the young youth, they sound terrible and kids haven't even got the nostalgia factor. At least vinyl sounds good and there's the possibility of getting an oul' jam going if you have a pair of 1210s. What can you do with a cassette tape? Look at it I suppose. I'm 42 and when I was 15 tapes were largely done. But I collected records for 10 years as new tracks came out on vinyl well into the 2000s and there was a culture around it. Tapes haven't the same utility. You can't get a mix going with tapes.

It's like the telephone symbol on a mobile phone, a signifier of the past.

imitationleather

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2021, 08:00:26 PM »
They're a nice thing to look at and line-up on a shelf when you've bought a download of an album.

I no longer want to accumulate stuff but I would have liked the idea back when I was hoarding objects.

Sebastian Cobb

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2021, 08:08:32 PM »
Hmm yes, my post was probably a touch of an exaggeration - although 4.2m were sold in 2018, so the rise isn't quite as stratospheric as people are making out. Admittedly, calling 600,000 'a few thousand' was wrong, but the rise seems to be slowing. In contrast, despite 20 years of falling sales, there were more than 16m CDs sold last year. And yet numerous news sites ran the story of "vinyl outsells CD for first time!" because mid-year sales in the US showed that income from vinyl sales topped that from CDs (largely because it costs three times as much).

I actually quite like vinyl records, for all their numerous problems, but I do get really irritated by this message the media loves that it's the only format people are buying these days. It's still only second to cassette in terms of the least popular format in the UK.

You including SACD in that pal?

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2021, 08:10:32 PM »
Minidisc?

💽

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2021, 08:39:08 PM »

thenoise

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2021, 10:15:00 PM »
What can you do with a cassette tape?

1. You can stop listening, listen to something else, and return to the same spot later, in a very simple and instinctive way. This is particularly important as it becomes rarer and rarer to actually have a full hour (or whatever) spare to listen to an album. The first tracks of a CD always get listened to more than the rest.

2. If you hate a cassette, you can dub over the top with something you do like, or use it to record your own music. Do it a few times and you get some cool ubpredictable ghosting effects.

3. If you remove the door from your cassette player or Walkman you can get your fingers in there and vary the speed to make some wobbly radiophonic effects. This will damage the player and tape, eventually, but not as badly or expensively as if you start drunkenly trying to 'scratch' with your hi fi turntable and beloved vinyl collection...

4. If you have a 4 track you can play music backwards and listen for satanic messages hidden in your favourite rock song. Ok some people manage to do this with records but fuck knows how.

Probably more.  I love cassettes.

purlieu

  • Gertrude Stein said that's enough.
Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2021, 10:46:33 PM »
You including SACD in that pal?
They probably fall under the CD category, but yes, I'm aware I'm ignoring BluRay Audio, MiniDisc, DAT, 8-track, reel-to-reel, all of which are still being released to varying degrees by niche labels. In terms of your 'main' formats, though, vinyl is less popular than download, CD and streaming, which means the amount of press it gets is a bit daft.

In terms of tapes, if you get a well mastered, well dubbed tape (ideally on chrome), played on a high quality deck, it sounds absolutely great. The thing of tapes sounding shit (and I've seen them described as both tinny and muddy, so... eh?) comes from them often being played on cheap walkmans and boomboxes. They won't reach vinyl standards of fidelity, but I recently recorded an album I was working on to my parents' twin cassette deck to get a lo-fi tape sound (as I've done in the past to a £35 portable stereo), and when I recorded it back to digital the difference was very subtle. A minuscule amount of hiss, but otherwise they were pretty much the same.

There's certainly very little benefit over buying a CD, in terms of listening (the ability to stop the tape and return to exactly the same point aside, as thenoise mentions above), so I think when it comes to bigger releases, a lot of tapes are bought as novelty items, especially as they're usually about the same price as CDs these days. But if it's a tape-only release, or maybe tape and vinyl and you're on a sensible music budget, then they're perfectly fine as a way to listen to music, unless you're a genuine audiophile.

daf

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2021, 11:15:39 PM »
I loved my minidisc player.

I switched to it from cassettes as my 'workhorse' for capturing stuff from the radio around 2000 (I edited stuff down on the mac and burned them on CD's to archive, rather than keeping stuff on the minidiscs)

Infact, I'm on my second - I wore the first one out (stopped ejecting discs), but I was using it for a couple of hours five days a week for around 10 years solid, so fair play!

Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2021, 12:19:26 AM »
1. You can stop listening, listen to something else, and return to the same spot later, in a very simple and instinctive way. This is particularly important as it becomes rarer and rarer to actually have a full hour (or whatever) spare to listen to an album. The first tracks of a CD always get listened to more than the rest.

2. If you hate a cassette, you can dub over the top with something you do like, or use it to record your own music. Do it a few times and you get some cool ubpredictable ghosting effects.

3. If you remove the door from your cassette player or Walkman you can get your fingers in there and vary the speed to make some wobbly radiophonic effects. This will damage the player and tape, eventually, but not as badly or expensively as if you start drunkenly trying to 'scratch' with your hi fi turntable and beloved vinyl collection...

4. If you have a 4 track you can play music backwards and listen for satanic messages hidden in your favourite rock song. Ok some people manage to do this with records but fuck knows how.

Probably more.  I love cassettes.

Proved me point. I'm not raggin' on tapes per ce, they're just outdone by other formats. You can have a party with vinyl or MP3/FLAC/Wav. You can collect and have shelves of VHS with their pretty boxes and bizarre titles from the 80s. You can record a mix onto minidisc. You can collect and listen to vinyl or CD with better quality than cassette tape.

Cassette feels more obsolete like 8track or Wax cylinder or lazerdisc. There are dozens of amateur VHS collectors with their own mini video rental shops in their house but I can't imagine the same enthusiasm happening with cassette tapes. It probably will but on a much smaller scale. I think cassette was much more thoroughly routed by CD than VHS was by DVD and streaming.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2021, 01:15:23 AM »
Surprised tapes are coming back, particularly with the young youth, they sound terrible and kids haven't even got the nostalgia factor.

I sometimes read r/cassetteculture and view it mostly with bemusement.  You'll see posts from teenagers just getting into cassettes and posting pictures of their collections, which is often a bunch of random crap bought from a junk shop.  There's some people who collect blank tapes.  Not to use, just to keep as unwrapped blanks.  Then I'll facepalm over the post asking how to record from Spotify to cassette.  Then there'll be people making "mixtapes" (I hate that word) who'll agonise over the timings, sometimes using a spreadsheet so they can make a selection that perfectly fits the cassette, and then using a printer to print the song titles onto the "J-card" (an awful word I'd never encountered until recently), totally missing the point that nobody ever cared about songs fitting and wrote the titles on the inlay card in biro.

I switched to it from cassettes as my 'workhorse' for capturing stuff from the radio around 2000 (I edited stuff down on the mac and burned them on CD's to archive, rather than keeping stuff on the minidiscs)

Same here, and around the same time 2000/2001, only I edited on minidisc as it had quite an accurate editing ability, then encoded to pc and archived as mp3.  I loved the way it had a buffer so I could start recording from 6 seconds ago (or 12 seconds ago in mono mode).  It meant that when I started to record something I was able to capture the thing that made me want to start recording in the first place, whereas with cassette the beginnings of things were always missing.  It's still there ready to use at the press of a few buttons if I need it, except almost all radio is available to listen again so there's not much of a worry about missing something nowadays.

thenoise

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Re: Just bought a TAPE
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2021, 10:27:33 PM »
Cassette feels more obsolete like 8track or Wax cylinder or lazerdisc. There are dozens of amateur VHS collectors with their own mini video rental shops in their house but I can't imagine the same enthusiasm happening with cassette tapes. It probably will but on a much smaller scale. I think cassette was much more thoroughly routed by CD than VHS was by DVD and streaming.

Nobody is recreating cassette rental shops because that wasn't what cassettes were about. I had/have a reasonable 'collection' of tapes but that was never really what it was about either, its a disposable, creative, reusable medium. They are supposed to be lent, borrowed, stolen, left about, unspooled in the street, etc.
I never cared about making so-called 'mix tape's look pretty, my tapes were all called things like 'songs for the car'. But I can see why 'young people' might embrace the idea of a mixtape as something homemade and personal and handcrafted, as opposed to the perennially disposable 'mix CD'. Nostalgia was never about straight-forward copying of the past anyway.

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