Category Archives: Music History

These things come around again.

I’ve been noticing a bit of a trend in the interest in tape loops. It has been happening slowly for a few years that cassettes in general have seen a strong return as a desired media for obtaining music. They are great for small bands that can’t afford to release cds or very costly vinyl, and they are also more affordable for fans to purchase.

I still have almost all of my cassette collection from the 80’s when I started hustling Columbia House for tapes from their pretty limited catalog. Aside from the loads of pop and pap, there were a handful of ‘alternative’ releases on major labels in the likes of REM, The Cure, Depeche Mode etc. so I  gleaned as much of that as I could. I mostly recorded underground Hip-Hop and punk shows off of WBNY in the mid 80’s and started collecting punk and hardcore cassettes from Record Theater and Home of The Hits and a few bands in Buffalo, NY around the same time.

I bought my first 4 track machine, a Fostex, around 1993 and began my own explorations with the medium. I also used to experiment with 2 boom boxes and ‘air bouncing’ sounds to create layers, very noisy layers. Some of this still exists somewhere but not much of it survived as I was a bit careless and chaotic about storing stuff in the early days.

I came back to 4 track machines maybe 5 years ago after taking a break from experimenting as I was more focused on various band projects from the late 90’s throughout the early 00’s. I also got into tape looping a bit and even made one of my own, a real pain in the ass if you’ve ever tried it. Still it is a lot of fun and you can get really unique sonic results especially when messing with the pitch. I also discovered a site where you could buy loop cassettes of various lengths already made. I got a few, some 1 minute, some 3 minute. I also scored an old answering machine with a 45 second loop tape in it for message playback. I also bought a couple of very short custom made loop cassettes from a guy on Bandcamp a few years ago, can’t remember who that was at the moment but there was already music on them (nothing original) and these were 6-8 seconds in length and I just recorded over that stuff.

Anyway, I have been seeing a lot of people getting away from the DAW and looking to things like modular and desktop synths, more tactile things, and some are also getting back to the world of analog and tape.

One of my favorite artists working in this medium is Amulets out of Portland, below is a recent installation/collaboration from his youtube channel. Explore further and you will find a variety of clever hacks and experiments involving the cassette and various tape machines:

Another wonderful artist is Hainbach from Berlin who does a lot with tape reels as well as dictaphone experiments in conjunction with modular synths and more. His channel is as entertaining as it is informative:

I don’t consider these guys trendy as they have been at it for awhile, and as you can see, they take the form to different places and elevate it, but I have seen more than a handful of people (peep #tapeloops on instagram) getting into it within the past few months and I wonder how long before it gets ‘big’? We never thought we’d see vinyl come back like it has, so maybe the next logical step is this continued return to ‘dead’ media. I wonder if we will start to see people making proper ‘mix tapes’ again, from newly pressed records onto newly manufactured blanks. Maybe this is already happening and I’m just not aware.

The video that inspired this post, from the guys at Perfect Circuit, is a pretty nice ambient experiment they did with a stack of old boom boxes and some loop tapes just playing on them, naturally phasing and shifting. The boom box in the video, the JVC top and center was the first boom box I ever owned back in the mid 80’s and it just brought back a load memories when I saw it, I had to share:

Explore, enjoy!

 

 

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European Tour Journal Day 3 (Castelfidardo, Italy)

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We woke up the next morning, still jet lagged in a small town near Pescara or it may have still been Pescara. The architectue around there was a taste of what was to be a constant througout the entire trip, old crumbling buildings, with overgrown vines that really gave you a sense of being somewhere with deep history.

The photos were taken right across from where we stayed and the short video below gives you a sense of the old roads.

 

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Band shot!
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Our driver Davide!

We had a short drive to Castel Fidardo which was very pretty, mostly farmland.

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We passed Loreto where the Basilica Santa Casa sat shrouded in mist. We didn’t have time to stop but what a sight! Read about the legend of the Black Madonna if you’re not familiar. This is one of the biggest pilgramage sites in the world with nearly 4 million visitors per year! We blazed right by it though, we had to bring the spacerock to the people, no time for infamous pilgramage sites!

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Loreto

CASTELFIDARDO

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We got to the venue which was also in a really cool area on a hill. We eventually found out that we were in a very special place regarding the history of the accordian. It turns out that the Stratovarius of accordians are manufactured here, and people travel far and wide to obtain one. Furthermore, and perhaps even more interesting is that the club owner, Giampiero, has an uncle who was the guy who travelled to Houston in the 60’s and set up an accordian shop, which directly fed the Tex-Mex and Tejano scene in a major way. Again, the history of this place was pretty special.

The building the club was in was also a music shop, Casa della Musica which was built by the founder of the accordian in the early 1900’s.

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Aside from the heavy music history here, Giampiero was a gracious host, really excited to have us and treated us like family almost! The food was also amazing, we had a nice spread backstage as well as a bar full of prosciutto and cheese plates to pick at.

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Dining with support band Shaolin
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Bar spread

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Also adding to the family atmosphere…family! I’m guessing from the ‘Shaolin’ gear, these were the bands kids, or friends of the bands kids, or maybe they just really attract a young fanbase. Either way, It was a cool experience to see kids hanging out in a bar scene without it being weird or dangerous. These kids knew their way around a pool table as well as a can of silly string!

One of the first observations I made being in Europe was this openeness of culture. We generally wouldn’t dare bring our kids out to a little dive bar like this, I very rarely ever see bands bring their families out to shows, unless it’s a festival or giant tour scenario, but never little dive bar gigs. These kids were so well behaved around pool cues and pint glasses, and these early social experiences are sure to form them into well adjusted adults, actually. they were better behaved than most adults I’ve encounter in bars!

In The U.S., we have such a different stigma around our bar scene. These are dark places where only dark things happen. Aside from rampant alcoholism being an obvious element, these are places where drugs are obtained and consumed, the focus is usually a search for random sex, and gun violence is a frequent occurence. The club scene often has an intimidating gang element, or a vibe of machismo, groups of “bro’s” out looking for girls, which can easily create a predatory environment. Rock and Roll, punk and indie/DIY shows can seem intimidating from the outside, and there is a real lack of all ages venues everywhere which makes it difficult to expose our youth to more diversity in culture and locally generated creativity.

I’m not saying all of Europe is like this, but this one isolated experience was an eye opener, and made me question if this could ever occur in the US where we fear even sending our kids to school these days.

Let me also add that this was a small humble venue, I say ‘dive bar’ but it was a really clean, well decorated venue with a decent sound system and competent sound guy. The bathrooms were also really clean and everyone kept up on that, another phenomenon I would observe throughout our trip.

Here, it was all about good food, music, family and strong coffee! People were drinking alcohol of course but with a different sort of approach that wasn’t so much to escape from something as it was to enhance an already great atmosphere and experience.

 

THE SHOW

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here’s a couple of minutes of the opener that night. Shaolin were a great bunch of young musicians.

 

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Merch Spread
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Action Shot

Here’s an excerpt from Maharishi from our set that night:

 

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On the stage at The On Stage!

We had a great set, packed up the gear and drove 15 minutes to our digs for the night in Osimo. Stay tuned for more…


All pics by Jeff K.

“Action Shot” by Imanuele Pirani

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