Inverted Nepal - Unverted
Waterpower. WP030. C40 Cassette. 50 Copies.
Panelak - Arnica Eyebright
Crater Lake. CL002. C30 Cassette. 50 copies.
LF. LF027. C30 Cassette. 10 Copies.
I think just about every tape review I do these days is prefaced with a few words regarding how cassette tapes shouldn’t actually exist in 2013. But here they are still living and breathing and defying the digital age with all their tight wound, capstan sticking, little felt pad disappearing charm.
To someone who’s never seen a cassette tape they must seem like relics from a bygone age. Tell your friendly neighbours teenage offspring that cassettes can only hold about 90 minutes of music [C120’s seem to be truly a thing of the past] are inherently unstable and take up lots of room and they’ll probably point to their palm sized gadget of choice and its unlimited application capacity and think you’re some kind of simpleton. Who in their right mind would truly want to keep something as ancient as cassette tape alive?
These people obviously.
I’m still a fan of cassette tape. I still have a cassette player in the car and will happily buy them in chazzas usually to find that Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits plays both sides at once until eventually sticking halfway through ‘Dreams of the Everyday Housewife’ going one way and ‘Witchita Lineman’ going the other. But what do you expect for ten pence? Some of them do play though and I often find myself being nostalgically taken back to the time when department stores had huge racks of them on display. The mere sight of a Black Sabbath cassette is enough for this to happen. Back in the early 80’s Vallance’s in Bradford must have had thousands on display. Never mind that your cassette version of Monty Pythons ‘Instant Record Collection’ didn’t fold out into a box or that Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’ cassette had a plain j-card insert whilst the LP version came in a brown paper bag, five different inner sleeves and an inner, inner sleeve that you could dab water on so that the colours came out. There were drawbacks but people still bought them.
These two releases are unlikely to get the continued use that resulted in the death of many a cassette back in the day. That's not to be unkind to any of the people involved in the production of these releases, its just that I’m unlikely to play Panelak’s cassette as many times as I did the one that Gavin Walker did for me in 1975 that had Led Zeppelin ‘III’ on one side and Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ on the other [I still have it]. Today's cassette based label, noise artist cum sonic adventurer use cassettes as aural marking posts, statements of intent and are quite happy to post links to the digital version but would much prefer you to buy the actual item and experience for yourself the charm of the antediluvian plastic shelled beast - unless you are semi-Luddite like Waterpower [there are plenty others] who only post teasers of their work online or [for the truly hardcore] no web presence or online identity at all [Matching Head we salute you].
So what of these three? Inverted Nepal is the work of Pete Cann and Paul Walsh, the dad and lad of the Leeds noise scene whose spastic outbursts of teeth rattling noise bring to mind the kind of tumult that used to come regularly out of Japan before the introduction of affordable CD burners. The dynamics are dulled by the format but that comes with the territory. Its a full on head down no nonsense mindless noise boogie of course. Whistling eardrums at dawn territory. Whistling up the garden path territory. About as subtle as a house brick through the window and as cultured as a Millwall fan at chucking out time on a Saturday night.
More noisy Leeds based shenanigans come courtesy of Pascal Ansell, a suave, debonaire good looking and enthusiastic young chap who rattles about on campus at Leeds University with the drummer Paul Hession making a bit of, what I can only describe as, a racket. The cassette format works its magic once more reducing Hession’s drumming to that of the sound of mice with clogs on running down a flight of wooden stairs and Ansell’s electronics to submerged squiggles. Its still a short fun ride though with Ansell introducing German spoken word samples, twanged open string shapes and a spot of vocal howling for good measure. Its all a bit unfocused if truth be told but I’m here to encourage and if he buys me a pint next time I see him I’ll say he’s the next Stockhausen. You never know.
I should really save Mouth Worker until I review all the LF releases I got sent but it seems to fit with what has passed already, so here goes … and what do we have ... but more noise of course. Only ten copies though so you better get moving. And will you be wanting to track this down in twenty years time to reissue it on your resurrect long forgotten noise cassettes on 180 gram vinyl double gatefold sleeve label? Probably not. But don’t let me put you off. If blunt, muddy synth noise on ridiculously limited cassette runs are your thing then be my guest. Short examples are digitally available but you cant beat the real thing.
Which leaves five cassettes from Johnny Scars Mantile label, but that's for another day.
[I'm reliably informed that there is no Paul Hession presence on the Panelak release whatsoever. An oversight on my part that I am more than happy to correct]