Cassette Culture: August 2021

Cassette Culture is a monthly column dedicated to exploring the various artists that inhabit the expansive cassette market. Drawing from bands and labels around the world, this column will attempt to highlight some of the best artists and albums from this global community.

What Was Left Behind
(Constellation Tatsu)

The latest cassette from Minneapolis artist Paperbark feels rather limitless. These ambient soundscapes quickly and effortlessly dig into your skin and nerves, offering a hypnotic space where memory and experience develop into cinematic revelations. I immediately thought that What Was Left Behind could function as an alternate soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Solaris, a film so intent on introspection that the character’s fundamental perspectives are irrevocably altered by the concept of thought. As each track slowly unwinds, we are given an opportunity to inject ourselves into the opaque narrative which is laid out in front of us. Synths rumble gently and stretch and find meaning in repetition. And beneath this melodic recurrence, there are moments of beauty and fragility that will linger for hours in your mind.

Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt
Ghosts Always Win
(Already Dead Tapes and Records)

The work of Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt has never played to specific expectations. Bounding around from one genre to the next has become par for the course, and on Ghosts Always Win, the music continues to evince a particularly adventurous music spirit. From glistening indie pop echoes to rumbling indie rock grooves, as well as moments which feel a bit more experimental in nature, the songs are elastic and open to spontaneous rhythmic realignment. Equal parts wild and subtle, Ghosts Always Win is a refreshing look at the nuanced foundations of its tangled architecture. There are times when a song might appear familiar before shifting, almost unperceptively, into a completrely different frame of musical reference. It makes for an involved listening experience, one where the tracks never present their worlds as passive entertainment but as part of a completely immersive perspective.

Forest & Family
You Found a Match & Other Stories
(Diamond Wave Press)

There is a convergence of remarkable ideas to be found in the new tape from Forest & Family, a dense and unshakable resonance that finds the common touchstones between country, indie rock, and psych. You ramble through these songs – you experience them – rather than just passively hearing them. The band leans into alt-country territory while still finding room to explore some headier rhythmic detours. There’s a strong element of storytelling built into these tracks, a sense of intense recollection and the barely restrained emotions brought to the surface as a result. Alternately brash and reflective, the songs reveal a world of compelling (non)-fictions filled with intricate details that seem destined to be shared across a small campfire in the late months of summer.

Real Terms
Some Ruins
(Opal Tapes)

You wake up, on the verge of engaged consciousness, and look around — everything has slightly blurred edges and your focus is still just a little bit soft. Suddenly, you realize that you’re still asleep, and the world around you dissolves into odd physical shapes, unidentifiable noises, and a profound sense of disorientation. This is the world of Some Ruins, the latest release from sound constructor Lewis Thompson AKA Real Terms. The songs here form a compelling vision of dream-soaked electronic experiments which wander in and out from your periphery at random times. Dub, techno, and ambient designs all work together to create a mesmerizing portrait of rhythmic instinct in continual motion. Thompson allows the music to ebb and flow in ways which border on improvisational but which are also wrangled to produce a coherent viewpoint on the common threads holding these genres together.

(Hausu Mountain)

From his earliest releases, d’Eon has maintained a fondness for melding electronic impulses to more pointed singer-songwriter landscapes. The resulting brew of glitches, odd balladry, and wired wanderings has kept him from falling into the wastelands of staid rhythmic experiments over the last decade. His latest release, Rhododendron, finds him pushing forward, incorporating elements of classical, avant-pop, and electro…whatever into a continually shifting musical morass. This is weirdo chamber pop, with countless threads being pulled in different directions at the same time. You often feel as though you’re witnessing an orchestra perform with possibly broken children’s instruments, though d’Eon clearly defines his intent as he makes his way through these various tinkling movements and warped wonders.