Cassette Culture: November 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.

Cecilia Lopez / Joe Moffett 
(Tripticks Tapes)

As the first sudden notes draw out from Cecilia Lopez and Joe Moffett’s debut collaboration, Caprichos, you’re struck by the fact that you have no idea what is going on here. A collection of improvised pieces for synthesizer and amplified trumpet, there is a period of time where you feel completely unprepared for what is happening around you. Slowly, you begin to gather your bearings as squeaks and squawks appear alongside warbling synth notes. Everything seems to be falling apart. Orientation is almost impossible, and yet, there rises an odd equilibrium from the din, a settling of noise and expectation. Subtle patterns emerge before diving back beneath the squall. Lopez and Moffett are fascinated by the deconstruction of their instruments, of the breaking down of convention, and the adaptation of unusual forms. Short bursts of horn muddle with squealing synth lines, twisting together in a beautiful and static-y adornment. This is music for theses and revelation and moments when time feels completely abstract.

Andra Ljos
Fountain of Inspiration
(Not Not Fun)

Recording as Andra Ljos, Russian-Armenian artist Aleksandra Evseeva creates strains of exotica marked by synthetic pulses, aqueous keys, burnished strings, and whispers that seem to come from some distant memory. Across the eight tracks of Fountain of Inspiration, he also uses an organ and sampler to map out a series of atmospheres which he links together to explore the “saga of a sacred Greek island water sanctuary where the nymph Castalia drowned while escaping Apollo, and where visitors to the Oracle of Delphi bathed before receiving prophecy”. Evseeva molds a world of transitory sounds which speaks of ancient histories and the complex lives of its inhabitants. Footfalls here are silent as the music appears and disappears like mist, a casual clouding of movement and direction. Elegiac and spiritual in its outward appearance, there is also a sense of devastation that perfectly balances out these ambient hymns for a world long gone.

Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy / Leo Suarez
L’Animal Acclimaté
(Dinzu Artefacts)

Wandering out in the desert, a faint sound reaches your ears. It’s the sound of nature, unidentifiable percussion, and the barest measure of atmospheric electronics. Is this some sort of formless desert jazz or the awakening of some unknowable mechanical beast long since buried beneath the waves of sand and bare vegetation? I’m leaning toward the former, though the latter certainly isn’t out of the question. Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy and Leo Suarez have created a landscape populated by compelling field recordings, percussive anomalies, and circuital reverberations that point to the underlying fractures in our perception of the world around us. L’Animal Acclimaté is an odd creature, seeming to be improvisational at times and yet adhering to an overall tonal coherence that speaks to the talents of both artists in forging a sound that will stay in your heard for days, a clanging and distorted beauty that demands your full attention.

Eternal Judge
Ghosts in the Street
(No Problema Tapes)

The streets are filled with shadows, and neon signs flicker and hum on the corner of every murky intersection. There are stories to be told down every dim lit alleyway. This is the world of Ghosts in the Street, the latest collection of tracks from Los Angeles musician Eternal Judge. We’re led on a trek through dark hearts and darker ambitions. Stray wisps of ambient melodies glide through the air as subtle post-rock impulses drift from streetlight to streetlight. We’re in a dream of formless instincts and adaptable rhythms – the songs build a wonderfully detailed world, a soundscape of infinite and infinitesimal proportions. We move like ghosts through this landscape of vaporwave (post-vapor?) liquidity, latching onto anything that brushes up against us. These songs act as backing tracks to memories and experiences (real or imagined) rather than setting their own narrative; we are the storyteller here and Eternal Judge gives us the music through which we are able to convey our own fictions and personal truths.

Nick Jonah Davis
Dérive Néolithique
(Eiderdown Records)

According to its Bandcamp page, Dérive Néolithique “was created as the soundtrack for an as-yet-unfinished film by Ian Nesbitt, concerning the Dragon Project’s ‘researches into rumours about the power and properties’ of stone circles in the UK”. After reading this description, you can’t help but assign a sort of artificial mythology to the music. Mixing drone, experimental folk, and subtle psychedelics together, Nick Jonah Davis molds a sound as fascinating as it is immersive, a commentary of sorts on the enormity of nature’s mysteries. There’s a sense of clandestine discovery here, a feeling that something is just waiting to be unearthed if we listen a little while longer. And while there’s no grand catharsis here, except maybe on the shivering altitudes of “Xochi”, Davis allows our own experiences to be the focal points within the measured movements of this album. We become both narrator and audience as the music creates a unique reality depending on who is listening.