Cassette Culture: October 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.

Fletcher Pratt
Dub Sessions, Vol. 5
(Crash Symbols)

Dub worked its way out from the shadow of reggae’s monumental presence sometime in the late 60s and early 70’s as a way to blend electronic innovation with the earthy rhythms of its parent tongue. Through the years, the dub formula has been tweaked and stretched until there really seemed to be no further illumination to be done, but here’s where the work of Oakland-based artist Fletcher Pratt comes into focus. On his latest release, Dub Sessions, Vol. 5, he infuses these soluble grooves with a sense of both boundless adventure and quiet wonder. This tape functions as a lens for those who have both followed the genre for years and those new to its warbly movements. Beautifully wrought details and odd textures collide through Fletcher’s unpredictable experimentation – it’s a joy to find revelation and innovation in equal measure as the music lopes around your head.

Balance Through Imbalance
(Opal Tapes)

The latest collection of smashed techno jams from producer Rerekat stands as proof that, when done right, the kind of maximalist noise in which she traffics can swamp your senses completely, leaving you dazed and sweaty and wanting more. The four tracks on her latest EP, Balance Through Imbalance, are primed to make your pulse race and body contort in a slew of unnatural ways. The beats hit like sledgehammers to the chest, a walloping that feels cathartic and necessary. These songs are presented without distance or obfuscation; they are direct and seek to add your consciousness to some consortium of like-minded participants on a dancefloor riddled with neon lights and writhing bodies. It’s refreshing to hear an artist so fully explore the tactile facets of the genre and to witness the obvious adoration she has for the corporeal characteristics of these sounds.

Eternal Home
(Hausu Mountain)

Under the guise of Fire-Toolz, Chicago producer Angel Marcloid creates post-genre music, blending elements of screamo, metal, IDM, prog, and vaporwave into an unclassifiable mash of tones and warped melodies. Her dedication to the complete realization of this brash and complicated sound is on full display across Eternal Home, an 80-minute epic of unparalleled creativity laid out across vast spaces. The tracks are filled with Marcloid’s strained wails while a constant barrage of unfiltered rhythmic complexity is dissected and reassembled into sounds that probably shouldn’t even exist. There are moments when a quieter, more introspective meter is established, a calm that befits her need for constant artistic fluctuation. But tackling the gargantuan dimensions of Eternal Home is no easy feat. It requires patience and commitment, but you’ll find immeasurable rewards for the time spent in its gravitational pull.

Oort Clod / Priceless Bodies
Split EP
(Alphaville Records)

Manchester bands Oort Clod and Priceless Bodies recently joined forces for a split EP of indie rock textures, kiwi-pop tones, and a helping dose of post-punk angularity – all of which is a long-worded way of saying that the 12 tracks here are immediately catchy and feel slightly serrated. Oort Clod travels in the same musical circles as bands like The Clean and The Fall, creating a sound both melody-rich and wonderfully ramshackle. The lo-fi experiments of Priceless Bodies offer glimpses into a wide range of influences including Laurie Anderson and The Cure. These tracks, for both artists, don’t hide behind the work of their inspirations but possess singular visions of what can be created when freed of all rhythmic obligation. From jangly pop ruminations to strange percussive atmospheres, this cassette revels in the unpredictable natures and motivations of both bands.

Graham Dunning
Mindscape from the 7th Level
(Third Kind Records)

Graham Dunning likes to marvel at the countless connections between sounds, the spaces between what we think we hear and what we can actually perceive on a subconscious level. He combines aspects of ambient, IDM, house, and D’n’B to fashion a mesmerizing perspective on the interconnectedness of all electronic music. On Mindscape from the 7th Level, he presents a vast tableaux of synthetic sounds that echo, patter, wiggle and wash over you in oddly comforting movements. These songs don’t hold any specific allegiances; they move of their own accord and instinct. Dunning allows them the freedom to evolve at their own chosen speed. It’s quite easy to become lost in this world of alternating tempos, tones, timbres – to be swept up in the magisterial beauty of what he has wrought. Hypnotic and open to interpretation, this release is as fascinating as it is affecting.

Mazzarella / Håker Flaten / Ra
What You Seek is Seeking You
(Astral Spirits)

Forged from the combined creativities of Nick Mazzarella, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and Avreeayl Ra, What You Seek is Seeking You, the latest release attributed to what is known as the Nick Mazzarella Trio is a testament to the power and relevance of modern jazz and its ability to demand both our attention and participation. Mazzarella handles alto sax while Flaten wields his bass, and Ra the drums. Continuing a line of free jazz going back to Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden, these three musicians fully inhabit the cracks and crevasses of these often apoplectic sounds. Sudden outbursts are offset by quieter moments when the band finds a groove and locks in for a time before moving on to whatever else takes their fancy. Bombast and introspection are explored with equal reverence, as the band winds through the complexities and unseen impulses which drive their collective imaginations into wild and startling rhythmic landscapes.

22° Halo
Garden Bed
(Lost Sound Tapes)

When listening to the latest tape from 22° Halo, you get the sense that the band must have been binge listening to early Low and Codeine records when these songs were written. Garden Bed spends its time alternating between songs recorded over two years ago and some home recordings made during the pandemic, though it never feels thematically disjointed. Led by Will Kennedy (co-founder of Philadelphia tape label Sleeper Records), the band features Heeyoon Won (Boosegumps), Francis Lyons (Free Cake For Every Creature), and a handful of other Philadelphia locals. Taking elements of slowcore and adding just a touch of roughed-up DIY indie rock — imagine Robert Pollard fronting Galaxie 500 — they create an infectious garage-pop aesthetic that feels perfectly at home relaxing within the more languid territories for which slowcore is known. There’s no rush toward a destination here, only an appreciation for what lies around us and how the smallest details of life sometimes feel absolutely momentous.