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.
San Francisco hip-hop outfit On Tilt have created an ode to the history of West Coast rap—alongside producer Bank Notes—on their latest cassette The 5th Album. Armed with a cavalcade of laidback beats and lyrically astute diversions, they lay claim to the territory once inhabited by Kid Frost, Ice-T, and The Unknown DJ. The tracks here are overtly melodic and mindful of the genre’s old-school roots. You can imagine these songs pouring from car speakers along side Tupac and Snoop Dogg in the early ‘90s. But The 5th Album isn’t merely a stroll through the past; there are moments of unexpected complexity that lift the music away from pure nostalgia and define it as something inherently unique and unburdened by the weight of its branching lineages. This is music for the head and the heart and the soul, and On Tilt aim to dig as deep into all three as they can for however long people are listening.
Released earlier this year on Kanine Records, Tethers, the debut record from The Natvral (aka Kip Berman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) is a rollicking folk-rock treasure that finds the genre-elusive Berman toying around with a denser and, at times, more singer-songwriter-leaning aesthetic, with some classic rock thrown in for good measure. Recently reissued on Lost Sound Tapes, now is the perfect time to revisit this one if it slipped below your radar back in April. Removed from his previous band’s soaking reverb and jangle-shoegaze tendencies, he is able to craft a personal and emotionally reflective work of small wonders. He’s still completely adept at breaking down melodies to their most hummable forms while wrapping them around music that feels timeless and perfectly organic. Tethers is a reinvention for Berman, a chance to move past the noise and rhythmic details we’ve come to associate with him and build a sound both universal and profoundly intimate.
The work of Ohio musician Alex Cobb, Etelin is the avenue through which a peculiar and fascinating noise is channeled. The four recordings that make up his latest cassette, Frisson, are a mix of ambient field recordings and melodic minimalism that slink around your periphery, making all the little details that inhabit our world feel so profoundly significant. Frisson is a tapestry of impressionistic moods and movements, a series of invitations to an alternate reality where sound is tactilely experienced and absorbed. These tracks simultaneously demand your wholehearted attention and are content to wait around in the background until you’re ready to engage with them. Cobb has created a soundscape of resonant emotion and memory, a space where time fades away to reveal the immutability of personal connectivity and the consequences of those intangible bonds.
Under the guise of Colloboh, Nigerian-born producer Collins Oboh crafts electronic music that borrows from house, IDM, and a host of modular synth aesthetics while providing the foundation for a sound as unique and uncompromising as you can imagine. It’s propulsive and engages with you on an almost subconscious level – that is, before the beat kicks in and your body autonomically responds. On Entity Relation, Oboh gathers together ideas from the past and the future in a whirlwind of synth angularity. As each song unfurls, we’re witness to a wonder of tinkling notes, complex percussive experiments, and an insular insight into the inner workings of music which feels circuital but also oddly organic. And it’s this balance between the synthetic and the animate that allows him to dig deep into the depths of these sounds to find the pulsing arteries that feed our collective physical reactions.
Texas metal outfit Porridge Fist aren’t about to let anyone define their music in terms of outdated genre labels or sub-set categories. They create a mammoth blast of sound that can knock the air from your lungs, and they do it without leaning on their influences. On their latest release, California Resort, they dismantle metal’s pitch-black heart and figure out ways to inject a bit of prog and grindcore into its already-darkened veins. But it’s not all volume and rancor; there is an unexpected dynamism here working its way through the bombast and cavernous depths of each track. There are moments of quiet devastation, of experiences passed on, before mountains start shaking and the whole landscape is trembling under the weight of the band’s forceful experimentation. If you’re looking for carnage, you’ll certainly find it here, but you’ll also discover a sound so innately inventive that it’ll take days just to unravel it all.