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by Justin Farrar

June 27, 2013

From the Depths: Digital Cassettes?

by Justin Farrar  |  June 27, 2013

Welcome to From the Depths, a recurring feature that spotlights deep underground sounds lurking within the Rhapsody catalog.

In recent years, media outlets as high profile as the Washington Post, CBS News and NPR have trumpeted the unlikely comeback of the cassette. These trend pieces tend to cough up all manner of sales numbers to support their claim that, yes, Mr. and Mrs. Average Joe are right now rummaging through their attics, eagerly searching for their dusty old Walkmans. But what's rarely, if ever, reported in said articles is the fact that cassettes NEVER WENT AWAY. That's right: Since the early '80s, there has thrived a sprawling network of experimental, noise and industrial musicians who employ tapes as their medium of choice. These releases are, of course, obscure in nature, but to ignore them when yapping about the alleged cassette comeback is to slight a lot of incredible music.

What is novel, however, is the intersection of this do-it-yourself cassette culture and streaming media. Until quite recently, few tape labels even attempted to make their music available on Rhapsody. But thanks to imprints such as Not Not Fun, Hospital Productions and Night-People leading the way, our subscribers can now explore just some of the modern artists making vital contributions to the underground cassette zone. Moreover, their diversity is stunning. While mighty Dominick Fernow (under his Vatican Shadow moniker) pummels ears with industro-strength beats swathed in Middle Eastern exotica, the Georgia-based Motion Sickness of Time Travel (one Rachel Evans) conjures swelling, vocal-focused drones that border on the sacred in regards to their solemnity. Then there's Kylie Lance's Father Finger alias, under which she crafts fantastical electro-pop (her track "Temper" is one of the best dance jammers of the last few years). And yet another key notable is Jeremy Harris' long-running Lazy Magnet project, an ever-morphing fusion of synth-pop, basement house and intensely personal songwriting. But if you're looking to get really strange, be sure to check out both Miami Angels in America (scuzzcore electronics meets death rock) and Russian Tsarlag (wild and weary lo-fi collage folk -- sort of).

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