By counts of duration and gravity, tape has been the most important instrument in electronic music. It was literally the first technology that was used to make a electronic music, and its experimental potential explored in the early musique concrète and BBC Radiophonic Workshop compositions has helped it sustain as an actively used medium into the 21st century.
Surely as the number of methods of creating electronic music has multiplied, especially in this millenium as the computer has supplanted the main use of tape a recording apparatus, tape appears less and less.
But there are still artists doing inspiring and innovative work with tape, and this post focuses on a few that show new possibilities yet with the oldest electronic music tool. Last decade’s wave of tape noise is more or less avoided here since a lot of that has been properly lionized.
Groove Cafe has covered Whitney Johnson before and probably will again. In her solo work as Matchess, WJ was using tape as a long time as a method of playing back samples, but recently she’s been employing it for long, overlapping tones in an Eliane Radigue type style:
With Laura Callier in Simulation, WJ would record the first half of their set in real time, and then play it back for the second half of their set, creating, yes you guessed it, a live simulation. Erica Gamble has provided both of these videos.
Form A Log
Three dudes playing a big ass stack of tapes with pre-recorded parts on them. Total chaos music, maximum derangment. Featuring Ren Schofield of Container, Noah Anthony of Profligate, and Rick Weaver. Video shot by Andrew Chadwick.
Josh Levi Will Blow Your Mind With This One Weird Tape Trick. But prior to that trick, the sludged out beats and melodies blow the dome quite thoroughly. Video provided by Bullart.
G. Lucas Crane is one of the central figures in the Silent Barn saga, as one of the stalwarts of the original location in Ridgewood, Queens, and the proprietor of the synth shop in the soon-to-be-former location in Bushwick. On top of that, he’s made a signature of a wild type of cassette tape manipulation, playing the spools of one of the hundreds of tapes he’s dubbed himself. He hasn’t played a lot recently, but Jesus Christ. Video provided by unARTigNYC.
Wiggle Room and Ulla
Some of the most innovative ambient music happening right now is coming from Wiggle Room, the duo of Ulla (of many last names) and Sam White aka Mintgreen aka No Pomo. Their tape method as a duo was mentioned in this post.
Of note is Ulla’s solo work, which often combines cassettes with a CDJ in a mystifying way. Ulla used to record as YYU.
Ok, impossible not to include 8-track shredder Dilloway, since he’s the master. Here’s a video shot at Trip Metal Fest in Detroit last year by Knox Mitchell.