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Tale of the Tape

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In mainstream music, the cassette has long been considered a dead format. But under the radar, a cassette resurgence has been steadily mounting.

To explain how a combination of nostalgia, cost-efficiency, and a genuine love for the format’s hissy lo-fi sound have given rise to a booming subculture, we’re joined by Pitchfork.com writer Marc Hogan and Brooklyn musician G. Lucas Crane of the indie-rock band Woods.

Tell us: Do you still use cassettes? Or, do you miss them? Leave a comment and tell us why.

The Playlist:
1. The Promise Ring, "Make Me a Mixtape"
2. Woods,"I'm Not Gone"
3. Jagged Edge, "I gotta Be"
4. Dirty Projectors, "Stillness Is the Move"

Guests:

G. Lucas Crane and Marc Hogan

Comments [42]

Lover not fighter from BK

I love tapes, and have been collecting them for a while now. Ya'll should check out one of the newer cassette enterprises:
http://www.healinglightrecords.com

Nov. 28 2010 12:24 AM
warm from brooklyn

Old tech doesn't go away. "revival" isn't a real thing. "revival" to who? If it works, and plays music, its real and I means SOMETHING TO SOMEONE. shut the hell up, haters.....

Nov. 20 2010 12:26 AM
Drew from Chicago, IL

I think I heard the term "fun garbage" in this interview. In some ways, cassette tapes promote a certain way of life; make the most of the things you usually disregard. Be thrifty. It's an aesthetic choice. When I'm old and gray, I want to have something to show the kids besides my hard drive that's filled with 300,000 mp3s. I want to show them the human touch...a record or a tape that has aged and has been handled and worn and loved.

Cassettes are just another medium in which to display your art. Like vinyl and CDs, they certainly have their flaws, but that's part of the appeal. No medium is perfect. I find that most people who are still concerned with the tangible medium understand the importance of the physical object, and that seems be what this is all about. It's not necessarily about the music, it's about being creative and making the most out of what's there.

Aug. 20 2010 09:51 AM
Erik Alderink from Ann Arbor Mi

I own a business in Ann Arbor and we still make thousands of cassettes every month. Last year I made over 75,000 blanks, and this year has started off even busier! I still love them and I use them myself.

Aug. 12 2010 02:21 PM
art

Cassettes... what is the most polite and civilized way to generalize this format- goodness gracious! They became extremely popular since their first appearance in the early seventies due to the instant recording capability and portability of themselves and the machines which played them.Their very dark side was the despeakable (true for ALL magnetic tape) long term stretching of the material,magnetic particle contamination of the tape head (they also immediately filed down most of them,like a rasp),and finally-self destructed,like the opening scenes of the old Mission :Impossible series.Small detail: instead of burning itself the cassete would sometimes start unwinding...inside the tape transport mechanism,making even the best tape decks completely crippled and in constant need of servicing... Even the eight-tracks were much more durable in some respect,but not many of those machines had the recording feature,alas... Rest in Peace for them both. Glad they are all gone + the video tape too!!!

Aug. 12 2010 01:31 AM
KnitsInPublic from Peekskill

I amassed a *huge* collection of import EPs and cassettes (remember "cassingles?!") as soon as I started earning a paycheck at 14, and lugged around an entire dresser drawer-full every time I moved for the past 21 years. I was a reluctant adopter of the CD medium, and refused to dump my beloved tapes; especially the bootleg Grateful Dead concerts. But Dick's Picks are available as digital downloads now, as well as live recordings of the most amazing and visionary bands, and I don't especially want to sit through an entire album to hear the always-best third song in the lineup. Frequently warned not to fast-forward or rewind dare I stretch or snap the tape, I've come to the conclusion that many before me have: Cassettes suck. I'll be dumping mine at the next city-wide tag sale.

Aug. 11 2010 10:42 PM
hissyfits

ahhhh cassettes. the most abused medium ever. left out of boxes, falling to car floors across the nation and remaining for days on end, found and replayed on tapeheads with a tolerance of .00183...eeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiii the finale: a pile of tapped jammed around spool mechanisms never to be heard again. and then you're over it.

ps: that bogus interview that sucked worse than any tape ever did.

conversation in cab on way to radio station:
A= "What are we going to say?"
B= "I don't know. Let's just say cassettes are great and everybody always loved them and they sound better and it's cool because dudes in Williamsburg do it and we're reviving nostalgia and blah blah..."

god awful when they actually repeat this rehearsed nonsense.

Aug. 11 2010 07:47 PM
brian from Greenpoint

"I prefer them BECAUSE they suck" has to be one of my favorite lines of all time. Yes, maybe that's an axiom that holds true in the world of fashion, but who would say the same of medicine, engineering or even musicianship. Actually, judging from the current indie revival, lots of people appear to love them because they suck.

Aug. 11 2010 03:49 PM
Joshua from Manhattan

There's no illusion or nostalgia in my taste for cassettes. I prefer them BECAUSE they suck. Everyone can chase after fidelity into perfect sound infinity, I'd just rather hear "rice crispies" and other silly things that are fun to hear.

Aug. 11 2010 02:56 PM
Rich K from UCNJ

Jordan - I have a shelf of inherited 78s and their sound, well, sucks. BUT, with the proper stylus and the right software, you'd be amazed at the music hidden behind the Rice Krispies. You don't need a 78 turntable, just the stylus. The software will adjust for speed and pitch.

Aug. 11 2010 02:38 PM
brian from Greenpoint

We need to see this "revival" for what it is, another re-branding of what's hip, what "sounds best." In other words, cassettes offer a means of creating an insider-speak that looks with disdain on those who don't own/purchase their goods.

Capitalism continues, this time through underground channels. What the 7" was to 1991, the cassette is to 2010.

Aug. 11 2010 02:37 PM
Jordan Jancz from New York

This has nothing to do with music...only nostalgia. Nostalgia is remembering how good you thought the past was.
I'm 50 years old and anxiously waited all those years for the digital present.
Hiss does not make music sound better, it just adds a taste of nostalgia...and...hiss. If hiss is so good, why did they invent Dolby?
Why don't you listen to 78's if you think the past was so great?

Aug. 11 2010 02:34 PM
Rich Koch from UCNJ

MP3s pass until you listen to them side-by-side with an lossless version of the same song on a decent (not esoteric, just decent) sound system. Once someone points out the differences, you easily hear them everywhere. On your iPod, on a busy street with ear buds? MP3 or AAC works fine.
As for cassettes, the medium is the message. Just as some bands record on vintage boards, and 16 track analog R2Rs for their sound, distributing on cassette adds the inherent shortcomings of the medium, and sometimes that what you want.

Aug. 11 2010 02:31 PM
chuck

is it like a fireplace in a oil heated home?

Aug. 11 2010 02:28 PM
dboy from nyc

Sorry, some subjects do not warrant a "discussion".

Aug. 11 2010 02:27 PM
Bert Gossen from Berlin, Germany

Just threw all my old cassettes away. Have not listened to them for a long time. Can't tell you how many cassettes just broke.
Had to move and am glad that all my music fits on an ipod!

Aug. 11 2010 02:27 PM
Francisco from LA

I grew-up listening to tapes and had a very large collection of them. I love the nostalgia but there's no way the sound quality comes even close to digital. No way.

Aug. 11 2010 02:25 PM
Garry Rindfuss from NYC

As a recording engineer, I and my engineering brethren loathed cassettes because of their inconsistent playback speed and poor audio quality. However, I can assure you that, as bad as cassettes sounded way back when, they sound better than most mp3s do today.

Aug. 11 2010 02:25 PM
dboy from nyc

"... just to be kinda weird"???

YES!!!

Aug. 11 2010 02:24 PM
Ezra from Manhattan

Is this some prank? are you kidding?
cassette tapes are the worst thing that ever came out for music recording, it was just a total waste of money. If anyone 'revives' it it's as a gimmick only and should not be taken seriously.
This is nonsense.

Aug. 11 2010 02:24 PM
vnvv m from kl

why not bring your usb keychainto the merchant table at show

Aug. 11 2010 02:24 PM
deb from Brooklyn

Not only do we use cassettes but we seek them out at stoop sales for cheap and buy at regular price from new bands that sell them on the road which more times than not include an mp3 download card with purchase to play on your computer as well. there is nothing quite like the sound of your favorite band on cassette playing on the car cassette player

Aug. 11 2010 02:23 PM
bob from ny

if i hear the descriptive "warmer sound" for any medium one more time i will projectile vitamin

Aug. 11 2010 02:22 PM
Ken from Soho

I don't have a car, but I do have a cassette deck at home. I very rarely play a cassette, however; mostly MP3's and occasionally a CD. I also have a turntable, and again may occasionally play a record ("vinyl").

Aug. 11 2010 02:22 PM
Otto Cosmopolis from Cold Spring

I hope you are all stuck with the same milk crate full of crappy cassette that I hauled around for twenty years. Come on!

Aug. 11 2010 02:22 PM
Clara from Brooklyn

I'm 28 and one of the only people I know who never stopped listening to tapes. When I bought a stereo a few years ago, one of the top criteria was a cassette deck with a record button (so I could still make mix tapes). I am perhaps a passive resister to technological change - I have a computer but no ipod/smart phone, etc. I still listen to tapes on a boom box in my kitchen, in the car, I wish many of them had held up better.

Aug. 11 2010 02:22 PM
Hy from Forest Hills

I have a box worth of mix tapes and probably a couple dozen artists, but I have nothing to play them on because my top-of-the-line Onkyo tape deck went on the fritz years ago and I didn't think it worth it to fix it. Is it, with CDs and LPs out there?

Aug. 11 2010 02:21 PM
Suki from Williamsburg

Tapes are more permanent??? Have you ever left a tape in a car in Texas in the middle of summer?

This whole revival thing is fueled by people who grew up with CDs. People whose older brothers made "Mix-tapes."

Aug. 11 2010 02:21 PM
Kelley Loftus

I was in several bands in the 80's and 90's - and before the CD became accessable - cassette the tape was the only recording we could afford to produce.. All of my friend's bands were on cassettes....as a matter of facyt -just the other day I got a request to copy one of our friends (Bouree' Texane - a Belgian folk rock band from Austin)...but I can't find any blank tape!

Aug. 11 2010 02:21 PM
dboy from nyc

MORE PERMANENT????

ARE YOU KIDDING ME... CASSETTE???

AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aug. 11 2010 02:21 PM
Sarah McCoy from Staten Island

I miss cassettes because they don't get scratched and ruined so easily...sure, they occasionally get eaten, but they never skip!

As mentioned by the guest as well, I am more of an album person. I don't have much interest in downloading and managing a music library. I'd rather just pop in an album--or listen to the radio.

Aug. 11 2010 02:21 PM
Rafael from Manhattan

Tapes are still around for a few reasons-

cheap playback units. i still go to flea markets and see pirate norteno cassettes for sale (all bearing anti piracy warnings). i can get a pirated tape for 3 bucks, and they have HUGE selections of certain genres.

some tropical reason still use cassettes almost exclusively as the heat has adverse affects on the precise mechanisms of cd and mp3 players. also, regions such as iraq and the sahara use cassettes because they are a little better with heat and much better with sand and grit.

lastly, nostalgia. I collect boomboxes and make mix tapes for my friends occasionally, as they get a kick out of them.

Aug. 11 2010 02:20 PM
Ben from NJ

I still have a lot of bootleg concert tapes. There was, and maybe still is, a community of fans who trade tapes of their favorite groups.

Aug. 11 2010 02:20 PM
mussugana from nyc

i notice you didn't request anolog phone calls i was happy to get rid of boxes of cassettes why would ANYONE want to start collecting these aqgain i used to throw them out the window of the car while driving if they broke woods music soiunds like b eatles meets gdead meets game theory ver nice

Aug. 11 2010 02:20 PM
Peter from Athens, GA

coming in september, a Joan of Arc cassette box set (all 10 JOA records on cassette) and the new Of Montreal record is being issued on cassette. Both will have accompanying download codes.

Aug. 11 2010 02:20 PM
Peter from Athens, GA

coming in september, a Joan of Arc cassette box set (all 10 JOA records on cassette) and the new Of Montreal record is being issued on cassette. Both will have accompanying download codes.

Aug. 11 2010 02:19 PM
suki from williamsburg

Quit trying to make tapes happen. They sucked 15 years ago and they still suck.

Aug. 11 2010 02:19 PM
dboy from nyc

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Fashion victim nostalgia!!!!

These cheese-eating kids are to young and dumb to know how crappy the audio quality is on a cassette tape.

I even fielded an "assertion" from a barista at a hipster Williamsburg coffee joint on the "superior" sound quality of an 8 Track!!!(???) HUH?

Somethings should never be "revived"!!

If it were reel to reel would could at least have a discussion.

PITIFUL!

zzz.

Aug. 11 2010 02:17 PM
Ken from Little Neck

As someone who grew up with tape, and used it extensively, I feel absolutely no nostalgia whatsoever. Digital music is an easier, cheaper, higher quality, no compromise alternative. I enjoy the aural experience of listening to music and I don't need a physical representation of the medium to feel a connection to it.

Aug. 11 2010 02:15 PM
Joshua from Manhattan

I run a very small cassette only label in Brooklyn called Rustle VV. A tape is an easy version of analogue. It has a life of it's own and doesn't sound the same each time its played. It has a more tactile feel and relates more the organic nature of music than a icy mp3 does.

Aug. 11 2010 02:13 PM
SEAN from brooklyn

Period Tapes is here in Brooklyn. Limited edition (46 copies), from a variety of artists. A fun way to release a side project.

http://www.periodtapes.com/

Aug. 11 2010 11:17 AM
Me from Tn

Can you not stream the show anymore online?

Aug. 11 2010 06:31 AM

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