Oxide & Plastic – Cassette Culture

Initially this post was entitled ‘Rust & Plastic‘ but I didn’t think it was fair on the precise nature of the tape manufacturing process, which requires a high level of precision*.

* A minute deviation in the thickness of the oxide layer can cause a huge change in output level (up to 1dB per 1/10,000th of an inch).

To many, the format** that crams four tracks (two each side for stereo playback) into just over an eight of an inch, has had its day. However, what makes the format particularly appealing for small labels, like Fiercely Indie, is that anyone with a decent cassette recorder and a printer/copier can make a limited edition, small run of cassettes in-house. Unlike vinyl, which requires a complex physical manufacturing process, they are currently the only viable analogue format that can be created on-demand.

** The Compact Cassette, or Musicassette (MC), we use today was introduced in 1963 by Philips and remained one of the two most common formats for recorded music from the 1970s into the 1990s alongside both the vinyl record and, later, the compact disc.

All in the Name of Research

Cassettes Feb 2020

This week I’ve been doing (the most enjoyable) market research. Purchasing small, special and limited run cassettes. Listening on my Nakamichi Dragon Denon DRM-550 deck, examining the various approaches and generally learning more about underground cassette culture.

When the drums kicked in on the blue Intravene tape, I was instantly transported back to mid-nineties; just from that beautiful lo-fi, saturated cassette tone. Whether that’s just nostalgia, I’m not sure, but it’s been a long time since I blindly purchased this much music and enjoyed listening to every single track.

Love them or hate them, there’s something about an analogue format which can be used as an outlet for creative expression both in terms of music and artwork. I very much look forward to continuing my research and experimenting with the medium of tape as we release some small run, limited edition Musicassettes over the coming months.

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