Saturday, 22 March 2014

Cassette Roundup, Volume 2

C L E A N E R S Real Raga Shit Vol. 1 (Bootleg Tapes, 2014)

A triumph of style and substance. Despite making it into our favourite albums of 2014's first quarter list a few days ago, I don't think either of us has really managed to attest to the brilliance of Real Raga Shit Vol. 1. It's an interesting proposition from the outset, with what its release on Bootleg Tapes (quite possibly my favourite label around right now), two intriguingly named side-long tracks, and some fancy artwork to boot, but the music contained within is the real star attraction here. In a similar vein to much of Bootleg's catalogue, the C L E A N E R S tape is a haphazard meeting of samples from entirely disparate sources, from Coltrane's "I Love You" to the most obvious Casablanca quote, with an undercurrent of tape hiss and analogue noise throughout. This approach to sound really shouldn't work, but by sheer dexterity and intuition, C L E A N E R S pulls it off with a very large degree of panache, connecting the dots between the least likely of entities and making it sound fantastic in the process. 

EQ Why ChiTokyo Mixtape (Orange Milk, 2014)

Footworking is resolutely a location-centric genre, with many of its finest practitioners hailing from Chicago, but outsider contributions to the movement are not only preventing footwork from falling into an easily- replicable template, but they are also providing some of the most worthwhile contributions to it. This calendar year has already seen a few shining examples, such as Thug Entrancer's Death After Life and Foodman's hamakko EP, but one of the best "outsider" efforts thus far comes from an actual Chicagoan. EQ Why - a cheeky dig at RP Boo? - merges the malleable styling of Chi-town footwork/juke with the weird and wonderful Japanese take on the scene, and appropriately calls it the ChiTokyo Mixtape. Essentially, the tape is an hour of primo footworking, which bridges the gap between two rather different modi operandi, and thankfully never takes itself too seriously. If you've ever found yourself enjoying the likes of DJ Rashad or DJ Spinn, as well as the warped worlds of Paisley Parks and Foodman, then ChiTokyo Mixtape might just be your calling.

Magic Eye Babylon (Not Not Fun, 2014)

Reverb and distortion have been getting a bad press as of late, and it's totally understandable; it's the go-to method of distraction to mask lazy songwriting, or to obscure lyricists who have nothing worthwhile to say (I'm looking squarely at YOU, Perfect Pussy). Thankfully, Magic Eye utilise these effects to a particularly artful degree on their latest release, Babylon. The album came about after a distasteful experience at an "overly pro studio", which left the resulting recording "grit-less and dried out"; mercifully, upon hearing the opener "Japan" it would appear that the grit and earthiness has been well-and-truly reinstated, and the tape retains this beautifully lo-fi aesthetic throughout. It amounts to an exploration of the limits and boundaries of the humble cassette tape, in all of its noisy, scorched glory.

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