Burger Records and the Lo-Fi Cassette Revival
We at West Coast Sound get a ton of mail, most of it consisting of CDs, press kits, and the occasional piece of vinyl. It arrives by the mound in those postal service bins, and though we love free stuff as much as the next music geek, all those plastic squares containing plastic circles pile high on our desk. They tend to blend in with one another, and sometimes great music gets lost in all of it.
Boo hoo hoo. What a terrible problem: getting lots of free music.
So then yesterday as we were digging through the new arrivals, imagine our surprise, and joy, to receive this:
Ladies and gentlemen: the cassette revival may be upon us (despite what the New York Times said in 2008).
It's been coming for a few years, and is generating a little bit of conversation. Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and scribe Byron Coley just wrote, via Arthur Mag, that "some of the best music/sounds is happening on small cassette labels." We've been tracking it for the past decade, and humbly consider ourselves to be experts in the field: as the format was being relegated to history's dustbin, we were on the jury of the 2003 BEIGE World Cassette Jockey Championships in Chicago, and still consider that participation to be one of our great achievements. Here in LA, Family Bookstore on Fairfax has a nice little cassette selection, and matthewdavid's great Leaving Records imprint has started issuing cassettes.
The question of "why" a cassette revival is occuring is complicated by the fact that cassettes are, on the surface, a pretty sucky format, at least by "technological" standards. All that hiss; the fast-forwarding nonsense; the tape-stuck-in-the-stereo problem. Pain in the ass, yes?
But then: all that hiss! Fast-forwarding is an exercise in Zen patience. If you really want to hear a song, are you not willing to wait a few minutes while the tape deck click-click-clicks to the proper spot?
Okay. It's hard to defend cassettes other than to say that nostalgia, rebellion and cost play a factor in the revival. And, perhaps most important, the jobless with their shitty 1990s cars no doubt have decks that are just dying to be utilized. How many times can you listen to those Queen tapes before you want to toss them into the gutter? (Okay, that's a bad example. You can never get sick of Queen tapes.)
So anyway: Burger Records is a label and store in Fullerton best known as the home to one of Southern California's best punk bands, Audacity. They do limited edition cassette runs on most of their releases, and their press kits consist of Xeroxed copies of their flyers with barely legible crayon scribbles on the back. They're the lowest of fidelity, basically.
But within this little corner of the music world, they're releasing mighty, mighty music. Take this, one of the four songs that arrived on Bombon's El Party con Bombon tape, which are available to listen to here:
You can also download an MP3 of their great "Oh Baby" here:
Other tapes that arrived in the package include the cassette reissue of Devon Williams' Careerfree full-length from last year (he's since signed to Slumberland Records); Audacity's 2009 Tour EP; and Pipsqueak's self-titled low-fi stunner.
This is music recorded to be heard on tape. Your ears won't get exhausted trying to wade through all that muddy compression. Rather, it's hissy and wide open, designed to be played real loud to get all the treble into your ears and scratch your drums. Rock on, Burger.