Vinyl About Cassettes

Great batch of heavy vinyl pressings arrived today from Vinyl On Demand. Luckily I had a ‘meat porter’ with me to carry them home from the mail box. Never be without your ‘diable’, as they say in the meat markets of Paris. The combined weightage must be about 10 kilos. Now I can safely say my vinyl weighs more than two tonnes. I have in the past perhaps been a little sniffy about Frank’s VOD project, as my perception was he tended to concentrate too heavily on ‘industrial’ music for my tastes. But I’m proved wrong yet again, we have here for the most part some invaluable documents of a vanished and once-thriving cassette culture.

A Skeleton / Cupboard situation (VOD35) is credited to Colin Potter. It’s a great-looking compilation of home-made music recorded in his IC Studio and originally released on cassette tapes or private press LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Titles sampled on this LP are The Scythe, The Ghost Office, We Couldn’t Agree on a Title, Insane Music for Insane People and Angst in My Pants. Jonathan Coleclough designed the original covers. There are some photographs of them on the back cover, looking pristine, fresh, and excitingly obscure. In issue 15, I think I have managed to confuse Colin Potter with Colin Fletcher. This is on a par with my mistake over the two Alvins – Lucier and Curran. I’m really looking forward to playing this one. I think the international ‘cassette scene’ is an interesting part of musical history, but we don’t yet know enough about it. However with reissues like this, fragments of the picture are coming together.

In like manner, we have Snatch Paste: An Assortment of Snatch Tapes (VOD32). This is another compilation, again from the cassette era, showcasing some gems from Philip Sanderson‘s Snatch Tapes label. The recordings were made 1978-1981, and featured names on this album are David Jackman, Storm Bugs, Mannequin Moves, Tony Clough, Alien Brains, Orior, and Claire Thomas with Susan Vezey. No informative booklet inside this album however. For that data, ya gotta visit Sanderson’s site. Sanderson is still making music, although quite different to this earlier abrasive material. There’s also a Storm Bugs retrospective coming this May from VOD.

Vinyl-On-Demand’s topnotch production values must be murder on the label’s budget. Luxurious, heavy vinyl pressings are the order of the day, housed in extremely sturdy sleeves. Often the sleeves are gatefolds, even for single LPs, with label logo embossed in blind. Plus a rectangular shape similarly embossed.

There’s more. Finally, a compilation of Ptôse, the little-known French avant synth combo from ‘that’ period. This one is called Early Recordings 79-83 (VOD34) and it’s a whole full-length double LP! I’ve been intrigued to hear something by these French circuit-manglers ever since I heard the CD Ignoble Vermine, which is a tribute record to Ptôse made by contemporary musicians who use electronics, tapes and beat boxes, all of whom natch claim Ptôse as an influence. Of course I never heard (or saw) a single original record by Ptôse. Now’s my chance (and yours if you’re quick enough to snap up one of these 500 copies). Nice geometric cover design opens up to reveal a complete discography of this French electronica combo who have been often dubbed “The French Residents”. Drool!

Next come two heavy box sets. Cassettencombinat West Berlin 1980-81 (VOD36) arrives in a hefty white box with a plain bit of typo and a picture of a Portastudio on the cover. Inside are three luscious LPs, colour-coded for ease of reference, all with printed card sleeve inserts, and a seven-inch single. This collection seems to be an exhaustive historical document of a post-punk DIY home-recording cassette scene in Berlin, of which I know nothing. As I stalk these intriguing grooves, slurping up with my ears the sounds of the Frau Siebenrock Combo, Borsig Werke, Sprung Aus Den Wolken (and many others!), I intend to vanquish my ignorance. I further suspect that characterising all the music as ‘minimal electronica’ will be an inadequate approach.

Lastly, here’s a grim-looking slab – a box of sounds by John Duncan called First Recordings 1978-1985 (VOD33). Again, a historical survey of this most uniquely austere of performance-based sound artists. Herein be ‘Station Event’, ‘Dark Market Broadcast’, ‘Gain’ and ‘No Probe’ on three LPs, all in black covers. And a DVD of ‘Prayer’ and ‘Phantom’ which is mounted on the top of the box. Whew! This one has been auditioned briefly – I played the whole of ‘Station Event’ in one sitting, and a mesmeric experience it was. Guess I’ll stop before this turns into a full review, but in meantime may I suggest you purloin a copy of this instantly, unless it’s already vanished.