Uncategorized

Tabs Out | Marta SmiLga – Lunar Maria, Vol. 1

Marta SmiLga – Lunar Maria, Vol. 1
4.2518 by Ryan Masteller

My almost-seven-year-old son doesn’t play with action figures or anything, he plays with stuffed animals, his favorites being Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Yoshi, because DUH. Also, I think he likes playing with them because he can throw them at other kids in the variation of tag they play at school. So it should be no surprise that his bed and closet are overflowing with random plush creatures and other ephemera. But maybe the coolest ones he has are stuffed globes of Earth, Mars, and the moon (called, yes, a “Hug-a-Moon”), complete with notations of political (on Earth) and geographical locations. He might be the only first grader who wouldn’t uncomprehendingly blink at the mention of Mare Ingenii, Mare Frigoris, Mare Nubium, and Mare Orientale.

How’d you do? Those ring a bell? Don’t tell me my kid is smarter than you, a grown adult! Ah, you shouldn’t feel bad though — I wouldn’t have had a clue either, not until I read that they’re all “dark lunar plains that early astronomers mistook for seas.” And it’s these that Marta SmiLga focuses on throughout her synthesizer song cycle “Lunar Maria, Vol. 1.” A synth-maker and stargazer from Riga, Latvia, Liga Smirnova uses the alias Marta SmiLga (tongue… twisted…) when she wants to get all tripped out on sci-fi and outer-space dream sequences. Every moment on “Lunar Maria, Vol. 1” captures the unearthly awe of early space exploration, when we humans started to figure out there’s a whole heckuva lot out there beyond the confines of Earth. From the Sputnik-y bleeps of “Mare Ingenii” to the interstellar fears conjured by the loneliness of “Mare Frigoris,” Smirnova reports on what she observes in the night sky, each track a deep dive into the everything our imaginations have ever whipped up about the cosmos. And in the end, those lunar plains may as well be space oceans, that’s how deeply immersed we get under Marta SmiLga’s dense spell.

Grab one of the edition of 100 from Crash Symbols. And by the way, the Hug-a-Moon makes for a pretty GREAT projectile, especially if you’ve got the kind of arm my son does. Plus he’s a lefty.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Marta SmiLga – Lunar Maria, Vol. 1

Tabs Out | (2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji) – Untitled Modular Synthesizer Demos

(2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji) – Untitled Modular Synthesizer Demos
4.24.18 by Ryan Masteller

Sometimes you just stumble across something that makes so little sense that it renders everything around it obsolete, thus redefining the idea of “sense” so that, coming from that something, nothing else makes more sense than that thing you stumbled across. That’s how I felt when I peeped at this [2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji] artefact and beheld its utter weirdness coalescing into normality before my eyes. Nothing is as it should be. Yes, it says “edition of one” on the j-card. No, you can’t buy it. No, you can’t HEAR it. So I won’t even be embedding a Bandcamp or Soundcloud link below.

But considering the circumstances, I’m breaking all the rules today.

Dubbed over an actual copy of The Beatles’ “1967-1970” collection, because sometimes blank tape is just too expensive, “Untitled Modular Synthesizer Demos” is like an odyssey through the cracked psyche of [2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji]. The frenzied scribbles of the artist’s preferred instrument pinging around my headphones are SO MUCH MORE welcome than another runthrough of that goddamned “Octopus’s Garden” (damn you, Ringo! I’ll get you someday). And I mean, I LIKE the Beatles, in general. But this is just a handmade treasure that you’ll have to pry from my clutches long after I’m gone. Or for the right price on Discogs…

I kid, I kid! This is a total trip, and I’m going to take it again, this time with some assistance – liquid courage!

What are you still doing here? I can’t embed this one. I GUESS I could point you in the direction of Gay Hippie Vampire if you want to check out some of the more POPULAR releases by [2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji], like “Gayest,” or “Frotting.”

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | (2 Dads 2 Sons Emoji) – Untitled Modular Synthesizer Demos

Tabs Out | V/A – Doom Mix Vol. II

V/A – Doom Mix Vol. II
4.23.18 by Ryan Masteller

Comps are dumping grounds for neglected tunes that couldn’t make the album cut. Just look at the enormous stack of Warped Tour and Ozzfest and DGC and what-have-you CDs gathering dust in the corner over there and tell me they have a use other than landfill fodder. And seriously, you should probably get rid of all those.

…Which is what I WOULD HAVE SAID back in the days before the light illuminated the truth and these old codger’s eyes were opened for good! (But I still mean it: those CDs in the corner just aren’t good ones.) That’s right, I’ve come around to the glorious use of the compilation as a means for perpetuating the label brand, and it’s all thanks to “Doom Mix Vol. I,” which was my favorite release by California whippersnappers Doom Trip before that whole Mukqs tape came along (gosh, that’s a good’un, along with the REST of the tapes in the Doom Trip catalog). And now we’ve got a SECOND volume, “Doom Mix Vol. II” (duh), filled to the brim with Doom Trip artists old (R. Stevie Moore, Diamondstein, Heejin Jang) and new (Brayeden Jae, MrDougDoug, Dntel). If that name Dntel sounds familiar, you’d be right: you probably heard his song with up-and-coming singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard on the hit show “The OC.” (And I predict BIG THINGS for that fellow Gibbard, by the way – he truly is a treasure.)

All kidding aside, “Doom Mix Vol. II” is filled chockablock with excellent tunes, once again proving my old self wrong and solidifying the idea that diversity in sound unified under one roof can be just as cohesive and stunning as a single artist executing a singular vision. And on this second anniversary of Doom Trip’s existence, what better way to celebrate than by tripping fully through the “variety of approaches to electronic music” that the label’s pushing? I know that’s what I’ll be doing.

And in the spirit of calling attention to a compilation track surprising the hell out of me, here’s a standout on initial listen: Diamondstein’s “Taghut #2.” But don’t stop there, dive back in for the rest! Downloads are FREE FOREVER, but only 150 of the tapes exist…

And DON’T throw this tape in a landfill!

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | V/A – Doom Mix Vol. II

Tabs Out | Episode #124: Stunned Records

124

Warm Climate - Camouflage on the River Wretched
Garrincha & The Stolen Elk - We Were Wyoming
M. Geddes Gengras - split w/ A.M. Shiner
Molten Honey - split w/ Masons
Jawsmoke - split w/ Nite Lite
Yek Koo - I Saw Myself
Andreas Brandal - Secrets of the Snow
Lunar Miasma - Three Legged Elephant
Xiphiidae - Iiustus / Transresonance Formation
Super Minerals - Be Brave Children of the Monsoon
Tricorn and Queue - Ashes Wander
Plankton Wat - Foundation Stones: The Stunned Box

  

| Comments Off on Tabs Out | Episode #124: Stunned Records

Tabs Out | Interview – id m theft able

Interview – id m theft able
4.19.18 by Jacob DeRaadt

Skott (aka: id m theft able) is one of those people that I knew through trading tapes of thrift-store cut-up in the mail for years before seeing him perform live with an amplified table of various re-imagined objects, prepared digital cut up, radio, and THOSE VOCALS. Since moving to Portland, Maine, I’ve had the pleasure of a lot of conversations with Skott about our shared love of experimental music and hair metal, growing up in small towns, and seeking out sounds on your own as a teenager. I wanted to ask Skott questions about elements that link up his total art worlds which seem fairly evenly divided between sound and visual collage. Here’s some of them that took place in summer/fall of 2017 about his visual and sound practice, the DOES series of shows he curates, side project 3D Jet Scooter,and his long-standing label MANGDISC.

 

You said something in an earlier interview about comparing your voice to a saxophone. Do you listen to much horn stuff?

Sure, I don’t focus on it particularly, but I do like free-improv and free jazz.

How does comedy fit into your perspective of your sound work?

I never set out to be funny, but I know that sometimes if I follow through with particular impulses I have people are probably going to laugh. I had a dream once that I ripped a soccer ball apart on stage, so I decided to try it in real life. So I got a soccer ball and tore the panels off one by one, the panels had strings attached between them and the ball and as I pulled them off I made a crude sort of lute. I plucked the improvised strings and sang in a falsetto. Of course people laughed, and though I wasn’t trying to be funny, I’m glad they were engaged. It was interesting to me so I did it, how people react to it after I do it is out of my hands. No response is invalid. That said, I like and am influenced by comedy.

When I was younger, I did worry about doing things that would undermine the “seriousness” of my intentions. This now seems laughably stupid and pointless to me. I did away with any pretense of being taken seriously/not seriously over time, and it’s quite liberating to simply have faith in my impulses and intentions and not worry about any of that anymore. Serious/not serious, fuck it, if I want to do it, I’ll do it.

I’ve always been curious about the process of how you come across all of these backwoods Maine objects that work themselves as motifs/repeated themes into your work. Can you tell me a bit about this process?

I’ve got several dumps all over rural Maine that I visit, one that I visit once a week and I’m on a first name basis with the crew there. They have a vague idea of what I do and will occasionally set stuff aside for me. Sometimes I actually bring a mallet with me and just go around tapping on things, auditioning garbage. Almost all of the stuff I use on stage that isn’t electronic I get at either the dump or thrift stores. I’ve never had the money to get fancy gear, and at this point I really don’t care to. Mine is cheap music, and I’m happy with that. I recently bought a $350 PA and that’s easily the most expensive piece of equipment I’ve ever bought.

How much does your visual art relate to the sound collages? They seem to make sense together.

I rarely ever start working with a concept, I just sort of… start. Sometimes I’ll have a particular word floating around in my brain, or a particular subject I want to address, but for the most part I don’t know what a piece is about, if it’s about anything, until I’m well into creating it. This is true both in terms of how I make collage and how I make music. I try never to let my initial concept burden me. If it makes sense to change direction in the moment, I change direction. I don’t want to be weighed down by my own ideas if I see some other direction that makes sense in the moment. With collages my intention is usually simply “I want to make a collage” and I sit down and start tearing paper. With music my intention is usually “I want to make music” and I just go. I’m not entirely anti-concept though, and sometimes having a structure of some kind can prevent you from falling into the same old patterns that you find yourself repeating.

There’s a lot of consistency with the CD abuse and tape editing in your work. What’s your process like for that?

I have a weekly radio show that’s basically me doing two hours of “sound collage” (their term, not mine!) every week. So, on Tuesday, I go into the the side studio before my radio show, do all kinds of naughty things to CDs, tapes, records, radios – whatever they’ve got lying around and whatever I’ve brought with me. The cut-ups I think you’re referring to I make in real time, fading and cutting in different elements that I think might make sense together. I’ll usually do 4 or 5 passes with a particular set of material until I get something that I like. Then, later, I remix that material on the air, add or subtract elements, splice it together with other things that make sense, sometimes add vocals or other acoustic sounds live.

Every CD player has a different way you can exploit it. Some deal with glitches in very different ways than the standard skip we all know. Every time they get a new deck at the station I’ll put an altered CD in there (I mostly only alter them with Sharpies or scotch tape) and see what I can get it to do. Most of my tape work is about quirks with tape loops, especially intentionally damaged ones, or recording things onto low fidelity tapes and working with that. Speeding them up, slowing them down, that sort of thing.

I don’t hear a lot of effects in your work. That’s very refreshing.

I like it raw, I always have. I do occasionally use effects, especially various types of distortion, but sparingly. Last week on the radio I took one of my rain recordings, sped it up, added a little distortion, then maxed out the gain on the mixer on top of that and made a little HNW on WMPG. It was actually pretty fun, but, in general, distortion almost always seems to remind me of rock music, no matter what you’re doing with it, which is by no means a bad thing, but isn’t where I want to be sonically a lot of the time. I’ve always thought of harsh noise and its offshoots as just a sort of extreme form of rock music, like a really awesome guitar solo that just goes on for a long time. I love it, but that’s just not where I personally want to be. I did use a little flanger on something the other night though.

How long has Mangdisc been around?

The first release came out in 1999, but I had a different label before that with the cute name of Melt Brain, and there were 4 or 5 releases, all of my music, well before Maang. If you count the negative and found series, I’m at around 120 releases.

What’s the biggest press you’ve done with Mangdisc?

I pressed around 300 copies of the Visitations CDR which came out in 2005. By way of their association with Time Lag Records, they were pretty hot shit at the time and Nemo from Time Lag actually asked me for something like 200 copies, so, I made them! The three members of that band are close friends (and I’m actually on that whole record, as Lovebunny, a secret half man half rabbit from the wilds of Windham) and I was happy to do it. It actually sold out quite quickly! That was an anomaly though and I’d say aside from that one 7 inch I did (which had about 250 copies) things rarely get over a hundred copies, and some of the titles there were only ever 4 or 5 copies of.

When you started doing the project, was it in relative isolation? Did you know about Prick Decay/Dylan Nyoukis/Jap Blonk’s’ work?

I had no idea about any of them when I started doing vocal work. My influences in that department were more Joan LaBarbara, Cathy Berbarian, Yoko Ono all of whom I got into in high school. I did know about Sound Poetry, Kurt Schwitters and all of that as well, so that was certainly in there. Most of my vocal influences were and are actually non-vocal. I really started using the voice mostly because I couldn’t think of a way to create the sounds I was imagining for various pieces, so I just started imitating them vocally. I actually made music for years before I started doing any extended vocal technique stuff at all. I first heard about Jaap Blonk after someone reviewed one of my tracks on some compilation and said “this sounds like Jaap Blonk recorded on the side of a busy highway” or something like that, so I subsequently found and immensely enjoyed his work. Dylan I’d heard about because he was a friend of Crank Sturgeons, but I didn’t hear his work until much later. Big fan of his too. Honestly, all of these folks have probably rubbed off on me in some way, but I’m probably every bit as influenced by rap music, or Robert Plant’s wailing or what have you.

How do you relate to the Portland experimental scene? It seems like you tour more than play live shows around here.

Portland has never really had all that extensive of a scene for this stuff so there really isn’t too much to relate to. To be honest, there’s more folks here in town doing it than there ever were before, so you’re sort of here at the peak of it, but as you well know there’s still not a lot happening. Portland isn’t nearly as cool as it thinks it is. I definitely play far, far more often in Massachusetts and elsewhere because there’s just more interest down that way. That said, there are a small handful of people in town doing work that I dig, yourself included.

Do you feel like something would change if you didn’t have the isolation of living in Windham? You seem like kind of a hermit to me.

I will say that I really like talking to people, but my natural inclination is sort of not to. Working at Strange Maine definitely keeps me social. I was a fairly isolated kid and didn’t really have any real friends until high school, so being a bit isolated is a normal state for me. I’m very glad to live out in the sticks so that I have the space to decide whether I want to talk to or see anyone or not. I’m also so glad to be involved with the store and to have made so many great friend through music and art. My creative impulses, such as they are, were definitely born of being a weird isolated kid with no one else around that I related to.

What prompted you to start doing the DOES Series of shows?

Well, I did shows at Strange Maine for 13 years and once that was abruptly stopped I had to do something. The last string of Strange Maine shows were relatively well attended, I was feeling really good about booking, so I knew I wanted to continue somehow. I was really influenced by Andrew Chadwick’s “Action Research” series in Gainesville, Florida. He’s never been tied to one venue, the series has always moved from venue to venue, and I liked the thought of that. So, I basically decided to see if I could emulate that. The Apohadion reopening has been awfully helpful for that. That place is amazing and I’m so thankful to Pat and the gang for letting me book there.

Let’s talk about 3D Jet Scooter, a trio you have with Frank Turek and Janane Tripp. Janane used to be in a band called Prisma that put out a record on Time-Lag Records, was in Visitations, and is in the Veasies. You seem to take turns determining who steers the direction or disrupts things, like Janane was doing last time you played.

3D Jet Scooter is me and two of my favorite people on the planet. Janane Tripp, known for her work in Visitations and Prisma, as well as her solo work, and Frank Turek who’s been making music and art in a myriad of genres and permutations around Portland since the late 80’s, I think. The range of what he’s done is amazing. I always tell people we’re a “spacey improv band”, but that’s pretty simplistic. It’s definitely improv, as the most we’ve ever decided beforehand is something like “let’s start quiet” or what have you. I really like the band, there’s something about the combination of playful personalities that works more often than it doesn’t. Sometimes it crashes, but usually it doesn’t.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Interview – id m theft able

Tabs Out | Tape Label or Weed Strain?

Tape Label or Weed Strain?
4.20.18 by Mike Haley

If you’re one of these turkeys that listens to “experimental musics” cassette tapes then you must be a real figgin’ outsider – A true WEIRDO living on the god damn fringes of society. Being such a deviant, you must also be POUNDING one-hitters of that primo wacky-green to the dome on the daily. Reeeeeeeal sticky stuff. But are you so far gone that you can’t even friggin’ distinguish between cassettes and cannabis anymore!? Take our annual 4/20 Tape Label or Weed Strain quiz and find out.

Let’s get rolling…

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Tape Label or Weed Strain?

Tabs Out | Huron – The Blue Tape

Huron – The Blue Tape
4.18.18 by Ryan Masteller

It’s not often I get thanked in liner notes, and in fact I can’t think of a single time it’s happened before. But sure enough, Philly ambient artist Johnny Lancia, aka Huron, has seen fit to shout out yours truly right on the tape’s lovely, evocative Jcard. Maybe it’s the somewhere-in-suburban-Pennsylvania twilight depicted, or maybe it’s the subdued and twilit soundscapes emanating from Huron’s “The Blue Tape,” but there’s something just so personal and directed about “Thanks to everyone who listened” that gets me right in the spot where all my emotions reside. Feel me?

OK, har har, but let these carefully curated washes of treated sound crest and break over you for a minute and see how you feel. “The Blue Tape” is perfectly colored, dense with melancholy and meaning, and almost the exact thing you need at the close of the day, any day, any season, whether you’re an office jockey staring out through an urban jungle or a landlocked sea captain wishing just one last time to feel the wind at your back as you man the tiller (though preferably not with something like this bearing down on you). There’s just a moon-on-the-water vibe about Huron, about “The Blue Tape” that starts the old emotional juices flowing again, and I can’t help but think that I missed my calling somehow. I should have learned to skipper a boat; I should have been married to the sea. (Apologies to my wife, obviously.)

I admit it, I totally stopped thinking about the office jockey as soon as I started making sea captain references – sorry. It’s that patented Huron song cycle, that ebb and flow of liquid longing. Apparently it does it to me every time.

“The Blue Tape” comes in an edition of 50, direct from Huron himself. Philly style.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Huron – The Blue Tape

Tabs Out | New Batch – Personal Archives

New Batch – Personal Archives
4.17.18 by Ryan Masteller

If you’re like me, you’ve been doing all kinds of stupid stuff here in 2018 EXCEPT paying attention to what Personal Archives was releasing. This is a flaw in my (and your) character – there is no reason that we should be April deep into an entire year without some coverage of Bob Bucko Jr.’s label. God knows he’s out there, fighting the good fight across this great nation of ours, touring like his life depends on it (it does – it’s probably a medical condition), preaching the gospel of Personal Archives far and wide. This man is a national treasure. We should treat him like one.

So what’s he cooked up for us? (Tape-wise that is. He releases these round things too sometimes. Some are larger and – plastic? Some are smaller and composed of digital code that are read by “lasers.” As if that’s safe!)

SAXSQUATCH & BRIDGE BAND – “APOGEE”

Behold, the elusive Saxsquatch in his natural habitat – behind the mouthpiece of a saxophone, fronting a swinging band in a studio environment! Hey, at least he’s not causing mass panic by traipsing through the woods like his cousin, or dancing in a hamburger costume. Saxsquatch, aka Jarad Selner, has joined forces with Bridge Band, featuring Cousin Will Benoit, Jakab Selner, and Jarab Selner – no relation … oh wait, probably there’s a family relation – and released “Apogee,” a tape featuring some damn fine slow jams and jazzy runthroughs. Who says the kids don’t swing these days? Actually it’s me – I scream that at all the kids who happen to wander too close to my porch. But still, I won’t be yelling that at the Selners and Cousin Will, because they just put me at my ease, just like my old records used to do… Who said “records”?!

MATTHEW AS MORE – “APOCALYPSE NEVER”

Oh, Matthew, legalize LSD? I mean, we can’t even do the “herb” right, let alone the thing that they used for MK Ultra. Whatever. At least you’re trying, which is more than I can say for those ridiculous potheads, am I right? With their Cheech and Chong and their vans and their filthy ponchos. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. What I do know is “Apocalypse Never” is some righteous throwback action to the turbulent sixties, when rock was real and fueled by whatever chemical compound found its way into the bodies of all the hottest musicians. I’m not usually one to be enticed, entranced, hypnotized, possessed by this rock and roll stuff, but “Apocalypse Never” can soundtrack my blacklight party anytime. And is it just me that wants Matthew As More to share a stage with Brother John Terlesky so bad right now?

WILMOTH AXEL – “RESONATION”

Pac NW psych enthusiasts Wilmoth Axel return, as the PROPHECIES FORETOLD, to Personal Archives, having released a handful of other stuff there over the years. Nurtured by spirits and steeped in tradition, the band take another crack at their brand of free-associative freewheeling, blazing their own path through the brazen psychedelia their shamanistic forebears envisioned. Again, prophecies, coming true, etc., it is like the god-DANGED rock version of the book of Isaiah or something. Once again, the sixties are invoked, we have to, we must. Pump that resistance through our veins like we depend on it for life! Huh? What? Oh, it’s ok, I’m on the BROWN acid.

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | New Batch – Personal Archives

Tabs Out | Space Age Pressure Pad # 3: Scoring rad decks

Space Age Pressure Pad # 3: Scoring rad decks
4.14.18 by Scott Scholz

This week, I thought it might be fun to talk about places to find cassette decks, as well as some principles behind picking out potentially good decks on the used market. Despite cassette sales rising considerably in recent years, there aren’t really any legit new decks. If you want noisy gadgets w/USB outputs intended to make mediocre mp3s out of your parents’ old tapes, sure, there are a few decks and walkman-style devices you can get on the cheap. But if you really want to hear what’s on those all those new tapes you’re wrangling from around the world, you’re going to need to think about strategies for finding old decks.

There are some online forums where you can find useful information about decks, but it seems to me that there are, broadly speaking, two kinds of “cassette enthusiasts” out there these days. The first is the audiophile/retrogrouch type of person, and that’s where most of the forum chats tend to gravitate. These folks spend more money on ancient new-old-stock blank metal (Type IV) tapes than it costs to snag the latest title on your favorite underground tape label. When they’re not comparing the differences between different years of Type II chemical formulations for popular blank tape brands of the 80s, they’re trying to make perfect copies of their pristine records on tape onto these godforsaken overpriced blanks.

But I think most of the readers of Tabs Out will fall into the 2nd category, which is a bunch of ladies and gentlemen whose main goals with tape are simply enjoying new music. That includes us here at the Space Age Pressure Pad, where the colloquial “we” think records and tapes are meant to be played, and blank tapes are for recording and dubbing brand-new music to get out there in the world. So there are going to be some practical considerations that might differ from the habits of home-audio(phile) enthusiasts: you want jams to sound as awesome as possible, of course, but you don’t want to spend your weekends rebuilding tape decks. You want to spend your money on new tapes and on music-making gadgets of your own, not rare cassette machines. And you might need to make small runs of copies at home on occasion, so dual decks aren’t so verboten as they are for the audiophile crowd. With those considerations in mind, let’s think about general cassette deck designs.

What decks are we looking for?

At the height of commercial cassette popularity, there were some truly astonishing tape decks produced. But there were also some budget and mid-priced machines that may do just what you need as a listener/microlabel operator today. For our purposes, let’s divide the spectrum of cassette players you’re likely to find into three categories: consumer decks, professional decks, and audiophile decks.

Consumer decks fell on the low to mid-priced spectrum, and you’ll find a wide range of quality among these. They tend to be built out of lighter materials, and they may have fewer features like direct pitch control, azimuth adjustment, tape type bias selection, or extended flavors of Dolby. They’re almost certainly 2-head (record/play) designs rather than having 3 heads, which allows you to do some real-time monitoring of recording quality. Most of these are dual well designs, where you can have two tapes set to play, or dub from one tape to another. Most have single capstans, which means the tape might get a bit more “wiggle” as it’s playing, but sometimes you’ll find double capstans, or maybe double capstans in the “record” deck and a single in the playback-only deck.

Semipro Tips: look for late 90s/early oughts models–these were often “deal sweeteners” thrown in for free when folks were buying speakers/amps/CD players at stereo and big-box stores, and they probably weren’t used much by their new CD-rocking owners. Or they just “came with” the overall stereo setup, that sort of thing. The decks from that vintage might not be as heavily built as 70s and 80s decks, but they’ve also spent a decade or two less in hot/humid conditions in attics and basements than their older siblings, with corroding circuit boards and dried-out belts and rollers.

Some probably-reliable brands: JVC (I have great luck with modest old JVCs sounding awesome), Technics, Yamaha, Sony, some Nakamichi, Technics, NAD, Pioneer, older Aiwa, Akai, etc.

There were decks marketed as “professional” decks, which you could often recognize by the inclusion of rack ears in their design. Generally in the middle to upper-middle price range, and intended to be good-sounding and mechanically durable workhorses for places like recording studios and radio stations, these machines were built to handle a little more use than your typical lower-priced consumer tape deck. Some of these are dual decks, and some are single. Most have double capstans.

Semipro Tips: I think the Tascam 202mk line is a pretty solid choice for doing home dubbing, and they sound pretty good for listening, too. But if you’re going to work with Dolby, be warned that the 202mkV was the last of the line with Dolby B–the VI doesn’t have it. And I have to be honest: I think Dolby B is a good thing for most program material. Almost all of the consumer-grade decks will have it, too, and it’ll keep most hum/hiss out of your quiet passages for your future tape-buying audience.

Brands: Tascam, Marantz, some Yamaha and Denon models, etc.

Then we have audiophile-grade decks. These mysterious creatures tend to weigh a ton, and they have enough knobs and switches to emulate an airplane control panel. These are gonna be single decks with double capstans.

Semipro Tips: Lots of bells and whistles means lots of potential problems. Proprietary parts. Complicated inner workings. No dubbing tape-to-tape. But if you’re got the scratch and they’re in great shape, you’ll have a great time listening to synth zoners and noise walls in the equivalent of analog technicolor, like some kind of cassette royalty. In general, I stay out of the fray in the audiophile scene, because there’s no way I can justify spending what these decks go for. However, if you find something like a Nakamichi Dragon at your local Goodwill for 20 bucks, you gotta go for it, obviously! Don’t even test that thing, just bring it home and figure out how to proceed later.

Brands: Nakamichi, Tandberg, Luxman, Bang & Olufsen, various top-of-the-line models from other companies.

Where do we find these things?

Now that we’re in the magical age of the internet, it’s never been easier to find old tape decks, or to find advice for fixing ‘em up on the cheap. Here are a few of my go-tos when it’s time to look for a new deck:

Thrift stores: in my area, we have a Goodwill dedicated to electronics gadgets. There’s a lot of junk, and a lot of broken junk, but every few months something cool shows up for a pretty good price. I’ve snagged a number of useful decks and walkmans there under 20 clams. It’s always worth a look at these places, especially if they have a testing area.

Craigslist: I’ve snagged a few good decks from CL postings–and sometimes it’s from seeing a cool deck in the background of a photo for somebody selling a power amp or speakers or other stereo junk. They may be planning to just toss the old thing, assuming that nobody would want to buy a cassette deck in 2018. Give ‘em an email or a call if you spy something cool.

Facebook marketplace: this is starting to take off, so keep an eye on there, too. Pretty much the same principle as Craigslist: peep those stereo gear listings.

Garage sales: you find cool tapes and records for next to nothing sometimes, and that happens occasionally with tape decks, too. There’s a fellow near me who seems to scrounge around rather successfully for old electronics, including decks, who has an ongoing garage sale nearly every weekend, and if you find folks like that, tell ‘em what you’re looking for and leave your number. They might have better luck than you!

Dumpster diving: I bike around more than drive, and I’ll see folks put turntables and tape decks out for the trash pickup sometimes. The price is right, no? Snag now and test later.

Ebay: maybe it’s come to this? You’re going to pay more, no doubt, but if you see what you want and you can swing it, save yourself some time. Be aware that these decks are just as likely to have near-failing parts as something you find in a thrift store, though, even if the seller says it’s all tip-top. And shipping old machines has a way of rattling parts loose, so you’ll want to do a good once-over on your new deck upon arrival. But there are deals to be found even here, especially if you’re looking for “sleeper” models that don’t have the kind of reputation folks associate with old Naks and that kind of higher-end mania.

Semipro tips for testing decks on the fly

Take a peek in the tape well with the little light on your cell phone: is it pretty clean? Do the rubber parts look dried out? If the heads look shot, it’s probably not worth screwing around with it, unless it’s a fancy audiophile deck. And even then, just resell it at a silly profit on ebay to some tinkerer audiophile type and buy some more tapes.

Take a quick look at the power supply cord and the buttons–if you have broken stuff or frayed wiring, best to just move on. We don’t want to be here all day evaluating junk, do we?

Bring along a tape you’re familiar with to test decks–you’re listening for sound quality, background noise, sound stage, etc, hopefully both through headphones and through some speakers if possible. If that tape features a recording with prominent acoustic piano or mallet percussion, so much the better–you can check for wow and flutter if you hear instruments like those wavering up and down in pitch. And if you want to get really picky, stick your metronome with a tuning “A 440” note in your pocket (or maybe a tuning fork, or a tone generating app, whatever you’ve got), and bring a tape that has lots of A-notes with you. Then you can see if the deck is running fast or slow against a stable tuning pitch.

If the tape has Dolby, give that a try, too.

If you find yourself without a tape, but you’re at a thrift store, take a gander around–they probably have something that will work. Just be aware that if you hear a problem, it could be a janky tape, too. Maybe grab two of ‘em before testing.

If it’s a dual deck and you’re going to be using it for some dubbing, bring a blank tape, too, and dub a bit of a side. Same deal: you’re looking for good sound, low noise, faithful stereo field reproduction, stable and true pitch.

Light maintenance issues

Upon bringing a new deck home, you should plan on doing some quick-and-dirty maintenance stuff just to make sure things are running as best as they can. I’ll often do some basic cleaning while the machine is still outdoors–you never know where it’s been, after all, so taking a look under the hood and searching for signs of insect life is probably a good idea. Then it’s a matter of a little compressed air, and you’re good to go.

I’m not a wildly mechanically-inclined person, but there are some pretty painless basic maintenance things you can do to keep your decks working well without having to be a major electronics tinkerer. I keep a bottle of Rubber Renue on hand for rubber parts–just get a little on your rollers with a q-tip and let them dry off. For heads, very gently clean them with as high a percent isopropyl alcohol that you can find and another q-tip (don’t mix those q-tips up!). For various motor noises or just general upkeep, I use some light sewing machine oil–open the case on your deck, and look for the oil intake spot on your motor(s). Put a drop or two on a toothpick, and let it run down to the proper spot. No biggie, really.

Beyond that, you might occasionally find yourself needing to replace a belt or an idler tire or something of that nature. These are pretty easy operations, and you can find tips on those cassette forums or by watching youtube videos. The parts tend to be super cheap from online supply stores, too–you’ll probably pay more for shipping the belts you need than the belts themselves cost. If things get more involved than that, I usually leave ‘em to the pros, but you can extend the life of these things for nearly nothing with just a little practice. And hey, if you found the thing for cheap and you make a mistake, it’s not too hard of a hit.

There’s another thing that tech-oriented folks sometimes get hyper about, and that’s demagnetizing. Do you need to demagnetize the deck you just picked up, or do it on a regular schedule? The answer is often “no.” If you’re using a 2-head deck, you demagnetize the heads every time you take the machine in and out of record mode. If you’re worried about it, pop a tape in and hit “record” for a few seconds, then stop, and you’re back in business. In most normal situations, your deck needs an occasional cleaning more than a demag, which gets those magnetized particles out of there. However, if a machine has been sitting around for years with bits of tape oxide gunk inside, it’s possible that the heads will need a demag (and maybe even capstans with magnetic particles stuck to them for a long time). After the initial round, though, just keep things clean, and you’ll be good to go.

Happy hunting, and more importantly, happy listening!

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Space Age Pressure Pad # 3: Scoring rad decks

Tabs Out | Supersentient Intelligence Construct – Holomorphic Metacrystal

Supersentient Intelligence Construct – Holomorphic Metacrystal
4.13.18 by Ryan Masteller

There’s codes in that static, I can feel em. Sense em. I know they’re there, but to tease them out would require a machine that’s beyond my capacity to build and software that’s beyond my capacity to program. You guys ever seen Aronofsky’s “Pi”? I keep telling everyone to watch “Pi,” but nobody listens to me. There’s some kind of secret hidden in “Pi” that hasn’t revealed itself to me, something that’s gonna blast through the perceptive roadblocks, gonna blow open the “gateways of the multiverse.” Until then I’m just gonna use my mathematical expertise to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into the stock market until something good comes out of it.

Supersentient Intelligence Construct has taken a jackhammer to those “gateways of the multiverse,” or something to that effect, on “Holomorphic Metacrystal,” a lengthy cycle of physics-defying and dimension-ripping synthesizer experiments. The sonic equivalent to building that room-sized processor that I’ve alluded to (but somehow can’t find the time to finish, or indeed add the necessary parts to), “Holomorphic Metacrystal” becomes, then functions, humming away in the back room of some lab of some university while a bunch of lab nerds tinker with it. The codes emerge as melody, forming in the air and reconstructing their meaning within the cognitive centers of my brain as I listen. Will they provide the answers that I (and we) so long for? Or will they overwhelm us to the point of mental shutdown? Either way, I’m ready for the trip, but I’m gonna spend a few hundred million dollars on lottery tickets first.

“Highly collectable limited edition black C62 cassette in a clear case, with multilayered artwork by CLUT, featuring holographic foil highlights.” It’s like you’re speaking to the audience of the Tabs Out Podcast, there, [d]-tached records!

| Tagged Comments Off on Tabs Out | Supersentient Intelligence Construct – Holomorphic Metacrystal