Tabs Out | The Anti-Cassettes of Auris Apothecary

The Anti-Cassettes of Auris Apothecary
2.1.18 by Mike Haley

Generally speaking a desired feature with cassette tapes is that they are easily playable. A dowsing of variants exist, but ideally someone producing a cassette would use high grade magnetic tape, employ real-time or professional duplication, and pack that sucker in a fresh Norelco case. Nowhere during that process would rotten meat or sand make an appearance. Those materials are far from industry standards (I checked). The cassette industry newsletter must have went straight to Auris Apothecary‘s spam folder. Ooops! The Indiana-based label has a long and strong catalog traversing the freeway of possible formats: vinyl, CDr, runs of NES OST tapes, floppy discs, reel-to-reels, etc… They also have a reputation of taking the exit ramp and voyaging the roads far less traveled. The ones paved with rotten meat and sand. I’m talking about anti-cassettes.

Traditionally, anti-cassettes are tapes designed to be impossible to play, or at the very least, a major fucking chore. Auris Apothecary did not invent the format, but have most definitely matured it into a thoughtful art/mind/music experimentation. “Anti-cassettes to us represent a way to implement tangible manifestations of abstract concepts.” said label guru Dante Augustus Scarlatti. “Multiple layers of ideas are embedded into every facet of them, from the audio content and the title, to the artwork and the alteration. Almost every piece of anti-releases are cohesively created and directly tied into one another, rather than simply being a collection of new songs or a random musical object that’s been senselessly destroyed.”

Luckily their plans to use spoiled meat as packaging got canned, along with other bonker blueprints like an ant farm anti-cassette. Sand got the green light in 2010 with AA’s inaugural anti-cassettes Unholy Triforce’s ‎”Sandin’ Yr Vagina.” The plugged-up tapes were filled to the brim with sand, labeled with a vintage label maker, and packaged in an emery clothe (basically sand paper) Ocard. “To this day it’s our most destructive release, musically and conceptually, as it can destroy the machine it’s played in and makes a mess wherever it goes.” If you ask me, anyone attempting to play a tape full of sand deserves to have their deck gnarled up. Dante Augustus Scarlatti has a rosier view. “We very much want people to figure out a way to play back the music contained on our anti-releases. We meticulously test for and can guarantee the salvageability of the audio content for every copy, despite how they may appear.”

Standards are just shy of using a cleanroom and wearing one of those full-body suits (booties to hood style) for their anti-cassette process. While working on “Siberiliszt Inferno” by Unholy Triforce in 2015, a cassette that was literally melted – Melted! – caution was taken not to touch the tape reels. Imagine getting a molten ball of tape and thinking “Let me make sure no one touched the reels!” Up to 71 people may have done that.

Prototypes for the “Baptism” anti-cassette C30 by Rob Funkhouser ran into a unique snag when the water that the tapes were submerged in became cloudy from rust. “We removed the metal and felt pieces” Dante said of the solution, noting an attempt to avoid “compromising the magnetic materials.” That helicopter parenting is what sections off Auris Apothecary’s anti-cassettes from something like “Wind Licked Dirt” by The Haters, an anti-cassette released by Hanson that is played by rubbing it in dirt. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

“Some are harder than others to play back, but none of them are impossible, and they all contain unique music written for the release. Viewing them as “art objects” and never listening is like owning a book for the cover art but never reading it.” The level of difficulty ranges from beginner to expert. If you only feel comfortable toweling off hot sauce and unfurling 50 square feet of aluminum foil, you’re in luck. Maybe you want to tackle a sonic-welded (no screws) tape with toothless spools. Go for it! Or just put the entire damn thing together yourself.

A full archive of Auris Apothecary’s anti-cassettes can be accessed through this anti-link: L#-_I}}][}{\N.k

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