Review of Kylie 1 and June Crawford’s What that says about me

Ed Pinsent always writes a longer essay on staaltape releases.

Two quotes,

Kylie 1: “these tapes are great fun to listen to,”

June’s release: “This is a profoundly touching item and it stayed with me for some hours after hearing it.”

Read the complete review on Ed’s The Sound Projector.

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Review of Dear Concerned Employees and Kantoor

Published on No-Wave, written by Andrew O’Keefe

Staaltape’s releases deliberately engineer a personal experience. Handmade packaging, which must be destroyed to be opened, and messages both personal and cryptic, adorn their tapes. Before even putting the tape into the deck, there is a suggestion to savour the moment; be attentive, and be present. In an age of streaming, Staaltape’s presentation attempts to re-teach the value of pricked ears.

The tapes themselves are unique enough to fit the bill. Dear Concerned Employees rises from a murky bog of lo-fi noise, shifting into warped, muzak-style sketches; mutated and muggy pop hits, and some spoken word passages whose words are indefinable.

The tape never takes form, but never feels insubstantial. Instead, it offers a feeling of something bubbling under the surface, a sort of paranoid energy which carries its quieter moments through effortlessly.

The tape’s aim: to calm the nerves of employees of the Duke Energy Building, who found a strange package in late 2018. The package later turned out to be a Journey cassette. While sending a tape to these people might seem arch, the letter accompanying ‘Dear Concerned Employees’ clarifies its intent.

“Not so long ago a tape brought a message of fear…this tape should transmit a message of hope and care.”

kantoor

Also released on Staaltape is Kantoor, a tape and accompanying zine. The zine, which draws on an array of contributors is by turns informative, allusory, poetic and humorous. Each contributor to the tape attempts either to explain or complement their section of audio. Some attractive context is added to content which otherwise may require knowledge of a fair few languages.

There is enough content here to carry through even the most staunch single-language listeners, though. We open on a cockerel, and some mysterious bowls and chimes, and this mystery is a throughrun of the tape. Even the speech itself is fascinating to listen to, shrouded in format-fog. And it never seems to run on very long before music interrupts.

The sounds are drawn from a wide pool of sources — some immediately recognisable, some mystical, vague and puzzling. Their incorporation feels invariably natural. We are treated to choirs, solo vocalists, the sounds of vehicles, animals, instruments. All combined to suggest a vast world in constant motion.

Kantoor has that unsettling, ghostly quality that appealed to, and was repurposed by, the likes of Boards of Canada. It even features some eerie analogue synthesiser work. Its sounds have more clarity than those on Dear Concerned Employees, but no less intrigue.

These packages feel delightful, unique and homegrown. The urge to track down all their samples and sources is irresistible. But they stand alone, too, woven lovingly together into coherent, fascinating wholes.

Dear Concerned Employees and Kantoor are available at the staaltape shop

Sincere Words

A more thematic approach can be found on the compilation ‘Kantoor’, which is the Dutch word for office. I am not sure how that is related to the theme, but the four artists here all work with found tapes and it works out quite differently. When the cassette was first developed, in the early sixties, it was not to
record LPs and in that process kill the music industry, but more for audio letters or recording one’s doodles at the organ and other homely activities. The people of this cassette actively seek out where to get these old tapes (thrift stores, flea markets and on the street and use them for their musical work. Jeroen Diepenmaat, for instance, crafted a great radio-play like piece (all pieces are about twenty-two minutes) of spoken word, music, and conversations taped by accident along with some religious chanting. Some of it is in Dutch; so knowing the language works in one’s advantage. Wassily Bosch concentrates entirely on a bunch of tapes from Russia, so there is some language barrier there and it takes less the format of a collage, fading from one bit to the next, but more a documentary. The excellent booklet tells us the story (for Diepenmaat actually translations!) of all pieces. Ezio Piermanttei does the same with tapes found in Italy, but somehow it seems that most of them are played too fast, which gives it an occasional (yet unintentional?) effect. Ben Roberts is the last one and he has just one long tape, a recording of a conference by a Kreuzberg church from 1974 and we hear the voice of Mr Janani Luwum, the archbishop of Uganda’s Anglican church (under Idi Amin), speaking about immigration and displacement. He was critical of Amin and died in 1977 in a car crash (actually on February 17, the day I’m writing this in 2019 – odd little coincidence). His words about immigration still make sense. This you have to hear for yourself. Three more or less different approaches to the world of found tapes, and four times fascinating stuff to hear. (FdW)

You can order your copy here

True Love

DEAR CONCERNED EMPLOYEES (cassette compilation by Staaltape)

To be honest: I have a slightly odd relationship with Staalplaat from Berlin. Not just as a former employee, in a different country and different place, after having committed some words on my time spend there in book form, which didn’t go down well (if read at all), but also with the people running the current version of Staaltape, who wrote some story about Luigi Russolo on their “staalzine” (not a zine but some text on a blog) in which they satirized my way of writing reviews, which joke was somehow lost on me. I expressed my dislike and thought that would be the end of getting any more cassettes from Staaltape. Until this one, which I am hesitant to review. Why on earth would they want me to review something after writing this “Viva modern warfare. Or viva Frans de Waard. I can imagine him very well, writing a review in his vital weekly, in which he transcribes the information that came with the CD”,  followed by an imaginary review. Apparently, I transcribe information and call that a review. I thought of doing that here. I didn’t do that here. The information wasn’t that interesting.
All right, so here’s a tape with bits and bops by Taco Bong, Kylie Minogue, KK, St_St, Sean Jason, Mrs Mangle, El Tonto Bing Bang, The New Plastic People, Kim Wild 93, all rather lo-fi homebrew noise, taped on cassettes and shipped off to Staaltape. The original ideas were to send it to employers (sic) of the Duke Energy Building, who made news headlines when they found a strange package, which turned out to be a Journey cassette. The idea was to send them this as a one-off cassette, something to relax them, which may account for some of the lo-fi bits and bops, a sort of muzak I guess. But Staaltape did some more copies in a hand made package. It was enjoyable most of the times, though not great or exciting. Not sure if I thought was enough. (FdW)

June Crawford – What that says about me (full information + sound samples)

June Crawford arrived in the orbit of staaltape when he proposed to make radio shows for Radio On. In the fifth or sixth show that I listened to there was a long track that seemed to go on endlessly. It is side B on the new tape.

There are a lot of things to consider. The United States of America as a common denominator for dreams, desires, failures and despair is one of them. Let me start with the dream. I regard it as a timeless moment where-in everything is just perfect. If you have never experienced such a moment it is about time that you say farewell to the internet. Poor you.

Side B is called 2018, year of  glass. June plays guitar. He plays drums. He talks. Additional harmonious sounds float in the distance. If it is art, it is an expression of a something. If it is true, it is the vision of a something. Travel all night long. Live the years of your youth knowing that it will be over one day.

The moment in a car after hours of driving. The monotony stops. Landscape and cities disappear in sunlight. All goes on and on, but time hangs golden over this one moment that doesn’t end.

Memories are centrifugal. June Crawford manages to stop the movement, concentrate on that one image, and that’s where the monologue starts. John Steinbeck, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthry, Jack Kerouac. Strip them from their fame, step behind the mythology created by others, enter a world that exists at the other side of their works, the world we don’t know anything about, because they hid it so carefully for us. It is a pre-internet world.

June says that he’s a post-internet kid. It is at that point that he connects with the world that those famous people lived in when they were young. They could have met. And in a way they did, on this tape.

C40 ferric tape.
travels, recordings, monologue, drums, guitar by June Crawford
artwork by Rinus van Alebeek
dubbed from Sony WM D6C on Marantz CP430
limited edition of 21 numbered copies

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Midori Hirano/Kris Limbach – The Last Day on Earth, reviewed by Ryan Masteller

Ryan Masteller listens to the tape while the weather reports announce the arrival of a terrifying tornado. He eventually has to evacuate his house on the Florida coast, but he first writes, I’m just a ghoul willing these keys to type themselves with my mind (or my ectoplasm!) in the hope that someone will read this and seek out this tape before it’s too late, this tape that will then assist them in their passing into the great beyond, whatever comes after Earth.

Read the complete review.

Midori Hirano/Kris Limbach – The Last Day on Earth, reviewed by Ed Pinsent

Ed Pinsent finds content, meaning, and expression in the C30 by Midori and Kris. He enters a world of sounds and describes what he picks up or hears in the distance, beyond the horizon of what might be his last day on earth.

This one arrives in a melted plastic bottle, and the tape is wrapped up in smoked cellophane. The packaging is already warning us that the last day on earth has already happened, leaving a charred globe behind. Evidently this is one of the artefacts that survived. It might have been a nuclear blast, or a meteorite. If the former, this package reminds us of the sad remnants of the survivors of the Hiroshima atom bomb (melted milk bottles, for instance; these can be seen in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum). -Ed Pinsent

Read full review.