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)

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.

Review of Ben Roberts’ Unit Audio

Ryan Masteller reviewed Ben Roberts’ Unit Audio in Cassette Gods

“Plunderphonics never sounded so cared for, so labored over, as it does on British expat Ben Roberts’s UNIT AUDIO. The now-Madrid-dwelling Roberts has amassed a collection of cassette tapes that he discovered over the years, and the archive serves as the inspiration and the source material for his cassette on Staaltape, the Berlin label run by Rinus van Alebeek and focusing on sound art. Let’s just say that UNIT AUDIO is freaking cornucopia of found sound, pieced together for maximum weirdness and instant likability. It starts strong and stays strong, continuing on its path toward greatness minute by warped-audio minute. Ever thought you’d hear somebody talk about musique concrète that way?”

“Hyperbole aside, what Roberts crafts is surprisingly musical, and although tones tend toward the ambient spectrum, there are some rhythmic elements that appear at points. The pieces are stitched together so that the sounds both flow with each other and collide against themselves, sometimes at the same point, depending on the mood Roberts is trying to create. The result is never less than thrilling, as each new passage reveals surprising new directions and interesting new sources, all of which are fairly mysterious, especially if you’re able to turn off your mind as it tries to process each new sample. (Although, Spice Girls? I knew THAT one at least.) (I don’t know what that says about me.) ”

“What does UNIT AUDIO say about Ben Roberts? It affords a peek into his imagination, surely, where the source material swirls until it coalesces into a sensible whole. Roberts invokes the idea of sehnsucht, meaning there’s a “yearning” or a “longing,” a sense that something is missing or imperfect and that something’s presence will restore the whole. UNIT AUDIO is restless, a time capsule, multiple snapshots of human life superimposed on one another in a confusing mass, the disorder, perhaps oxymoronically, satisfying in its turmoil. The whole is here. What’s missing is within us.”

At the moment Unit Audio is only available as a custom made special edition, made on demand.