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Culture Music

Why it’s a great time to bring the cassette tape back in your life

These reasons go beyond nostalgia. Vinyl records? Please. We’re on a different wave right now.
Jam Pascual | Nov 01 2019

As a baby of the 90s, I recently began collecting tapes anew as a way to honor my memory for a thing I actually grew up with. The vinyl record boom of the early 2010s was cool, and it was interesting watching Satchmi stores open up all over the country and record players suddenly materialize in my friends’ homes. But those wax discs always felt to me a product of a different era—there was no part of myself to recover from them. Basically, I wanted to exercise my nostalgia to its fullest.

A year into this little hobby, I’ve developed a deep love for a medium I took for granted as a kid, one that goes beyond cheap nostalgia. The tape is not an obsolete technology, but a singular format, able to do things that other formats can’t. There’s a very specific aesthetic pleasure that comes with listening to tapes, one that resonates as well with the growing culture and market responsible for bringing them back into our lives.

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The tape is not an obsolete technology, but a singular format, able to do things that other formats can’t. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A couple of weekends back, local prod Genjitsu Stargazing Society held an event celebrating the format with Cassette Store Day Philippines 2019: You Can’t Kill Us! So if you were planning on going down music memory lane, there’s no better time than now. Here are a few reasons we shouldn’t abandon tapes in history, but bring them into the fold of the present.

 

There’s a local community for it

Any subculture who pledges love for a bygone cultural artifact (think stamp collectors, or people who dig through ukay bins for vintage denim) is full of lovable weirdos. That’s true of the cassette tape community as well. You’ve got collectors, musicians, producers, beatmakers, and folks who generally chase a certain kind of nostalgia. You’ll find this kind of crowd at Cassette Store Day Philippines 2019. And if ever you get to meet Kurvine Chua, who runs the Philippine branch of the United Cassettes store, you’ll meet an affable dude, a welcoming presence for newcomers. I was even able to purchase and repair an old Sony TCM-313 thanks to help from a few helpful folks.

Local post rock artist Tim Äwä released her EP on tape.

 

Artists still keep putting out tapes

And we’re not just talking about mixtapes that show up on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. We mean contemporary artists are actually putting out albums in the form of cassettes, not content on keeping their releases confined to Spotify, vinyl records, or even CDs (which are currently going through a hard time, but that’s another story.). Last year, Genjitsu Stargazing Society released a compilation tape of up-and-coming local artists in the Philippines. Local post rock artist Tim Äwä released her EP on tape. As for international acts? One need only take one look at the catalog of United Cassettes PH. There was also the soundtrack of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which was the best-selling tape of 2016.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was the best-selling tape of 2016. Photo from Amazon.com

You’re not going to get this kind of sound anywhere else

You know that sound. The hiss and crackle that the play button triggers before the music even begins. The chipmunk warp of rewinding and fast forwarding the tape. Even the click and lock of popping the tape into the player is a reminder that the cassette format is tangible, material, and not just data processed by some streaming algorithm. Yes, it is entirely possible for modern studio technology to artificially reproduce these sounds. (Frank Ocean is one example of an artist that samples the quirks of old technologies to give his work a sense of nostalgia.) But simply put, nothing beats the real thing.