Cassettes making a comeback

Rick Olivares

Posted at Mar 05 2018 06:46 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2018 01:20 PM

MANILA -- The vinyl record isn’t the only musical format making a comeback. The cassette tape is back with a vengeance. And this despite not having any cassette manufacturing plant in the country right now.

These past two-plus months have seen several local bands make use of cassettes as their preferred format for release.

Last Saturday, otorcharged hardcore band Realidad released its debut album at Green Papaya in the Kamuning area of Quezon City. Several dozen tapes were sold that evening.

A week earlier, two other underground bands – Torque Down, a Filipino hardcore band from Toronto, Canada, and that Spanish-Filipino crew, the Singapore-based Reyerta – also saw the local release of their albums.

Late last year saw the release of cassette albums from homegrown bands such as Badmouth, a split offering from female-fronted hardcore crew Refuse and five-man band Resist, and a pair of colored cassette variants of the Eighties Enough souvenir tape from the concert of the same name that featured a reunion of punk bands from the 1980s.

If you go online, the Facebook pages Planet Cassette and Cassette Tape Philippines are popular among music fans in search for their favorite audio recordings. Each page has an average of 3,000 members who on a daily basis actively trade, sell, and purchase this format that made its debut way back in 1962.

According to Delusion of Terror Records proprietor Emmanuel Jasmin, the cassette tape is a choice for many underground bands because of its relative cheapness. “Cassettes are favored kasi its cheap and easy to produce although we have to go to Indonesia if we want something done,” related Jasmin. “Its compact size makes it easy for storage and marami pa rin meron mga tape decks or even portable players. Tapos mura pa ang bentahan.”

The tapes are now manufactured in Indonesia and are sold anywhere from P160 to P200. Foreign releases are priced slightly higher but overall, they remain very affordable.

That however, begs the question -- do a lot of people actually have tape players, boom boxes, or even Walkmans?

Said Bam Sickos, owner of Sickos Records that does its businesses in both Indonesia and the Philippines: “I think so. If not, we wouldn’t be releasing them on tape. Also 70% of my music collection is on tape. I never stopped collecting since the late 1980s. And cassettes are cheap and easy to produce (at least in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) so it is affordable for everyone.”

If you go to record and audio equipment stores such as NEC also in the Kamuning area, Disc Replay in the St. Ignatius vicinity in Quezon City, or Cubao X, you will find a lot of proper tape decks, boom boxes, and portable players for sale.

A huge reason too is the Marvel Studios film, "Guardians of the Galaxy," that prominently featured the cassette as well as the Walkman as a means of listening to music.

Over in England, there are over a dozen companies that exclusively release music on tape. One such is Kissability that has put out albums by indie bands such as the Adelines, Cut Ribbons, Para Alta, and Sad Palace among many others. In their website, they do not only sell their tapes but also offer to help music fans “buy a Walkman.”

“Mas madali kasi 'yung distribution,” said Reyerta guitarist Gwen Cañete. “And we love tapes!”

Added music fan, Jep Peligro: “When music fans by cassettes or even vinyl or properly pressed cds are bought by fans, it shows how hardcore they are – that they buy the physical formats. Bands appreciate that too.”

Cassettes also have that very underground or indie feel -- unlike vinyl, which is sometimes derisively looked by music snobs as also a hipster thing.

Added Still Ill Records Dangie Regala who put out Reyerta’s cassette album as well as Badmouth’s debut: “Very punk 'yung dating ng cassette. Tapos better 'yung sound quality kesyo ng mga CD-R na labas.”