Tape labels are abundant these days, as are new cassette releases, and Stars on C-30 includes reviews of some of these releases, the occasional band or label profile, and a look at the culture surrounding cassettes.
In any musical genre there are quiet leaders, bands who help define a sound but never become the “it” band. These bands are definitely known, but when you name a few quick names the genre couldn’t do without, they’re often left off the list. The same principle applies to record labels. With the cassette renaissance in full swing, labels are popping up all over the place, but there are a few that continue to release quality tapes and really don’t get the attention they deserve. You could make a list of them with little effort, but if such a list exists, Chicago’s Plustapes better be on it.
With four cassettes already released in 2011, including a live Disappears album, and a new offering from Ryley Walker on the way, it’s shaping up to be a pretty stellar year for Plustapes. While the new releases look great, I’d like to take a look at the label’s last release of 2010, Coins’ Recital Pressure. Armed with guitar, keyboards, and honey-sweet harmonies, Ellen Bunch and Angela Mullenhour pick up the mantle ‘90s indie favorites Retsin and offer up an album’s worth of solid indie-folk. The ten tracks on Recital Pressure sound like they have been pushed through an old squeezebox, or slowly leaked from a dream. At times, Coins sounds like a refined, less creepy version of CocoRosie that adopted Retsin’s sound. Coins’ music is both innocent and sinister and is worth every penny, so run on over to Plustapes and get a copy. Also, Plustapes is one of the only tape labels I’ve come across that include download codes with their releases; all the more reason to check them out.
When it comes to new tape labels, one of the best I’ve run across recently is Philadelphia label, Treetop Sorbet. Two releases are available, Science Fiction Fantasy’s Best of Luck, Never Change, and Old Smile’s Hawkings Bridge.
Science Fiction Fantasy is a project of Philadelphian Kerry Gilbert, and an exciting project it is. The two songs on this cassette clock in at over 8 minutes each. I know what you’re thinking, two songs, so what. Do yourself a favor and get all over this. Science Fiction Fantasy is everything that is great about Fleet Foxes, Panda Bear, and Andorra-era Caribou rolled into one. This is really fantastic stuff, so please don’t miss it.
Old Smile is what Tom Herman of Philly faves Arches does in his spare time. Herman puts together five songs that remind me of a less hippy incarnation of Vetiver. These songs are driven by acoustic guitar and coupled with echoed vocals the mesh really perfectly with the music. “Swept Up With The Tide” is a particularly solid track, but really all five songs are really well done. Hawkings Bridge is a winner but it really just makes me want a full record from Old Smile. I’ll just be patient I guess.