The cassette tape is currently in the midst of a resurgence in many underground music scenes. Everyone hopped the vinyl bandwagon over the past several years, to the tune of exhausted manufacturing plants, steep minimum pressing requirements, and hyper-extended waiting lists. But if the kids are still clamoring for a good product in limited, hard copy analogue format, what other options are there really?
A select few important Boston releases saw the light of day exclusively on cassette this year, including Soul Clap’s annual Dancing on the Charles compilation. The most recent being local producers Ali Berger and Sun Rad, which just hit the streets earlier this month. Released by RSVPTapes, a regional outlet solely geared towards the C-90 format, this untitled compilation highlights recent studio outtakes and jam sessions by both artists.
Berger takes control of side one with seven songs of drastically varying length. Largely staying underneath the radar in recent months to focus extensively on finding his own sound, Berger’s output here is a display of his continued exploration of analog synthesizers and other unorthodox hardware. His avoidance of obvious sample use and computer-based sequencers forces Berger to focus on the performance and overall vibe of each track, rather than pristine sonics and paint-by-number arrangements. I like this approach, and it’s rarely observed in modern dance music to this degree of execution.
One of Berger’s musical traits is to write entire songs devoted to specific sounds on his drum machines, or as a dedication to classic sounds of yesteryear. Three tracks on this compilation do just that: “Toms of Life”, where pitched tom-tom drums pull double-duty for both rhythm and lead, “Acid Love”, which contains no shortage of squeaky solos and seamless 303’s, and “RX5 Zipper”, made almost entirely with sounds from a highly-underrated 80s-era drum machine from Yamaha. Another highlight also includes a relentless ten-minute techno piece titled “Furnace (Walk)”, which is the closest you’ll get to legally visiting an abandoned Detroit warehouse in the middle of the night from the comfort of your living room.
The four tracks on Sun Rad’s side are jam-based and analog in nature as well. The main difference being while Berger’s are mostly dry and unprocessed, Sun Rad applies liberal amounts of distortion to just about everything. These longer tracks vary wildly in tempo and style; while the opener “Last Leaf Pt. 1” sports laid-back dancehall vibes, “Camus” is an uptempo affair that doesn’t sound out of place in a techno set. The closing suite “Screw (Pts. 1 & 2)” has perhaps the most interesting sound design of the lot; a well-crafted balance of eerie harmonics and saturated atmospheric sounds abbreviated by a drastic midpoint tempo change.
RSVP is hosting two official parties for this release. The first is a closing party for Salem Heritage Days this afternoon, featuring both Berger and Sun Rad alongside a slew of others. The second goes is the next SCANNERS at Deep Thoughts in Jamaica Plain on August 21st, which will feature DJ Won’t and Radio Skotvoid along with Berger and Sun Rad. More info on both of these events in the link.
You can pick up your limited (20 copies only!) cassette copy of this release on the RSVP Bandcamp page. Or if you prefer, digital versions are also available for purchase here as well.