How many songs do you have on you right now, sitting in your pocket? A few hundred at the very least, with an unlimited supply available if you subscribe to a music service like Spotify. Songs are intangible, transparent, an afterthought that exists on a hard drive or in the cloud somewhere. They are impersonal, here and gone with a click of a button, whatever the Justin Timberlake’s or Miley Cyrus’s are mindlessly putting out on the radio.
Music, on the other hand is something that true fans still want to experience in a real way with something tangible that they can see and feel. Vinyl has made a comeback over the past few years, you can even find records now in places like Urban Outfitters and fucking Whole Foods (but you should buy them from your local record shop, kids). Vinyl makes a statement on your shelf, the artwork is big and pops out at you. Listening to vinyl involves patience and attention instead of incessantly smashing away at a shuffle button. Vinyl is a medium for a true music lover.
Taking it a step further, however, is the grind/noise subgenre of the hardcore/metal scene that has adopted the resurgence of cassette tapes as a physical medium. Known for existing very comfortably deep in the underground, grind shows are smaller without the pretense of stuffy big-label bands or cool-kid cliques. The music is short and to the point shifting from breakneck speeds to menacingly slow beats in a split second. Bands have fewer members taking up less space on smaller stages in smaller venues with smaller crowds. Bands like MD/PA’s Full of Hell and Long Island’s Mother Brain are releasing previously recorded material on super limited runs of cassette tapes (available here) and making a statement. Cassettes mirror the genre that embraces them. They are smaller, more rugged, and have a raw, less pristine sound. Records are handled carefully to keep them in good condition, tapes are tossed around and durable. Your dad had a pile of them laying on the floor in the back of his car thirty years ago. The plastic casing spills out its film guts and needs to be wound back up much like getting your shit rocked in a mosh pit and jumping right back in for more abuse. Cassettes are impractical and so is metal; neither are convenient. The two go hand in hand pairing perfectly with a “who gives a fuck” mentality.
It’s clear that in this digital age there is still a place for physical music. While it’s doubtful that cassettes will overthrow vinyl as a popular music format, that isn’t the point of this movement anyway. Metal will never be more popular than mainstream rock and pop, and that’s the way it should be. There is an undeniable, albeit small, place for cassettes in today’s music scene with some strong and devoted supporters.- willxcore