Fifty years ago last week, Philips introduced the compact cassette at the Berlin Radio Show and changed the audio landscape for ever. Being of a certain vintage, these little plastic boxes of tape were as important to me as the vinyl I began to accumulate and soon I had hundreds of them. Over the years I’ve spent many happy hours carefully piecing together mixtapes for myself and friends. A well sequenced compilation was a work of art in those days and required a great deal of judgement and effort to get right. These things were cheap to buy and easy to use but truly meant something to us. Time passed and eventually we were all converting our record collections to MP3 files which were far more flexible than the humble cassette could ever hope to be.
It would seem however that these arcane conveyors of sound are making something of a comeback of late. I’ve previously written about tape only releases by Pye Corner Audio (here) and Demdike Stare (here), both of which were issued this year. Adding these to the half dozen I picked up last year and I’ve probably bought more cassettes over the last 18 months than I have for around fifteen years!
And now the esteemed Mr Andy Votel under his Violators Of The English Language guise has added to that number with his rather excellent Diabolical Melodix Beat Tape. I found out about this via Twitter a few weeks ago and was quick to snag a copy when it appeared – no audio previews are required when it comes to anything connected to with this man, believe me.
The cassette is housed in a black clamshell case, almost like a miniature VHS tape box and features gorgeous artwork by Edan, the humble magnificent himself.
The rear cover also features the following explanatory text;
Hip-Hop beats made by V.O.T.E.L using original old records.
Open cuts unmastered / pre-noised.
I’ve now arrived at the part where I should write something about how this release sounds except I can’t, it would be like describing the shape of clouds or the taste of water. It’s Andy Votel playing some of his impossibly obscure records, what else is there to say really? Ok, it’s brimming with great beats and contains the odd sample of an MC or a bit of scratching. It’s funky but psychedelic too and sometimes sounds like the score from a lost European art film circa 1971. It occasionally veers into prog rock territory but never once loses its percussive thread, this is a beat tape after all. Is it Hip-Hop though? Yes and no. Maybe.
This isn’t really a review as such, I feel that I haven’t written enough of an accurate description to qualify for such a title. Then there’s the fact that this is a limited edition cassette only release which is now completely sold out so getting a copy is likely to involve some detective work. So why did I feel the need to sit here at my keyboard and write these words? Because it’s utterly brilliant and I’ve played this mix constantly since it first arrived, that’s why. If you’re unfamiliar with Andy Votel or his Finders Keepers label then I urge you to seek them out as you don’t know what you’re missing. If you are acquainted with any of his previous work then you really do need to track this one down by any means necessary.
Happy 50th birthday Mr Cassette, we still love you!