Cassette culture is booming in Berlin thanks to revivalists like Tapedub’s Sara Valentino.
Initially drawn to analogue photography, Sara Valentino fell for the humble cassette tape when studying abroad in China. “They have an incredible DIY cassette culture there…” says the 27-year-old Italian expat, describing the deeply underground experimental, hip hop and minimalist scenes she encountered in Beijing.
Post-China travels, she moved to Berlin in 2015 with Marco Pellegrino, a vinyl enthusiast she’d met in Rome. Together, they began mastering and cutting records in Marco’s studio as Analogcut. Their joint interest in tape machines spurred them on to producing small runs of cassette as well, until Valentino expanded into her own duplication lab Tapedub in Neukölln in 2016. Working with high-speed duplicators and printers, she now produces limited runs of 20 to 500 copies. Everything is handmade, from the artwork to the printing. Marco still assists with mastering, and the two continue to cut everything in “AAA”, or analogue domain. Part of the reason for the expansion was that Berlin musicians, like Chinese ones, are beginning to realise the potential tapes offer. “It’s like the rise in vinyl’s popularity, just slower,” Valentino explains. At two weeks from start to finish, tapes have a cheaper, faster turnaround than records. Valentino’s services will set you back up to €5 per tape, but you do get it in limited-edition hot pink with a personalised case, whereas with vinyl, you’re talking around €30 for a 12-inch. “Even with little exposure, indie labels can still make a small profit,” says Valentino. The warm bass and flexible length (10-100 min) also make tapes ideal for noise, drone and industrial music.
Valentino is also the brains behind Tape Summit, a cassette label market and artist showcase at ACUD on December 10. As an alternative to “Cassette Store Day” (which took place in 2015 and 2016 but failed to show in Berlin this year), she’s drawing together friends and artists for a day of live sets showcasing the best new tape and vinyl releases. She namedrops Berlin’s Superb Recordings and Das Andere Selbst from a long list of labels, along with DIY extraordinaire DJ Schlucht, who will be running a Tape loop workshop at the event. “You can actually see and listen to their products,” Valentino adds, grinning. “It’s important for people to reconnect with the physical format.”
Tape Summit, Sun, Dec 10, 15:00, ACUD; more info at tapedub.com
Berlin on tape…
Canadian-born Brett Wagg has been running this Berlin-based noise/experimental/industrial cassette and record label since 2008. Current projects include a limited-edition tape run, which Berlin label Holy Geometry will release at the Tape Summit.
Part-time tape DJ and Electronic Beats social media chief Michael Aniser made the leap to Berlin from Austria in 2009 and founded this cassette-focused label, which began as “just some friends getting together in a Friedelstraße basement” back in 2011. It expanded into a platform to celebrate new releases and performers, becoming a household name until going on hiatus in 2016. They’ll finally be relaunching in January with a new release party.
Jan 11, 22:00, Sameheads, Neukölln, event here
Buy your experimental/underground/ noise/drone here! Berlin’s most revered cassette spot and zine store, run by Guillaume Siffert, shines a spotlight on extreme genres and DIY tape culture. Recent highlights include Steve Stoll’s Resurrecting the Bull , 45 solid minutes of drone music composed entirely on an analogue synthesiser.
Kienitzer Str. 108, Neukölln, Mon-Sat 12-20