Yearning for a bygone age when music’s number one format was a compact collection of magnetic tapes, finger-wound reels and chunky plastic cartridges? If so, you’ll be pleased to hear that the once-omnipresent audio cassette has had a bit of a renaissance of late.
Three years back, Exberliner went on an investigative mission to get the lowdown on the capital’s underground tape scene, mixing it up with a motley crew of cassette-heads. The resounding message was that although the arrival of the CD sounded the tape’s commercial death knell, the proverbial eject button was never fully depressed on its existence. Sustained by a select few dedicated enthusiasts, cassette culture was kept alive through the 1990s and carried through into the new millennium, albeit far from the mainstream’s gaze.
Since our first foray into the whirring epicentre of Berlin’s cassette cosmos, much has been afoot. What was originally the preserve of those ‘in the know’ has steadily emerged as a popular medium for fledgling record labels and artists looking to release their tunes on the cheap. Breaking into an industry that’s ridden with prohibitively high production costs encourages thrifty measures. And with vinyl so far ‘revived’ that they’re selling it at Tesco, it’s up to cassettes (and the endearingly clunky devices they’re played on) to fulfil the MP3 generation’s lust for retro relics.
On October 17, Berlin will play host to Germany’s first-ever Cassette Store Day, an international event founded in the UK that’s been running annually since 2013. Billed as a spin-off to the hugely successful Record Store Day, the event’s mission is to celebrate tapes rather than focus on the shops selling them. Housed at Mitte’s ACUD, the day’s jam-packed schedule will feature performances from a handful of local bands and DJs, a cassette market, a mixtape swap box and selection of food stalls.
Neuköllners can also take part in the festivities at KussKuss, where they’ll be holding a live tape recording session. Amande Dagod, co-founder of the cassette-championing label Späti Palace, and Anton Teichmann of Mansions and Millions are the duo behind this year’s debut instalment.
“We both release mostly tapes on our labels, so it made sense to establish a Cassette Store Day in Berlin,” says Dagod. For Teichmann, the day is all about creating “a chance for people to reconnect with tapes”. “We hope to show a wider a audience that cassettes are a relevant format and that there’s a flourishing scene,” he adds. When asked whether a fully fledged cassette revival might be on the cards, Teichmann notes, “Tapes never really went away, they were also really important between the 1970s and 1990s. Maybe people are reminiscing over that era and want to go back to something authentic.”
Printmaker and long-term cassette fiend Matthias Pusch is an artist who echoes Teichmann’s sentiments. Chatting at his atelier where he handcrafts PUSH, a limited-edition music zine that comes with an exclusive mixtape, Pusch alludes to analogue’s comeback: “The digital period is too much for our brains. People need physical items, to be able to have something in your hand and push the play button.” At the same time, in Pusch’s opinion, tapes are “still strictly underground and mainly for collectors. Most people are content with buying a download code off the internet.”
Whether or not Cassette Store Day will cause a rapid spike in Walkman sales on eBay is yet to be seen. However, if ghetto blasters and exclusive beats are your cup of tea, this is one date not to be missed.
CASSETTE STORE DAY, Sat, Oct 17, 15:00 ACUD Macht Neu, Veteranenstr. 21, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz; Sat, Oct 17, 12:00 KussKuss, Nogatstr. 30, Neukölln, S+U-Bhf Hermannstr.