The eyes of the reel cycle over and over, approaching their final destination with every revolution. The cassette tape fits in very well with the nostalgic ache we may sometimes experience; it’s a relic from our earlier days, while still retaining its relevance in the scope of recorded music. Drone music in particular seems to speak true to the sheer organic depth that blesses the tape, associating its deep, resonating and atmospheric layers inside the tape’s fragile reels, which could easily end up becoming tangled at any point during the cycle. As the tape revolves, it echoes out a life of faded prime colours and one-in-a-billion possible outcomes.
Recent times have seen the tape rapidly lose its way and become somewhat underappreciated amid our desire for the hottest new look. Through Chemical Tapes, and through artists such as Tidal, the tape and its mystical quality remain alive and active. In reality, the cassette tape contains the real essence of music, one that won’t be found in modern musical outlets. Her soul was in the recorded tape all along, and the spirit can be discovered in Olympus, an alliance of cassette and drone.
Clearing, cassette driven clouds of harmony spark off a spectacular rainbow, vividly alive in the loops of the tape. Tidal understands the relevance, and the appeal, of recording drone music onto the cassette format, rewinding back to the evocative breeze of the early 1990’s and even further back. Chemical Tapes is quickly earning a name for itself as a fascinating label, and the high quality of its output continues with the release of Olympus.
Tidal is the alias of Jimmy Billingham, and it is a very fitting description of his refreshing music. A rainbow’s shimmering colours wouldn’t be possible to see without a dose of ocean rain. Tidal creates atmospheres that are both vivid in appearance and blurred in perception, and although that may be a contradiction, Olympus conjures the blurry, much adored images of our childhood and early youth that soaked in crystal clarity at the time, but due to the passing years has now warped into a wavering memory we cannot truly recall. The only proof we have that it was an era to be admired is in the emotional flood that follows the recollection, and maybe that is all we really need to know. Nostalgia taints our views and casts them in an innocent, phosphorescent glaze of youth. The nostalgic highs of Boards of Canada, who also created their own rainbow in “Roygbiv”, seems to support the triangular relationship between the faded, pitch-deviated lines of early electronica, shining, ephemeral colours and the youth of life.
Olympus is driven by spirits of deep harmony, and while there may only be ghosts of melody – it is drone, after all – they are still present. The heat beams off the record and the radiating, slightly warped winds of harmony are enough to tan the skin. A shimmering, expansive view awaits all who may listen, as if we have ascended the altitudes of Olympus itself and can now see a stunning panorama for the view it truly is. Olympus is a nostalgic kaleidoscope of vivid, lush colours and dated solar flares that were once seen with such a brilliance that our eyes needed shielding.
The music is faintly altered in gorgeous, mouth-watering drones that are awash in dated lucidity. As the very first, suppressed seconds of “Phoenix Follower” blossom out, it strikes with an almost immediate effect that this is going to be a special listen, a euphoric remembrance of the warmest drone, sailing in and out of a treble-high pitch and whipping up mystical, breezy winds on the air, so evocative that it may just faintly stir upon us.
“Spectral Alliance” glistens with a different, but equally luminous colour; perhaps it is a dusky hue that has faded just like the cassette. Stones are cast into the glistening ocean, drenched in delay and anchored to a past experience of deja vu, as melodies are buried deep in the sand like gleaming emeralds awaiting to be discovered. The cassette still has a personality that is unlike any other, a quality that lends itself to the warmest of climes. If ever one format deserved marriage to one genre, drone and the cassette tape would be the couple to go hand-in-hand.
Fluctuations in the drone scrunch up every now and again, almost as if a very real crease in the tape is affecting the pitch. This may also remind us that the remembrance of our youth may just as easily be altered by a fully developed mind. The tape progresses until we reach the conclusion of “Golden Oriole”, and what was once young has now come to an end. The reels, once full, have now reached the other side. The amount of depth a cassette recording can add is almost unfathomable; oceans deep, it remains unparalleled.
Olympus delves deep into origins and leaves white-vapoured contrails at altitudes. Almost peeling back the years like the skin of a delicious fruit, the colours flow freely in reds, greens and a Boards-style orange (‘yeah, that’s right’), as glimpsed on the other side of an opaque window. Maybe it’s good to revert and to reach back, if only for awhile. Black Mill Tapes, by Pye Corner Audio, and Colorado droner Radere both prove that the tape is a recording technique that is very much alive in the faded, impure hiss of organic imperfection. It is perhaps an irony that this imperfection adds a depth to the music that no other format can attain, and adds the all-important authentic quality to the music. Olympus rises over a horizon of nostalgia, and the fading quality of the tape, instead of fading to black, flares eternally. The drone cycling around the reels raises our hands to our eyes, returning as a shield against the sun, as it once shone. (James Catchpole)
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