With this review we welcome France’s new label Falt, which is “all about silent home-dubbing, photocopier machines, typewriters, scissors, glue, tapehiss and intentional noise”. We love the description, and this inaugural cassette makes the perfect introduction. It’s the second release we’ve reviewed this year from tape experimentalist Chemiefaserwerk, who works with samples, splices and internal cassette mechanisms. By adding his own electronic textures and field recordings, the artist makes sonic collages that are often difficult to decipher, but fascinating as mosaics of sound.
The eye is immediately drawn to the title, “Lathe Cut Record,” and I asked the label to confirm that the track is not actually the sound of a lathe cut. While it’s not, it could be, and the title is a guide to the imagination. (There’s a great album waiting to be made that samples the machinery and circuitry used in lathe cuts, LP production, cassette and CD manufacturing and digital conversion, but we’ll leave that for the next release.) There is actually such a thing as a “collagen cassette”, which is “used by other proteins to achieve a specific protein structure” (Wayne D. Comper, ed., Extracellular Matrix), but we assure our readers that this cassette is made out of plastic. Still, the associations have been made: body, machine and connecting tissue, whether sturdy drone or lugubrious tissue. Chemiefaserwerk implies that the inner workings of bodies and machineries have a similar base. Turntables do in fact make a sampled appearance on this cassette (a strange sentence!). But more often than not, the listener encounters the sound of an artist painting with tape and tape machines: cutting, rewinding, layering, changing speed. In the end, Collagen is a cassette about cassettes.
The sounds promised by the label appear throughout the recording. There is indeed hiss, which tumbles into noise; one can imagine the photocopier and the typewriter; and the very look of the physical edition prompts a nostalgia for home dubbing. Last week I made a mixtape for a radio show and an acquaintance asked, “You have a cassette player? A double cassette player? Where would you even get one of these things?” My first reaction was, “haven’t you ever heard of Amazon?” My second was that tapes have virtually disappeared from mainstream conversation, but as our staff writer Zach Corsa would tell us, cassette culture is very much alive. Collagen is an ideal release for the format, a mysterious band of sounds that are impossible to identify, close to home yet far away, buried in the past yet re-dredged. To listen to these clicks and cuts, these small drones, these buzzes and plastic ejections is to celebrate the under-appreciated and claim it as one’s own. (Richard Allen)