- Sure, we all miss mixtapes. But does anyone really miss cassette tapes? Unlike vinyl, there's hardly a group of people claiming its superior sound quality. No one bemoans the loss of miniscule cover art. And having to flip the thing over...but just once? Seems silly in retrospect. With an album on vinyl, at least you felt like there were distinct sides. On tape, it just seemed like a nuisance. (Especially when they found a way to flip the tape over for you automatically.)
Here we are, though, with Further, a Seattle-based imprint that asks techno and house producers to make limited edition releases for cassette tape. It seems crazy on some level. Artists from a genre of music that has always faced forward are now looking very much in the other direction. That said, the first set of producers that the imprint has employed aren't exactly renowned for the futuristic aspects of their output: Dublin's Lerosa has made a living out of his solid grounding in house history and Aybee, who turns in the second edition of the series here, produces as much trad deep house as he does off-kilter hip-hop and techno.
In both of their releases for Further, however, each has shown a side to their music that you may not have been aware of before. Lerosa's contribution held a number of small gems, taking advantage of the limited format to experiment a bit. Aybee, meanwhile, goes even further outside of his normal fare. Whoever does the press for the man once said that he's "armed with a distinct sound that some say meshes the drum of urban intensity with the ethereal sentiments of a Zen Temple." On Ancient Tones, it's nearly all Zen Temple.
There are beats, but you'd be hard-pressed to call them either urban or intense. Instead, they offer up support for the floating synths that pervade each of the five tracks that are spread over the tape's 60 minutes. Secure in the knowledge that only true fans of both his music and the format will likely hear the results, it seems as though the Oakland-based producer has traveled deeply into the sort of dreamy and jazzy deep house favored by the likes of Fred P and others. There are plenty of beats on offer—"Vertigo"'s shimmers, "Sun of Cycle"'s hypnotizes through epic repetition, "Shelf in Space" breaks up the house on the first side with a simple breakbeat—but the focus is firmly on headspace. Further's website tells us that Ancient Tones was "recorded on TDK Professional Studio Mastering cassettes using vintage 1970's Nakamichi tape technology." And, hey, maybe it was. But with music this warm, it probably could have been recorded in my toilet and still sounded lush. It's music that almost makes you want to buy a tape player to hear it.
02. Shelf in Space
03. A Wind for Wayman
05. Sun of Cycle