In the 1980s, cassette labels played a vital role in the distribution of underground music, most notably in the noise, industrial, and punk scenes of the time. Easy and relatively inexpensive to produce, cassettes became a common format for the circulation of music lacking popular appeal. Although the majors produced cassettes as well, many of the producers of these underground labels saw their DIY business model as a stance against the greed of the mainstream music industry. Connections made through distribution and information sharing among the artists and musicians in these circles helped to establish a network for those involved.
In the age of GarageBand, Myspace, and file sharing, it may come as a surprise to some that cassette labels are still very much in operation. Tapes now function as a basic form of patronage between musicians and their audience; since a physical format is no longer necessary to send or receive music, these objects become a gesture of support. Tapes act to make tangible the connection between a creator and their listeners, and the attentive and often handmade packaging speaks to this exchange. One instance of this relationship is revealed in the description provided for the Gilgongo Records “Singular Set” series, a run of cassette releases recorded directly onto the tape by the musician in an edition of one. Gilgongo’s James Fella explains that for the project, “…the emphasis is on reaching out and sharing something specific with one other person, that an unrepeated portion of time and creation was individually cut and passed on to one other person to hold onto as their own.”
Cassettes also yield a grainy, degraded sound quality, an aspect that has its own appeal. The draw to this sound can be read as a type of nostalgia, Paul Hegarty in “The Hallucinatory Life of Tape” writes:
Within the dying of media comes the passing or slow dying of individual units - tapes, records, cylinders, cartridges - all of which decay, and in so doing, seem to take on characteristics of having lived. Once digital media arrive as ‘other’, as cyborg sound, the analogue seems to breathe, however rasping the sound. Nostalgia and melancholy imbue formats in general and individual items with pneuma (the essential lifeforce or breath of everything in the universe, according to the Stoics).
Thus, the interest in cassette releases today can, in part, be understood as a response to the proliferation of digital media. Within the realm of experimental music, where the sonic and aesthetic attributes of technological decay hold a particular importance and history, one could argue that the current emphasis on cassette releases extends from this lineage, now only heightened by the influence and expanse of digital media. (Perhaps for this reason many of the labels below would fall under the “experimental” or “noise” category.)
In an effort to provide a snapshot of this active community, I’ve decided to compile a list of 101 contemporary cassette labels as a resource. Feel free to insert additional links in the comments field.
Image: The D.L Savings T.X "Cleopatra...Ruler of the Yard"
Image: Bromp Treb "Bricktown Shuffle"
Image: Mother Flock, Untitled
Image: Antique Brothers, "Hot Shit"
Image: Jeff Host, "In Memoriam: Joybubbles"
Image: Brother Raven, diving into the pineapple portal
Image: Sewn Leather - "s/t"
Image: Steve Young "Wedge of Light"
Slime City Tapes
Image: Various Artists, "THE BLEND" CASSETTE
Open Range Records
Image: Vesuvan - Swamp Doctor
Drone Errant Cassettes
Image: NIGHTMOVES U.K. "RECORDS & GOLD"
Image: Knitted Abyss, 'Summer Barn'
Image: the Midori Box Set
Image: mirror to mirror, "rerest"
Image: Attic Cassettes
Image: Mariners/ Head Effort split
Image: Benjamin Franklin, Splitsing
Image: Le Scrambled Debutante
Image: Dead Luke CS
Image: BURNT HILLS, Blunt Greeper
Ick Ick Records
THE VIBRARIANS, "get out of town"
Image: f_oeuf, "dieu est un oeuf"
Image: OLD BLOOD / TWIN LION SPLIT CASSETTE
Image: BONUS BEAST - RASTAFARIAN BACK SCRATCHER
Image: JULIE BO, COLLECTED SONGS 2007 - 2009
Image: UUHUU "buch"
Blossom Rust Tapes
Image: kinit her - menial as archivists & bone marrow artifacts
Image: Expo 70, White Ohms
Image: Emeralds - Smoke Signals
Relax with Nature
Image: Heatsick, "pre-cum fog ballet" & "total afternoon sundae"
Image: Raglani - Vanity Well
Deep Fried Tapes
Image: Super Natural Hot Rug and Not Used - "self titled"
Image: SOCIAL JUNK - "EIGHT YEARS AGO"
Image: Pork Lion - Contact High
Image: Trigal - 3 Cruces
Fuck It Tapes
Image: The Wooden Wand & Vanishing Voice - Michel's Portal And Crow Jane Variations
Isolated Now Waves
Image: STARVING WEIRDOS/SHEARING PINX - Split Cassette
Image: BEE MASK/SAM GOLDBERG Split
Mistake By The Lake
Image: ROT TON BONE - WHERE DID YOU GET ALL THOSE ROTTON TONES?
Image: CONES - "USE YOUR ILLUSION III"
Existential Cloth Recordings
Image: derek rogers & hashem assadullahi - "tape loop sax hiss"
Image: Dylan Ettinger - "Bread of the Dead"
Moon Glyph Tapes
Image: Soothsayer - "Neptune's Daughter"
Image: space dive - "twenty-first century sport"
Image: UMBERTO - "From the Grave"
Image: Leavenworth / Hunting Rituals - "steel city sermon"
Image: Bonecloud - "XI:XI"
Sick Head Tapes
Image: Skaters - "Dripping Avenues / Wind Drapeing Incense"
Image: METIS YETI - "Dear Despair"
Image: PINK NOISE - "MENAGERIE"
Image: Sudden Oak-"Causeways of the Sun"
Image: Robedoor - Painted Seer
Image: Radius - Scatterbrain Tapes Vol. 1
Image: Caethua/Ancestral Diet - split
FLA Records & Tapes
Image: A Pink Cloud - Gyogyul
Image: Unmuzzled Ox - Untitled
Shark Bite Tapes
Image: Yellow Crystal Star - Birds of Vesta
Pendu Sound Recordings
Image: Mialessot - Birds
Image: Prurient - Time Began In A Garden
Tired Trails Collective
Image: Harps of Fuchsia Kalmia w/ Delphine Dora-Pantomima Terrrestre
Image: Failing Lights - Dismal Winds
Paradise Vendors Inc
Image: CHEATAHS 'MAGIC WEAPONS'
Image: An Emergency - 'Wrecked Angles'
Image: Altar of Flies - Eremiten
Image: Color Dream - Darkslide on the Moon
Two Thousand Tapes
Image: Chen Santa Maria - Live KFJC cassette
Image: U.S. Girls - U.S. Girls Cassingle
Image: Walter Carson - Hilltop Reverie
Image: TEETH COLLECTION - "oddities"
Image: Jefre Sei Getsu Ledesma "Namu Kie Butsu"
Image: the moisturizer - 3 headed howl 2
Image: Chris Benedetto Madak “Bees Removed” , Fragments “Kinetic Sphere”,
Bee Mask “Shimmering Braid”, Skin Graft “Brick in the Mouth of a Corpse”
Image: Envenomist - Black Bile
The Trilogy Tapes
Image: Field Of Hats - Myriad Features
Image: Matomeri - "im spitting on my grave"
The RubADub Tape Club
Image: V/A "The Hello! Project"
Image: Steve Hauschildt - Resplendent
Image: Leslie Keffer / God Willing - Split
Abandon Ship Records
Image: Time Life - Open To Both Sides
Not Not Fun
Image: Blank Realm - The Returner
Image: WASTED TRUTH
Lost Ghosts Records
Image: Brendan Sullivan/ Bear & Pieces split tape
Gnar Tapes & Shit
Image: Argumentix - Quest for Faults
Image: JAMES FELLA - "Singular Set" (series) cassette
Image: GIRL TALK -
HONOR AMONG THIEVES
Image: Hells Hills - Little Matter Of Death
Image: Drunjus - Chainmail Future
Image: RABBITS 'fur'
Image: Stone Baby - "Vir Heroicus Subliminus"
Image: Robe. - Desolate Mosaic
Image: Andrew Coltrane - Gongs Of Violence
Image: Pink Buffalo - Bearded Tooth
They Live We Sleep Cassettes
Image: TOBIN'S SPIRIT GUIDE - WASTED DAZE
Image: Marble Sky - Sway
Image: Fabric/ Sparkling Wide Pressure - Late Clothes / Blue Doorways I - III
Poor Little Music
Image: Rob Michalchuk - Venus
Treehouse People - "Bubble Nuts"
Image: Wretched Worst - Bleeder
Image: Textured Bird Transmission - Recycled Music
Middle James Co.
Image: Fossils - Four Cassette Box
Image: Lilypad - The Moon And Air Sparkle