So the other day a big ole’ box of music arrived in my mailbox. It was chock full o’ music, sent to me by my favorite record store in the world, Lucky Records. There was all kinds of stuff in there from electronica to pop to post-punk to black metal. And do you want to know what format was most prevalent in this cardboard cornucopia? Take a guess. Cassettes. That’s right, kids. Tapes. Arguably the worst, most lo-fi format there is or ever was since the music box got invented by Lou Reed. I mean, who can even play a cassette any more?
Well, this guy can. I have not one but two cassette players in my house, both of which I bought in the last four years, and that might be the most absurd thing I’ve ever written on this blog. I actually bought cassette players. Two of them. And it’s not like you can get brand new ones; you’re almost forced to buy old school equipment because after all, what manufacturer in their right mind is making tape players?
I blame Iceland for this. That sometimes frozen, always mossy rock in the middle of the north Atlantic seems to have the market cornered on the format. You hear stories about people still believing in elves who live inside of boulders, elves who will mess with you if you try to build a house or road in their barren neighborhoods. But you know what those elves actually have inside those rocks? Not homes. Goddamn cassette factories. Pumping out those plastic wafers as if it was still 1985 and everyone was strutting around with a Walkman and those ridiculous headphones we used to wear. You remember them, the ones with the metal band that would cut into your skull, heat up in the sun on a sunny day, and deform almost immediately. Eventually those crazy Icelanders will start putting out new stuff on Edison cylinders and that’s where I’ll finally have to draw my line in the sand. At least until I can find an Edison cylinder player… I might need to do a Kickstarter.
Iceland is full of stories about elves and their shenanigans, but this is probably their dirtiest trick yet, getting us to start listening to tapes again. Most people don’t know this, but the elves work for many nefarious Icelandic labels like Lady Boy and Vánagandr and the charmingly named FALK, aka Fuck Art Let’s Kill, churning out super limited releases of the most insane and fresh stuff being created today, all of it on cassette. Little bastards. Releases that are a combination of old school format and new school sound, fetishistic totems of a bygone era of mullets and denim jackets and AA batteries, a mix of fairy dust and dinosaur bones.
And I for one couldn’t be more thankful.
Last November our friends at FALK teamed up with Rimar Tracks to put out this split release by Rimar founders AAIIEENN (right) and Decanter (left), a couple of dudes who know how to spin the knobs and push the buttons in ways that make the synapses in my brain vibrate like Riverdance on meth. And they put it out on a limited edition (of 50) baby blue cassette, one of which happened to arrive in my mailbox the other day and hopefully won’t require me to use carbon tax credits as an offset for bringing new plastic into the world. Icelandic music is my drug. FALK is my pusher, a filthy perv standing at the edge of the alley in the mean streets of 101 Reykjavik and opening his tan overcoat to show me his wares. “You want tapes, kid? Oh, I got tapes… you got any money?” while I’m literally throwing Krona and Euro and dollars at him and begging please please please mister pusher man, just one tape of icy cold electronica? I’d gladly pay you Thursday for a cassette today… and then I shuffle away greedily holding onto my obscure tape like it was a holy relic carved from the bone of a saint.
So what about AAIIEENN? AAIIEENN is the method; it’s the structure; it’s building music out of Legos with lots of right angles and sharp corners, intensely deliberate in sonic structure, every piece fitting perfectly in its place like it was made by some kind of musical Mason. The composition is almost as if AAIIEENN were using actual chimes or a xylophone to design his aural blueprints, precise and perfectly tuned in every single aspect, every note perfectly struck. You might think this would give the songs a sterile quality, but that’s not the case; it’s more like listening to the pattern you hear in softly falling spring rain playing off the window sill while you relax inside dry and warm and just experience the moment. I mean, that could be something the elves impart when they manufacture these pieces of plastic crack, but I don’t know. I’m not an elfologist. What I do know is that there’s a lot of natural beauty in AAIIEENN’s music.
Decanter brings a whole different flavor to his side of the cassette, full of echo and reverb and rich density that’s like dark chocolate. The beats are dance-floor-ready, thumping and pulling you into yourself as you start to move involuntarily, perhaps nowhere more so than on the track “Concept.” His songs are lush and warm and groovy, with a depth that makes me want to turn down the lights, up the voltage in my brain, and smoke a glow stick. These are beat-driven jams that will tap into your baser instincts and reach you on an emotional level. So good.
You can listen to all 13 tracks for free HERE, as well as pick yourself up a copy of the cassette while supplies last and until the elves finally rise up and take control like a bunch of little pointy-eared Che Guevaras.