(Culture Dealer Media, 2011)
Lord help me, I've actively begun buying cassettes again. Since I got a good job that's provided me a decent amount of disposable income, I've spent literally thousands of dollars on records, including a goodly amount of limited, first-press, pre-ordered, colored, swirly, alternate cover-arted horseshit. If record collector scum culture isn't exclusionary enough, then get a load of the contemporary cassette tape underground. Now that vinyl has become HIP again on a (let's be real here) miniscule scale, these fuckers have upped the ante even further and are pressing their music on an even deader format in runs that are so small that you need the eye of an Ebay sniper and the Googling skills of an Adderall-addled teenager just to find the damn things. Even in my advancing age, I'm still handcuffed by the urges that are unexplainable to anyone that doesn't quest to find every good song ever recorded ever, so now I'm ponying up my dough for tapes and canvasing area Big Lots locations to find tape head cleaners to make my 18 year old decks sing again. Circle of life, wheel of fortune, Elton John, Lion King, etc.
Ya see, cassettes were my musical life's blood when I was a little kid. Records were quickly disappearing and CDs were shiny, distant, and expensive, so tapes were all I had left to feast upon. I distinctly remember cutting up the flimsy cardboard sleeves of my Guns N' Roses cassingles into makeshift J-cards and carefully pasting the song titles onto the outer lip to mimic the full-length albums like Hysteria and Slippery When Wet that I played to death in my ordinary suburban bedroom. Remember when the big deal about the iPod was that you could carry your favorite songs in your pocket?! Cassettes were providing the same fucking service like twenty years earlier. You didn't need some decks and a giant PA to rock a party, just an AC/DC tape and a case of warm beer. Nowadays, cassettes seem obnoxiously elitist, but back in the day, the tapes you stashed in your bookbag were like a badge of coolness, and you could trade them with your friends in between classes and "download" them to a blank tape and "file share" that copy to anyone you pleased. I played my dubbed copy of Screeching Weasel's Boogadaboogadaboogada so many times that I still anticipate the tape drop-outs and the five second gap in "I Love To Hate" when I accidentally recorded over it when I was fourteen, even with the pristine digital copy I downloaded from Amazon a few months ago.
It's not 1995 anymore, it's 2011, and I'm supposedly supposed to be reviewing the debut cassette from the impressively-named Run DMT, and this C30 called Dreams is more immersive and otherworldly than any state-of-the-art MMORPG you've ever played. Pressing "play" on this tape is the gateway to another planet, where feelings and colors and sparkling flashing lights drift without a tether, where showers of syrupy synth muck rain all over your face, and half-remembered shards of sunshine pop, doo wop, northern soul, and post-Motown 60s 45s make you wanna dance listlessly until they fade out in washes of beach waves and clarion calls of lighthouse spotlights and sirens until you just wanna make like Odysseus and crash into the fucking rocks already. Nothing really finishes with satisfaction, and as the sonics bake and bleed and meld into each other, Run DMT mastermind Mike Collins comes off like a bastard son of Ariel Pink and Bob Pollard, patient enough to meld a half-hour symphony of fragments, but not enough of a control freak to really put it all together.
A half-baked unnamed hippie spirit guide narrates the proceedings, reporting lucidly about his DMT trip, and his voice melts and contorts into a distorted grimace as Dreams ambles its way to conclusion. That mysterious creep sees a figure that is free and unbound and unhinged and not afraid to flail around in search of heavy-duty enlightenment, and right before the tape finishes up with that satisfying "kaCHUNK," it tosses in another bit of near-perfect droning Everly Brothers gone mental pop. That babbling hippie burnout just keeps on talking until he gets cut off in mid-sentence, and the kaleidoscope he mentions in the beginning closes up, and somehow it all makes sense. When you're chemically altered, you're gonna take the time to listen to any confident blowhard spew his line of bullshit. That hippie dude speaks of the feminine god inside of him, but you're just waiting for him to shut the fuck up and pass whatever it is he's having to you. Sure, cassettes are elitist and exclusionary and all that, but they also offer murky and expansive sonic possibilities that stretch far beyond a rudimentary Bandcamp page, and seems to be turning into THE medium for bold and experimental music in 2011. Dreams is like a gateway drug into the netherworlds of the cassette underground, and you're never gonna forget your first time, especially when the experience is exhilarating as this.