Most of the arguments you will read on the internet about why listening to music on cassette is, despite appearances, a good idea, they are based on the subjective perceptions of the opinion makers. People who now spend between thirty-something and forty and quite a few years and who lived to the fullest the great age of cassette tapes as a means of disseminating music: the eighties. And whose opinions are mediated by a formless mixture of nostalgia, second-hand opinions and a lot “because I’m worth it.”
In my case it is also a subjective perception, but there are certain nuances. Let’s talk about why in my particular case I like to continue listening to music on cassette, and we are going to do it from an absolutely subjective point of view, so the consequent disclaimer It is inevitable: nothing that follows is an absolute truth, do what you want, I am not here to lecture anyone, live life. These are my moves and I only intend to share them so that we can have fun and learn.
For this reason, before starting I would like to remove two reasons why I listen to music on cassette: both obvious, both important but both, also, more than assimilated and known. And the two, paradoxical as it may be, opposite each other.
The first reason that we are going to put aside, because it is obvious that it is very personal and quite non-transferable, is nostalgia. My experience is that of so many people born in the late seventies: I discovered music thanks to tapes, and The first player that I used by myself, in my room, for my things, was the typical double deck radio cassette player. I had a walkman and I exchanged hundreds of cassettes with my friends at a time when we had times to listen to everything, to make compilations dedicated to colleagues and to receive them, to record songs from the radio and to obsessively listen to records and songs.
Nostalgia makes one forget the discomforts and inconveniences of the format: how difficult it was to listen to selected songs, the deplorable sound that came from fourth, fifth or sixth generation copies, the problems inherent in any physical format due to the corruption of the support due to the the passage of time and use or because uh, we were teenagers, we were not for delicacies. But my fanaticism for all my favorite groups, the ones that would take me to a desert island, were born from compulsive listening on cassette, and this is like this: from the Ramones to the Beastie Boys, passing through Transvision Vamp, Siniestro Total, Devo or, ahem, the eighties italodisco. My obsessions were born on cassettes and that is part of my non-transferable experience. It is said but, in the end, it does not do much either.
The second reason why I listen to cassette tapes today but it doesn’t matter too much is, as I say, just the opposite: the goal. Cassette tapes, beyond personal appreciations, do not sound better than CDs, but these, with their screeching highs and robotic sound, are not a panacea if they are not played on a proper equipment. The reason for the bad reputation of cassettes is, of course, the use we gave to the format: copies of copies of copies that inevitably corrupted the sound, on poor quality tapes bought at the Pryca. The truth is that there are four types of cassette tape (from worst to best: Ferro, Chrome, Ferro-Chrome and Metal), and believe me that a recording on one of the latter is noticeable.
There are videos on YouTube that explain in detail why, such as the great ‘Cassettes – Better than you don’t remember’, fascinating from a technical point of view and with which I very much agree. But employing your very sensible motives, quite a win for CD haters like me, would be dishonest.: Neither the tapes that I listen to are of the highest quality nor, of course, is my team. A cool Sunstech radio cassette player (?) Far from the high fidelity cassette player of that video. So, live the audio of the cassettes, but it is not something that particularly influences my experience.
The cassette player fingering
What is an entirely subjective question, but something more universal than my adventures in the Infante neighborhood in Murcia in the late eighties, is my way of consuming music now. After that stage that I suppose all fans go through and that forces us to try to listen to all the music in the worldBecause there is an illusory moment in which you think you are going to achieve it, the sub-stage arrives, inseparable from the previous one, of “Wow, it seems that Spotify really has all the music in the world.” And then comes the “Nah, I’ll die before I hear it all.”
The tactile recovers renewed vigor. Manipulate the support, unfold the cover, listen to how not only the music sounds, but the object that contains the music itself
Then you give up completism, because you also don’t have time or feel like it too much, and you take refuge in your favorite genres, artists and albums. The usual ones and the ones you discover, but yours. And at that stage, Spotify (or whatever you use) is a blessing: immediate access to full discographies, the ability to retrieve and review half-forgotten people, constant discovery through friends, and various algorithms. But there is no longer a need to listen to discographies in order, to search every corner of the lost collaborations of your favorite musician. At some point, each album is squeezed more and listened to better, as in the times when not everything was just one click away.
In this new stage, the tactile recovers renewed vigor. Manipulate the support, unfold the cover, review the lyrics and credits, hear how not only the music sounds, but the object that contains the music itself. The ritual of opening the cassette player, inserting the tape, pressing play, a gesture much more crude and primal than a simple press on a touch screen. That’s part of the experience again, and it’s something only vinyl and cassettes offer. But in the cassettes, in addition, you are literally listening to a tape with data, it is an even more analogue system than vinyl, if possible: the transformation of the heads into music in contact with the tape is somehow more primitive and pure than the diamond of the needle or the laser of the CD, let alone the binary code of computers.
The analog sensation that listening to a cassette provides is very difficult to explain, much more if you are educated or educated in digital, but it is real, not the result of nostalgia. AND It is a sensation similar to that which is extracted from the image that a VHS spits out, that image plastered, with interferences and dull colors: These tracking errors are caused by physical defects in the tape, just as the distortions in the audio of the cassettes are derived from the cassette tape being eroded by dust, use and time. When audio glitches and glitches are seen as evidence of authenticity rather than format drawbacks, you’re close to enjoying the physical, tactile, billet element of tapes.
Because then that feeling of having something real in your hands, a miniaturized version of the band in your pocket, Transmits to sound, much more compact, coarser, in one piece than the irritating crystalline brilliance, with overdose of treble, of the CD or computers. The sound of the cassettes is impasto, it has no nuances, it is as if it came from the same guts of La Música. Some find it inconvenient, but for me it is the logical embodiment of that physical and tactile sensation of cassettes. Now you can carry thousands of songs in your pocket with your mobile phone and your Spotify account, but nothing compares to the feeling of belonging you have when transporting your favorite album of your favorite band in the pocket of the ass of your jeans (be careful when you sit down) .
The cassette market, buy and vette
You may not know it, but currently the cassette market is very interesting. There is, of course, an overpriced market for reissued cassettes for hipsters that cost thirty euros, but I speak of a real market, of groups that start or consecrated that also publish their work on tape. They belong to the scenes, of course, in which the “do it yourself” and the intimate deal with the listener are valued. For example, areas as distant from each other as experimental electronics or classic cazallero punk. Apparently opposite as styles (indeed, they are), they find a singular point in common in the need to reach their audience quickly and cheaply.
And when you leave a concert, yes, they can give you a piece of paper with a url to access a file to download an impersonal zip, but it is much more intimate and memorable to sell a cassette tape at ridiculous prices (three, four euros) with your badly recorded songs. Buy a cassette with the best of the group random The number of fans you have gone to see is part of the ritual of live shows in certain scenes, and if (like me) you go -in short: I was going before the world ended- to three or four concerts a month, the cassette is a essential souvenir.
There are still groups that release their mandangas on cassette because it is cheap, fast and has a personal component that does not have the label with the url. There are shops (such as La Negra, in Madrid, specializing in punk and fierce sounds), where shelves with cassettes are essential, and It is where you have to go to the sounds without producing, to the genres without domesticating and the prices that do not hurt. Of course (I warned at the beginning), this philosophy fits more with some genres than with others: if your favorite song of recent times is ‘Despacito’ (perfectly respectable, but your concept of fun and mine are divergent), no you will find your musical mana in this support. Although perhaps a while ago you stopped reading, precisely for that very reason.
As you can see from the photos, all from my personal collection, my tastes are geared towards rock in general and punk in particular, with occasional fools towards technopop in buzz mode, low-end popular music and the Brothers’ jokes. Calatrava. Because the crystalline sound and the melodic nuances are not matters of first necessity, but energy and immediacy, something that favors the monolithic and stubborn sound of cassette tapes, in the same way that, to recover a VHS, I recommend seeing ‘Creepozoides’ before ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
Economic, durable (some of these tapes are between three and four decades old, and there they are), but I insist, also the opposite of the immediacy and rush of the usual ways of listening to music today. Cassettes require careful picking, patient rewinding, and not only avoid corruptions and sound distortions, but enjoy them as part of the experience. Of course, not an activity for all tastes, but I guarantee that my compilations of the Clash and I, bought in a damn Simago in my neighborhood, we have some free time alone this afternoon. And we are going to enjoy it to the fullest.