FEATURE: Cassette Store Day | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Following the success of Record Store Day, the recent return to cassettes by a lot of underground and experimental labels has led to a similar Cassette Store Day venture, the third of which is imminent. I spoke to Steve Strode of Cramlington’s Cruel Nature, Jonny Swift from Durham’s Frux and Rob Kirtley of Newcastle’s ZyNg and kicked off by asking why the cassette is having a resurgence. As expected, their responses all involved economics, aesthetics and nostalgia.

“It’s turned full circle for me,” Strode explains. “I used to run a cassette trading operation in the mid-late 80s, dabbled with a vinyl-only label in the early 2000s and have now gone back to the format that I’ve always loved. Economics do come into it (it’s a heck of a lot cheaper putting a tape release out) and because of that I can take more risks with what I publish.” Swift agrees: “Yes, it is the affordability in comparison to vinyl that makes the format attractive to new start up labels like mine… we can get a small run done and see how it goes but at the same time give a buyer something more tangible than just a basic download.”

“the whole mechanics of the cassette is a thing of aesthetic beauty”

Kirtley is passionate about the aesthetic and nostalgic element. “For me the whole mechanics of the cassette is a thing of aesthetic beauty; the sound it makes as you open the case, the lovely ‘clunk’ as you load it into the machine, pressing play and hearing that gorgeous and familiar tape hiss at the start. The music contained definitely has a warm sound to it and I much prefer this to the crystal clear, toppy sound of the CD. They are things that you have to commit to and listen from start to finish and turn it over halfway through. Everything about them requires the listener to engage.”

Feelings about Cassette Store Day are more mixed, with Strode particularly unimpressed. “It has zero impact on me or the label. Every tape I publish is a celebration of the cassette for me. As with Record Store Day, I’m also sceptical about what benefit it provides. So no CSD celebratory releases from Cruel Nature but as October is the month when I publish my 50th tape, I’m doing something a little special to celebrate, which is currently looking like a limited free tape.” Swift is more enthused. “I’m looking forward to this one. We are putting on a very big event at Empty Shop involving not only tape labels like Frux and Lugubrious Audio (from Durham) but labels, stores, bands, videomakers etc.” Kirtley is similarly positive: “As this is only CSD’s third year it’s too early for me to say what impact it will have. One thing’s for sure, I’m very much looking forward to being a part of the whole buzz of CSD this year and hopefully it will help make people who are into buying cassettes more aware of ZyNg and what we are doing.”

Cassette Store Day takes place on October 17th, with Durham’s Empty Shop hosting the Durham Independent Music Exhibition from 1pm.

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