2015 was the year when cassette tapes finally entered the mainstream. Well, almost. Actually, not really. But the format did gain more traction thanks to growing interest in the annual Cassette Store Day and a constant influx of new tape labels. We kept track of our favorite cassette outposts in Germany, the UK, US and Eastern Europe, and now that it’s nearly New Years, it’s time to pick some all-around standouts.
The former blog-turned-tape label 1080p is as HD as it gets. Its strong showing this year, which included releases from the likes of Via App and Umfang, justifies its spot at the top of this list. Past productions from Dan Bodan, Seth (James K. & Gobby) and OOBE define the future present and capture post-internet hype down to the second.
The first recognizable thing about this label is their formalistic approach: each release comes as a clear box containing five cassingles (yes, that is actually a word). The latest batch includes Privacy, Chinaski, Umberto, DJ S and recent EB interviewee Nick Klein, while past standouts from 2015 involved Budapest‘s Farbwechsel duo SILF and Container. I can’t wait to see what’s next for this Frankfurt crew.
Orange Milk Records
Orange Milk has been on the forefront of experimental music for some time now, and it managed to up its standards again in 2015 with releases from Giant Claw and Gora Sou.
This subsidiary of Berlin-based Klasse Recordings aims to bridge the gap between street art and cassettes. I already included this one in my list of German tape outposts earlier this year, but it reinforced its worth with the recently released GRAFITI TAPES #5, which features London’s Honest Jon’s signee Tapes and graffiti artist 10Foot serving a chutney mix of epic proportions.
Do we all know about Opal Tapes or do I still have to write something about how Stephen Bishop’s seminal tape label has managed to develop a unique sound that captures the bleak northern English countryside and merges it with gritty house beats? Well, I just did. Excited to see what Bishop has in store for 2016.
This young British label almost immediately found a very special place in my heart. You can feel all the love and dedication that goes into their beautifully designed packaging.
Awesome Tapes From Africa
Of course Brian Shimkovitz’s long-standing cassette operation deserves a spot on this list. While all the other labels source from and cater to a very specific audience, Shimkovitz goes out of the way to unearth fantastic stuff from Africa that usually doesn’t find its way into Western music media discourses. Ata Kak’s slow grooves were a highlight of 2015. Read our 2012 interview with Shimkovitz here.
In my humble opinion, SicSic is still the best tape label in Germany. Just click on above link and dive into its vast amount of glorious releases. 2015’s standout releases came from Bastian Void and Nils Quak.
Minimal design and an even more minimal release schedule turns every tape on this label into an instant hit. Sometimes you gotta wait a while for the good things; in 2015, that meant waiting for Backtearer’s Swear cassette.
This label from Copenhagen is one of the defining voices in the current global noise scene and has churned out many releases over the past few years. If you’re only going to buy one tape release from 2015, I would highly recommend Varg’s Under Beige Neon. It’s my album of the year.
Published December 16, 2015.