Monday, February 23, 2009
Expressway's Guide to Vancouver's Cassette Underground
It seems as if every big and little city across North America has at least one cassette-producing label, usually documenting the farther reaches of each city's underground scene. Well, needless to say, Vancouver has more than it's fair share of labels pumping out those little fuckers. After the decidedly successful post on the Cassette Underground (got a shout out from Arthur, ya'll), I've concocted this quickie guide to Vancouver's vibrant cassette culture...
Isolated Now Waves.
The grandaddy of all Vancouver cassette labels has been pumpin' 'em out real steady-like for several years now. INW was my intro to the cassette culture here in Vancouver and they continue to release some of the finest underground hissings from right here in Vancouver and abroad. Packaging from INW can range from incredibly simplistic to eye-bulging over-the-top silliness. Best package I've managed to snatch from them was their Black Dicks (featuring members of Shearing Pinx, Stamina Mantis and Twin Crystals) cassette that was encased within a small painting on canvas, limited to a mere 33 copies. Each painting being unique from the next. The ultimate in limited cassette fetish, which is why I love these guys so much. Nearing almost 200 releases (these are not all cassettes but they do, however, comprise the bulk of the label) INW shows no signs of slowing, and peers trying to keep up with this vanity label's output are few and far between.
I've always considered Thankless to be the little brother label to INW, as the two release cassettes (and some CDRs) by many of the same local artists. 64 releases of mostly all Vancouver outsider acts have made Thankless one of the primary documentarians of our potent noise/improv scene.
Rundownsun's cassette output has been fairly quiet over the last year, which is most likely due to the Tunnel Canary LP re-issue that must have cost a small fortune to put out (by the way, have you seen the deluxe version of that thing? Get a copy before they're kaput, which is about to happen any day now). Anyways, Rundownsun have dropped some of the finest crafted cassettes I e'er laid eyes on (they even garnered a year-end shout out from those taste makers over at Bull Tongue), not to mention some of the most confounding and intriguing sound art and noise these poor ears have had the joy to soak up. Though there have been many local releases, including a fairly recent cassette by the now world-renowned visual artist Eli Bornowsky (a few tapes still available! snatch 'em before they're a small fortune on ebay), Rundownsun has also dropped releases from Kevin Shields (no, not that Kevin Shields), Richard Ramirez and Emaciator. Upcoming cassette releases by BT. HN. (collab between Sick Buildings and THE RITA), a cassette by Robe and Allied, and a triple cassette release by Ian Wyatt should see the label back on it's feet in the cassette arena.
Not exactly an offshoot of Rundownsun but run by the same cat, Josh Rose and his better half in the punishing duo Blouse, Ian Gregory James. There's only one release under their belt so far, which is the first Blouse cassette, but the duo have a flurry of activity planned for '09. Looks like the first release to drop will not be a cassette but a 7" by local punk shredders Nu Sensae. A cassette releases by Black Mage is in the works, and there are a few other goodies planned for the near future. If this label looks and sounds half as good as Rundownsun, then Vancouver is in for a treat.
Smoke Filled Casket.
Local noise guru, Michael Piercey (aka Seagull, Crotch and Wwhite Cloudss?), has been quietly releasing some Canadian harsh noise via his Smoke Filled Casket imprint, which already has close to 50 releases. Along with dozens of cassette releases, SFC has also released several small runs of business card-shaped 3" CDRs, which usually contain solo blasts of white noise and are only playable in discmans or top-loading players. Everyone still has a discman, right?
Outside of his webpage, these release can be difficult to track down unless you know the man. I managed to strong arm Michael into bringing a few cassette releases down to Zulu, so you can snatch a few there. Don't be intimidated by the man's stature--he's just about the friendliest cat shredding ears in Vancouver right now. Oh yah, he's also is killing it with his vinyl-only Ketchup Cavern label. Two forthcoming LP releases by Aidan motherfuckin Baker and 7"s by Robedoor and Aaron Dilloway should see KC skyrocket in 'o9.
And finally we have the newest contender in Vancouver's vibrant cassette culture, Halved. Run by the mastermind behind scrapyard-drone outfit Empress, Halved has dropped it's first release mere weeks back with a cassette by the mysterious Black "Mother" Strukof. 26 copies, one for each letter of the alphabet and each comes with it's own letter ripped directly outta the dictionary. I'm sure we can expect this kind of ingenuity with each forthcoming release, of which there appear to be a few lined up already. Keep an eye on this one...
**Last minute addition**
Cassette Or Die!
Almost forgot about these guys, but their tapes are hard to come by and come in such short runs that you really can't blame a guy. Anyways, COD! is the tape arm of the Grotesque Modern imprint, a Vancouver vinyl label the specializes in documenting the local punk scene. While Grotesque Modern have been releasing some awesome 7"s and that jaw-dropping ER compilation, COD! is a the gnarly, snaggle-toothed little brother that has been intent on releasing some harsh local skree. Noisy as hell and mostly improvised releases by Mutators and Sex Negatives should give you an idea of this subsidiary labels' vicious intent.
Ok, is there anyone else out there releasing cassettes in Vancouver? Drop a comment and let this man know.