More Cassettes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Cassettivity, the new cassette-only distribution site. At the time, Cassettivity had 10 labels on its roster; now it has 14. You can also now sort Cassettivity’s offerings by “ease of listening." I think that’s cool. Currently, Cassettivity’s easiest listening experience can be found in Manchester’s The Potomac (Sixteen Tambourines), while the hardest comes via Yvonne Lovejoy’s Voice Studies 8: This is Yvonne Lovejoy (My Dance the Skull).

Interestingly (to me, at least), a day later I heard from David Crookes, a reporter for The Independent, who was working on an article about certain technologies and gadgets that refuse to die. (Damn, I do love being seen as expert on obsolete technologies.) You can read David’s piece here.

And, a day after that, I heard from Paul Ashby, sales manager for the outstanding distribution company Revolver USA. Revolver, too, had just put together a (long) list of the cassettes they currently have in stock. There are nearly 100 titles, most of which come from smaller labels (Boner, Ammp, Bennifer Editions), but larger and more established independents like Drag City and Not Not Fun are also represented. And while most of the artists are relatively obscure, a few names—Blues Control, Silver Jews, Om, Woods, Sic Alps—should be familiar to regular Stereophile readers.

Did you say, "cassettes"?

Why, yes, I did.

While sales "aren't exactly brisk," Paul Ashby sees more and more labels getting in the mix. And with Drag City in on the action, I wouldn't be surprised if that trend continued.

Check out Revolver’s list of cassettes here.

Looks like cassettes are indeed refusing to die. And that's good news for everyone because more music equals more happiness.

Ariel Bitran's picture


say it ain't so, SM. have you crossed over the dark side?

i kid. i kid.

torturegarden's picture

Having recenlty repaired my long idle Pioneer CT-F950 I am happe to be playing cassettes again. I ordered a few from and this one that a friend released

I am enjoying them more than I thought I would. They don't sound all that bad.

markhenninger's picture

Next thing you know Stereophile listeners will be downsampling their CD collections to 6 bit audio in order to reder them more "cassette like", because hey there's nothing like listening to a bunch of crappy sounding recordings to help make your stereo system sound great when you finally deign to play a CD.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Neither. Just interested in hearing the music, regardless of the format.

markhenninger's picture

Can't argue with that. Who knows where undiscovered gems might be hiding.

deckeda's picture

Stephen, I ordered Fergus & Geronimo's "Funky Was the State of Affairs" LP directly from the label (Hardly Art) after being turned onto it by a friend and Hardly Art included a "news magazine" in the package.

In it I read an offer for a free mixtape of undisclosed songs. State your choice as selected by one of the 3 bosses, Jason, Ruben or Sarah and see what you get! Send no money.

Hardly Art HQ


2013 4th Ave, 3rd Fl

Seattle, WA 98121

I have no affiliation with any of those people. But who else would pick out something from the trashcan* for you?

Stephen Mejias's picture

But who else would pick out something from the trashcan* for you?

Damn, thanks man!

I will go with Sarah's picks, obviously.

Downforce's picture

Recently sold off my home Sony cassette unit (surprise, someone actually wanted it!) and the few Fuji metal blank tapes I had left. But kept my decade old Sony Walkman and a modest collection of recorded and prerecorded tapes, which sonically walk all over MP3s. In noisy urban environments and the untold millions of cars still equipped with cassette players, this format still works.

LM2940's picture

I really like these cassette reports from Stephen! I really like the idea of a cassette underground. I'm more of a reel to reel guy at the moment but tape is my analog format of choice.

..And Stephen Malkmus(of the Silver Jews and Pavement) is a genius!

jelyon's picture

OK. One cassette. The Pogues "If I Should Fall From Grace with God."

Having digitized Styx "Caught in the Act" earlier today, it sounds as mediocre on the good speakers as I thought it would. Yes, on both counts.

That said, I'm looking forward to hearing some of this music I've had locked up on tape for <cough cough> years.

Cassettivity's picture

Interesting, the on-going debate about cassette sound quality. I was just listening to a Phork on the NNA label through my Nakamichi RX 505 and Tetra 505's (woah... 505) and: WOW. There are a couple things I've been learning since getting back into tapes: 

1. You need to perform maintenance on your deck. The heads should be cleaned regularly, not annually. The deck should be tuned up by a tech every couple years or so. If yours has been in the closet for years, the belts will probably be dried up, so playback speed (= pitch) and wow & flutter will be issues. A tune up should be about $25. Belt replacement could add another $30 (which would last another 20 years assuming a non-smoking environment).

2. Auto-reverse decks will have issues with head alignment that will really impact playback quality.

3. Tapes need to be taken care of. 

One thing that should be illegal: criticizing cassette quality while listening to mp3's on white headphones. 

I personally think of cassette listening as more of a 'craft' or 'hobby', in a way. Today, we have access and the choice to listen on all sorts of valid formats, each with different playback devices. This is really cool! For a long time we only had LPs. Then LPs and cassettes. Then everyone switched to CDs. Now we add digital files to the mix. Our palete is expanding and there's enjoyment to be found in all formats. We even still have radio, over the air and over the wires!