Why is tape so fascinating? In the past decade, we have converted to smaller, higher definition and more pocket-friendly formats. Yet despite these advances, we still remain somewhat anchored to formats of the past. There is something about the definitive low definition quality of tape that gets under one’s skin. Tape is often not only considered in terms of sound, but also in the tactile nature of the object itself. When this happens, attention focuses instead on tape as part of the material media, not just a means of production.
The latest record to honour the tradition of tape is Twine, a joint project between Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer. The method employed for this album is modest, with only two mono tape loops and four acoustic instruments. Each sound on Twine creaks and groans like a broken gramophone. There are moments of clarity with the soft twinkling of ‘Telegraph’ or the mournful hums of ‘Kern’. But every time the sound attempts to actualise itself, it is never fully realised. It exists instead within a strange liminal nether-zone; as a half-manifest idea.
This gives the album enormous room for imagination. In the brilliant series ‘Reasonably Sound’, Mike Rugnetta discusses the function of tape as a window into the unconscious. Discussing the pseudoscientific ‘subliminal tapes’ of the 90s, he claims:
“I think for more people than we tend to recognise, mysticism is there in the tape, the cassette, the recorder, the machine and the medium itself. Does a subliminal self-help vinyl record seem ridiculous to you? What about a subliminal self-help CD? Or MP3? They seem ridiculous to me. Of all these media, tape has such life; the format itself has this personality. The sway of the iron oxide coating and the hiss and something about the whole mysterious and particular way of the tape itself.”
The argument put forward is that the subliminal cassettes could have only worked as tapes. Digital formats simply wouldn’t have had the same spiritual pull. These features of the unconscious are also present on Twine. The pitch flux, tape hiss and asynchronous looping all contribute to the romantic and evocative lure of the album. It sounds less like a modern record from a pioneering label, and more like a piece of nostalgic memorabilia.