Stream a Massive Collection of Indie, Noise Industrial Mixtapes from the 80s and 90s


They’ll nev­er be worth as much as the alleged box of first edi­tion Super­man comics left in my father’s room when he shipped out to sea, alleged­ly giv­en to the dump by his moth­er, though she for­ev­er denied it; but those over­stuffed box­es full of cheap mix­tapes from the late 80s and 90s in my clos­et have to be worth some­thing, right? If only to the inter­net… the Inter­net Archive, a more spe­cif­ic place, and yes, it’s the one that hosts the Way­back Machine, pre­serv­er of web­pages no one updates or, real­ly, vis­its any­more.

But this is not a sad sto­ry about what hap­pened to Web 1.0! But a hap­py one about where your mix­tapes will go, because they are need­ed. Just as a recent gen­er­a­tion decid­ed to bypass the six­ties and go back to the sources of Hen­drix and CSNY so future hip­sters of today ignore oughties retreads and return to the world just before the inter­net. They go full anti­quar­i­an with it, with authen­tic peri­od cos­tumes and peri­od-era equip­ment, which means they often sound ter­ri­ble. They need cas­settes to get it right.


The cas­sette has already made its way back in a big way, rein­tro­duc­ing the sound of ear­ly syn­th­pop, indus­tri­al music, DIY indie rock, and a genre called “tape exper­i­men­ta­tion” that encom­pass­es any­thing from avant-garde musique con­crète to the lat­est pro­duc­tion of spliced togeth­er cas­sette tape. The sound of decay­ing tape—a soup of hiss and muf­fled, warped, out-of-tune copies of songs—birthed dark, sludgy met­al and per­fect­ly cap­tured the sound­tracks of hor­ror movies. And, imper­fect­ly, the sound of every­thing else. These were “the days when the audio cas­sette was the stan­dard method of music shar­ing… gen­er­al­ly the mid-eight­ies through ear­ly-nineties,” points out The Noise-Arch Archive, which hosts just such a col­lec­tion, on just such a (dig­i­tized) medi­um. 30 gigs of tape hiss.

One needs a reli­able guide like, say, Tom Waits, to under­stand how weird depres­sion-era music was. This archive makes sig­nif­i­cant head­way in con­vey­ing the same infor­ma­tion about the Bush (the first) and Clin­ton (the first) years. One need only lis­ten to Church of the Tapes­lice / Time­s­plice at the top, as much as that’s pos­si­ble, to get a fla­vor of how. It’s a mélange of Frank Zap­pa-like sound col­lage, Res­i­dents-like sar­don­ic absur­di­ty, Devo-like black humor, and free-form-the-DJ-is-real­ly-stoned-lev­el goofi­ness you’ve heard at least once late night on your col­lege radio sta­tion. But they aren’t all this off-putting, and they aren’t all this approach­able either.

EPSON scanner image

Psy­cho­ma­nia, fur­ther up, lives up to its name. It opens inno­cent­ly enough, with some sort of non­de­script­ly trib­al dit­ty, lilt­ing, if unset­tling. Then the mix shifts into full gial­lo mode, the loud, pun­ish­ing synths and descend­ing har­monies of doom that com­prise the scores of “Spaghet­ti Slash­ers.” Expect the obscure of the obscure in every tape in this col­lec­tion. “Much of this mate­r­i­al defies cat­e­go­ry,” Noise-Arch advis­es, “and has there­fore not been giv­en one.” Much of it sounds like some­thing you might rec­og­nize, only a few uncan­ny removes from your point of ref­er­ence.

The col­lec­tion above—its bare­ly leg­i­ble cov­er describes a com­pi­la­tion from “Fetus Pro­duc­tions” in Australia—opens with some real­ly off-kil­ter elec­tro-lounge music and pro­gress­es into a full-on syn­th­pop opera. None of this music, obvi­ous­ly, should be missed. Nor the music stored in impor­tant archives cur­rent­ly occu­py­ing my clos­et. I’ll nev­er sell it. Because who wants a bunch of worn-out crap­py plas­tic tapes? It’s what’s on them that we need to pre­serve. Even the hard-to-love slack­er non­sense of I Was a Teenage Com­mu­nist (The Secret Con­fes­sions of Oliv­er North).  Enter The Noise-Arch Archive here.

Teenage Ollie North

via Elec­tron­ic Beats

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Great Mix­tapes Richard Lin­klater Cre­at­ed to Psych Up the Actors in Dazed and Con­fused and Every­body Wants Some!!

Atten­tion K‑Mart Shop­pers: Hear 90 Hours of Back­ground Music & Ads from the Retail Giant’s 1980s and 90s Hey­day

A Mas­sive 800-Track Playlist of 90s Indie & Alter­na­tive Music, in Chrono­log­i­cal Order

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Giblox says:

    A Finnish band called Absolu­ut­ti­nen Nol­lapiste has pub­lished a huge col­lec­tion of their tape record­ings in Spo­ti­fy:

    Most of these were record­ed when the band mem­bers were teenagers goof­ing around, play­ing their own songs and record­ing prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing they did.

    What’s more, they then SOLD a lim­it­ed num­ber of these tapes at their gigs, earn­ing the tapes some­thing of a cult sta­tus and a ded­i­cat­ed fol­low­er­ship. This even­tu­al­ly result­ed in a fan project on pub­lis­ing the tapes in Spo­ti­fy, except one that was removed due to it sport­ing a band name ‘The Bea­t­les’.

    Most of the songs are in Finnish or instru­men­tals, but some are in Eng­lish, such as this Com­modore 64 inspired piece:

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