It’s funny how mediums fall in and out of style, how the old ways of doing things always become the new ways once again, how we always look back to look forward. This time it’s cassettes making a resurgence, cropping up all over Bandcamp in limited runs, rapidly becoming one of the more popular ways for independent rappers and producers to distribute physical copies of their music.
It’s not a surprise either. Though hip-hop was famously born on vinyl, it spent most of its adolescence getting dubbed from tape to tape, and much of the classic warmth we associate with the production during the ’90s is a relic of that medium. Even nowadays, you can bet that most producers are using some sort of digitized tape distortion emulator in their DAWs to try and capture that elusive lo-fi vibe.
But the truth is, there’s no substitute for the real thing. That’s what Chicago-turned-Portland producer Blacktop Megaphone (real name Andrew Saltzman) knows, and what he sets out to prove with his latest project, Tape Lonely Boy, a smooth 11-track ride back through time, produced primarily on an MPC and a Tascam 388 tape machine, and released on Saltzman’s own fledgling record label, Throne Age.
The album falls solidly within the realm of lo-fi instrumental tapes, not so much groundbreaking as comforting, kind of like meeting somebody you feel as though you’ve known for a long time. Sampled keys hover over top of laid-back drum loops, and the tascam makes it all glow, everything humming out from the magnetized film.
Though there aren’t any vocalists, the beats are classically interspersed with samples, quotes which serve to shape the album thematically as an exploration of loneliness in its various senses and functions. It’s a natural fit, solitude being yet another trope of the beatmaker, the artist sequestered away in the studio, working feverishly away on the next batch.
Clocking in just shy of 20 minutes, it’s a quick listen, by no means a musical odyssey, but it also doesn’t suffer from overstaying it’s welcome. The tracks are short and sweet, and there’s a nice sense of momentum throughout, making Tape Lonely Boy one worth rewinding and playing back, the kind of cassette that could live in your car’s tape deck, reminding you of good times past for the foreseeable future.»
– Henry Whittier-Ferguson