When I first started Aurora Borealis many moons ago, I never thought I’d be releasing tapes. Tapes are now pretty common in ‘underground’ musics, in fact you could say they’re commonplace, yet still they seem very ‘hip’.
For where the label stands at present, tapes make a lot of sense. Download was a dirty word when I started the label. It’s what you did if you wanted to hear something but didn’t want to pay for it, or couldn’t get it anywhere. Downloads are now a huge part of my musical collection and, more importantly my engagement with new music. Though this useful and most portable of all formats still leaves a void. It’s intangible, non-physical, and that’s one of the greatest things about a new LP: You get the full visual, audio and tactile version of the artistic vision.
Vinyl is very expensive to make, and the economies of scale mean that you need to make fairly large quantities for them to be viable. Tapes provide a great way of creating a physical product, something which many of us crave. They are perfect for small runs, and relatively cheap to mail out. Sound quality can be pretty decent, depends on your hi-fi set up, but that’s not necessarily the point.
Physical ownership of music, be it on a tape, CD or LP, allows us that feeling of being a true fan. “I love this record so much I need to have it in my hands, to have it in my home, to see it and feel it.”
I spent a lot of my youth, back in the 1800’s, buying tapes. I have a lot of nostalgia for the format. It’s an eminently convenient, portable format. I’m not sure my mum really wanted to listen to Iron Maiden or Motorhead in the car, but she did. Tapes were a revolution that allowed musical revelation to take place.
I’m happy to see them back. It’s a good, useful technology and perfect for these times of such fragmented interest, ever diverging scenes, where we can be niche consumers of the culture we choose for ourselves.
So, where appropriate, we’ll see tapes on Aurora Borealis. You can always tape over them later if you want to…