Chemical Tapes

QUALITATIVE COMMENTS: (with 24 mg) There was a slow buildup to a ++ or more over the course of about three hours. Extremely tranquil, and no hint of any body toxicity whatsoever. More than tranquil, I was completely at peace, in a beautiful, benign, and placid place. There was something residual that extended into the sleep period, and was possibly still there in the morning.

Tapes were the poor cousin to vinyls, with their immense artwork and booming tone, but they still had their own subtle and appreciable charms. Portable, if you were lucky enough to own a Walkman. Duplicable, an easy and affordable way to get music to and from. Replaceable, if they were to go astray, break or wear out.  They also have a tangible nostalgic association with the tech of the day; gaming systems, 8 bit, the same heft as a cartridge, able to collect dust, yet still harbingers of a distant digital future.

Looking back on them now you can still see the ethereal and transportative glint, reminding you in some way of a possible vast horizon beyond the back fence, the defined boundaries of your childhood.

Rob Gibson, the public face of Chemical Tapes, seems to get this dimensional allusion in a very central and undiluted way. In fact, he appears to be totally tapped into it, seemingly mainlining this conceptual element in a way that few others can.

The independent UK/Spain based label was established in March 2011, and has already dropped releases by Machinefabriek, Maps And Diagrams and Indian Weapons. The label specialises in limited edition experimental audio from both established and new artists, themed around psychoactive phenethylamine chemical derivatives, notably those that act as psychedelics and/or empathogen-entactogens.

Are you keeping up so far? How many fingers am I holding up? Can you feel anything yet?

All three cassettes thus far have their own synthetic characteristics –

Cat No: 2C-I (2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine)

Machinefabriek provides an elegant soundtrack, recorded live, to accompany Paul Clipson’s experimental film “Lightmaze”, playing with the concept of a reversible two-sided medium by laying out a twenty-four minute drone, then reversing it on side two. Sounds obvious when spelt out like that, but as is with everything Rutger Zuydervelt does, there is sharp intelligence and obvious talent present. Clipson’s film is a summary of hallucinatory nocturnal landscapes, consisting of colours, textures and varieties of light, considered and passed through several rhythmic movements.

Cat No: 2C-B (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine)

Maps And Diagrams’ “Red Moon Rising” picks out the 8-bit element, inserts considerably more resolution, and serves up nine tracks of Kosmiche-tinged melodic digitalis, attempting to unearth the moment at which the German pioneers toned down their avant-garde experimental facet and started to develop what we now call Ambient.

Cat No: 2C-E (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine)

Indian Weapons lean more on the assertive and alert side, two tracks of demanding glare. On “Labyrinth”, Indian Weapons synthesises the ancestral drumming patterns favoured by shamans with claustrophobic obsessional electronic rotations to form an aural vehicle for healing, consciousness expansion, and community building.

… affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away. – Albert Hofman

Gibson took some time out to discuss the after effects, the highs and the lows of Chemical Tapes.

Why tapes? What drove you to focus solely on that format?

Gibson: We wanted to launch a label, we knew the kind of music we loved and would love to release and we had an aesthetic that we thought would work.  The next choice was the medium.  Every man and his dog can burn off CDr’s, xerox some covers and start getting some releases out.  On the flipside of that we could have delved straight in with vinyl which seemed much more costly and risky for our first dip into the label game, although it’s something we would definitely like to do in the future.  I had found personally that I was buying more and more music from tape labels, especially from the US, it’s a great tactile physical product and we thought cassettes would also work nicely with our choice of aesthetic, the label name became an easy choice and here we are.

Is it harder to find duplication services for tape?

Gibson: We thought this may be an issue initially and was half expecting to have to get them done in the US at NAC and shipped over. I then got a few recommendations for a UK based company called Tapeline who offer pro-dubbing facilities.  They have been great, always friendly and helpful, I recently moved and I found out they are literally 30mins down the road from my new place which was a result!

How did you attract your contributors?

Gibson: Free chemicals as per their catalogue numbers!

No, I have to say Tim (Maps And Diagrams) has been great for us, I had known him a while and he was the first guy onboard and because so much of this was new to us his advice has been invaluable.  A lot of the guys I approached were really into the aesthetic and design ideas and having Tim onboard also probably helped to settle their initial fears. Also I like to think that our website stands out a bit from the usual blogs with Paypal buttons, as we offer secure credit card options, digital sales direct from site etc..

Who is involved in the label other than yourself? Are there dedicated roles for you both/all?

Gibson: We are a two-man operation. I am the man on the ground, dealing with artists, orders, promotion, stock etc.. The other guy is the design whizz who built the site, designs the covers and keeps the more techy aspect ticking along. He is actually based out in Spain where as I am here in the UK. So it’s a kind of internet collaboration.

How did Machinefabriek and Indian Weapons come to line up their releases?

Gibson: I had been talking to Rutger (Machinefabriek) about releasing something with us for a while, he finally settled on the piece he recorded live and edited for the Paul Clipson film entitled Livemaze.  Paul also provided the imagery for us to use for the cover.  Brad was great, I really wanted to him onboard but was expecting him to either be to busy or not be interested in an as yet unproven new label!  It turned out that he had an Indian Weapons session called Labyrinth, the first time as a trio with Eden Hemming Rose.  He offered it to us, it sounded amazing and was perfect fit for a c30.

What other batches are to come in the immediate future?

Gibson: Next up we have Mohave Triangles, another guys who’s music blows me away, he is perhaps more familiar to people who follow the american labels having released on Digitalis and Sacred Phrases. It will be a c30 of psychedelic synth journeys entitled ‘Smoked Mystics’.

Following that we have another artist who’s work I have admired for a long time and incredibly excited to release something by him, Drekka. It will be a document of his European tour across Italy and Slovenia which was then assembled and mastered back at Bluesanct HQ. Entitled (funnily enough) ‘Live In Europe 2010’. Expect a c46 of ambient experimental folk magic.

Then we have Flotel, another guy who has been in the electronic music game for a long time and needs no introduction, he has been pretty quiet as of late so we very excited to be releasing all new material from him. It will be a c60 entitled ‘Valence’. I have the master and it sounding amazing, a really multi-textured ambient electronic collection.

What are the plans? What are you going to aim for with the label?

Gibson: We couldn’t have asked for a better start, with releases from established names from the USA, UK and Europe. We hope to continue like this and also introduce possibly lesser know artists whose material will feel deserves a wider audience. Soon we will also offer mixtapes from the artists with downloadable j-card artwork so you can create your own tapes, keep an eye out for some limited edition t-shirts, hopefully some vinyl a little way down the road and of course plenty more doses of experimental audio on tapes!

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  1. says: Deano

    I’ve tried the first three tapes and was pleased with their effects and I am looking forward to sampling the rest as they become available on the streets

    I remember the days when I listened to John Peel’s show in the evenings , taping the songs that interested me and then editing my own seamless mix tapes the next day – I’ve still got a few I made over 25 years ago!

    The Fall, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Stormtroopers of Death, Stone Roses, Trojan ska, kosmische musik, Rudimenatary Peni, 808 State……….just a few of the names that I discovered during those heady days of home taping

    Although I love 6 Music, and especially the Freak Zone…..downloading a podcast just doesn’ have that sense of apprehension and excitement

    call me old fashioned but……………………………………………………………………….

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