Tapes - the old school way - enjoy a unique, cherished relationship when it comes to music. Sure, they may have stuck in the reels (using a pencil or your index finger to wind the tape back around was the way to go), and the older they got, the more they degraded; not always a bad thing. Uneven were the fluctuations in pitch. Never, ever, has this been considered a fault – the imperfections enhance the music, and therefore the experience. Tapes are a red rose in aural form. And because they’re tied to our youth, tapes reflect a period that spans the decades rather than the months (and, in some instances, generations), when the pristine, clean mp3 files on the iTunes Store weren’t even an infant in the crib, let alone the Apple of the American company’s eye.
When we were all younger.
Revox Tapes invites you to reaffirm the belief that music is magic. Not the card trick, now you see it, now you don’t kind of magic, or even as an illusion, but a real kind of magic made possible through music (I hear you laughing at the back of the class). Is it just the displacement of vibrations in the air, eventually hitting our eardrums and producing sound as we think of it? Or is it something more than that? Something deeper? It’s your decision. In the sceptical west, where more is always more, the magic can evaporate. Indulgence in anything, no matter how much you may love it, can undermine appreciation. No matter how appealing it may be, if you eat black cherry ice cream every night, it’s gonna lose some of its flavour. Under the anvil that is the mp3 age, it’s not always easy to see (the sheer deluge of musical releases can sometimes appear to blunt the spell). You can listen all you like, but the intake of music may leave you feeling unfulfilled, despite the indulgence. The reason? It lacks soul. The tape is the sorcerer and the healer.
One thing that doesn’t change over the years is the undying passion in and for music, and the magic of the art. Boards of Canada are a perfect example of the magic in action. It’s a special sound, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. In such instances, the naïve, innocent love for music wins. Likewise, tapes, along with vinyl, can be seen as the life running through musical veins, sustaining such a warm coating of sound and providing such a rich tapestry to music in general that they have both burned their own distinctive sound into the heart of the record, and the heart of music. Despite the rise of mp3s and digital downloads – which lack soul in comparison – tapes still captivate millions of hearts. It’s still essential as an art form and to the history of music; spending time in the company of the amazing, warm fizzing of tape hiss can be similar to cuddling up beside an old lover while gazing out over a phosphorescent sunset. Magicians and musicians aren’t so far apart. The heads turn, and the music, vivid through the process, sends you to nirvana.
Revox Tapes was conceived on an old Revox B77 tape recorder. Dusty to the point of obsolete, Wixel, aka Wim Maesschalck, set his hand to the task of recording music. All did not fair well – after a marathon recording session, his adored B77 caught fire. Rising from the smoke like an ambient cloud, only ‘strips of sound’ remained. She was still alive, though. The next step was to arrange and then cut the pieces into gorgeous, enveloping textures that retained their original warmth. Naturally, if it were not for the B77 catching fire, we would not be left with the sublime Revox Tapes, which acts as both a stunning last stand to the B77, a tribute to the art and a salute to perfect dreams.
A shimmering warmth hovers over the reels, just like that sunset, emitting a glowing aura of low-fi ambience; temperate climes that are tinted with nostalgia. Breezy harmonics coast over one another, ringing out caring chimes that are usually associated with daydreams. This is ‘Drowse’, the thirteen minute opener, lulling you into the dozy, sun-drenched warmth of the reels, the tape alive. Vibrato punctures the airwaves as notes sustain endlessly.
Acoustic guitars are crusted with tape hiss – the kind that soothes any lingering anxieties or fear – until you are completely at peace. Revox Tapes is a peaceful recording. The striking thunder that announces ‘Summer Chords’ departs almost immediately, only a dissipating threat to the tranquility, and the atmosphere flushes with a bright radiance. Blushing tones filter in soft, inviting light. ‘Chord Shimmer’ chimes out the soft, plucked sound of strings and lets the intervals ring off each other, cascading down in a gentle wash of ambient, with a little background hiss to add real substance to the higher pitched notes. Just experiencing the background hiss of the tape is enough – it’s the affectionate, almost reassuring sound of a medium that’s still alive.
If the secret of the magician’s trick is exposed, it can lose some of its potency, let alone integrity. Music should always have a little bit of magic – the crackles of black vinyl or the flickers on tape are proof of the magic in action. Throughout Revox Tapes, there’s a sense of just letting go – have belief, and see where it takes you.
Even the light looks and feels different when listening to Revox Tapes. Sunshine refracts a rainbow of lens flare, smiles come into view and there’s a sweet promise of summer amid the chilled out ambient vibes. It scorches a distant memory into your eyes once again, into the present. And because of that, it’s music to remember. Music to savour, to digest and then absorb into your system – into your veins. It’s feel good music, celebrating both the process and the art.
Wixel invites you to recapture the magic – and it should be cherished.