Joe Borreson & Craig Tattersall – 12 tapes | 10 years


The click of a cassette tape. The warm hiss of analog recording. A lingering piano chord held a in the air with an unidentifiable crackling loop that swims around it all: thus begins the first sounds that started 10 years ago.

Craig Tattersall (The Humble Bee/Boats) and Joe Borreson have been cross continental friends since the days of the label moteer:: which Craig ran and curated. Joe wrote Craig expressing nothing more than appreciation &  an email based friendship began and they corresponded — often multiple times per week. Their friendship grew from music, to shared appreciations of much else in life. Joe eventually became a small part of the moteer::/mobeer::/cotton goods/boats family with Andrew Hargreaves with some banjo added on one EP and a few secretive projects on the side.

While Craig’s musical endeavours are well known in this community, Joe’s are not — and beyond being a Graphic Designer and a single dad  in Napa, California— he also makes music on the side in a more low-key acoustic (semi-experimental ambient)  format. After creating a musical interpretation of an Emmanuel Witzthum track for the label Cotton Goods, Criag invited Joe to create an EP which was released in a secretive manner and inevitably this led to the friends wanting to produce music together, but not by purposefully not swapping digital files as many artists do these days. The inspiration was a the prompt of each month of the year.

Instead by collaborating through 12 cassette tapes using 4 track tape recorders, via the traditional postal service. Like audio penpals, each person started one track per tape with a musical idea and or a field recording created and then posted to the next person, while the other responded musically back and forth (each artist had 6 tapes to start with) and building layers built upon layers, sometimes musically, sometimes with field recordings, until each track felt right.

Alongside this process, visual references were collected and shared to create a rich and complex aural expression. Joe and Craig initially wanted to create 12 total tracks, one to correspond to each month of the year. For instance, January was naturally a beginning, which Craig utilized the star constellation, Capella as the birth of a star. A 12 minute track was created by the two gentlemen with tapes crossing the Atlantic ocean from the UK to the US and back again. Each month, they also exchanged a tangible item to be inspired by that was tied to that particular month or piece: a Postcard from Paris (August, Tape 8), a letter between lovelorn sweethearts from New Mexico, USA (March, A Letter,  Tape 3), even a handmade map with markings for where field recordings were made (April, A Walk, Tape 4) but specific colours, tastes, smells and photographs became inspiration, each based on one month the year.

The recorded tapes fell in that pattern until most were nearly complete or at least started with each artist adding audio responses but ultimately not all the tracks were fleshed out and some were left with just the bare initial idea to these unfinished tapes as the busyness of work and life in general sometimes got in the way, however, though all this and even years after the music was set aside, they knew they had something special but just needed more time to complete the project.

Andrew Hargreaves (the boats/tape loop orchestra) was invited to mix of a few tracks early on. He skillfully blended them into completed songs, each 12-13 minutes, but it wasn’t enough music for a complete album, and also felt like a lot of music was being left on the shelf. It wasn’t until late 2019 when, through another round of chats that they pulled all the unused collected audio from field recordings, piano phrases, tape loops, guitar, vocals, lingering piano chords and banjo notes, were formed into a more completed song structure. The result is this album–two long form audio tracks, with different recordings mixed and melded together, and one portion flowing into the next, much as the days and months flow into each other and by early 2020 it began to feel right. After several years of tapes flying across the seas with this and aural and visual collaboration, and two more of creating an audio collage of all the tracks melded into 2 long parts, these audio penpals felt it was finally time to share the magic they’d gleaned for others to listen to and appreciate the warmth and subdued nature of these many years worth of collaborative recordings.

Side one / delivered: The nearly completed 12 months project, melded into one long-form track. These are not in chronological order of recordings, rather ordered in a way that felt right. Craig was the mastermind behind this concept and takes all the credit for doing it this way.

Side two / lost in the post: The fully complete tracks melded into one long-form track.

Of note— the folios, booklet and postcards are a big part of the music showing most all of the artistic items/images (in physical form) which were a big part of the creation.

These were also created by Craig and Joe who collaboratively laid out and designed and screen printed (Craig hand printed the folios), the booklets and postcards using the source and found art which stemmed from original photos by Joe, Letters and images gifted and purchase, maps sourced from public archives, a real letter from 1929, and the Capella booklet which was designed and created by Craig.

Special shout out to Bryan Ruhe who’s beautiful photo, given as a gift to Craig is the cover art and to Ian Hawgood who’s mastering really brought depth and detail to the music we hardly knew was hidden in the tape hiss.

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