"Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now" at Printed Matter

Printed Matter & Heavy Tapes present


Underground Cassette Culture Now

Exhibition on View from May 12 – May 26, 2007

Opening Reception

May 12, 2007, 5-7 PM

Printed Matter, Inc. is pleased to announce an exhibition surveying contemporary American cassette culture. Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now will open on May 12 and run through May 26. Printed Matter is located at 195 Tenth Avenue at 22nd Streets.

From bedrooms and dorm rooms, garages and dingy basements, Printed Matter and Heavy Tapes have gathered the leaders of the American underground tape culture movement—a geographically and generationally diverse community centered around the thriving noise, psych, and experimental music scenes. Such an exhibition might lead one to believe that “tapes are back” though the truth is that they never left, having been the chosen medium of this particular community from the late 70s onward. Unlike manufactured CDs or vinyl, tapes are analog, cheap and easily made at home with accessible and rudimentary equipment (i.e. no computers), making them the logical choice for a community that is constantly evolving and producing. Tapes also offer a unique perspective for those who are put off by the ubiquity and harsh aesthetics often associated with CDRs.

For the duration of the exhibition, Printed Matter’s back room will be transformed into a cassette shop-with hundreds of titles exhibited and available for purchase. Boom boxes will give audience members the opportunity to sample and explore hundreds of cassettes that will be available. Printed Matter has invited the following five guest curators to present out-of-print cassettes from their collections: Dominick Fernow (Hospital Productions), Chris Freeman (Fusetron), Ken Montgomery (Generator), Barbara Moore (Bound/Unbound), and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth/Ecstatic Peace). Taken together, these curators have assembled a history that branches through several generations of the visual arts, sound art, and music from the 1970s to the present.

Labels to be featured include 23 Productions (WI), AA (MI), American Tapes (MI), Animal Disguise (MI), Bone Tooth Horn, Callow God (CA), Cherried Out Merch (OR), Chondritic Sound (MI), Drone Disco (OH), Ecstatic Peace (MA), Fag Tapes (MI), Fuckit Tapes (NY), Gods of Tundra (MI), Hanson Records (MI), Heavy Tapes (NY), Hospital Productions (NY), Iatrogenesis (OR), Ides (IL), Friendship Bracelet (MA), Loveless Tapes (NJ), Middle James CO (ON/CA), Monorail Trespassing (CA), Nihilist Productions (IL), Not Not Fun (CA), Psychform (WA), RRRecords (MA), Rundownsun (BC), Since 1972 (NY), Sound of Pig (NY), Spite (NY), Stammer Tapes (NY), Swampland Noise (CA), Throne Heap (NY), Tone Filth (MN), Trash Ritual (NY), and Troniks (CA), among many others.

To celebrate the launch, experimental tape manipulator G. Lucas Crane vs Non-horse will perform. Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now coincides with the No Fun Fest—a four day noise festival that will take place at the Hook in Red Hook, Brooklyn from May 17 – 20th. Now in its fourth year, No Fun Fest features some of the world’s premiere noise musicians and practitioners.

Heavy Tapes was established in 2004 in Brooklyn, NY by musician and teacher Michael Bernstein and musician and visual artist Maya Miller, as an offshoot of the Heavy Conversation label run by the New York band Double Leopards of which they have been a part since 2001. Originally spontaneously created because of ease of access to cassette manufacturers and a desire to release their own solo and duo music, the label has since taken on a life of its own and has spawned a distinctive visual and audio style over the nearly 50 releases in the 3 years of its existence. Combining a fine ear for “out sounds” with a commitment to exposing the deepest noise and sound art underground, Heavy Tapes has since become a stalwart of the non-scene which it proudly participates in. The cassettes have been displayed in an art exhibition in Seattle, featured in an article in Swindle Magazine authored by Tony Rettman, and distributed internationally at record stores, museum shops, internet mailorder stores, and beyond.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.