Mix Tape Recollections

Recently I have been digging into my old crates of tapes looking for forgotten gems to play in the tape deck of my girlfriend's Saturn. Since she only has a tape deck in her car, and this is the only mode of transportation we have right now, I have been revisiting old favorites that I compiled many moons ago in a dusty basement with nothing but my record collection, a creative imagination and my trusty JVC dual cassette deck. Similar to the warm crackle of vinyl, the grainy hiss of a cassette tape gives it a more raw, analog sound that is largely missing on the highly digitized reproduction of a compact disc. Because of this, I am more drawn to compiling mix-tapes than mix CD's.

Lately, there have been numerous books released which discuss the merits of making mix-tapes and reflecting on mix tapes that remind us about the best and worst times of our lives. My favorite book on mix tapes is called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture which was curated by Thurston Moore. From the design of the shape of the book to resemble a cassette tape, to the fantastic mix tapes shared by a diverse assortment of musicians such as Mike Watt, Jim O'Rourke and Tony Conrad, this book pulls out all the stops. I am a sucker for any book that celebrates the mix tape as an art form because I honestly feel that there is something more intriguing about a carefully stitched together mix-tape than a digitally reproduced CD compiled on a computer.

In putting together a mix, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. First, there is the time that is necessary to compile all of the songs, the incessant pressing of stop, pause and record to get the spacing between songs just right, and the ultimate hope that the person you are giving the tape to will realize how much time and effort you put into this process. Then, there is the decision of sequencing everything so it has a good flow, making sure that the first song is a perfect opening to the mix that gradually draws the listener into a new sound world. The key here is to make the song good enough to entice the listener, but not to make it so amazing that it overshadows the rest of the songs on the mix.

After this, it is important to make sure that you feature a wide variety of textures, moods and tempos to keep the listener on their toes. I try to never have too many slow jams in a row, unless of course the theme is "Mellow Music to Relax With Your Honey". Last, it is essecntial to have an absolute mind-blowing track to close the album, and it doesn't matter whether it's a sprawling guitar freakout, or a short but sweet ditty ala Guided By Voices. The main thing to remember is that the point of this song is to pull the listener back in to give the mix a second listen. The piece de resistance for most mix-tapes is the artwork or design of the tape. This is where you can show off that artistic talent by cutting and pasting pictures from magazines and books, as well as writing out the track list with specific fonts that suit the theme of your mix.

With this newfound love of mix-tapes, I bring you one of mine that was compiled back in the summer of '96. I didn't name this one, but it features a wide variety of moods and it covers every genre under the sun. It's really amazing what the mind can conjure up when under extreme conditions such as the sweltering summertime heat and the frigid winter temperatures that are commonplace in the midwest. There seemed to be an endless amount of time available to listen to music and record mix tapes such as this one with artists that resonated with me at the time. Aside from Versus' "Underground" and Concrete Blonde's "The Beast", I feel that this mix encapsulates a specific moment of time in my life. I have left these two tracks off of the mix as they are impossible to find on Soulseek, and I no longer own the CD's.

I hope that you enjoy this tape. If this one gets a lot of feedback, I may consider making this a series as well. Also, if any of you would care to share a mix-tape story of your own, I would love to hear it!

Mix Tape '96 Side 1

Mix Tape '96 Side 2


Gary said…
These are very enjoyable and bring back memories of when I discovered most of these bands around 2001-2. I'd have to say that my mixtapes from 1996 would be a bit more embarrassing.
Kevin said…

Thanks for giving me a shout. YOu don't need to feel emabrrased about the music that you dug at a certain age. Back in the early 80's I was listening to the same music that was being blasted on MTV and on corporate radio 24/7. Listening to music and forming our tastes is an evolving process that takes on many forms. There was one period of my life when I listened to nothing but rap and hip-hop music. Then a few years after that stage, I denounced anything that was even remotely related to rap. Now, I'm back to loving rap again, as well as many other styles of music. Please feel free to share any mix-tape stories with me. I will not judge you.



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