The war on formats has been raging on ever since recorded music became commercialized. During their height (and even today), vinyl records offered high-quality audio packaged in a pleasantly displayable 12” x 12” sleeve of art, cassettes provided portability and convenience, and CDs aimed to erase the faults and inconsistencies that came with its predecessors. While streaming music through services like Spotify and Apple Music has become the norm, many music collectors continue to purchase CDs, records, and even tapes. There’s a certain appeal to the process of driving from store-to-store, sifting through a large library of music, and buying a physical copy of an album. What separates this from the point-and-click adventure that is buying music online is that the physical copy feels real, for lack of a better word. Regardless of how the music sounds, I will never be able to hold digital audio in my hand.
Marketed as “THE VERY FIRST ALBUM EVER TO DROP ON A USB CARD”, DESKTAPE is a compilation of electronic pop songs and is the first release by the Bandcamp label DESKPOP. DESKTAPE serves as a happy medium for music collectors. It promises the convenience and portability of cassettes and CDs, the tangibility of physical formats, and the ephemeral appeal of digital audio. On the album’s Bandcamp page, a slogan reads “SLIP IT IN YOUR WALLET OR PURSE / DELETE OUR MUSIC / PUT YOUR OWN MUSIC ON IT / YOU DECIDE WHAT REPLACES US”. For $10, listeners have the option to do whatever they please: keep the files on the USB card in support of physical audio, or replace the contents in favor of digital. This compilation was curated by artists FLOOR BABA and Braz_OS, both of whom appear on DESKTAPE. Not only do the songs on this compilation sound good by themselves, but the order in which they appear holds meaning as well.
My favorite composition on DESKTAPE is the first track, “A Leisurely Stroll” by That Andy Guy. The fun and excitement of this track work well with its placement. By starting a historically significant release with something that’s catchy, listeners are more inclined to continue listening. The lo-fi drum ’n’ bass breaks are really nice in conjunction with he otherwise clean production. This track really reminds me of Maxo’s latest EP, Chordslayer, released earlier in 2015. Maxo’s works are notable for their complex chord changes (hence, Chordslayer) and intricate keyboard playing. Overall, “A Leisurely Stroll” is poppy, engaging, and exciting.
Another fun track on the compilation is nelward’s “fizzPOP”. Going along with the title, this song makes use of sounds such as opening cans, pouring soda, and popping bubbles as percussive and imagery elements. “Donut Dude” by Captain Beard is a fitting follow-up track that continues the theme of playful video game music.
Perhaps the most poppy song on DESKTAPE is “Mall-Crossed Lovers” by bansheebeat. This song features Danika Harrod, a vocalist who’s appeared on works by Maxo, Seth Boyer, and Geotheory. The title is a play on “star-crossed lovers”, making this song a modernized and compressed Romeo and Juliet. The lyrics reflect a late-night, capitalist-fueled romance and play on Shakespearian storytelling: “Secret rendezvous / meet me outside of J. Crew. The mall is closed and the lights are dim / let’s play hide and seek in H&M.” Like the play it emulates, “Mall-Crossed Lovers” is a great piece of work that tells the story of a romance that is doomed to fail.
The last three tracks of DESKTAPE work well in ending the compilation. Their titles, content, and placement in the compilation give a very satisfying sense of closure. “Gift Shop” reminds me of the slew of MIDI-powered corporate jazz I reviewed back in October during Vaporwave month. I think it’s clever to put this track toward the end of the compilation, making the listener exit through the “Gift Shop”, be “Gone Amiss”, and finally exit as “Sunset Riders”. “Sunset Riders” is a gorgeous ending to a fantastic compilation. Where “Gift Shop” and “Gone Amiss” are ‘game over’, “Sunset Riders” is the end credits. The melody is charming and memorable while the shuffling beat and chords are reminiscent of a lo-fi Moby tribute. It’s cinematic in composition and nostalgic in its selection of soundfonts.
DESKTAPE is the first of its kind. It hosts a well-curated collection of electronic music packed in a convenient and unique format. “SLIP IT IN YOUR WALLET OR PURSE”, I highly recommend it.
Favorite Track: “A Leisurely Stroll” by That Andy Guy
“Mall-Crossed Lovers (feat. danika)” by bansheebeat
“Sunset Riders” by Vince Kaichan