Artist: Glass Cassette
Album / Label: Glass Cassette / self-released
Rating: 8 / 10
In recent times I’ve been unusually receptive to electronic music – specifically, the strange, sample-based, nostalgia-heavy takes on the genre. When producers use elements like intentionally dated samples and heavy effect processing, I’m filled with a dreamlike, almost timeless feeling of yearning for a rose-colored past that exists only in the halls of my memory.
I’m such a sucker for that sound; I can’t describe exactly what it is about it that evokes this feeling within me. There is just something about the way old sounds and recordings are reinterpreted and recontextualized that fills me with longing for memories of something that no longer exists, or perhaps never did. Genres like vaporwave and plunderphonics have a way of getting under my skin and evoking no small amount of nostalgia.
Jonathan Hape understands the appeal and effect of well-chosen samples in his own recorded work. His self-titled debut as Glass Cassette plays specifically upon the effects of his own nostalgia. To create his own take on this style of sample-based electronic music, Hape sampled various media artifacts from his past, including an old choir concert cassette and taped local-news broadcasts.
Hape has further made this style his own by recording the sounds of various office supplies to create the percussion on the album, and by enlisting the woodwind talents of Sam Miller to add additional music to the piece. The result is a fascinating, cracked-mirror glimpse into his past – or, at least, what I imagine his past to be. It’s not vaporwave, nor plunderphonics: Glass Cassette is the only way to describe it.
Opener Holiday Hill breathes to life with blurred pianos and birdsong, blooming into an auditory Technicolor dreamscape. The bass ebbs and flows beneath sampled drums, awash in shimmering synths and flutters of electronic vocals. The piece begins at a dreamlike, languid pace, developing a double-time headphone-house beat before easing back down into silence. This song immediately sets the tone for the lush aural experience to follow.
VCR Poetry combines finger snaps and downtempo drums with a processed choir sample. Warped piano, clicking percussion, and unrecognizable samples swirl in a molasses tornado. The piece is anchored by a dirty bassline that propels the whole thing like an avalanche down a mountain. The whole affair is very much reminiscent of retro video game music, which in my headphones is always welcome.
Early highlight The Water, I Held It starts off with a bit of Burial-like garage ambiance before building into a full-on headphone house song. Perhaps I’m particularly susceptible to nostalgia for this sort of sound – I was a frequent Warp & Ghostly listener in my early days of self-directed music discovery – but this piece is particularly striking to me. (If anything, it’s further testament to Hape’s ability to evoke nostalgia in the listener.) Although the song plays with elements of multiple electronica styles – UK garage, ambient, house – it never lands on one of them, preferring to dwell in a space much more liminal and atmospheric.
I’m always a sucker for a Boards of Canada-esque washed-out, lo-fi trip-hop beat, and Ice Cream Social delivers this sound and style in spades. The low end is equal parts groovy and relaxing, accentuated by a rippling layer of percussion, and it blends with the processed vocals seamlessly. The result is a surprisingly openhearted cracked-pop track that would be right at home on college radio.
I really, really like Hudson’s Adventure Island 2, presumably inspired by the 1987 Nintendo game. Indeed, it feels like a video game soundtrack whipped up into a Dauwd-like swirl of lo-fi techno. Billowing synth arpeggiations spin around a tight bass groove to form a thunderstorm-friendly jam. The last quarter or so of the piece, which takes on an entirely new character and cadence with the addition of a treated piano sample, is unexpected but simply lovely.
Lead single Sounds Like Bugs Bunny is another trippy pop song with a surprising amount of depth in the mix. PC Music-esque altered vocals echo from behind a cavernous wall of spacey guitars and rollicking bass. The song takes on a double-time character about halfway through; when joined by a layer of bass, the groove is sublime. The whole piece has a sort of hurried bounce, rather like the titular rabbit himself.
Catered Events Only is a pitch-perfect vaportrap beat, combining synths and MIDI-esque choir samples with a noggin-nodding, woozily knocking low end. The whole piece feels very dreamlike and vertiginous, placing me square in the middle of a surreal landscape. Again, perhaps it’s my peculiar susceptibility to sounds and beats of this nature, but I can’t deny that Glass Cassette has got a really good ear for arrangements and curation.
I truly relate to nostalgia for Fruit by the Foot, a classic candy and memorable snack-bar purchase from my youth. Fruit by the Foot, a groovy mid-tempo banger of the same name, is my favorite track on the whole album. Like the titular candy, the song is tie-dyed and unrolls into a delicious experience, slapping the pleasure center of my brain right in the face. And the groove is perfect: unhurried but loose and free. If there are clubs in Atlantis, I guarantee they’re playing this one right now.
Closer Product of Our Times feels very vaporwave-like with its treated acoustic guitar and weather-channel instrumentation; it’s Muzak of the highest order. It almost serves as the record’s thesis statement – for the sounds Hape has used throughout the album are sounds that shaped him. It imbues this piece, in particular, with a sense of reflection on the sounds and years that led to this record. It’s the icing on the cake of this album, and the perfect closer.
On his first self-titled LP as Glass Cassette, Hape has nailed a sound I really like. He’s a master craftsman, and very capable at transforming small snippets of sound and melodic ideas into living, breathing spaces to get lost within. And it makes the songs all the better knowing how personal some of these sounds, ideas and memories are to him. The result is a rock-solid collection of songs that effortlessly sweeps me up out of the present moment and into my own half-remembered past.
- Holiday Hill
- VCR Poetry
- The Water, I Held It
- Ice Cream Social
- Hudson’s Adventure Island 2
- Sounds Like Bugs Bunny
- Catered Events Only
- Fruit By The Foot
- Product of Our Times