An earnest album, recorded to four-track, as Shamir looks for hope

We often describe quality pop and songwriting as effortless, as easy. But what about when it’s awkward, uncomfortable? Aren’t those the moments that describe longing? When Shamir Bailey says he recorded his album to four track, the first thing I’m obligated to consider is, of course – he might be lying. And ground hum and hiss shouldn’t be accepted as any form of authenticity any more than should an Instagram filter. But there’s no question artists today bear some burden of the polished album, whether in the form of the tools we use and their opportunities for endless obsessive adjustment, …


Cheap Tape Saturation Hack: Delicious Distortion with a Tape-to-CD Adapter

What a lovely coincidence that tape, originally a recording medium, works beautifully for distortion and saturation. Whatever the reason, tape saturation is a popular effect. If you want subtle, pristine saturation, there are various meticulous models of high-quality studio equipment. That was one topic in our interview earlier this week with Universal Audio’s Dr. David Berners. (UA’s model is intended to model the entire multitrack tape deck, so quite a bit different.) There’s also, on a much gentler budget, a simple saturation effect in the US$79 Harrison Mixbus, intended more for the saturation behavior on main or submix buses than …


Drumssette, Brilliantly Insane Tascam Tape-Based Drum Machine, More from Mike Walters

Sometimes, DIY music boxes reach moments of mad genius. To me, they’re almost a kind of compositional conceptual art, executed as a set of circuitry and disguised as a piece of music gear. They assemble in series a set of solutions to design problems, but result in something – through the combination of invention and throwback, simplicity and absurdity – insane and wonderful. At least that’s how I feel when I look at the Drumssette, the latest invention from musical instrument engineer Mike Walters. It’s a combination of the innards of a Tascam four-track cassette recorder with a push-button, gated …


Sony Walkman-Sequenced Gakken Synth, by Gijs Gieskes

WalkSX from Gijs on Vimeo. As the Sony Walkman turns 30, many of the mobile cassette’s fans wax nostalgic. But it takes Gijs Gieskes to wire up a new Rube Goldberg-style musical instrument based on the Walkman’s simple tape playback. Follow along carefully through the signal flow of this unusual instrument: 1. The Walkman has audio on the tape itself, sampled from a Roland TR-808 drum machine. 2. Because a compact cassette has two tracks (left and right, for stereo), one track is dedicated to the drums, another to the rim shot. 3. The rim shot track is fed as …