Cassette Archive

Children On Stun – Choices – 1992

I gushed quite a lot about how amazing Children On Stun are in our last post about the Monochrome I & II tapes. Therefore I’ll leave out the prevaricating and great straight to it.

Here we have the excellent Choices tape, from around the same period as the Monochrome demos. We’ve also uploaded the Choices Remixes tape which, until recently, I had no idea actually existed. I can only assume it was done in a smaller run for the seriously die hard. These “remixes” aren’t significantly reworked arrangements – they’re more or less the same tracks with certain mix elements aggressively pushed to the forefront.

Children On Stun have a final dates coming up before the end of the year:  December 10th in London

CHILDREN ON STUN : Choices and Choices Remixes (1992)

Lineage: Original Cassettes > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44

 

 

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Cassette Archive

Children On Stun – Monochrome I & II – 1992

In my last post I talked a lot about the joy of listening to a band in their daisy age; the juxtaposition of glorious intent and a serious lack of resources creates recordings that burst with vitality, innocence, and joy. Quite an unusual thing to say about a goth band, where adjectives like “brooding” and “menacing” are more often at play.

Children On Stun‘s early cassettes are a prime example of this. Partly because the band’s personality is inherently joyous and partly because the songs are really, really good. They walk a fine line between ripping off their favourite artists and sounding exactly like themselves. I think the reason it works so well is that when they’ve tipped their hat to an obvious influence, they’ve done it unapologetically and with good grace. Note the “Temple Of Love” refrain in “Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)” for a perfect example of this.

The use of clunky, primitive bass synths alongside their guitar/drum machine sound (see “Crawl ’92 [Remix]”) can easily be compared to The Horatii tape reviewed previously in this blog. This ability to experiment with their sound palette in such a way that it creates musical interest but avoids rubbing their “creativity” in the listeners face typifies some of the better quality releases of this early ’90s goth period. However, they do indulge in gratuitous sampling of the film Hellraiser, a weird trope that spread across the genre around this period.

These tapes played a huge formative role on me personally as a songwriter. Despite the lo-fi recordings and the excessive use of distortion and reverb, there’s a true clarity to be heard in them which allows a real insight into the shape and life of the songs. So many modern artists get this so badly wrong – they think there’s a trade off to be made between harsh and aggressive and clear and spacious. Done well, one complements the other perfectly – just listen to The Velvet Underground!

I’d like to finish on the note that Children On Stun’s founding guitarist, Simon Manning, sadly passed away last year. Seeing the band perform “When Lovers Die” in his memory was genuinely emotional. It turned what had previously (to me) seemed like empty melodrama into into a genuine outpouring of grief at a lifetime’s friendship wrenched apart too soon.

CHILDREN ON STUN : Monochrome I & II (1992)

Lineage: Original Cassettes > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44

DOWNLOAD

  1. Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)
  2. Pray
  3. Crawl ’92 [Remix]
  4. When Lovers Die
  1. Shallow White
  2. Downfall ’92
  3. When Lovers Die [Remix]
  4. Crawl ’92

Archivist’s note…

Both transfers featured here are from TDK D60 Type I cassettes, we actually had two copies of Monochrome I to choose from! As stated in the article above, there’s a subtlety present in these recordings that is revealed thanks to the Nakamichi’s transparency. Thankfully, both tapes feature tracks that are replicated on another, more high-fidelity source. “When Lovers Die” and “Shallow White” feature on the Hollow EP, which was used as a reference for pitch and speed correcting these cassettes. The result is a stable, clear transcription of these classic demo tapes which, I hope, should keep listeners satisfied until an official master transfer is released. More Stun to come!

RC.

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Bootlegs, Cassette Archive

Rosetta Stone – Liverpool, 1989

Today’s submission is another delightful bootleg recording of an extremely early gig. We are treated to soundboard (or near soundboard) audio quality and a long set list packed with songs that would soon be permanently shelved. We also get a real insight into both the guitar and bass playing – stripped of the huge reverb and effects processing that characterised their later sound, it is a brutally honest document of a great band in their infancy. Although I use later output for production references, this is the kind of recording I would whack on the stereo before having a noodle on the guitar myself.

You also get a rather nice feel for the audience. Rather than indistinct cheering, we have a portrait of the kind of snakebite chugging, speed-bombing goth audience you can still expect to meet in a northern town today. The heckling starts right after the first song and, if you listen closely, you can hear Porl King breathing a heavy sigh as people begin screaming gibberish at him. You can also hear someone heckle “Adrenachrome!” right after Chapter And Verse which, if this wasn’t recorded four months before I was born, I’d swear was actually me.

This recording makes an excellent companion to the original trilogy of cassette EPs (Chapter And Verse, Retribution, and And How They Rejoice), although the sound is actually closer to the portastudio demo versions which we may or may not be sharing at a later date.

This bootleg originally came in a plain, coloured card cover with a hand written track list. A few of my original source tapes look like this, most have “© Quarrier Tapes” written on them. This leads me to suspect they are relatively close to an original source. The cover art presented here is my own design, from a photo by Andy Forster (or Andy Barra as he appears in some contemporary credits).

Enjoy.

ROSETTA STONE : Milo’s, Liverpool, UK (22 March 1989)

Lineage: Type I Cassette > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44

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  1. Intro/Revelations
  2. Evolution
  3. Hit
  4. Six Before Dawn
  5. Relentless
  6. Chapter And Verse
  7. Summer
  8. Fatherland
  9. Hour By Hour
  10. Whispers
  11. Superstition

Archivist’s note…

For a bootleg cassette of unknown generation (though, as mentioned above, the “© Quarrier Tapes” stamped on the original sparse sleeve gives us hope) the signal present was surprisingly strong and consistent throughout playback. The sound is clear – particularly the vocal – but the limitations of the taper’s recording set-up are present. Nevertheless, the  tape is a perfectly acceptable document and and you do get a real sense of being “there”, surrounded by hecklers and clinking glasses, if you listen on headphones.

A handy aspect of archiving drum machine bands is that it’s possible to accurately speed correct transfers based on pre-existing digital sources. I used the excellent digital transfer of Chapter And Verse, featured on the On The Side Of Angels compilation, as my basis for speed correcting this recording. The speed difference was minuscule but noticeable in an A/B comparison. Having speed corrected this recording using a known correct source, it is now possible to use this transfer as a reliable source for other (i.e. demo) recordings of these early songs. I used Brian Davies’ DeNoise software to remove a heavy and steady hiss from the recording without removing any musical information. I’ll write in more detail about this application in a future post dedicated to analogue-to-digital preservation.

There is some tape damage which results in skipping during Relentless.

RC.

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Cassette Archive

The Horatii – Insect – 1994

It’s hard to work out where The Horatii fit into the great gothic tree of life. Emerging from Leicester in the early 1990s, they just don’t sit comfortably with the classic cannon of ’90s Britgoth.

Their sound is a bit like a schizophrenic take on Children On Stun. But where the Stun fused a wry wit with a strident goth rock backbeat, The Horatii jump madly between the two, without ever quite hitting the balance. They repeatedly manage to conjure up a towering, straight laced melodrama but almost instantly collapse it into a farce – a bit like Steven Moffat era Doctor Who.

This tendency creates a delicious sense of tension on this beautifully crafted and recorded demo tape, which shimmers between moments of genuine greatness (Seeds Of Regret) and strenuous, overwrought attempts at left-field songwriting (Highway Road).

As the ’90s wore on, it became increasingly clear that the music media and mainstream audience was moving further and further away from goth. Many Goth bands went from being regarded as torch carriers of the ’80s post-punk scene to pathetically regressive hangover acts. This contempt from the outside world begins to tell a tale within the goth genre itself, which became increasingly paranoid and defensive. The Horatii’s particular brand of mania festered worse than most. They carried on producing bizarre, original and compelling releases throughout the decade, but never seemed to get their fair shot at the limelight. This is one great reason to unearth them now: what might at the time have been written off as a demo by “just another goth band”, today stands up as a dynamic, vibrant artefact of great artistic – as well as historical – interest.

This cassette release, and others of its kind, chart a short lived period of innocence and optimism in the gothic underground. For the first time, people were able to make records at home and you begin to hear a delightful mix of musical hero worship and ambitious originality from a host of DIY and bedroom artists. This blog will continue to look at these releases and speculate on how it reflects and contrasts with alternative music culture today, and what (if any) influence they’ve had through the years.

THE HORATII : Insect (1994)

Lineage: Original Cassette > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44

DOWNLOAD

  1. Eyes For Infamy
  2. That’s My Girl
  3. Feigning Angels
  4. Eddie’s Legs
  5. Seeds Of Regret
  6. Highway Road
  7. Riposte
  8. Blonde In The Head?
  9. Insect

Archivist’s note…

We’re adding a new facet to the Heavy Leather blog in the form of a cassette archive. Dedicated primarily to the post-punk/goth underground years of 1988-94, when digital technology was more accessible to independent bands and DIY tapes were the way to get their demos heard. This era is largely ignored by the myriad definitive articles plaguing the Internet’s depths of late.

Armed with a top tier Nakamichi DR-10 and a clean ADC, each cassette is transferred to a high-resolution master file with minimum digital processing applied and shared in the Apple Lossless format at CD quality. I will write a more detailed post on the analogue-to-digital process, but in the meantime you can rest assured that the cassette transfers shared here are free from any EQ alterations or futzing with dynamic range.

The cassette I transferred is in mint condition with no audible anomalies or distractions. It is a Type I cassette with no Dolby NR, so expect the usual limitations with regards to frequency extension for this formula (there’s nothing audible above 16 kHz) and a present but quiet hiss. Speed and pitch stability is excellent throughout and – as is the surprisingly usual case with turn of the decade goth – the dynamic range is through the roof.

This recording was never released digitally, so the mint condition cassette combined with the Nakamichi’s transparency permits a very clear and detailed listening experience of this underground gem. Enjoy!

RC.

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