The newest edition in Anne-Françoise Jacques’ mail-exchange-distributed Crustacés Tapes is Montréal Tape Run. One cassette of 10 tracks by 10 artists passed around Montréal over 10 days, with subsequent copies for distribution copied from that single promiscuous cassette. You can read more on the label (and how to receive their releases) at our previous post.
As would be expected, it is a diverse sound palette – field recording, extended microphone techniques, analogue noise, tape experiments and lo-fi instrumentals span both sides. To be honest, I am more concerned here with the concept behind Crustacés, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the highlights of the music itself.
The opening piece by Andrea-Jane Cornell is a haunting and pretty introduction, with slightly ominous baritone drones and scratching microphonics bleeding into aqueous vocals. Alain Lefebvre’s contribution is one of my personal favourites, with heavily processed pulsing tape deck output slowly fading into a remarkably delicate and feathery mix, just audible above the noise from the tape itself. Martin Tétreault presents a heavily aged mix of recordings from the legendary gold LP put on the Voyager spacecraft. Joshua Bastien’s closing piece, while disorderly, produces a sort of lo-fi instrumentally-sourced pink noise to great effect. Other artists featured on the cassette include Magali Babin, Hélène Prévost, Anne-F Jacques herself, Dona Silicon, Grkzgl and Nancy Tobin.
Regardless of the diverse and interesting work presented, the very process of mailing the cassettes becomes part of the appeal in two ways. First, chronologically speaking, relationally – the act of trust committed by sending something (ie. a cassette) into the ether and expecting one in return many weeks or months later. There is an intangible, and importantly non-commercial, social contract with a person who is essentially a stranger being made manifest in this method of distribution – a contract increasingly overlooked or circumscribed (to both positive and negative effect) through the digital dissemination of art and intellectual property.
Second, aesthetically – the iconography of postage is not eschewed by the label, but rather elevated to packaging for the cassettes themselves. The envelopes are made into collages of stamps and scripts from a variety of hands, with a continuity of imagery through to the inserts and the tapes. This, of course, only reinforces the relational aspect of the work, giving a nostalgic visual accretion of the history of acquisition of the tapes themselves. The packaging those of us who still purchase hard media receive and typically reuse or throw away becomes an integral part of consumption of the media. Every time you play the tape, or skim past it on the shelf, you are reminded of the story of its exchange.
If you are at all curious by now, I would recommend you create something yourself to exchange with Anne-Françoise (a former artist-in-residence at the MAC studio at CFRO Co-Op Radio) yourself for exchange. The undeniably important and transitive role digital distribution has played in experimental music, and which we should all take full advantage of, should similarly remind us to make exactly these kinds of conscious efforts at slow, reciprocal, personable and personal alternatives.