I remember making cassette loops in high school, hunched over the plastic guts of a disemboweled Maxell, splicing together bits of brown magnetic tape and piecing everything together with a jeweler’s screwdriver. I’d hear the murmur of my parents and sitcom laugh tacks downstairs before putting on my headphones to retreat into a jacked Funkadelic or Public Enemy loop. A few years later I spent hours at the college radio station recording the hiss and crackle at the end of old 45s, messing with the equalizer and believing I was visionary. I listened to these loops nonstop for a week while walking along railroad tracks after midnight. I lost the tape after I moved out of the YMCA and I mourned as if I’d lost a masterpiece, although I’m sure I’d be embarrassed if it ever resurfaced.

I don’t have memories like these when I use digital software to make music. I copy, paste, drag, and zoom to get the sounds I want. This feels like office work. I’m not a musician but I like to loop old songs while I write. I’ll grab a snippet of a record or a bit of AM radio fuzz and let the machines run while I scribble in my notebook, occasionally adding another layer or adjusting the delay length. This ritual stabilizes me; I may have discovered a replacement for cigarette breaks.

There are too many possibilities in front of the screen. I have a folder with 12,675 different drum samples and my eyes glaze as I scroll through endless files, paralyzed by choice. Our digital age of infinite options must have some limitations, even if they’re artificially imposed. I miss the memories and chatter that bubbled in the back of my head while working with tape decks, knobs, and cables. I don’t hear these thoughts while I sit in front of a monitor. So I picked up a couple of guitar pedals and bought a cheap tape recorder at a Walmart in Mississippi (the last one, sitting on the bottom shelf covered in years of dust). My first effort is a busted loop built from a bit of sludgy John Coltrane with a shot of Connie Francis plus plenty of static and reverb. I let this loop run all afternoon, gathering steam before pressing the red circle for eleven minutes. Not much happens besides some shifting levels and delay fiddling, but I think it’s a nice groove for writing. Or thinking about writing.

Connie & Coltrane at the End of Time

From American Decay | 2015 | Bandcamp

This track appears on American Decay, a collection of loops and reverberations recorded between 2009 and 2014.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
hudson
10 years ago

marvelous. and in perfect pitch with the drone hiccup of my window-unit AC.

Nathan Gordon
Nathan Gordon
10 years ago

Wow, this is absolutely amazing. Anyway we could get the mp3? I’d love to have this with me while walking.

Related Reading
December 28, 2021

Holiday Drift

Ohio. Sunset: 5:14pm. These blurry days between Christmas and New Year's Eve stand outside of time.
July 31, 2011

Do You Remember New Orleans?

One night I found a cassette tape at the bottom of a shoebox while cleaning the attic. The label said Jim Reeves Roast, June 1978.
January 15, 2022

We Need New Gods

An old track that I made from a pair of half-speed classical loops, a lot of reverb and crackle, and a touch of Joseph Campbell
2
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x