There’s always a hint of romance behind a ‘mixtape’ lovingly compiled by a pal (or more likely a potential suitor), and in this case it just happens to be Milo Cordell, one half of 4AD poster-boys The Big Pink. Look, he’s even designed the psychedelic cover for you, his fingers all gooey with sellotape and pritt stick, and maybe even left in the biro scribbles where’s he’s made a mistake with the tracklisting. Caught up in the current wave of cassette fetishism, K7 have made a bit of a meal of this being a proper old school compilation instead of a ‘regular’ four-to-the-floor dance CD, but the German label has already been dropping quality eclectic mixes in its DJ Kicks series for years, from the likes of Four Tet, the Glimmers, Kruder & Dorfmeister and (personal favourite) Playgroup’s 2002 effort.
Crass comments aside, Tapes is a useful entry ticket into a few current buzz subgenres – worlds away from The Big Pink’s own commercial electro-rock swagger. Don’t judge it by its day-glo cover and Disney font – it’s a woozy flit through so-called ‘witch house’ (sorry), glitchy dubstep, hazy dream pop and other zonked-out tracks by folk who sound like they’re on some cool drugs we haven’t heard of yet. Imagine David Lynch as a guest DJ on Rinse FM and you’re getting there.
The xx make a fleeting appearance with ‘Fantasy’, and Joker’s lush ‘Snake Eater’ is almost like a Bond theme rattling through the bassbins. There’s even a hymn-like floaty interlude with Light Asylum’s ‘Shallow Tears’, but most of the other tracks writhe around in a paranoid fug, spectral vocals buried under cavernous beats and swampy synths. Standouts are the dirgy chants on Salem’s ‘Dirt’, the stuttery fright-fest ‘Mumbai’ by oOoOO and Balam Acab’s ‘See Birds’, with its weird-kid-in-a-horror-film vocals. A few duds knock it off course slightly – from No Bra, Sewn Leather and The Big Pink’s own tune ‘Velvet’ – but overall it’s a gripping mix that’s informative, eclectic but stays on theme – even if that theme is slightly unnerving.
Who knows, if a fleeting love interest gave you a ‘witch house’ mixtape at Halloween you might end up scoring them after all.