The First Tape – 1989/90

The first Entropy Circus tape from 1989/1990 is currently evading me. It’s an Agfa LNX 90 cassette that had already been recorded over several times by the time that it was used for making this first set of recordings. The original four track parts have long since been recorded over. I believe that the cassette is somewhere in the kitchen but it’s one of those artifacts that submerges and resurfaces periodically.

1915869_143551451119_5604707_nSometime in 1989, the exact date is lost, I borrowed Alaric Pether’s Vesta Fire MR-30 multitrack recorder. It was primitive. It has no pan pots; the first two tracks would mix out to the centre and the other two would pan out hard left and hard right. It was very hissy, and while there was Dolby noise reduction on board, this would only make your recording unlistenably muffled. In short, it was a classic piece of 80s recording equipment.

The recordings appear in the order that they were recorded and so the first track was my first recording using this technique: a short cover version of Hawkwind’s Master of the Universe with incoherent moaning in the place of vocals. There were no drums, on any of these recordings. There was a bass that I had borrowed from Dom Welch, one of two guitar lines, which were either a Vox 25 Standard or a Japanese telecaster copy, and there was nothing as advanced as a digital delay on any tracks: I had a cheap JHS analogue echo which was neither charming nor vintage. In addition there might also be Casio keyboard played through plasticky Rocktech phaser and Arion flanger to make them sound spacey.

After the initial track there were a number of original compositions, occasionally even with words. The mood was somewhere between Spacemen 3 and The Cure, although it would have really liked to have been Amon Duul II or The Deviants. I played the tracks to people. They were kind about them unless I played them too often. When I played them to a school friend, Dave Hodges, he suggested that perhaps I should put drums on them. I didn’t.

I had left school about a year earlier and my mother had also moved to France at about the same time. I was eighteen. I was busy failing my A levels at college. I was interested in computers; I had used a Commodore Amiga 500 to record pieces for my music GCSE course work, although I hadn’t found a way to integrate that with these recordings yet. That was a year or two in the future.

I was successful at taking soft recreational drugs and unsuccessful with girls, and the lyrics sound like a clear consequence of these. I was living in Strood in Kent at the time and one day I took the wrong train back from London, where I had been buying cheap secondhand krautrock records in Notting Hill Gate, and I was stranded in Tonbridge with this cassette and a Saisho personal stereo for company; I had not been paying attention to the destination of my journey because I had been writing a letter to an ex-girlfriend. This was a measure of my life at the time.

So if I cannot find this cassette at the moment perhaps it’s not a matter of any great urgency. I’m glad it’s still there somewhere but it is probably something best acknowledged rather than celebrated.

Listen to Hello Limbo from this tape.

Next: Analog-Digital Interface 1991.