Hey, remember when I said that I was going to start doing write-ups about my cassette tape collection? Good times! Well, happy days are here once again…
First, I want to talk about obis. For those who are not familiar with the term, an obi is a small strip of paper that’s looped around a piece of physical media such as with a book, music, video game, etc. which contains a bit of information about the product it’s tied on. This is primarily a display tactic in Japan, of which I am most familiar with obis being used for Sega Saturn games. In fact, when searching through eBay for Japanese exclusive Sega Saturn games, you can expect to pay a bit more if the game in question comes with the obi included due to them often being discarded; such is the case with anything that has an obi.
For whatever reason, obis have started to become a thing within the vaporwave and synthwave scene. So much so that I now own two cassettes that included an obi, “Inner Worlds” by Sky Yamaha and “Skylight Sessions” by Alpha Chrome Yayo. Both of which I removed their respective obi very carefully so as not to damage it in any way. Not that I plan to ever sell either of them, as I swear you’ll never see any of my cassette tapes up on eBay, but for presentation purposes.
Can you blame me? Look at them! It’s as if they were cut from the same cloth:
Said cloth may as well be a literal obi, as in the sash worn around a kimono, because both albums have the ability to wrap themselves around your mind, body, and soul in such a comforting way. No, seriously, whenever I’m having a less than ideal day (which, admittedly, is quite often these days) I find myself reaching for either one of these. So light some candles, turn the other lights off, and let either of these two albums take you away to somewhere else for a while!
Also, major props to TrópicalVirtual for the artwork on “Inner Worlds” and, as always, Alpha Chrome Yayo comes up with some surreal visuals of their own.
I should note that both of these cassettes came with their own set of delightful pack-ins. “Inner Worlds” came with a mystical crystal, and “Skylight Sessions” came with a couple of stickers as well as the means by which to construct your own origami piano! I think mine came out okay, having never done origami:
Now, as much as it pains me to say the following, there were a couple of issues with the physical release of “Skylight Sessions” that I feel I need to address regardless: Side B was unfortunately duplicated wrong by the manufacturer that Alpha Chrome Yayo used and therefore a number of the cassettes, like mine, had audio issues. However, like the rad lad he be, Alpha Chrome Yayo addressed these issues in an email to everyone who purchased one and ordered replacements, for those who were saddled with such discrepancies, free of charge. Which is nice.
The only other issue was that, as of this writing, the QR Code on the back of the obi strip redirects to a webpage that declares it is “COMING SOON.” I reached out to Alpha Chrome Yayo about this and he’s assured me that this too will be fixed.
EDIT: The QR Code link was fixed! It now links to some lovely digital linear notes.
To be clear, I do not make mention of these errors as a means to publicly shame Alpha Chrome Yayo. Out of all his cassette tape releases, of which there have been almost a dozen, this is the only one that I’ve ever had an issue with and Alpha Chrome Yayo has gone out of his way in order to correct such issues from that which was out of his control and that he was able. That’s to be commended.
I know he’s been really gutted over such things, and I completely understand where he’s coming from, but at the same time I feel it’s important to openly recognize that art is never perfect and we all make mistakes; something I still struggle with too. To put it bluntly: shit happens. To put it more eloquently, and to quote Kino from Kino’s Journey, “the world is not beautiful, therefore it is.”
Die Scum Inc., also known simply as “DSI,” is a group that I’ve talked about many times in the past on this blog. They’re most well known for their “Notion Picture Soundtrack,” whereby each of their releases is the soundtrack to a faux film, and their latest release entitled “Flight of the Infinite” is no different in that regard.
However, as I mentioned in my Bandcamp Friday acquisition article, their release before that was their first soundtrack for a real motion picture entitled “The Psyborgs.” Unfortunately, I’ve still yet to watch it but I did acquire DSI’s cassette tape for its soundtrack as well as the cassette tape for “Flight of the Infinite” too:
Both cassettes are quite lovely in regards to their hand-drawn art by Atom Cyber for “Flight of the Infinite” and Barret Chapman for “The Psyborgs.” However, I did notice a bit of a production error on “Flight of the Infinite” where both sides of the cassette list the same tracks. I’m not sure if this is an issue with just my copy or if this is the case with all copies. Regardless, despite such a slight visual oversight, I feel the need to clarify that the music itself is fine; all tracks, as listed on the j-card, are in fact on their appropriate sides and therefore intact. That all said, the music on the cassette itself sounds fantastic so that’s all that matters.
Speaking of the music, while again I have yet to sit down and watch the actual movie, I’ll say that just listening to the soundtrack for “The Psyborgs” is making me want to finally watch it sooner rather than later. It’s got the perfect mix of cheese and retro goodness with the tongue planted firmly in cheek, something that I also get the sense of whenever I see screenshots of the motion picture itself. As for “Flight of the Infinite,” it’s very “floaty” in terms of its whimsical science-fiction-like nature. Despite not having actual visuals to go along with the music other than the art on the cassette, much like the rest of DSI’s “Notion Picture Soundtracks,” the music can still help you conjure up further fantastical imagery of soaring through space and cruising among the endless sea of stars.
Along with the cassettes, DSI packed-in a couple of stickers as well as a bag of Cheezies! Now, let me preface this by clarifying that DSI doesn’t send out a bag of Cheezies with every cassette tape. It’s more of an inside joke between them and me, so it was a personal gift, really. Anyway, I’d never even heard of Cheezies before so, after doing some research, I ripped open the bag and had some while listening to their cassettes. Now, I bring to you a totally unexpected food review:
As someone who’s had their fair share of Cheetos and Utz Cheese Balls, I feel confident saying this: Cheezies are so much bigger, crunchier, and saltier than any other cheese-based crunchy snack brand that I’ve ever had before. Some might be put off by the saltier taste, but I rather enjoyed it as well as the fact that it tasted more like real cheddar cheese. In the end, it felt like just another thing that Canadians do so much better than us Americans. Even junk food, oddly.
Also, for anyone who is curious, yes: those are chopsticks! Some might say that, when it comes to eating certain foods, the whole “experience” is to get “flavor dust” on your fingers. Well, not me! In order to not get my hands messy, as well as to give me a sense of portion control and to not eat my food too fast, I’ve been utilizing chopsticks to eat certain foods and I have to say that it makes a world of difference. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it and I recommend that you do so!
Have you ever had those moments of epiphany where you realize something that probably should’ve seemed more obvious in hindsight? Well, I just did about one of my favorite darksynth artists: GhostHost. About a year ago, I was watching one of my favorite YouTube channels which uploads old television commercials and they included some that went along with a low budget cable access horror movie marathon which was hosted by someone named “Ghost Host.” I brought this to GhostHost’s attention, who thought it rather humorous albeit unintentional as they had no prior knowledge of this or them, but it wasn’t until now that I realized something: GhostHost is, for all intents and purposes, a “host” of “ghost stories” via their music with each album being a new “installment” so to say.
As they explained when I interviewed them for my article on concept albums, each of their releases is its own unique story or concept. As I mentioned in that same article, there really is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about a concept album as there are many ways in which to convey a story in musical form. Some are subtle and less direct while others are a bit more overt and in your face. One of the absolute treats in following an artist, from their humble beginnings to where they are presently, is being able to watch them grow and change.
The first few albums by GhostHost were rather vague in their storytelling, which again isn’t necessarily bad, but an album like “The Curse of Sinn Manor” was a real turning point. I say this because GhostHost truly went the extra mile in the presentation on that one, in terms of including a special case for the physical release as well as a booklet with a backstory. To that end, while the physical release for “The Curse of Sinn Manor” went the extra mile, the physical release for their latest album, “Slasher Studios,” has gone above and beyond that with what GhostHost has dubbed “The KILLection.” In an ode to “Big Box” packaging from the PC gaming days of old, “The KILLection” is chock full of physical goodies:
The “KILLection” moniker reminds me of when they sold Duke Nukem 3D, and a ton of its expansions, in the “Kill-A-Ton Collection.” I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of GhostHost, but I’m willing to bet it probably was or at least quite the coincidence like that old cable access character. Maybe. Either way, it’s fitting given the story behind “Slasher Studios” as each track on the album is from a game of the same name that was released by the titular Slasher Studios. In fact, in a further nod to games from that era, not only do you get the album on cassette tape but in the KILLection you also get it on two CDs with the second disc containing MIDI versions of each track. I must admit that such an idea made me smile, because I can certainly remember having to choose between either MIDI audio or CD audio for some games back in the old days!
Much like with “The Curse of Sinn Manor,” the (26-page!) booklet that’s included within the KILLection is your golden ticket to truly understanding the story behind the album. Written by the CEO of Slasher Studios, Mike Sinn (now why does that name sound so familiar?), each game/track is given a page or two with background information as to their creation and what they’re about in turn. Over the course of said booklet, you not only get an idea for the games but you also learn about the rise and fall of Slasher Studios in the process. It’s pretty well written, overall, but I still have to point out some of the spelling and grammar mistakes throughout. Part of me wants to chalk that up to the “charm” of it all, as far as its sense of “slowly descending into madness,” but either way I’m not about to get out a red pen and start grading the damn thing; it is what it is.
Another thing that I just want to take this time to address, and admittedly it is nothing more than a personal pet peeve, is the lack of acknowledgment on the cassette tape itself as to which is “Side A” and “Side B.” To be clear, I’m not calling out GhostHost for doing this specifically as I’ve come across this with many other cassettes in the past that I’m sure I’ll get to highlight at some point over the course of this endeavor. While I can understand why some artists do this for aesthetic reasons, I just personally would like to know what side I’m playing without guessing. Besides that, my only other gripe is that after handling the box and everything I noticed that the tips of my fingers were smeared with ink:
The box, nor any of its contents, appeared to be smudged as a result so I guess that’s a plus. Regardless of such minor inconveniences, this really is a fantastic physical collection by GhostHost and the music itself is equally amazing in its own right. While the MIDI tracks and the 26-page booklet are exclusive to the limited edition KILLection (which only had ten made and all of them are now sold out), I do hope that they’ll eventually make their way to Bandcamp as digital downloads due to the ways in which they really complete the package and story.
Well, with that, we’ve reached the end of Volume 1 as I take a look at my synthwave cassette tape (and other physical media) collection! I can’t say when Volume 2 will be released, but I promise there will be a faster turn around time compared to this and Volume 0. My other goal going forward is to highlight at least five releases in each volume, ranging from new releases to older ones, so don’t worry: I own well over a hundred cassette tapes, and I’m always buying new ones, so I’ll get to highlighting certain ones eventually! Until next time…