Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Black Tape For A Blue Girl - The Rope

i've had a nearly insatiable appetite for dark, atmospheric folk music lately. This has led me back down a mouldering tunnel towards Goth's dark light. Black Tape For A Blue Girl was one of the first goth bands i found. I had to have my friend tell me the name six times, before i got it. Prior to that, i was getting into the early '90s grunge radio rock, the likes of Blind Melon, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana; all of which were angsty and dark, in a flannely kind of way. I had first heard the term Gothic used in conjunction with Danielle Dax's Jesus Egg That Wept, and found a kindred spirit in its deep southern creepy crawl. I'd been obsessed with the nocturnal since childhood. I used to have dreams of being a vampire since age 11, even going so far as to file my canines to points and refusing to enter the light of day sans sunglasses. I felt a sparkle, a goose-pimpled freefall down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex, magick, madness. I was leaving behind the safety of conventional morality and cookie cutter paradigms, spending all day hiding from the sun, burning incense and losing myself in the paintings of Salvador Dali. I stumbled upon Baudelaire's 'continued derangement of the senses' quite on my own. Black Tape's ambient interludes, stirring strings, and blasted lyricism would guide me...

It has been interesting going through this record again, with adult ears. Some of it has not aged particularly well. Some of it is melodramatic in the extreme, such as the title track "The Rope" with lines like "i see my answer on the end of a rope/the room too cold for me/Cut out my eyes they forgot how to cry/the pain too strong to see." I mean, i've written plenty of prose like this in my life, but thank all that is unholy, most of those notebooks have been lost in fire and flood. Then there's the guitar on "Memory, Uncaring Friend" which sounds like a fishbone out-take, and sometimes the bass sounds canned and straight-to-DAT, gives it that horrid Halls & Oates sheen. And then there's the vocals of Oscar Herrera (for the longest time i thought the voice of Black Tape was Sam Rosenthal, the mastermind behind Projekt Records), who is gothy in the extreme, sort of like Rosetta Stone or Fields of the Nephilim, people copping Andrew Eldritch and Peter Murphy, all that was 'Gothic Rock' as it would be known by Mick Mercer.

However, with the recent appreciation of Shoegaze and 80s drum machines (like A Place To Bury Strangers, Crocodiles) and with Neo-classicism finding a foothold in the underground (Johann Johannson, Library Tapes, even Stars of the Lid) our ears may be attuned to find the gems of this recording; the psychedelic tribal beats, the glorious grit of the Korg Poly61 and the  Moog Realistic Concertmate MG-1, that makes parts of this record sound like some cabaret from A Clockwork Orange or Blade Runner. Futuristic Nostalgia. The way they use Digital Delays would be adopted by every atmospheric dream rock band that would come after. Those that appreciate the doomed, fatalistic romance of The Cure and Joy Division should be able to find something to cling to, in this darkness.

Projekt Records, and a lot of 80s goth had a very psychedelic take on dreariness. I get this sense of imported rugs and low light, like a Parisian cafe in a holographic universe. It seems plastic, stylized, but the emotions and appreciation are genuine. Goth always had a hedonism, a sensuality, to it - blood and wine and insomnia and damaged visions. Dragging yr way through the gutters, crawling across a carpet of stars to approach the absolute. Ripped velvet and blood-spattered lace; the tail-end of the 20th century had no appreciation for aristocracy. Some of us were dancing in the ashes as Rome burned. Escapist and visionary.

This recent string of posts has found me investigating the earliest work of musicians that have been infuential on me, trying to isolate and evaluate the various strands of aesthetic without nostalgia, but also apart from the endless wheel of innovation. Newer does not equal better; all history is now happening simultaneously, and it us up to us to make up our own minds who we are, what we like, what we are trying to say. I find Black Tape's doomed sensuality worthwhile, and the tones are soothing to my cochlea. I could do without some of the self-indulgent vocals, and i am curious to see how they modified over the years this band was active.

Expect more obscure, archival footage like this one, in the coming moments. I'm vacillating between the current and the past, trying to get my head together, and also to become familiar with my own creativity.

(link removed, but i suggest that you seek this out.)
Projekt store

For those that dig this, Projekt released a 2cd version a couple of years ago, with an additional disk of Projekt bands re-interpreting these songs. I believe it was re-mastered from the original 4-track tape, as well. Look into it.


  1. I've been into the Projekt stuff a bit lately, too. A lot of it is hard to listen to, but I've been surprised at how approachable so much of it has turned out to be with grown-up ears.

  2. what've you been listening to? I'm trying to draw a line from 20th century classical, avant-garde, through noise and industrial, up through goth, and into modern offshoots. An artsy continuum? Shit always sounds good to my ears. And i tend to like things that sound sort of like Joy Division. Post-punk continuum? Did you ever get into much other post-punk?

  3. You KILL music when you do this. I like to eat and pay my bills. And I cannot do that when you chose to unethically give my music away for free. Don't you understand that you are KILLING what you claim to love. Sam

  4. no disrespect meant, Mr. Rosenthal. Just trying to spread the word.

  5. Black Tape For a Blue Girl is one of the very first bands I heard as a kid; I use to download hundreds of random artists a month off peoples Soulseek collections! Good memories.

    Saw your comment on my mirrorshades blog (Hungry Ghosts), btw. Sam's comment is the very reason my popular blog was taken down weeks ago, and while I decided to go "legit" without download links. Some artists dont understand that we do more good than harm. If people dont want to buy your album, they arent going to buy it, whether they can access it online or not. However, spreading the word helps gain more die hard fans that will buy those cd's, will buy that merch, will attend those shows. I see lastfm "total listener" counts go from 200 or so to 2,000 after a successful blog post and share between other bloggers(those stats are for unknown, small artists!). Thats potential die hard fans willing to dish out money.

    I want to play a certain video game, but I dont want to buy it. Even if I couldnt find a copy to download online, I still wouldnt buy it as a last resort; we can live without things like music and entertainment, and some things arent worth buying.

    As much as I appreciate your music, Sam, there's thousands of new artists EACH year people like me are discovering and falling in love with. We cant afford to pay for every album we want to hear, you're in an incredibly oversaturated business. So much amazing music out there being released daily, you cant blame people for not being able to or wanting to dish out the cash for a cd.

    Focus on beautiful artwork and packaging and the die hard fans will come. Continue to put on good live shows with nice looking merch; thats where the money is.

    Sorry for the rant...it's just a huge bummer when artists dont seem to "get" the impact of file-sharing. Plenty of successful bands and artists make a great living giving away music for free. You have to know how this new market works and embrace it, it's not going away (torrent sites are where people easily find music)

  6. hey mcnutsack,

    i appreciate yr comments, this is a topic i have been mulling over for quite a while (its gonna get its own post, any minute now). Music has been the force of much good (and some ill) in my life, and i have been struggling with ways to participate. At first, i won't lie, there was an element of trying to appear cool, but no one gives a fuck about my tiny blog or record collection, and i continue to shout into the void. So i've been left with the questions of how to promote music that i like (or don't like, for that matter!) I've taken to straight music journalism, for current releases, but established sites don't want rants on archival recordings, unless they're being re-issued, or there's SOME reason to talk about 'em. So if i drop a needle on John Coltrane's 'Interspellar Space' and the eye of Vishnu opens, i have no avenue to express this. Sharing records is one way. Radio and mixes is another, as well as DJing. 'Zines, maybe?

    I'm with you, McNutsack, with a hundred records dropping a day, SOMEONE must act as a guide to this murky underworld. It just so happens that i'm obsessive enough, and single enough, to take the time to spit fanatical over old goth and noise and blues records.

    Good find on the Hungry Ghosts. I've been listening to that all day. I've got some other thoughts on music of that quality, and curious to hear what else you've found in that vein.

    Thanks for visiting.

  7. You do more good than harm? Tell that to my son. He likes to eat. And it is very hard for him to eat your exposure.

  8. Hi.. Very nice, Expressed with pics. I like it very much.