Concord Ballet Orchestra Players First Annual North Falmouth Organ Slaughter double cassette (L’Animaux Tryst 2011), a sleek audiobook-style white vinyl folder, with an insert of five panels of color photographs on thick white card stock documenting the band’s destruction of a ’70s Kimball organ; edition of 75.

Various artists, Doomahgoomah double cassette (Turned Word Records, 2006), hand-drawn cassettes sealed and mounted onto color-photocopied liner inserts glued onto discarded vegetable-oil-box cardboard flats | turnedword.com
"That was a really haunting one I found a super long time ago. It's this crazy girl who has to be like 16, who was just totally open, (saying) inane things like 'I'm scared of keyholes.' I don't think there's any directly suicidal stuff, but it's bordering on this lunacy. You think 'Oh, it sounds crazy,' but then you think about the things you've thought and you're like, 'Oh, yeah, okay I've had thoughts that were that insane.' It's a really touching recording, that one."

Nearly all of Mang Disc's and L'Animaux's recordings have been of Maine artists (or Maine events), and Spear and Lajoie are finding that documenting the sounds of their local underground give them a unique role in shaping outsider perceptions.

"Something that's great about cassette labels now is that if you find a label that's put out one tape that really speaks to you, you can pretty much guarantee that that label as a curator will put out a lot of stuff that you're into," says Lajoie, who says that most of his sales come from out-of-state or overseas. "Labels right now are really good at building that aesthetic musically and visually. I've become fans of certain labels as opposed to certain artists."

Sound business

But there's a survivalist instinct at play, too. With listeners and label heads alike finding digital formats too alienating and vinyl (and its production) too expensive, making tapes isn't simply an artistic compromise: It's also a good way to stay afloat.

"The thing that I find really cool about the tape thing that's happening is that it's created its own closed-circuit economy," says Fischer, who runs Tea First from his West End apartment. "There's an audience for tapes available through a distribution system that is different than CDs and LPs and the music business, including digital."

Various artists, Doomahgoomah double cassette (Turned Word Records, 2006), hand-drawn cassettes sealed and mounted onto color-photocopied liner inserts glued onto discarded vegetable-oil-box cardboard flats | turnedword.com
The first release on Tea First Records was an LP in 2009 of Quiet Before the Thaw, the first full-length by his band Selbyville. Though he's pleased with the album from an artistic standpoint, the experience left him with some practical misgivings. "I don't really ever want to do an LP again," he says. "I could do 15 tapes for the price of one 100-run LP and probably sell more of those tapes."

"While I was doing all the vinyl processing I was getting deep into credit card debt," says Lajoie. "At this point, I'm not in debt — except for my student loans of course. The reason I've shifted gears and started doing cassettes is because I can operate a cassette label without having to go into debt again or use credit cards."

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