There’s something very captivating about the thought—and the process itself—of letting a medium take on a life of its own. These sorts of experiments aren’t necessarily a novelty in any imaginable form of art, but they can invoke a mesmerizing sense of freedom with a touch of the unknown, ultimately making the experience worth having.
Uruguay-born and now New York-based sound artist Richard Garet’s latest release on the brilliant and criminally overlooked Helen Scarsdale Agency imprint is a sixty-minute audio cassette which bears that exact same, plain yet sufficient title. Given the nondescript title, it’s fairly difficult to sufficiently put this analog rite of passage into words. The sound on 60′ Cassette comes to life through demagnetized, aged, and radically treated tape loops—nothing more, nothing less.
From quiet noisescapes and murky tones that resemble human speech to harsh noise/industrial extremes, these sixty minutes have it all. Sometimes the sound suddenly stops, and sometimes 60′ Cassette feels as if it’s somehow rewinding itself, working its way back to a familiar state. In these moments, you will inexplicably find yourself in what feels like a place that is five minutes earlier or later in the tape. Time, which initially seemed so important for the name of the tape, is actually surprisingly powerless here because this tape is a sonic structure initiated with the sole purpose of making you feel lost. It’s occasionally exhausting, not only because of its length, but because your brain may well be struggling to place what is coming from the speakers in a certain scheme, or to come up with a logic that is capable of explaining it.
At some point, however, it feels as if you and the cassette have switched roles. No longer is that warm noise just a simple exploration of a recording. No longer are you just a casual witness to a random tape’s journey, but an observer to the manifested echoes of your own mental chaos. The unyielding neuron impulses are transformed into frequencies and scattered all around the audial spectre. The growing storm has arrived, yet so has the calm. It’s just you in front of a strange, distorted sonic mirror.
Despite my near-perfect rating below, I don’t really consider this a hyper-positive review. It’s almost impossible to impose a subjective, mathematical judgement on such an abstract work. 60′ Cassette is—at its core and its periphery—a free-form piece of mindless babbling, because sometimes music and sound art (or any type of art at all, actually) are far beyond these two extremes of perception. One thing is certain though: just like with any other Helen Scarsdale tape that I’ve had the chance to get my hands on, this one doesn’t give you the chance to feel indifferent. It simply leaves you bewildered.
A1) 30′ Number One
B1) 30′ Number Two