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Side B - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Side B
Kim is planting our patch of grass -- literally -- for the tortoises and anyone who chooses to play around Skylar's slide. It's always interesting to hear what music she selects to garden by. It comes from the tiny blue Emerson CD player that we got to play in Skylar's room when she was afraid of the dark -- a dark period in our family life, incidentally -- but almost sounds better because it doesn't sound so good, like when you hear a song you love over AM radio.

When I heard the first notes of Bob Mould's "Sunspots" this morning, I decided to work in the kitchen, where I could hear the music in the background. Workbook is one of my favorite records. More than that, though, it marks a special time in my life: I purchased it right before I met Kim. Priscilla and I saw him open for the Pixies at the Warfield on a Saturday -- with Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" for an encore -- then had a rather intense time together into Sunday. You'd be surprised what lines of imperfectly crushed No-Doz and Mickey's 40 ouncers will do to your frame of mind! After a late lunch at Saul's in North Berkeley, Priscilla finally headed home. Monday was uneventful. And then came Tuesday, already amply documented "after the LJ cut" in a previous entry.

Ever since those insane days -- the post-Loma Prieta Earthquake energy made interpersonal relations glow with possibility -- I've been able to find my way back to a little of the intensity of those days by putting Workbook on.

For Kim, though, the record signifies differently. When I went out on the patio, I saw two CD cases stacked up. The second one, Bettie Serveert's Palomine will forever be associated in our minds with Workbook because it's Side B of one of our favorite roadtrip cassette tapes.

Lovers of vinyl -- or even shellac -- like to talk about the loss of the Side A-Side B experience in the CD and subsequent electronic formats. But not many people mourn the cassette. Maybe they should, though, because the musical diptychs that 90-minute cassettes used to result in are an interesting way station on the path from artist or label control of content to consumer control of content.

The easiest way to make cassettes of albums is -- I'm avoiding the past tense here, though it would probably be more truthful -- to have the same artist on both sides. I have a bunch of tapes that follow that logic. When you're going on a roadtrip, though, you want to have a wide range of music at your disposal. And you don't usually want to listen to the same artist for 90 minutes. With an auto-reverse deck, the best approach is to have the transition from Side A to Side B be interesting without being too jarring: the mood should be enhanced, not broken. Figuring which artists to pair on a cassette is like a bigger-scaled version of the dilemma that DJs face when they move from song to song.

When the passage from Side A to Side B -- or the other way around, if you ejected the cassette last time before it auto-reversed -- really works, you get something sublime, the memory of the first album shining light into the dark places of the second. My pairing of Workbook and Palomine does that.

The other day I posted a picture of Kim standing on a bridge in Seattle -- I had mistaken it for Portland, initially -- that reminds me now of the time, on an earlier visit to the Emerald City, that we went from breakfast in Capitol Hill to the nearby botanical gardens, then got back in the car in order to cross one of the bridges to the north. It was a drawbridge and it was up, probably to let some gorgeous yacht through. We sat for awhile in the light rain, soaking in Palomine. I'll always associate my cassette with our long roadtrips. It brings me joy, even when it's being virtually recreated on a $30 CD player.

Mode: granular
Muse: Bettie Serveert's Palomine from the patio

8 comments or Leave a comment
masoo From: masoo Date: April 4th, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This fascinates me ... I make cartapes, too, must have made hundreds over the years. But I rarely make single-artist sides. I make mix tapes ... I get freaked out if I accidentally include more than one song by the same artist on a tape. So my sense of what makes for good transitions is at the song level rather than the side level.

Current tape in car, wherein I break my one-song-per-artist rule:

Side A:
"Bald Headed Lena" - The Lovin' Spoonful
"All Along The Watchtower" - Bob Dylan
"Up On Cripple Creek" - The Band
"All I Want" - Joni Mitchell
"California Dreamin'" - The Mamas & The Papas
"Sounds Of Silence" - Simon & Garfunkel
"Loves Me Like A Rock" - Paul Simon
"Moondance" - Van Morrison
"My Stupid Mouth" - John Mayer
"Inaudible Melodies" - Jack Johnson
"One Headlight" - The Wallflowers
"Thunder Road" - Bruce Springsteen

Side B:
"Da Bumble" - E-40
"Still Ballin - (nitty remix)" - 2Pac
"Beautiful - Snoop Dogg
"Latin Thugs" - Cypress Hill
"Suga Suga" - Baby Bash
"Still D.R.E." - Dr. Dre
"Gangsta Nation" - Westside Connection
"The Way I Am - Knoc-Turn'Al
"Regulate" - Warren G
"Shake That Monkey" - Too Short
"Pharmaceutical Outro" - E-40
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 5th, 2004 04:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


That's an impressively diverse mix. I never knew you had a thing for Paul Simon. I've always loved your mix tapes, the fact that you make them for specific occasions. Wish I had more of them on CD!
From: batdina Date: April 4th, 2004 09:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I make car cds now that I have the technology, but you're right, they're not the same creatures those old cassettes were. I have one called "Mellow Mix" that E sometimes looks at and then howls with laughter over.

That's okay. She has one called "Easy Listening" that I do the same thing with.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 5th, 2004 04:14 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
There's also the threat of the cassette's demise, from heat or slackness or whatever. It makes the music seem more fragile somehow.

(Why I never bought tapes, unless they contained otherwise unavailable material -- see The Cure)
From: sittinginaroom Date: April 5th, 2004 02:22 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


I used to spend hours and hours compiling mix tapes for people and for myself -- now, of course, I own a burner. While the process is quicker, more convenient, has a higher-quality transfer, etc. it doesn't have that "performance" aspect that a mix tape does.

When you make a mix tape you have to participate in a less-mediated fashion. You sit by the stereo waiting for the song to end and right when the end hits you have to press STOP with your own finger. It's like you're conducting a miniature orchestra, or programming on the fly. You also get control of the dramatics of the tape -- how much space are you going to put between the end of that slightly upbeat mid-tempo beat-centered piece (always a favorite to build momentum from a mid-tape string of ballads or soundscapish tunes) into the flat-out screaming rocker that will lead into the tape's final phase? It's a crucial moment and with a tape you can control the exact amount of space you leave between a fade-out and an opening barrage of feedback and noise -- the subtleties are important.

I remember feeling frustration a couple years ago -- I was making a mix CD to cheer up a friend going through a tough time -- it started off with a segment from a Tenacious D sketch and I wanted the New Pornographer's "Letter to an Occupant" to start IMMEDIATELY after Jack Black's voice stopped. The effect would have been awesome but my software couldn't quite make it happen. The mix still kicked fucking ass, but the transition was diminished -- what would have been fist-pumping was merely head-bobbing. Now I don't even have a tape player to listen to the mix tapes Brant (still the only friend who makes me tapes) gives me every time he visits.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 5th, 2004 04:18 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


You're so right to accentuate the physical dimension to tape-making. Kim used to complain that she couldn't sleep before a trip because she'd keep hearing the click of the tape recorder in the other room. I'd manically stay up until 4am making sure we had enough tunes.

I did, of course, make mix tapes too a la you, "Jorit", and "Masoo". Still have them. The logic behind them translates better to CD, though the spacing of silence is an issue.

Of course, now it's easier to equalize volume too. Kim also used to go crazy with me adjusting the volume control on the car stereo to compensate for different recording levels.
masoo From: masoo Date: April 5th, 2004 06:40 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think you guys are fetishizing the mechanics of taping a bit too much. There are plenty of people who agree with you, though. But you can duplicate all those taper tricks with a burner, and the ease with which you can manipulate sound files on a computer means your time is more efficiently spent. And you can obsess over transitions between songs to your heart's content.

Just in case you aren't familiar with it, here is a website that might interest you.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: April 6th, 2004 01:08 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

the tape, the disc, the disk

The only mix tape I have my brother made for me the summer I graduated high school, my birthday in the heat of that, my moving out of the house if only across town. I made some in the past, rather unsophisticatedly it seems, without the finesse I'd like. I’ve since been promised another I have yet to receive and likely won’t. We’ve theorized its lack (and theory sort of kills the gesture anyway, or can), how the making of a good mix tape so often depends on not-quite melancholic nights and emptily unempty spaces, mental, otherwise. It hasn’t been that sort of quarter, that sort of break though winter was. And we aren’t likely in space for such gesture.

What I did receive nearing 2 in the morning was a 3 1/2 disk with the last something he tried to write, the only copy he had, the freedom to read whatever else might be on grained on the plastic and metal. In the interest of reciprocity, I felt the late-night urge next night to put to disk old workshop drafts of poems, my final project for your 495. So: a disk unmixed (or mixed already, mixed without recipient yet given one) met with a disk mixed at least in partial reciprocity. The mixing of either, though--I mean the form, the act, not just the content--seems both like and unlike the mixing of tapes/cds. My question, then, is how. For instance, files could be accessed in any order, or not at all, or always in different contiguities and chains. Yet still there is the gestured, gifted compilation...
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