United Cassettes is bringing back a dearly missed analog format

Before the advent of streaming services, before iPods and Discmans (Discmen?), there were cassette tapes. You probably spent the halcyon days of your childhood listening to your first favorite artist on a cassette, popping it into the player like a cartridge, maybe sticking a small pen into the reels whenever the film spools would come undone. To listen to music with a cassette tape is a specific experience, one that many people these days find hard to get their hands on.

 

We spoke to Kurvine about the relevance and beauty of analog in a digital world, and the first cassette tape he ever loved.

 

Still, there are a few steadfast proponents of the format many might consider obsolete, and one of them is musician Kurvine Chua, who runs the store United Cassettes. He became the head honcho after corresponding with Filip Zemčík , founder of the worldwide United Cassettes movement. At the store, instead of secondhand tapes, you’ll find new releases. This goes to show that even in a Spotify world, there is a fervent demand for cassettes, and Kurvine is the faithful supplier.

We spoke to Kurvine about the relevance and beauty of analog in a digital world, and the first cassette tape he ever loved.

YOUNG STAR: Can you describe what your correspondences with Filip Zemčík was like?

Kurvine Chua: We met online through his indie label, Z Tapes. It’s one of my favorite labels in the world, and I love everything about it. Filip and I share the same passion for cassette tapes. At the time, United Cassettes existed only as his branch in Europe, alongside a US branch run by Conor Ryan of Woozles.

I’ve been wanting to bring back the tape store experience to the Philippines. Cassettes were part of my growing up years, and I wanted to spread the format to as many people as possible. A lot of tapes currently being sold in the country are pre-owned — I wanted to focus on brand new tapes.

 

Which parts of the local music scene would you tell people to look, if they wanted to see people collecting and distributing cassette tapes?

We have really strong tape communities here! We’ve got DIY tape labels like Delusion of Terror Records, Dayflower Records, Struggle Records, and the Genjitsu Stargazing Society; we have tons of local artists with cassette releases—システム Fairy, joe-chu, savedhistory, Denounced, and similarobjects, to name a few. We have the folks from Promdi Collective, Pixel Collective, Almost Crimes, and Still Ill, who are into the format. We have people like Zom Kashwak doing art for several cassette releases around the world.

The love for tapes doesn’t have boundaries — you’ll find it in several different underground scenes.

 

What do people get from listening to tapes that they don’t get from, say, streaming services like Spotify?

Cassettes are tactile — you get a higher sense of immersion, from the moment you’re in the store to when you’re actually listening to it. It’s an analog format, so just like vinyl, it has characteristics unique to it. From the tape hiss in the background to the process of rewinding and pressing play, it introduces something different to the music. You get to hold the album art, read the liner notes, collect them — also, tapes fit in your pocket!

Do you remember the first cassette tape you ever purchased?

Yes! It was the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”. I found it in one of the early runs of Escolta’s Saturday x Future Market. I love that album so much. I own it in other formats!

 

Do musicians have anything to gain from experimenting with the medium of tapes?

Definitely! Being a musician myself, I find that after pressing music to tape, things sound a bit different — softer, in a good way. We also have tape labels around the world focusing solely on the format. Production tends to be more inexpensive as well, making it a viable choice for several independent artists. Also, the feeling you get seeing and listening to your masterpiece on cassette is extremely rewarding.

 

Our generation seems have an interest in retro technologies, such as vinyl records, and CDs from this case. What do you think is behind this nostalgia?

One of the main reasons for this is because our world today has gone too digital. Almost everything can be accessed with just a few taps — movies, music, social interaction, you name it. People want to reclaim what’s been lost.

 

There are people who might say that certain music technologies go obsolete for a reason, or will say that the more advanced we get, the better music will end up sounding. Do you disagree? How would you counter-argue?

Just because something is more modern doesn’t automatically make it better. Listeners should use their ears! If something sounds good to someone, then let them be. What is “good” is an opinion, after all. Some people prefer the convenience of digital, while others prefer the warmer sound of cassettes and records. Popularity doesn’t always equate to truth.

 

 

You can find the Philippine branch of United Cassettes at Creekside Mall, Amorsolo Street, Legazpi Village, Makati. For more information on United Cassettes, you can check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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