ALBUM REVIEW: Foals – Tapes

Written for the 405

“Most consumers gave up on cassette tapes years ago, and the Oxford English Dictionary says it is removing the word ‘cassette player’ from its concise dictionary”, we’re informed by the sample which opens this mix. The !K7 label’s Tapes line is a relatively recent venture, but already the likes of The Big Pink and the Rapture have already contributed mixes. The latest comes from Foals; well, Foals’ keyboard player, Edwin Congreave. “It’s easy to throw some random music together and call it a DJ mix,” he said, “but I wanted to make something more ambitious.” Well…

The mix resists the urge to push the irony barrier further than that opening sample – it’s getting released via CD and MP3 rather than a ninety minute TDK cassette, more’s the pity – but it still possesses some surface similarities to that disappearing art of a pick-and-mix romp through the compiler’s record collection.

For one thing, it’s split into an A and B side. For another, the cuts selected have a familiar air of those muso/snob mixes of competitive one-upmanship; “my music’s more obscure than yours” sort of thing. Eschewing Rob Fleming/Gordon’s rules about mixes- “kick off with a corker, to hold the attention” – Congreave’s tape opens with a subdued, ambient Nicholas Jaar cut, ‘Variations’, and from there we’re dragged through the weirder (and remix heavy) conclaves of the Foals music library.

So, the A-side consists of wilfully uncool seventies funk and disco records – the highlight being Condry Ziqbu’s South African floor-stomper ‘Confusion (Ma Afrika)’ – plus some Detroit techno. That’s mashed together with a glut of modern music which, in a surprisingly jarring way, draws from that music: The Invisible, Teengirl Fantasy etc. Only recent Blood Orange release ‘Dinner’ fits in properly, because of how clearly Dev Hynes echos those older styles of music.

Congreave says he wanted to do something different but, at the end of the first half of his mix, it sounds like he’s gone to far away from throwing “some random music together”; the songs he’s selected are cut from cloths so similar it’s hard to tell them apart. The seamless – and totally non-mix tape like – segues between songs only serves to leave them more discernible.

As for the B-side; well it opens with another sample, this time a German MC warning us we’re “keeping it on that house music tip…” It’s not bad, it’s just another gelatinous, impenetrable mass of sound that you ignore because it’s too much effort to try to pick out any good stuff. The Caribou song is nice, though.

It’s too insider to be really danceable, it deals in a steady, unshifting baseline rather than offering anything dynamic…it really is like most DJ mixes.

4/10

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