Gotta Try A Little Harder (Cassette)

Gotta Try A Little Harder (Cassette)
Within the dying of media comes the passing or slow dying of individual units—tapes, records, cylinders, cartridges—all of which decay, and in so doing, seem to take on characteristics of having lived. Once digital media arrive as 'other', as cyborg sound, the analogue seems to breathe, however rasping the sound.
–Paul Hegarty, "The Hallucinatory Life of Tape"

The first cassette I owned was To The Extreme by Vanilla Ice. It was released in 1990. I was 8 years old. The memory of that first tape is still surprisingly visceral: butterflies of anticipation walking to Wherehouse Music with my aunt; the smell of the j-card when I opened the cassette and took out the insert; pressing play and rewind, play and rewind, again and again, until I had memorized each and every song.

This scene plays out (with variations) time and again across the chronography of my childhood. Jumping on the bed listening to my New Kids on the Block cassette. Driving with the windows down on the freeway in Southern California in my father’s car. He tosses meAugust and Everything After (on cassette, it is 1993). "Put it on," he says. Waking up early on 9/11/2001 because Bob Dylan’s new CD, Love and Theft, was hitting the shelves that Tuesday morning and I wanted to be first in line. Listening to that record that day, searching for some hidden meaning, trying in vain to make that CD signify.

And then, I wasn’t a kid anymore. I had a kid of my own. I remember a summer day in Berkeley. My 4-year-old son, Zachary, went to Amoeba Records on Telegraph with his mom and made a discovery of his own. The Beatles' 1, on CD. I watched as he took the booklet out and explored the liner notes. We dubbed that CD to tape for him to listen to in his room. Zachary passed away a few years later. I still have the CD and his cassette. I will keep them forever. When Zachary was laid to rest, his Sgt. Pepper LP was placed in the coffin with him.

The fact that with the click of a button, I can instantly own a digital copy of Sgt. Pepper for $12.99 doesn’t make me feel much of anything. It is certainly convenient, and I do appreciate that. It seems important to note that I can buy just one song from To The Extreme, should I choose. I can play that song, ironically, at parties at my house over my AppleTV device. A single song is only 99-cents. These formats make no demands of me as a listener.

I decided to release the Ofrenda demos on cassette not to be clever, or hip, or ironic, or necessarily even nostalgic. I decided to put this music on cassette hoping that you might have some memories of your own to recover as you hold a tape in your hands for the first time in years. It is significant that this format, even more than vinyl, requires patience. It takes time. There is no way to move instantly between songs on tape. Sometimes, you don’t even know exactly where you are in the album. Much of the music on Ofrenda, after all, is about time. The trouble with it. Learning how to live with it. The fantasy of circumventing it. Almost all of these songs were recorded in my basement on Rand Avenue in Oakland while I was figuring out what to do about time after Zachary died. Furthermore, cassettes are an imperfect, limited medium. I find that appropriate for a record like this: an album of demos and rough drafts and mis-takes and aborted arrangements. My first band made our first recordings on a 4-track cassette machine. If you have a cassette player in your car or put away in your closet, I hope you listen to this tape.

If you see a walkman at a thrift store and you think of this tape, maybe go for it. I think these songs will sound best in headphones at night when you can’t sleep. That’s how I made them, at least. Don’t judge them too quickly. These things take forever. I especially am slow.

Frank Cruz
August 1, 2014
Oakland, California

Reprinted by permission from the Try Harder liner notes.
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