“Most consumers gave up on cassette tapes years ago,” quips a matter-of-fact female voiceover. “The Oxford English dictionary says it is removing the term ‘cassette player’ from its concise dictionary.” The fading saccharine voice begins Foals’ latest Tapes project with a cynical cry of these modern times, lamenting the fading glory of the eight-track sound and its reel to reel simplicity. Admittedly, it’s a strangely funny statement to hear while listening to this pre-release via a link on Soundcloud.
Dubbing Tapes a “new album” by the punchy Oxford-based quartet is misleading to say, as the collection isn’t of newly released tracks in the same punchy vein as Antidotes or 2010’s much-touted Total Life Forever. Instead Tapes is a project spearheaded by label !K7 with the nostalgic intention of compiling not a 2012-era mixtape, but a tape mirroring the former manual thrill of flipping a cassette tape from one side to another. Fellow UK peers the Big Pink and the Rapture have both had their hand in crafting a tape of their own. In Foals’ case, Tapes unearths the hidden sensibilities of a band that’s not all tight drum loops and math-layered guitars.
Intended as a throwback to the days of strategically hand-picking makeout jams on the tape you recorded for your crush, Foals propels the traditional cassette into the 21st century via a time capsule of downtempo electronica and punchy remixes spanning tracks from the likes of Blood Orange to Jimmy Edgar-remixed Sepalcure. Capturing the infectiously dancey aesthetic of their own work — albeit in a far different vein — afropop rhythms and thumping basslines alike thrive in a jangly, mashed-up mess of beats.
The compilation fittingly begins with electronic virtuoso Nicholas Jaar’s “Variations” on Side A, the more song-based side. It segways from lowkey electronica into South African rhythm-infused tracks, highlighted by Condry Ziqubu’s “Confusion” and The Invisible’s infectious “London Girl.” Distinctive clicking sounds are replicated once the tape flips over to Side B, the dance and house-music focused side of the tape. The selection of London’s superb taste for tasteful house sounds, including Caribou and Art Department remixes, provide a pleasant contrast to the bumps and grinds of the traditional American house music concept.
Borrowing is almost a pre-requisite for today’s culture where a collective audience demands the re-incarnation of mash-ups and remixes upon remixes. While maintaining a slick vibe embodying the sultry lowlights of an unsuspecting loft party, Foals’ Tapes are nothing particularly groundbreaking — but sure as hell an intoxicating listen. It may even bump Waka off your party playlist for a long while.