To date the Tumblr has featured packaging that incorporates handpainted William Morris wallpaper, sand, nails, wax seals, dried sunflower leaves, a USB car key, a pin badge, shredded maps, and a synthesizer. But since the early 1980s, and the emergence of the international tape trading underground, the cassette has been the medium of choice for the bulk of the world’s DIY audio cultures, one that is able to accommodate all manner of custom packaging concepts and outsider graphic design.
Cassette culture is more broad and varied than it is often given credit for, and those labels and artists issuing cassettes in 2011 cover a wide range of design aesthetics and experimental sonics. UK imprint, The Tapeworm, for example, issues edgy spoken word (Cathi Unsworth, Jean Baudrillard), glitchy electronica (Fennesz) and improvised music (John Butcher). The minimal vacuum packs and printed tape boxes that characterise releases on the Entr’acte label contain work by musicians operating in the vanguard of digital synthesis and computer composition.
In stark contrast are the rough ’n’ ready collages used on the sleeves of the US Noise label, Fag Tapes, and the sand-filled, nailed-closed anti-cassettes of Auris Apothecary, another US operation with impeccable DIY credentials.
Jennifer Allan & Tony Herrington
The Wire is an independent media organisation specialising in editorial coverage of all manner of alternative and underground sound and music. Established in 1982 and now based in east London, its operations include publishing a monthly print magazine, maintaining various online platforms, hosting a brace of radio shows, and programming a number of salon and symposium type events. In 2012 The Wire will mark its 30th anniversary.
The Sleeves Received Tumblr brings together some of the most interesting packaging and sleeve design from releases sent in to The Wire offices. The website is maintained by The Wire’s online editor, Jennifer Allan.