TAPE LABEL REPORT The Tape Label Report, February 2024 By Bandcamp Daily Staff · March 12, 2024

Welcome to The Tape Label Report, where we introduce you to five cassette-focused labels you should know about, and highlight key releases from each.

The Cooked Raw Label

Toronto’s Cooked Raw Tape Label connects the dots. Founded in 2017, the community-focused imprint has become home to some of Canada’s most eclectic indie rock acts, linked by a tried-and-true “for friends, by friends” formula. “Cooked Raw is obviously open to everyone, but the friend thing gives it a nice community,” says the label’s Tyler Overland. “The most important thing is creating a community around some great Canadian music.”

As the independent musical landscape continues shifting in the data-driven, post-lockdown streaming era, Cooked Raw seeks to fill a gap between Toronto’s massive stages and smaller scenes, taking cues from supportive DIY scenes in Texas and Philadelphia. “A&R should not be going on your computer and clicking on song statistics—it’s going to shows and seeing live music,” says Overland. “The one thing we still have is live music. We should keep doing that.”

In addition to tape production, Cooked Raw recently began functioning as a split promotions company. The label offers services like distribution and social media on a case-to-case basis for artists. It’s a committed effort to boost an already-simmering scene filled with talented folks who Overland says might be more connected than they realize. “I’m just happy Cooked Raw can bring a few of them together and make a little home for them for a while,” he says. “Cooked Raw is a little worldwide community that exists online. A lot of that spirit comes from Bandcamp and figuring out how these bands are related.”

There is no definitive “Cooked Raw sound,” which is arguably the best problem a no-miss tape label could have. Every release is a winner, from The Crime Family’s cosmic country and SAP’s casual power punk, to Sunforger’s meditative post-grunge and so much more.

Release to Start With

cootie catcher

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Weirdo twee quartet cootie catcher exemplify Cooked Raw’s eclecticism, reverence for physical media, and emphasis on friendship. The band is actively gigging and currently selling the physical-only curlicue casette on their Bandcamp page and at live shows. (Rumor has it cootie catcher vocalist and songwriter Anita Fowl made full lyric sheets and hand-drawn photos for the tape release.) In the meantime, check out last year’s 5678, a brief but excellent collection of pop tunes unafraid to bend hooks into, out of, and back into shape again. Songs like “suplex urself” and “ends meet” take more of a chamber pop route, whereas the front half is dead-on indie pop with “Ontario,” the EP’s shining highlight.

–Pat Pilch

Lost Sound Tapes

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When Jon Manning was in high school, lo-fi artists like The Mountain Goats and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone made a big impression. After moving from Southern California to Seattle in 2005, he bought 100 blank cassettes and launched Lost Sound Tapes. The homespun indie pop–focused label began as an outlet for Manning’s project Blanket Truth, but it didn’t take long for him to branch out.

“I just loved talking to people about tapes, and eventually started putting out music for other bands,” he says. “That became more of an obsession than my own releases, because I’ve always been a passionate listener.”

Over the past 20 years, Lost Sound’s roster has grown to include higher profile artists like Lisa Prank, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Manning’s wife, Rose Melberg. “There is an LST ‘sound,’ but my taste is super wide, and I really want the label to reflect that,” he says. “For me, it’s so much more about the people than fitting into a certain sound or genre.”

Since moving from Seattle to Vancouver in 2012, Manning has reaffirmed his commitment to providing a platform for “underrepresented music,” while searching for environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic cassette cases. Upcoming releases include an EP and rarities collection from grungy San Diego power-pop act Neutral Shirt, the debut cassingle and zine from queer NYC hardcore band Adult Human Females, and a new format entirely.

“A year ago I changed the names on all of my socials to Lost Sound Tapes and Candles,” says Manning. “Rose had candles from Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, and I thought there should be one for The Softies! Our first candle is coming out later this year.”

Release to Start With

Always Room

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This May marks the 10th anniversary of Diners’s Always Room, the debut full-length from the Phoenix, Arizona band led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Blue Broderick. Manning describes the album as one of Lost Sound’s “underground hits,” selling something in the ballpark of 600 cassette copies over multiple editions, while the labels Diet Pop and Phat ‘n’ Phunky teamed up for a long sold-out vinyl pressing.

This “vulnerable and beautiful album for daydreamers” is an ideal entry point to Lost Sound, flashing back to the DIY home recording artists that inspired the label in the very beginning. Most importantly, Always Room remains available on cassette, as Manning continually dubs more copies. “Diners play feel-good, breezy indie pop,” he says. “It’s definitely spring or summer music made for driving around the Pacific Coast Highway.”

–Jesse Locke

Pointless Geometry

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When Pointless Geometry started in 2015, Darek Pietraszewski and Justyna Banaszczyk weren’t planning on becoming archivists of Polish experimental music. “I founded Pointless Geometry to document the vibrant microscene that developed around Eufemia [a now-defunct, cult experimental music venue in Warsaw],” says Pietraszewski.

With 55 releases, Pointless Geometry’s catalog is a good introduction to the diversity of Polish music. You can find electroacoustic songs, digital rendition of folk dances, deconstructed club, and drone-y ambient. For some musicians, Pointless Geometry has become a haven for their more experimental, more radical projects. This is a case for Szymon “Pimpon” Gąsiorek, a jazz drummer whose Pozdrawiam album is anything but jazz.

“It also shows how our tastes evolved over time,” adds Banaszczyk. The pair are now interested in music that crosses boundaries between classical and experimental, sometimes even going in a pop direction. “One of the best examples of this direction is the album by Rafał Ryterski, a classically educated composer who made queer dance music for us” says Banaszczyk, whose work as FOQL also appeared on Pointless Geometry. “We try to release albums with a longer expiration date than just a few months.”

Even though Pietraszewski and Banaszczyk love cassettes, they don’t like Pointless Geometry being called a tape label or a label at all. “For us it’s more of a part of an ongoing, complex artistic project,” says Banaszczyk. It’s true—the pair are also involved in community radio and organize shows in their small cafe, Ignorantka, located in the heart of the postindustrial city of Łódź.

Release to Start With


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Pointless Geometry’s latest release is the third album by Piotr Bednarczyk under the LOUFR name. “It’s just awesome, I love it,” says Pietraszewski. This mix of hyperpop, noise, classical, and trap is infectious and addictive. “FEARS perfectly embodies the music we want to release at the moment; defying genres, not being academic but not 100% pop either,” says Banaszczyk. The pair agree that Fears is the most pop release in their catalog. “I don’t know if Piotr would agree with me, but for me this is a perfect pop record. This is the music I want to hear on the radio,” says Pietraszewski, laughing.

–Michal Wieczorek

The Trilogy Tapes

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Will Bankhead is a busy man: graphic designer, photographer, skateboarder, DJ, and label head. It’s hard to know how he fits it all in. Initially a one-man operation, Bankhead’s London-based The Trilogy Tapes label is now a family-run affair with his daughter helping out on mail order a few days a week. Skate brand Palace also assist with clothing production and distribution. “Kit at Palace is a diamond, he helps me a lot,” says Bankhead. “There’s so much more to organize than it might seem.”

When asked about the label’s curatorial approach, Bankhead explains that “I’m not sure there is one feel. I never really think of the label as a whole, it’s just fun to work on new projects.” Poring over the Trilogy Tapes’s list of releases, this explanation stands up. It reads like a who’s who of modern, cutting-edge music, yet it’s hard to find a coherent thread that ties it all together. From Rezzett’s medicated and crumbling electronic torpedoes, Beatrice Dillon’s examination of Folkways records, and Torn Hawk’s pharmaceutical wooze, to the dubwise interior explorations of CS & Kreme, DJ Desecrator’s black metal grind, and harsh noise miscreants The Gerogerigegege dipping into unexpectedly beautiful and funky territory, there’s a deep forest of excellent yet disparate musical worlds at play.

Yet within this wild sonic spectrum, the tastes of main man Will Bankhead emerge, reinforcing his penchant for forward-thinking sounds. TTT also release vinyl and CDs, but for Bankhead, tapes are “ideal really. I grew up in the ‘80s, it’s how we all used to share music. I love tapes!”

Release to Start With

KWC 92
Dreamin’ Of A Vacation

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Picking a single release to accurately represent the different styles in The Trilogy Tape’s discography is a nigh on impossible task but in KWC 92’s Dreamin’ Of A Vacation, there’s a muzzy encapsulation of the label’s ethos. It might not factor in the extremities of eardrum-lancing techno or esoteric sound collages, but it does sweep you from coffee shop interiors into smoky bars oozing with wonky Fourth World aural accompaniment. Engulfed in tumbling rhythms, xylophone melodies, and swirling electronics, KWC 92 offer a hit on a mystery pipe, causing everything to lurch sideways whilst a joyous, psychedelic heart thumps away at its core.

–Jon Buckland

Voices of the Ainur

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The bond between dungeon synth and The Lord of the Rings runs as wide and deep as the Anduin. At least since the Tolkien-themed early ’90s work of fantasy-ambient pioneer Jim Kirkwood, there’s been a special relationship between Middle Earth and artists who have sought to evoke it with lo-fi synthesizer music. It’s a connection Voices of the Ainur founder Paul Smith is keenly aware of. (The Ainur are the primordial spirits who made the music that created the universe in Tolkien’s Silmarillion.) While Lord of the Rings-themed dungeon synth is far from the only thing Smith releases on Voices of the Ainur, it’s certainly been a key part of the Calgary-based tape label’s success.

“I mean, I’m a huge Tolkien fan,” Smith says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the movies or read the books. So if someone approaches me and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got this album,’ and I look, and it’s Tolkien-related or Lord of the Rings-related, that’s pretty much: ‘Yeah, I’ll release it for you. No problem.’”

Smith had run a couple of small black metal labels in the past, but the idea to start putting out dungeon synth came during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I went from the bigger names to the lesser-known stuff, and I was like, ‘Why don’t these people have physical releases? I want to buy your physical releases,’” Smith recalls. “So, I said, ‘Well, I’ll just do it myself.’”

Voices of the Ainur’s first tape, the self-titled EP by the Cincinnati folk-ambient artist Lamerak, came out at the end of 2020. Today, Smith is up to nearly 150 releases, with no signs of slowing down. Through his batch-release strategy, where tapes drop in monthly sets of four, Smith hopes to help connect dungeon synth fans with their new favorite artist. “This guy, he’s got his little fanbase, and this lady’s got her fanbase,” he says. “If they get [those tapes] together, those fans will start to cross-pollinate and spread the word.”

Release to Start With

Arda’s Herbarium Vol. 1

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The Québec City dungeon synth artist Ithildin issued himself a daunting challenge in the spring of 2022. Using Graham and Walter Judd’s Flora of Middle-Earth as a guide, he set out to record a song for every plant that appears in Tolkien’s legendarium. The first volume of the Arda’s Herbarium anthology begins with the gossamer “Aeglos” and ends with the lush “Beech.” Ithildin expects there to be 10 to 12 entries in the series. Smith has been kicking around the idea of collecting them in a diehard box-set edition once they’re all completed. For him, each individual volume is inseparable from the staggering, still-in-progress whole.

“I kind of see them as one long, continuous album,” Smith says. “Some of [Ithildin’s] other releases are a little different. They might have a little touch of black metal in them or something, or different orchestration. But the Arda series is just one beautiful, long album to me.”

–Brad Sanders
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