Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica

Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica

by Norman C. Stolzoff

(Duke University Press)

Village Voice Literary Supplement, 2001

by Simon Reynolds


For a small island with a population barely more than two million, Jamaica has exerted a disproportionately vast influence on global pop. Beyond briefly touching upon his own conflicted passion for Rastafarian reggae as a white middle class teenager in California, though, Norman C. Stolzoff doesn't  deal with the music's impact outside its Caribbean home. His real interest is  probing dancehall's internal workings as a cultural economy, and examining why it is such a controversial phenomenon within Jamaica itself.

                What emerges in Wake the Town is a picture of Jamaican music as powerfully conditioned by economic forces, and of a native genius for transforming these constraints into creative opportunities. Sound systems, for instance, emerged in the 1950s when the tourist trade priced live bands out of the popular market. Thrift was partial inspiration for two crucial Jamaican innovations, dub's studio-as-instrument trickery and the re-using of rhythm tracks for different songs and vocalists; producers realized they only had to pay the session band for a single performance if they put dub versions on the B-side of singles or released "one riddim" albums. Similar implacable financial logic led to today's digital dancehall music, where computers and drum machines enabled the downsizing of human instrumentalists altogether.

                Stolzoff is not a flashy writer, and theoretically he offers few surprises, wielding the usual mish-mash of  cult-studs faves: Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of taste in terms of class distinction, Dick Hebdige-style subcultural decoding, Paul Gilroy's work  on hybridity. His conclusion is a tad inconclusive and sat-on-the-fence: there's good in dancehall (a vibrant vulgarity that resists the Eurocentric refinement of Jamaica's ruling class) and there's bad (virulent homophobia, misogyny, gun talk). Wake the Town's real strength is its field research, the vivid and precise details gleaned during the months the author spent  observing the Killamanjaro sound system in action, and hanging out at the Dub Store recording studio. Because they engage in "soundclashes" with each other, sound systems need a constant turnover of  fresh "dubplates" (exclusive pre-releases) to sway the crowd and slay their rivals. At the studios, there's a bustling trade in both killer and filler tunes, with established stars and hustling aspirants chanting patois-rich raps over whatever riddims are currently hot, and  "champion sounds" paying anything from US $25 to $3000 for each addition to their arsenals.

                The slanguage of the soundclash, with its "sound boy killers" and "burials," reflects not just the routine violence of Kingston where the homicide rate is three per day, but the dog-eat-dog struggle of capitalism's war of all against all--which is fiercer in this postcolonial corner of the globalized world than most elsewhere.  But although dancehall can appear to merely mirror and perpetuate "reality,"  the culture still contains flickers of utopian hope for a better way. Sound systems can cut from a rude-boy toast about murderation to a Rasta song about roots 'n' redemption in the blink of a cross-fader. In the selector's mix, these contradictions--glamorizing Babylon's ways versus dreaming of Zion--achieve an uneasy co-existence.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Ragga Round-Up column - Melody Maker 1994

 For the intrigued outsider, ragga provokes the same split response as gangsta rap. You can dig mightily the booty-coercing phuturism of the production, but wince and flinch when it comes to the ideology. Like gangsta, ragga lyrics are all guns, bitches and blunts.  Just as fogies lament gangsta & swingbeat as a degeneration from the olden golden days of soul and funk, similarly nostalgics see today's digital reggae as spiritually bankrupt compared to '70s roots and dub.  Certainly, Rastafarian militancy/mysticism has given way to a secular, solipsistic worldview, oscillating between sexism and sadism.  But sonically, Jamaican pop remains as creative and compelling as ever.

Judging dancehall/ragga by Shaggy or Chaka Demus is like thinking 2 Unlimited are all you need to know about techno.  The fierce, far out stuff is the hordcore--that's where you'll find the strangest, staccato-est beats, the starkest productions. "Ragga Ragga Ragga 2" (Greensleeves) is a good entry point for the uninitiated.  Ragga is reggae with its fluency turned to erectile rigour (one track here is called 'Spermrod'!). The key factors in this shift to stiff are 1/ digital technology 2/ Jamaica becoming a stop-over for the cocaine trade in the early '80s. And so ragga's sound--crisp and dry, all itchy'n'scratchy computer-game blips and fidgety tics of percussion--sounds like nothing so much as electro, while its palsied rhythms suggest coke-jitters rather than a marijuana-moonwalk.

Fierce competition to be fresher than the rest results in weird'n'wonderful production gimmicks, like the gastric-rumble bass-sounds on Papa San's "Sireen" or the mud-squelch noises on Red Dragon's "Burning Up" (which fit the lewd lyrics).  Like gangsta vis-a-vis '70s funk, sampling allows ragga to simultaneously pay homage and wreak iconoclastic damage to '70s reggae: on Saba Tooth's 'Warp Dem Girl', a tiny wisp of ethereal, rootsical keyboard floats amid the clanking machine-beat, while Lt. Stitchie's 'Wood Fire' is cyber-dub.  In fact, ragga is at once futuristic and atavistic: many of its rhythms come from African-based cult religions like Etu, Pocomania and Kumina.

     Another excellent introduction to dancehall is 'Ragga Sampler Volume 1' (Charm). The standout track is Buju Banton's 'Mind Behind The Wind', which slots the usual gruff, chest-puffed-out bragging amidst undulating tabla-like beats, oddly reminiscent of avant-funk visionary Arthur Russell's "Let's Go Swimming". Another highlight: Galaxy P's 'Hardcore', porno-ragga so hyped its rhythm-mechanism almost seizes up.  'Just Ragga, Volume 6' (Charm) showcases several examples of a new trend: duets like Jigsy King & Tony Curtis' 'Any Man Yu Want' which combine the hoarse, coarse vocal grain of ragga with swingbeat's sickly slickness. The contrast of rough lust and oily, unctuous pleading is interesting, and dancehall and new jack have obvious links, production-wise, but I prefer the pure ragga of the Spragga Benz tracks here: the Einsturzende-meets-martial-drums battery of 'Dem Flap', the squelchifarious twitch of 'Gi Wi Di Naany'.

Ragga has generated few artists capable of holding your interest for the length of an album.  On Terror Fabulous's 'Yaga Yaga' (East West), maestro Dave Kelly's production & beats are subtly inventive but soft-core, and the songs are sweetened with treacley harmonies.  Fab's persona is sort of ragga without the aggro: boastful, bawdy ('Water Bed Expert') but never brutal, a ragga LL Cool J instead of a Schoolly D.  Where's the Terror?  Still the album does git raw toward the end with 'Mr Big Man' and 'Broke Wine Butterfly', which reprise the epileptic anti-grooves of Buju Banton classics like 'Big It Up' and 'Bogle Dance'.

Much more unsound and exciting are Bounty Killer Versus Beenie Man's 'Guns Out' and Ninjaman's 'Hollow Point Bad Boy' (both Greensleeves). The ultra-minimal sound (both are produced by King Jammy) is as dessicated, skeletal and 2D as electro. Beenie's 'Off The Air Bad Boy' and Ninja's 'Write Your Will' each revive the famous Casio-synth B-line of 'Under Me Sleng Teng', the first electro-reggae hit, while Ninja's 'Wap Dem Bubba' is full of wikky-wikky voices.  As for the lyrics, they're relentlessly sociopathic, albeit leavened with a macabre wit ("Deadly Medley"). Ninja's "Hollow Point" takes its title from bullets designed to flatten on impact, mushroom through the body and inflict maximum internal damage (nice one, Ninj!), while he's barely two bars into 'Bad Boy Nuh Cub Scout' before he's namechecked Uzi and Tek 9 ("name brand gun!"). It's cartoon gangsta stuff, perhaps to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Beenie's 'Mobster' is just one of myriad ragga tunes sampled by that strain of jungle I call gangsta-rave. So finally, a word for 'Jungle Hits Volume 1' (Street Tuff), which scoops up most of the ragga-jungle cuts that count, from General Levy's roisterous 'Incredible' to Shy FX's bloodcurdling 'Original Nuttah' and 'Gangster Kid'. The compilation's in the Top 3 Album Chart as I write--no doubt about it, this is '90s pop, the sound of young Black Britain. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Tougher than Tough (Island box set, 1995)


Spin column, 1995

    So much of the fabric of modern pop originates in reggae.  Dub's ganga-delic echo-effects anticipated the remix-mania of today's club music, while the slurred gibberish of "DJ talkover" is one of the sources of rap.  Right now, dancehall's ragga chants and fidgety production is influencing emergent British genres like Apache Indian's "bhangramuffin" and "jungle" (a manic offshoot of techno). And I have a farfetched theory that the yodelling falsetto of Morrissey (who once declared "reggae is vile") has secret links with the milky chirruping of Junior Byles and Barrington Levy.

    "Tougher Than Tough: The Story Of Jamaican Music" (Mango/Island) traces the evolution of reggae from 1958 to the present. It starts with the 78 rpm proto-ska of the Folkes Brothers' "Oh Carolina" and ends - four discs and 95 tracks later - with Shaggy's 1993 ragga- remake of the same song.  Reggae's roots lie in American soul and R&B, but as with most pop breakthroughs, mimicry led to mutation, as Black American dance was subtly warped in synch with the Caribbean vibe. Ska's jerky pulse and rocksteady's chugging grooves both have the same monochrome sound and upful aura as Wilson Pickett or Booker T & The MG's, but Jamaican musicians shifted emphasis from the downbeat to the 'afterbeat', and thus created a New Thing.

     As rocksteady evolved into roots reggae and dub, the Jamaican elements became more defined: the bass became more pronounced and melodic, while producers like King Tubby and Lee Perry used reverb to heighten the music's spatiality.  In the '80's, reggae went digital, just like US black pop from swingbeat to rap. But dancehall, argues Linton Kwesi Johnson in the box set's hefty booklet, is at oncefuturistic and primal: a cyber-pagan resurrection of the ritual beats favoured by African cults like Etu and Kumina.  What Johnson and other commentators shy away from is the role of drugs.  Most crucial shifts in pop history have occurred when drugs interface with technology to make possible new forms of listening.  Just as psychedelia coincided with the arrival of LSD and stereo/24 track sound, similarly 70's dub had everything to do with marijuana's heightening of sonic dimension and depth.  In the Eighties, Jamaica became a stop-over in the cocaine trade routes; this probably has a lot to do with ragga's jittery beats, apopletic vocals and gangsta vibe.  Throughout its history, reggae has oscillated between two extremes, symbolised by the "rude boy" and the "natty dread": between macho swagger and mellow spirituality, ghetto survivalism and Rasta dreams of escaping to a halcyon homeland (Zion).

    Crammed with great songs, Disc 4 agitates against the notion that reggae declined musically in the Eighties as the fire of militant spirituality faded.  Nonetheless, Disc 3 surpasses the rest, covering reggae's commercial and aesthetic zenith from 1975-81, and ranging from the luscious pop of Gregory Isaacs and Sugar Minott to the apocalyptic dread of Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time" and Max Romeo's "War In A Babylon". While the bubbling rhythms of Black Uhuru and Junior Delgado are dub-inflected, there's not enough pure dub here for me. Why no Augustus Pablo, Prince Far I, King Tubby or Mad Professor?  Then again, as Island supremo Chris Blackwell points out, Jamaica has the highest per capita rate of musical output in the world. Inevitably, as massive as it is, this compilation could only scratch the surface.  Which it does quite superbly

Friday, October 21, 2022

Macro Dub Infection




Melody Maker, the ideological absolute midpoint of the 1990s

by Simon Reynolds 

     Before ambient, before disco, dub reggae hit upon two crucial notions: the idea that bass and drum could be the melodic foreground of music, and the idea of intermittance, of a decentered mix-scape wherein sounds morph, fluctuate, drift, disappear. Today, these once scandalous ideas are the structural principles governing all the interesting strands of modern music, pop and avant-garde.

            As its title suggests, "Macro Dub Infection" recognises and celebrates the fact that dub's legacy's lives largest as a rogue chromosone in genres that aren't directly descended from '70s roots reggae, mongrel genres like trip hop, post-rock, drum & bass and ambient techno.  Compiled by Kevin Martin (from God/Ice/Techno-Animal) as a sequel to his landmark "Isolationism" anthology, "Macro" has some agreeable offerings from digi-dub revivalists like The Disciples, Irration Steppas and The Rootsman, but the contributions from non-dreadlocked figures such as Tricky, 4 Hero and Laika are far more excitingly experimental. 

     On the jungle front,  Spring Heel Jack and 4 Hero amply substantiate the notion that drum & bass is cyber-dub. On Spring Heel's "Double Edge", reverb-hazy piano chords and whispery trails of hi-hat hurtle down echoey corridors and shafts, but at fin de millenium hyperspeed as opposed to torpid skank-rate.  Even better is 4 Hero's "The Paranormal of Four Forms", lulling you into a false sense of tranquility, then erupting into a pandemonium of accelerating/decelerating breaks that zig-zag between all four corners of the mix; breaks so heavily processed they sound like they're drummed on foil, quartz and bed-springs.  The track then winds down into an paradisical oasis of phusion-tinged electro.

     Trip hop also comes up with the goods. Nothing like the "Maxinquaye" original, Tricky's "Ambient Pumpkin" is as barren and queerly-lit as one of Saturn's moons; New Kingdom honeycomb their acid-rap palava with pockets of dubspace and reverse-loop their cymbals like Jimi on "Are You Experienced?"; Earthling's lost '94 classic "Nothingness" is a swelteringly humid slice of paranoia-funk a la Miles' "On The Corner". Doyens of 'new complexity techno', Bedouin Ascent throw down some densely tangled monsterbeats somewhere at the intersection of 'Rockit' era Herbie Hancock, Man Parrish and 808 State, while technohead-turned-triphopper eccentric Wagon Christ constructs a minimal-is-maximal matrix of metallic timbres.

     But perhaps the most intriguing item on this remarkably consistent 2-CD comp is by the barely-classifiable post-rock unit Tortoise, who have an unusually dub-tweaked sensibility for Yanks. On "Goriri", it sounds like they caked each track on the mixing desk in sonic matter, then wiped off large swathes, leaving behind a whispering wall of spidery percussion and furtive glints and smears of mosaic texture.

     "Macro Dub" shows that dub methodology has contaminated all forms of modern dance and  head musik. There's no putting the genie back in the bottle; all attempts to protect the sacrosanct integrity of the Song are mere ostrich-head-in-sand rearguard manoeuvres. You're either dub-wize or you've consigned yourself to history's junkheap.


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Ambient Dub



Melody Maker, 1995? 

     'Ambient dub' - it sounds like a triffic idea, doesn't it? But, as with jazz-funk and funk-metal, too often it turns out to be a fusion of the worst of both genres, not the best. For post-Orb ambient dub, that means tons of meaninglessly daft echo FX and stereophonic tomfoolery (dub) combined with pious, 'angelic' synth-vapour (ambient).

     There were patches of great promise on the first two volumes of Beyond's series, in particular the contributions of Original Rockers (esp. "The Underwater World Of Jah Cousteau") and The Higher Intelligence Agency (esp. "Ketamine Entity"). And on Vol. 3, it's these units that shine again. H.I.A.'s "Delta" is spacey and spooky, while Original Rockers' "Mecca Of Space" starts like the ghost of a Barry White epic, then mutates into something like a dubbed-up version of Talking Heads' "Drugs".

     As for the rest, it's less a case of Eno-meets-Prince Far I, more like Jean Michel Jarre teaming up with Andy Weatherall on an off-night. At their best, ambient and dub conjure a sense of space: sacrosanct and immense, with dub, uncanny or hauntingly elegaic, with ambient. Most of the tracks here evoke only the virtual space of the MIDI/portastudio interface; this music smells clinical and hygienic, not ambrosial. For instance, so sterile and eometrically plotted is Banco De Gaia's "Desert Wind" it makes me think of computer graphics rather than the denuded majesty of the Gobi.

     Save your pennies for full-fledged LP's by Original Rocker and Higher Intelligence Agency. The rest is soporific stuff, strictly for spliffheads.      

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


Natty Universal Dread, 1973-1979

(Blood and Fire)


A Jamaican Story


Uncut, 2001


In Jamaica, the DJ isn't the guy who spins the records (that's the selector), it's the bloke who chats over the music. As misnomers go, it's a good one, though, since DJ is short for disc jockey, and the whole art of reggae deejaying is vocally riding the riddim--whether it's a loping nag as with the mellow skank of Seventies reggae, or a bucking bronco as with digital dancehall. Alongside U Roy, Big Youth was one of the first and greatest roots-era DJs, his smoky voice unleashing a gentle torrent of prophecy and prattle: "one love" beseechings, get-up-stand-up exhortations, Psalm-like chanting, but also boasts, children's rhymes, laughter, shrieks and grunts. As a less musically compromised natty dread soul-Jah than Bob Marley, Big Youth was a potent icon of radical chic for white youth during the punky-reggae era; John Lydon was a fan, and even persuaded Virgin to sign the DJ for their Front Line reggae imprint. Songs like "Is Dread In A Babylon" and "Every Nigger Is A Star" capture the militancy of a period when Jamaica was feeling the cultural tug of postcolonial Africa while remaining geopolitically very much within the American sphere of influence/interference. Perhaps that's one reason Big Youth forged connections with the US's own black "enemy within", interpolating lyrics from the Last Poets into "Jim Screechy".


Worth acquiring just for the glorious rhythm tracks over which Big Youth toasts, Natty Universal Dread is Blood & Fire's best since their Heart of the Congos reissue, and typically for the label, this 3-CD set is a beautifully designed fetish object. Trojan's A Jamaican Story is a curious looking thing, by comparison. Culled from this veteran label's formidable archives, its cardboard chest contains 10 smaller boxes, shiny packets that look like bars of Ritter chocolate. Each of these three-CD micro-boxes is devoted to one era or aspect of reggae history: ska, rocksteady, lovers, DJ, et al. Unlike the Big Youth set's exhaustive annotations and accompanying essay, there's minimal information provided, just a rudimentary sketch of the specific genres. You don't even get dates of recording/ release, or the identity of the producer and the engineer who did the mix (absolutely crucial information with dub). Truthfully, it's hard to know who A Jamaican Story is targeted at. Reggae fiends will want Blood & Fire-style data overkill (plus those vintage photo overlays and deliberately faded-looking graphics that emphasise the sense of bygone times), while neophytes are hardly going to shell out a few hundred quid for this thirty CD colossus.

All that said, it's impossible to quibble with the quality of music here: Story is a treasure chest. Its span stretches from Desmond Dekker to Scientist, a sonic journey from ska's two-dimensional cartoon jerkiness to dub's haze-infused chambers of deep space. Story also serves to remind just how much Jamaican pop falls outside the rudeboy/rootsman dialectic---there's goofy instrumentals, novelty songs, topical social comment, pure dance music, and love song after gorgeous love song. What's faintly terrifying, though, is that, as crazily copious and encompassing as it is, A Jamaican Story still warrants that indefinite article: 500 tracks long, it only scratches the surface of reggae's ocean of sound

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Aggrovators / Joe Gibbs


Johnny In The Echo Chamber: Dubwise Selection 1975-76


African Dub "The Series": Chapters 1 & 2

Melody Maker, 1995 or 1996 

As the recent "Macro Dub Infection" compilation demonstrated, dub's influence is omnipresent, informing/infusing the soundworlds of such disparate NOW-genres as trip hop, post-rock and drum & bass.  Ironically, the one place the Spirit is weakest is with the digi-dub revivalists, like Alpha & Omega and Rockers To Rockers. Partly it's because of their slavish, literalist adherence to a bygone form; partly because the technology they use sabotages their 'reproduction antique' intentions. Digital sound is too cut'n'dry, too geometrically plotted, to conjure up the halycon, herbalistic haze of '70s dub (mostly made on lo-fi 2 or 4-track, with self-cobbled effects and echo units).

     Although the name suggests an Oi! band, The Aggrovators were a session squad used by the late King Tubby, the sound-sorcerer who more or less invented dub. The best document of the Tubby/Aggrovators partnership is Disc 2 of the "King's Tubby's Special" anthology--arguably the most enchanted dub selection ever--but "Johnny In the Echo Chamber" is damn fine. What's great about this 1975/76 stuff is the way will'o wisps of vocal (sung or DJ talkover) are retained, drifting in and out of the miasma of reverbed rhythm like iridescent wraithes.

     The "African Dub" series was produced by another legendary figure, Joe Gibbs. While "Chapter 3" is the all-time classic, this reissue of the first two volumes is almost as precious. Despite the title's Rasta-esque allusion to the lost motherland, the mood isn't nostalgic and ethereal, but upful, secular, at times even perky (e.g. the vocal-free version of Althia & Donna's UK Number One skank-smash "Uptown Ranking"). Taut and spry, rarely shrouded by echo, these mostly instrumental tracks seem very present tense, whereas the more liturgical dub seems to melt into Eternity.  Highlight: "Idlers Rest" with its Eurodisco-meets-acid-house electronics obviously inspired by Donna Summer's "I Feel Love".

     It could be that that dub reggae is a finite resource, engendered by the unique conjunction of a specific time, place and technology. And that attempting to resurrect that Zeitgeist-in-sound is as futile as recreating Motown.  All the more reason to treasure these holy relics from dub's golden age....


Saturday, October 1, 2022

dubbing tapes (I am reggae hear me ROIR)

If we're not counting things like Jah Wobble's The Legend Lives On album, or the bonus 12-inch with UB40's Signing Off, then my first proper immersive encounter with dub would have been in the late '80s. I must have caught some on Peel before that. Heard the FX and tricknology at one remove in  postpunk settings or on electro-funk / postdisco 12-inch remixes.

 Scritti's "The 'Sweetest Girl'" has a bit of floaty dubbiness in its final stretch. 

Another at-one-remove encounter would have been King Sunny Ade's track on this NME cassette Mighty Reel - seemingly an out-take or offshoot of Juju Music, whose production has a real swimmy dubbiness, apparently introduced by producer Martin Meissonnier. 

But proper dub reggae dub? The first things I acquired were a whole bunch of Mad Professor albums, bought in one batch at the Virgin megastore, and some ROIR cassettes I got sent. Among them was a Prince Far I tape featuring this mighty mighty tune -  probably the beginning of true dub love for me, setting me on the "Right  Way" indeed.

And here is the cassette itself. 

Must have been affection for "The Right Way" and the whole record that made me gravitate towards reviewing this reissue out of a whole batch of first-time-on-CD Virgin Front Line records that came into my possession in the summer of '91.

Among the ROIR batch - which included stuff like Raincoats live in NYC, Suicide 1/2 Alive, (with the Lester Bangs sleevenote), early Television etc - there was at least one other dub tape, this collection of Japanese dub - about which I cannot recall much. 

Looking at ROIR's other reggae releases, which are plentiful indeed, a lot of the covers seem familiar, but I'm not sure if that's because I got sent them or just saw them in shops. Some of them do look so familiar from the design that I feel like I must have had them in the house, but no specific auditory memories adhere. 

This next one in particular feels very familiar and I think it came with that first batch that included Mute Beat and the Cry Tuff tapes. 

At some point in the early '90s, by this point often visiting NYC for long stays and then full-time living there, I  got friendly with the guy who founded ROIR, Neil Cooper. I was burbling about jungle and he actually offered me some some money to do a jungle compilation. But the amount was too small to pay for tracks, as far as I could ascertain what the going rate for tunes was. At least the type of killer tracks I'd want to have on a scene-representing comp. 

Nice guy though, Neil. And he put out some great archival documents on the label. He was a firm believer in the cassette and regarded high-quality chrome as being as good a format as any.  The Prince Far I certainly sounded great. 

I believe Cooper's son carried on the label after his passing and it exists to this day, albeit no longer tape-based. 


Tapes! I have hundreds of them still and whether through repeat-play cathexis or nostalgia, the sound of certain things on that format often sounds better to me than the CD or digital-file or streaming versions. 

In some cases, the advance cassette version sounds better to me than the actual proper vinyl release a few months later, for the simple reason that this is what I fell in love with. 

Isn't Anything, on vinyl, has never sounded as good as the advance tape, which had a completely different sequence, a bunch of tunes that were on the Feed Me With Your Kiss EP at the end plus the bonus single for Isn't with the Public Enemy breakbeat and ghostly wavering tones. All shoved together on a C90 in an absolutely glorious surge. The sequence sounds right to me because it's what I listened to in blissed disbelief  over and over and over for a month or so prior to interviewing My Bloody Valentine. 


Postscript 10/7 - fuck me I just noticed the first tune of side 2 is "Soon". Presumably a prototype for the "Soon" that would be released 18 months later as the lead track of the Glider EP in April 1990. I have no specific recollection of that track from this Isn't advance tape - but I will give it a listen to see how different it is from the immaculate consummation of the released version

I'm not sure I ever played the vinyl Isn't Anything more than a few times. It just didn't sound right. Everything was in the wrong order. The sound was cleaner and more picked-out. I preferred the lesser-fi blur of the cassette - more amorphous.

So there's tapes like that I've kept. (Also advances of things that were never released at all).  And then there's all the mixtapes made by friends that you get attached to. And your own mixtapes made for parties or long-car journeys, that ended up getting a lot of use. Then there's another category of comp, which is the sort of seasonal round-up type of tracks in a genre you've bought recently. Taped really just to save the bother of getting up repeatedly to put a succession of jungle or speed garage 12-inches on the deck. These capture a moment in the genre nicely. 

So this is why I have not simply chucked all these tapes on the dustbin of format history -  even though  when it comes to it, practically speaking, if I want to hear a tune I'll go straight to YouTube or a streamer. I can't quite bring myself to toss them out.  It's sort of one or two levels below taking your pet to the vet to be put to sleep. No, it's not a living thing, but a once-beloved, much-played tape is saturated with cathexis. The cathexis of effort spent (your own or your friend's, or an acquaintance's) in the assembling of said tape. The cathexis of repeat-listening in an era when music was still relatively scarce and wasn't on tap, in an instant, like it is today, so the relative convenience of the self-made compilation or the friend-made collection was invaluable. 

Plus you never know, do you?  The internet may collapse, streamers may go out of business, some kind of unanticipated digital corrosion might render the compact disc compilations and CD-singles unplayable... you may someday need the analogue repositories, the vinyl and the cassettes, to hear the things you want to hear.