Public Works Productions

Pulse, November 1991

Tape-beatles plunder a media-mad culture

graphic from the Pulse article

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Minneapolis Summit (EP)

Numbers (EP)

Good Times (CD)

Matter (CD)

The Grand Delusion (CD)

Music with Sound (CD)

A subtle buoyancy… (CD)

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at the Empty Bottle

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Montreal Mirror (B. Kelly)

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Black Book (Anuj Desai)

by Paul Ashby

Who is (are?) the Tape-beatles? When will the Apple Corps’ voracious hordes of litigators go after the shadowy Iowa City collective for its use of the fab four’s sacred name? How do the Tape-beatles summon the patience to listen to, sample and edit together such overwhelming amounts of culture? Their CD, Music with Sound (DOVentertainment/Canada), isn’t going to explain away any of the above. But the liner notes do clarify some of the motivation behind the staggering assemblages of media soundbites, appropriated rhythms and bits of music that make up this 31-track CD: “… the result of a concentrated effort by a dedicated group of world-renowned cultural embezzlers. These aural scientists document an effort which represents the time-consuming and painstaking recuperation of a moment in our strange lives.”

The Tape-beatles’ “publishing” company is called Plagiarism® Productions. But Music with Sound is not copyrighted; the credits state “sharerights extended to all. This work is in the public domain.” One wonders if these people have anything to do with John Oswald, the Canadian cultural terrorist/ sampler whose liberties with Michael Jackson’s music and image on the Plunderphonics CD raised the ire of the Gloved One’s lawyers last year.

If you like your social commentary high-tech and postmodern — Negativland’s wry slice-and-dice/mix-and-match collages come to mind — the Tape Beatles may be what you’re looking for to annoy your pets and drive your roommates batty. I haven’t heard anything this irritating since the infuriatingly abrupt TV/radio cut-ups of Orchid Spangiafora’s willfully obscure TwinTone label debut, Flee Pasts Ape Elf. That sound you hear is your attention span begging for some adult-contemporary wallpaper music.

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