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This Strange Tape Collection is Unintentional Vaporwave Genius

An Ex Kmart employee recovered the 50+ cassettes from the trash and digitized them.

Mark Davis worked behind the Service Desk at Kmart in the late ’80s and early ’90s. During that time, corporate issued cassettes containing muzak and advertisements to be played in-store over the speaker system . The cassettes were supposed to be thrown away, but Davis would  nabbed each tape for himself and stored them away for posterity. Davis summarises….

OK, I have to admit this this is a strange collection. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was intoduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether.

The older tapes contain canned elevator music with instrumental renditions of songs. Then, the songs became completely mainstream around 1991. All of them have advertisements every few songs.

The monthly tapes are very, very, worn and rippled. That’s becuase they ran for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on auto-reverse. If you do the math assuming that each tape is 30 minutes per side, that’s over 800 passes over a tape head each month.

But what makes the collection so oddly engaing is the uncanny resemblance many of the tracks bare to modern-day Vaporwave, a muzak infused micro-genre that samples MOR, Lounge and Smooth jazz music. Through the chopped and screwed manipulation of audio tropes closely associated with the 90’s, the genre calls to mind an era of accelerated consumerism though a haze of reverberated sax and heavily-pitched vocals. And with it’s lo-fi hiss and odd mix of MIDI instrumentals and warbled pop classics, this collection is probably 2015’s most fire proto-vaporwave mixtape.

You can cop the entire collection for free at archive.org.

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