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Cassette Store Day brings back an abandoned format 

Reverb

It's not exactly a counterrevolution, but the market for vinyl has increased radically in recent years. Thanks to the combined enthusiasm of obsessive collectors, analog-lovers, and Brooklyn hipsters, LP sales have gone up some 750 percent over the last half decade.

Of course, that accounts for just 2 percent of the recorded music market. But it's still enough to keep record store owners from setting fire to bins full of second-hand Peter Frampton, Ohio Players and Nickelback albums.

Cassettes, on the other hand, are still the stuff of dusty attics and low-end thrift stores.

Admittedly, the outdated format had its drawbacks: You couldn't skip tracks. They sounded like mice on meth when you fast-forwarded them. And roadsides were once littered with the remains of their irreparably unspooled tapes.

On the plus side, the cassette's retro cachet is 10 times that of vinyl's, and nearly on par with its eight-track predecessors. The format also played an integral role in various underground music scenes.

On a broader cultural level, cassettes ushered in the era of mixtapes, which would be painstakingly compiled by music fans for the objects of their devotion, unrequited or otherwise. It says something about the medium's lasting influence that the term mixtape is still applied to online hip-hop releases, DJ mix compilations, and homemade CDs.

So maybe it was inevitable that cassette sales would rise again, which they have, albeit at a pace that's relatively imperceptible. And maybe it was also inevitable that we'll be observing Cassette Store Day next week.

A successor to Record Store Day, this second-year celebration of the lowly medium will take place on September 27 with some 300 limited-edition releases.

While Record Store Day offerings have gone predictably mainstream, their cassette equivalent is still anything but. Cassette releases by established acts — including Gaslight Anthem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, the late J Dilla, and They Might Be Giants — are outnumbered by the likes of Pizza Slut from Tam Tam The Sandwich Man & The Magical Sugar Cookies. There's also a Saturday Singles Series by R. Stevie Moore, the semi-legendary New Jersey artist who has self-released hundreds of cassette albums since the '70s.

And no, Colorado Springs' local artists are not being left out. Musician Chuck Snow has curated a new cassette-only compilation of tracks by local artists that includes Leah Samuels, Daniel James Eaton, the Changing Colors, Joe Johnson, Celestial Mechanics, Charioteer, Eros & the Eschaton, and Space Mutant. A hundred copies will be available as a limited-edition giveaway with purchase on Cassette Store Day exclusively from the Independent Records & Video Annex on Platte Avenue.

While noting that vinyl is a superior medium for analog reproduction and fidelity, Snow insists the less-celebrated medium has its place.

"Cassettes have a far superior sound than an mp3 because of the analog factor," says the singer-songwriter, who will be forever referred to in these pages as a multiple Indy Music Award winner. "I think people like cassettes because of the analog aspect and the retro appeal."

And then, of course, there's personal nostalgia. "My first cassette was Venus and Mars by Wings," recalls Snow. "I got it for Christmas in 1975 along with a combined tape deck and radio!"

Snow says the Independent Annex will be bringing in about 100 different Cassette Store Day releases. If past Record Store Days are any indicator, expect them to sell quickly and be up on eBay by day's end.

Send news, photos and music to reverb@csindy.com; follow our updates at tinyurl.com/indyreverb.

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