the oto tape archive

March 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | 10 Comments
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo tapes

‘Ordnance, Tape Only’, or oTo to its friends, was a sound-art off-shoot project from fencing flatworm recordings, the micro-label I co-ran with Sean Keeble in the early years of this century.  There were fifty oTo releases, with each release limited to a numbered fifty copies, all on one-sided cassette tapes.  Apart from the artist name and the catalogue number no other information was included.  Inlay cards were made by chopping up various Ordnance Survey maps of this fair country.  Thus you got a random square of Britain, five miles on a side, to look at whilst listening to your near-anonymous tape.  Oh, and it is nowt to do with London’s Cafe OTO, which it predates by several years.

To my surprise, this insane enterprise caught the collective imagination and I had no trouble filling up the 50 slots.  It became a cross section of the UK noise underground at the time (2001-ish) and even attracted the attention of the international experimental jet-set with, for example, Thurston Moore donating some skronking.  Julian Bradley, who encouraged me to get started with the project, had tape number T01 and I took last one.  Whilst chopping up maps I was often left with some wholly blue squares containing just sea.  I kept those to one side and the 50 inlay cards for the midwich tape each cover 25 square miles of water.

In a lengthy interview with me conducted by Bang the Bore (read the whole thing here) I was asked a bunch of questions about oTo including this one:

Are you planning on giving oTo a digital after-life? It seems more suited to that format than the ffr releases, possibly… for one thing you can construct the eternally looping playlist implied by how the original releases were structured. It’s also easy to give it that “check it out then move on” response that you mention.

…and I replied:

Well, I can see the appeal for the reasons you mention but, no, I am not planning a digital reanimation for oTo.  Difficulty in finding the time would be a major hindrance – many of the masters are on tape themselves and would therefore need recording onto my laptop and mastering before acceptable mp3 versions could be created.  The bigger problem though is that I no longer have all the masters.  When ffr/oTo was wound up I offered to return masters to artists so they could reissue their work elsewhere and a few took me up on it.  Phil reissued the Zen Nuns tape (a collaboration he did with Lasse Marhaug) on BWCD, for example.  I realise that most of these reissues are now themselves unavailable but still… I returned this stuff on the understanding that oTo was over.  I’d also not feel happy about releasing mp3s of this stuff without the permission of the artists themselves and I’ve completely lost touch with quite a few of them.  No, reanimating oTo would be a logistical nightmare.  Best just to accept that the moment has passed.

Solid reasoning, I’m sure you’ll agree, but then I found myself shifting a stereo upstairs to the RFM offices here at Midwich Mansions and my thinking began to change…  My current opinion is as follows:

Ahh… fuck it!

So, with that in mind, please see the oTo tape archive page (also tabbed above) for a list of the fifty tapes.  The blurbs are from the original FFR website.  I thought about putting it on Bandcamp or doing something like Jeff did at Union Pole but neither of those options felt quite right.  Let’s keep it a private affair for readers of this blog.

The page is being launched containing a random selection of about half of the catalogue (mainly those I had CD-r masters for) in best quality mp3 format.  In due course I will add more until all, or as close to all as I can manage, are archived here.  Your patience requested – this archive is a work in progress and progress may be glacial.

Apologies in advance if some of the sound quality isn’t crystal sharp – such is the nature of the exercise.  Amazingly, I am digitizing tapes via the Pioneer tape deck that I originally duped these tapes on.  It is still working fine – <appreciative whistle> – they don’t make ’em like that anymore, eh?  Where I’ve created mp3s from a CD-r master there may be multiple tracks, mp3s from tapes will be in one lump.  Playing and/or downloading options are both available.

Comments welcome.  Much more to come…

10 Comments »

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  1. Fantastic idea, Rob. Great to see life breathed into this wonderful series of tapes!

    • Cheers Brian – and thanks also for the flattering comments on twitter – much obliged. Hey everyone – go download oTo T40 because it is very lovely. R x

  2. Extremelly glad you did this! I always was curious about these works and to make them available is a big plus! Many thanks Rob for taking the time to do it!

    • My pleasure Miguel – hope you find something you like… R x

  3. Brilliant Rob, so glad you’ve made this available again. I’m looking forward to working my way through the available selection

    • Glad to be of service Jon! I’ll try and keep uploads appearing at a steady trickle… R x

  4. Super!

    Particularly interested by the mutilated films, sound very interesting. Have you heard ‘The Music of Sound’ on Seth Cooke’s new label?

    • Hey Tom, yeah – Graham’s smeared soundtracks are great. I’m waiting on him to see if he can find his originals before I post ’em. If not, I’ll take recordings from the tapes and a layer of authentic hiss will be added… I have heard the ‘The Music of Sound’ and very intertesting it is too. A review of a few things on Seth’s label will appear here in due course… With love, R x

  5. My copies of the Hobs and FG2001 went missing some years ago – some lunatic kleptomaniac houseguest or other, I’ve had a few of them, think you can imagine – so I am especially delighted that you’ve done this Rob, thanks. Apologies for being too blathered to speak at Crater Lake.

    • My pleasure, comrade – see also reply to your comment on the Crater Lake post. With love, Rx


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