Even in the post-Donuts and post-Pete Rock era of digital sampling techniques and frenetic trap beats, there is a huge scene inclining to the lo-fi, rustling sound of jazz-influenced old school instrumental hip hop tunes. The music often offers a specific state of relaxation and/or melancholy, whether you imagine it being a soundtrack to the city soaked in rain and neon lights, the whispering palm leaves in the wind under the gray beach sky, or a bunch of friends dropping needles on old records and chilling on a couch together. There’s something enchanting and alluring about these tunes: Often lacking vocals or using only samples, they are liberated from the burden of any literal content and are therefore free for interpretation, like short abstract poems.
Heading from Wales, Tapeday Records embody exactly this vibe and atmosphere in the music they put out. They have quickly expanded since their birth in 2016 and managed to release 22 EPs and singles of the music described above; mixing samples of vocals and movie soundtracks with dusty beats and a laid back vibe. The label owners are two Cardiff based buds Bryn Morgan and Robert Mist, who were also the first two artists having their records released on the label: Bryn’s Lightie and Rob’s It’s Been a Long Day. But since they keep the label very open for submissions, they quickly expanded their roster with many talented producers. Here is a promo video to their latest release by Quima called Heaear.
The perfect way of getting into the label’s audio and visual identity is their compilation Tapeday Vol. 1, featuring over thirty tracks by Bryn, Rob and many artists who have released on Tapeday before, such as bluørangee, DJ GODFREY HO or Pneumoniker. Most of the artists are from the UK, but thanks to the label’s open approach towards submissions, there are producers from other European countries and also from South Africa, all coming to Tapeday with high quality hip hop tunes. To quote Bryn’s own definition about the label’s audio and visual identity, “the overall aesthetic is definitely routed in golden age hip-hop, gritty lo-fi cassette culture and some element of the abstract fresh style we try to bring to the music.”
Tapeday Vol. 1 is also their only cassette release up to date. “We do hope to get most of the catalogue into a physical release with the right demand", adds Bryn, and it makes me think of their motto - ‘A tape a day keeps the doctor away’. The latest release shoes4m∆kebeats by blkldg X bluørangee at least opens with the sound of pressing play on a boombox...so one way or another, the label is getting there.
Since Tapeday refer to “the golden age” in their biography, what is the golden age of hip hop according to Bryn? “1990s for sure. Also gangsta rap, jazz rap and instrumental mixes come to mind, but the consistent quality of the famous years like 94, producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier and later on J Dilla really have shaped the sound of the instrumental/'lo-fi' beatmaking community”. But Bryn and the label are not too stuck in the past and look at the music they are supporting from a modern perspective, keeping the contemporary scenes and production techniques in mind. “I know my heroes and inspirations, but we should always look forward to new talent to keep it fresh”. Bryn does so by various methods, including working with a sampler in his own way: “An interesting exercise I like to try is to sample yourself. It can really start to come up with a lot of interesting, unique sounds and to me, it really demonstrates the application of the sampler. It’s not just for re-playing old records. It has an amazing power to both contextualise and re-contextualise, including your own and other people’s work into something modern and fresh”.
How do the producers achieve the authentic old school sound upgraded with a contemporary touch? “Us (Bryn and Rob) and the people we work with are often loosely termed traditionalists, working with hardware samplers (Roland SP-404 and 303 come to mind), synths like Micro Korg and sampling directly from turntables for that lo-fi texture. It has to be said how venerated the SPs are within the genre. A great deal of people rely on the 404 especially, for a lot of the quicksand glitches in their music.” Being a guitar player, Bryn also adds guitar to the setup and uses Logic for arrangements, mixing and mastering. A lot of the releases also work with classical instruments like a piano or wind instruments, like Calm On the Outside EP by Jake And Bake Beats or Dub 1’s Keys EP.
Since a lot of tunes released on Tapeday resemble or work with movie soundtracks and most of the video content is made by Bryn himself, I can’t resist but ask him about the cinematic source of inspiration. And I receive a surprisingly specific answer. “Aesthetically, the old Kung Fu joints such as Five Deadly Venoms have always been a draw, also the Wu-Tang Clan are definitely behind that influence for me. With the passing of George Romero, it's important to note how cool and original the visuals of those films are. Soundtrack-wise, the great blaxploitation soundtracks of Curtis Mayfield and Issac Hayes were huge for me”. Apart from cultural traveling in time and around the globe, Bryn mentions another source of inspiration having an indisputable impact on his activities: his homeland. “My own Welsh heritage is something I try to work into my music. My name is Welsh, I'll often tittle songs in the language, like 'Caru Ti'. I take a lot of my influence from the land itself, the country as a whole has a vastly underutilized, amazing culture”.
Looking towards the future, creating the local community and promoting the UK hip hop scene is one of Tapeday’s future plans. “We hope to branch that short-term internet success into a sustainable local community as I feel it’s such an important part of the music that gets overlooked. In trying to set the world alight and ‘blow up’, it’s the amazing communal vibe that sets it apart from other art forms I feel”. With this goal goes event promotion hand in hand as the record label hopes to throw events and showcases in an around the UK.
Regarding releases, a collaboration cassette tape with Saikei Collective is coming soon, as well as the second cassette compilation Tapeday Vol. 2 aka The Red Tape. Other than that, the regular weekly releases will continue to be published.
The instrumental lo-fi hip hop music which Tapeday releases is a comfortable, safe bubble protecting you from the outside world, its tiresome and tedious issues and your own problems. This music encapsulates different times, eras and moments, from the decadent dark corners of jazz bars and the painful beauty of jazz bossa nova to the vivid colours of graffiti walls and the cinematic noir feeling of loners roaming through the dusky city. As a genre, it doesn’t change much its structure and production techniques; it’s reliable and not meant to be surprising or too innovative. The result is a timeless music, flowing slowly like a lazy river, washing off the worries. And allowing you to loll on a soft cloud, dreaming about the delightful, mysterious and uplifting treasures of life, or wallow in your melancholy without any external disturbance.