THURSTON MOORE (ed.) Mix Tape: The Art Of Cassette Culture (Universe Publishing)

If ever a book wanted to be on the fast-track to hipster coffee table acceptance then this must surely be the one. Curated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, “Mix Tape” is shaped to the proportions of a cassette, and solicits contributions from alternative culture figures such as Allison Anders, DJ Spooky, Damon & Naomi, Dean Wareham, Jim O’Rourke and John Zorn (although, interestingly, none of Moore’s bandmates).

And yes, as an affectionate celebration of and requiem for the mix tape it certainly does the job, over 96 pages of lovingly annotated and artily cut and pasted inlays and ropey old Memorex, Sony and Fuji media. Avant-gardner Tony Conrad takes it way, way back with a 1960 reel-to-reel soundclash featuring The Everly Brothers, Ritchie Valens and Pierre Henry; Allison Anders recalls setting her UCSB rock ‘n’ roll film and soundtrack class a project to create mix tapes of the soundtracks to their lives. There’s even an occasional nod to the technology involved: Jim O’Rourke presents a cannibalised cassette mangler, Thurston asserts with utter reasonableness “A cassette rocking at normal bias will bring healing analog tones to the ear-heart” and Maxell, TDK and Phillips get a nod in the thank yous.

“In loving memory of the audiocassette tape”, reads the acknowledgement, and as the short-lived phenomena of the mix CD gives way to the atomised intangibility of the playlist, this sweet epitaph attempts to capture the culture, the enthusiasm, heck, the playful friendliness that ensued when people first realised (in Thurston’s case on reading that rock critic Robert Christgau had assembled a tape of Clash b-sides) they had access to technology able to reshape the past into something more personal and meaningful for the present.

Sonic Youth