The Confidentiality Tapes

Microcassettes is where it began. You know, the ones you find in old answering machines and Dictaphones.

During the pandemic lockdown of 2020 I became obsessed. I wanted to gather, hear and engage with any second hand microcassettes that I could get my hands on. Online auctions, charity shops, forums, friends, however from wherever – I wanted them all.

Yet all of these fragments of sound weren’t enough, and despite writing a whole album of material in April 2020 – all based on microcassette finds, there was something missing. That changed on 3rd June 2020 when I won an online auction for a microcassette player with 11 used tapes. There was no clue as to what was contained on the tapes, just advice that they could be recorded over. The player was nice too, a higher range Sony model, but it was the tapes I was interested in. A week earlier I had bought a dictation microcassette player, something to make the task of digitising them easier. By the 12th June the package arrived, and I dutifully dipped into them.

I lost hours. The stories contained on those tapes I could never expect. No one would.

I had unearthed the recordings of Tony, a Scottish audio archivist/obsessive with his chosen medium being the microcassette. The recordings spanned 1989 to 1991, and detailed mundane aspects of his life such as computer issues, tech support, his assassination conspiracy theory group phone calls, and neighbourhood disputes. What I would never expect to unearth was a detailed story of a love triangle which involved him, his wife Irene and a third party, Terry.

The story you will hear is not chronological, that would almost be impossible to piece together from the evidence on the tapes. Rather, the episodes of The Confidentiality Tapes are in the order that I pulled them from the box and digitised them. Some are answerphone messages, but most are planned recordings of events as they unfold. The tapes are clearly shared amongst the triangle, with each member having their own agenda.

You’ve probably heard the gory details of someone’s second hand love triangle story, or watched trash television on the theme, maybe read some crappy magazine articles. This isn’t like that. It’s very real, too real in places. The obvious love triangle underpins the recordings, but the detail in the testimonies, the use of the microcassette to evidence and broker deals, the ebb and flow of deception, abuse – emotional, physical, and sexual, together with the residual mental health battles that unfold are compelling and uneasy listening.

This in unlike anything I’ve made before. It’s not music to be consumed as music. Yes, there are sounds that accompany the stories I’ve taken, but it shouldn’t be listened to as such, it should be absorbed.

I’ve decided to release these as episodes, shared weekly, online, and for free. The collection will be available afterwards on a single format to purchase. Each episode lasts between 10 minutes to 35 minutes, and is more like a series than an album. The concept is sedentary listening, something to unplug your mind with, something to have on in the background, something to ignore, something to listen to as you walk, sleep or zone out, something to for the anti-music fan, or just simply background noise – It’s not for everyone.

In the addition to the microcassette stories, each episode has a carefully crafted ambient score to help you not listen (ha!).

Episode one airs on Bandcamp from Sunday 23rd August and continues for 12 weeks. These episodes are free to download.

Published by Prrk Industries Sound Enthusiasts

Producer and multi-instrumentalist in a range of Portsmouth based bands, from shouting for noise oiks Flybums, samples and conducting for the improvised Friday Night Weird Dreams, drums for riff orientated instrumental band Aeroplane Attack, one third of the abstract spoken word/sound project The Vulture is a Patient Bird, and a solo artist for a range of sound projects covering a multitude of genres. Designer and presenter for Prrk Industries, an online research platform for electronic sound experiments, circuit bending and sonic exploration, encouraging DIY building and modifying of devices and the repurposing of discarded media and products.

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