How can a preservation engineer possibly begin with anything other than a k7 ¹ called Hard Drive Vinegar Vol. 1? It’s the latest tape to pass through my letterbox — but besides its newness, cassette binders are polyester-based and never acetate — thus it’s safe to assume it doesn’t reek of herring gull beak, albeit they are circling. There is something acidic about the nine track collection, not as acid techno, but rather auto-catalytic, like acetic acid accelerating the decay process ².
LST (Tarquin Manek) has released a slew of donked-up tapes under various guises and as part of the trio F Ingers; via Night People, the recently deceased Blackest Ever Black, and Australian labels Another Dark Day and Chapter Music. As the title suggests, Hard Drive Vinegar contains material that rotted inside Manek’s hard drive from 2009 – 2019. Its decade timespan is surprising for such a cohesive work, especially with a geographic spread of recording at home in Australia and after relocating to Berlin. One of its enigmatic charms lies in how it seems to disregard time and place in favour of its own conformity; especially pertinent now while concepts like distance and closeness are both futile and ever-blending together in omnipresence. Distant like our next-door neighbours hemmed in and invisible, who are as close as those in other communities, cities and continents. As the hourglass marks the disappearance of time in one realm to record its swelling growth in its subterranean other, the belly of the infinity sign rotates upwards.
Hard Drive Vinegar sits somewhere between noise and ambient while transcending as neither. It rattles out loner beats, the occasional extinguished vocal sample or a dried up stream of radio static, billowing gently across a torn canopy of sporadic and disturbing synths, emptying itself in anticipation of another tranquil or unsettling pouring-out. It absorbs space negligibly, circulating it and returning it unconsumed. Such peculiar pacing is sardonically comforting during the lockdown. Like the streets, quieting and disquieting, the tape offers the compression and rarifaction of a vague anxiety building up and releasing.
¹ French slang for cassette, as in kah-sept.
² Casey, Mike. “2.3.5 Vinegar Syndrome (VS).” FACET: Format Characteristics and Preservation Problems Version 1.0, Indiana University, 2007, p. 33.