Stars around the beautiful moon / hide back their luminous form / whenever all full she shines on the earth / Silvery.
— Sappho ¹
Mixtapes are inherently Sapphic in their fragmentary insertion and omission of sonic extracts, frail reproductions, emotional spectres teleported from sender to receiver; the clippings, drawings and collage of folded paper, and the inclusion or exclusion of tracklists and notes. Like reassembling the words and vignettes of poems from disintegrating papyrus, mixtapes expose clues out of the redactions of time and space. Conflicting intimacies and distances concentrated in a small object unfurl into a room or the cocoon of a car’s interior ² — all for the sake of fragmentation and a splintering ³ of missed and retrieved messages.
A tension of coldness and warmth pervades mixtapes released on cassette labels. The consumer/receiver rarely knows the artist and usually the artist isn’t transmitting information to anyone in particular, merely a sparse group of collectors. The tape is more commodity than gift; nevertheless the materiality of the process, its arrival at a destination and whatever (shelf)life the object takes offers something more singular than a typical mix streamed on a market-driven platform or online radio station.
Laila Sakini’s Your Day is My Night mixtape on Purely Physical Teeny Tapes eludes the tropes that commonly compartmentalise mixes. In lieu of such trappings an affectual stream eclipses stylistic pinnings with neither side feeling futuristic or referential to the past — bringing a full-circle against the grains of style to its close. The A-Side, “Your Day” draws deeply into a stretch of solace and space. Spiritual jazz instrumentation provides textural motion in place of genre nods, before an outgrowth of drum sequencing patters into more synthesised pastures. The side’s closing moments stretch back across a plateaux of space, yet more fertile, moist and subterranean than the airiness of the opening segments.
On the flip-side, “My Night” momentarily carries over the ending passage of “Your Day”, before ricocheting back into kineticism. Mangled vocals that seem to call out from a vessel in the Indian Ocean delineate a grid, giving way to a sludge of rhythms — the digestion of lotus-eaters. “My Night” has a more smudged and grubby energy, like a car with an insect splattered windshield mainlining into the Tropic of Cancer.
Purely Physical Teeny Tapes’ inaugural cassette features a bed of Sakini’s drifting compositions set to the nonchalant voice of Australian poet Lucy Van. The tape comes packaged in a plastic drug baggy, much like /\\Aught’s eleven tapes of unparalleled grainy particle techno (2014 – 2017). The entirety of Figures oozes with cloud-like pads, fizzling drum machines and meandering poetry, but I’ll merely focus on the opener “Those Who See”.
The extended poem arrives somewhere between Robert Ashley and Laurie Anderson. It’s riddled with twisted ironies and sardonic deadpan humour, like “in your communist fantasy all is taken from me / all our enemies in an orgy of IQ to body ratio, of IQ to body radio.” I particularly relish the menagerie of husbands in circulation amid the unfolding of the non-narrative. “My husband is a weight lifter. Each morning I fill his Tupperware with meat patties. He lifts my weights to his mouth. Chewing through spit, my husband is a dentist, all swagger and sweet skin in a white suede coat, pulling debris from under my gums. Forcing my tongue against my teeth, I sound silly when I talk.” “Those Who See” closes on a germane warning as “the working class and immigrants yell for no reason: you are who you pretend to be. Be careful who you pretend to be.”
¹ “If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.” If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, by Sappho and Anne Carson, Virago, 2003, pp. 68–69.
² Bijsterveld, Karin, et al. Sound and Safe: a History of Listening behind the Wheel. Oxford University Press, 2014.
³ P-Orridge, Genesis Breyer. “The Splinter Test.” Book of Lies – the Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult, edited by Richard Metzger, Disinformation Company, 2014.