Today, the concept of putting your music on cassette tapes seems quaint, but in 1985, cassettes were the primary medium of exchange for those creating original material in the experimental music underground.
At the Internet Archive, you can access a trove of 30 gigabytes of underground music dating from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s that originally had been committed to cassette and distributed in that form. According to the information provided with the archive, the genres include “tape experimentation, industrial, avant-garde, indy, rock, diy, subvertainment and auto-hypnotic materials.” However, a good portion of the archive “defies category, and has therefore not been given one.”
Warning: every tape is represented as a single mp3 file, and the music is completely unlabeled and untagged—that is to say, there is no artist or track information, except where it has been listed on the cassette cover, which are small and hard to read. If you like the element of surprise in your music, this archive may be for you, because there’s little way to know in advance what each cassette contains. I sampled some of the music and it reminded me quite a bit of listening to the legendary free-form radio station WFMU out of Hoboken.
If you want to download the entire archive, you can do so here, although it comes with a warning that this is a “very inefficient way to browse this collection.” If you’d like to sample individual cassettes, you can do so here.
Most of the tapes in this library were donated to the project by former CKLN FM radio host Myke Dyer in August of 2009. The original NOISE-ARCH site was hosted and maintained by Graham Stewart and Mark Lougheed.