Cadu Tenório – blue thirty-four
Cadu Tenório – blue thirty-four (2019)
Quick, a throwback to a 2018 meme:
(credit to wipeyadocsoff Instagram – I couldn't get the IG embed working!)
It's a fair assessment. Part of the glory of bandcamp is its sanctioning of obscurity; music is validated by virtue of being on bandcamp, even if it's literally one track one person recorded and uploaded, "supported by" no one. Hence, there's some very weird stuff out there, and a lot of it might not be worth listening to. Non-additive weirdness is a very real concern.
Luckily, there are people like me around to comb through the noise and pick out the highlights (thank me later). On the surface, the Blue Tapes record label might appear to epitomize the "bandcamp aesthetic" the above pokes fun at. First of all, they publish literal tapes – like cassette tapes. If you've collected yourself from guffawing at this folly of hipster retro-fetishism, I'll mention there's quite a thriving cassette scene on bandcamp and elsewhere – in fact, a quick web search reveals that Forbes reported on the medium's resurgence earlier this year. I'll leave it to the reader's sensibilities to conclude where Forbes reporting on something puts it on the mainstream bell curve.
If we allow that the cassette format's relevance has expanded outside a niche concern of retrograde navel-gazing, Blue Tapes still land pretty squarely in bandcamp's left field. The cover art adorning all the releases is done in a uniform abstracted style, apparently produced by cyanotype (at least their earlier releases) – and, yes, the color blue dominates. The music tends towards – you guessed it – the ambient variety. Viewed in a vacuum there's not much to distinguish any one release on the label from the digital masses. But zooming out to take a look at the label's corpus of releases as a whole, an impressive and ambitious vision is revealed. The project was started by David McNamee as a way to keep himself busy and focus his analytical energy on a tangible product (I think this article might've actually been how I discovered the label). There's something gravitating about a driven, consistent effort to realize a specific artistic vision, in this case a framework that allows its participants a broad range of creativity. With no pretense of concern for business in the so-called "profit and loss" sense, the label operates essentially as a curation of music its proprietors are excited about and want to share with the world, which they give a fun packaging treatment and some light promotion.
I've been following the label for awhile and am generally excited about the releases, but blue thirty-four – they're all named simply for their number, stylized in lowercase – really grabbed me. Admittedly a big part of it was the art and packaging for this particular release (I jumped for a physical copy; see pic below). But the music delivers and stands beside the best of anything Blue Tapes has put out. There's no mincing words: it's crushing, expansive drone, tense and towering, evoking lonely shores and untold distances. Monochromatic choral tones haunt the horizons as alien static slices across our radio signal. Yet for all this drear and doom, like all top-notch drone music, there's something delicate about it, as if a structure of strange gossamer filaments you approach tentatively for fear of toppling it with your breath. It comes together as more than just a collection of noises: it's a narrative of a strange journey through metaphysical realms, weaving between the internal and the external. While no Blue Tapes release can be said to summarily capture the spirit of the label, this one is as great a starting point as any – and perhaps an even better starting point for all the "boring ambient drone" to be found on bandcamp.
And now, feast your eyes on this merch: