Regular Price: $15.98
Online Sale Price! $13.98
The iTunes link above is for the 25th Anniversary Remastered Edition of the original album. This link is for The Rope 25, the 2nd disc:
On the debut . . . Sam Rosenthal's subtle electronics and introspective lyrics establish black tape for a blue girl's stature beyond the realm of the normal "gothic" sound. Creating a timeless blend of Oscar's emotional vocals intertwined with warm ambient soundscapes.
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Rosenthal's electronics coupled with his angst-filled, introspective lyrics established Black Tape For A Blue Girl's position beyond the traditional "gothic" sound. His lyrics overflow with the emptiness of a shattered soul and broken heart revealing a dark, tortured man scanning the wreckage in search of love, understanding, and connection. The timeless blend of Oscar Herrera's passionate vocals intertwining with warm electronic soundscapes and soothing ambient passages creates an album similiar to 80’s-era releases on 4AD and Factory Records.
Opening the album is the rhythmic, hard-hitting "Memory Uncaring Friend," along the lines of Peter Murphy or Gang of Four. Following this striking opener, the music takes a more subtle turn: gently disorienting, autumnal, mesmerizing, mournful, full of wonder and elusive grandeur. Upon The Rope's release, comparisons were made to Cocteau Twins, Brian Eno, Phillip Glass and Chris & Cosey.
In 1986, Star Hits magazine wrote, "Black Tape For A Blue Girl's The Rope is like the musical equivalent of a nervous breakdown. Complete with dark, scary lyrics that make The Smiths sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks, this might give you an idea of what mental anguish sounds like. It is an experiment worth hearing." Option Magazine speculated, "The lyrics are of a masochistic nature, which reflects a probable suicide in the writer's future. Sung by and for those in love with self-misery." Many of the lyrics (and accompanying stories with the instrumentals) on The Rope dwell upon suicide as a response to a lack of love; an attempt to derive affirmation after the writer had left. "I cared for you more than you ever knew, I do this to show you now." Oscar sings on the title track. "I see my answer on the end of a rope, the world turned cold for me." While the final song - "We Return" - looks to others in a similar situation as a solace for the pain and emptiness. "From the black house, we return. Clutching secrets, we must learn." A glimmer of hope.
On Disc 2, the current Black Tape For A Blue Girl line-up performs "Memory, Uncaring Friend" as a driving rock song, equal parts Bauhaus, Gary Numan and a darkly-caffeinated Sinatra. "Working with Brian of the Dresden Dolls on drums and guitar," Rosenthal says, "we captured the song as I would have performed it if live in '86. It's aggressive, brash, tense and loud! All elements that a song about betrayal and self-destruction require. Athan Maroulis' vocals reflect back to Oscar's performance while giving the song new drama and immediacy."
Other equally innovative reinterpretations include All My Faith Lost's neo-classical "The Rope," Mirabilis' haunting a capella "The Floor Was Hard But Home," Lux Interna's neo-folk "We Return," Attrition's dark, electronic "Memory, Uncaring Friend," and Erik Wollo's electronic/soundtracky "Within These Walls." A poignant moment is when Walter Holland re-works the original multi-track recording of "Seven Days til Sunrise," as this track features the clarinet of his late musical partner Richard Watson from the band Amber Route. Hand-picked and sequenced by Rosenthal, this second disc looks back at The Rope while projecting the songs into modern times.
Allmusic.com: "The debut Black Tape album, especially in light of the band's later efforts, makes for an interesting listen in retrospect. On the one hand, much of what would make Black Tape so distinct is already in place: vocalist Oscar Herrera's passionate interpretation of Rosenthal's romantically obsessed lyrics, Rosenthal's own moody, haunting contributions on keyboards, atmospheric instrumental pieces, and more. (However) the sheer depth of later Black Tape music makes the comparatively less full arrangements here sound more like demos. By no means is this criticism, it's just that those expecting the Black Tape aesthetic to have been fully formed from the start will be initially surprised with The Rope, but will find its charms to be plentiful in the end."
TECHNICAL DETAILS, SAM WRITES: The Rope was recorded on a borrowed Fostek cassette porta-studio when I was a college student in Southern California. All the electronics were performed on my Korg Poly61. A Moog Realistic Concertmate MG-1 was used for the leads on "Memory, Uncaring Friend" and "The Few Remaining Threads." The reason I did not use the Moog on more songs was that it was in Florida at my parent's house. Those Moog parts were added near the end, when I was back home in Florida for the summer to record Oscar's vocals." I have the recollection that "Memory" came together in about three hours; music, lyrics and everything; Allan's drums and guitar were recorded in his garage in an afternoon, each with a single microphone. Oscar's vocals were recorded in his living room, while his baby daughter slept (and occasionally cried) upstairs. The Rope was mixed in three hours. Yeah, three hours! Now I spend 20 - 40 hours mixing just one song. I had no idea that I was rushing things! The song "Within These Walls" begins with a sample of drums from the Attrition song "Mind Drop," so it's interesting to have Attrition returning the favor with their cover of "Memory" on Disc 2. The Rope was originally released on vinyl, later on cassette and then CD. The original 2-track 1/4" masters were sent to Canada to get baked and transferred to digital. "Memory, Uncaring Friend" was re-mastered by Al Ursini at Studio Chicago. The rest of the album was mastered here at my studio. Of course there are limitations because the album was recorded on 4-track; often all the music was mashed down to one track, to make room for the vocals and instruments. Re-mastering is a chance to make the album sound a bit more modern as far as the levels go. Yet, as many fans tell me The Rope is their favorite album, I did not do anything to drastically alter the sound. I stayed faithful to the original and cleaned things up, eqed some of the sounds to make them more present, and - just like the listener - re-experienced Black Tape For A Blue Girl of 25 years ago.
1 black tape for a blue girl: memory, uncaring friend (2011) Sam Rosenthal: moog Athan Maroulis: vocals Brian Viglione: drums & electric guitar Valerie Gentile: electric guitar Arrangement by Sam & Brian. Recorded & mixed by Sam in the Lush Garden. Drums recorded by Martin Bisi at BC Studios, Gowanus Brooklyn. Mastered by Martin Bowes at The Cage, Coventry, England. blacktapeforabluegirl.com
2 All My Faith Lost...: the rope Viola Roccagli: Vocals Federico Salvador: Guitar, Vocals Fabio Polo : Violin Stefania Pellizzer: Cello Recorded during October 2010 in Valvasone allmyfaithlost.com
3 Mirabilis: the floor was hard but home Summer Bowman and Dru Allen: Voices and arrangement Engineered by Summer Bowman, mixed by Summer Bowman and Pete Murray mirabilismusic.com
4 Erik Wøllo: within these walls Erik Wøllo:: electric guitars/synthesizers/programming Wintergarden Studio, Norway wollo.com
5 Forrest Fang: hide in yourself Forrest Fang: synthesizer, electronics, saron (Javanese gamelan), Japanese palm harp, Burmese gong Recorded during August 2010 at the Hangar, Berkeley, CA forrestfang.com
6 Dirk Serries: lingering (vintage mix) 7 Dirk Serries: blurred (lo-fi mix) dirkserries.com
8 Walter Holland: seven days till sunrise Walter Holland: Keyboard, Guitar Richard Watson: Clarinet Cauleen Smith: Cello Recorded and mixed at Dr. Hunter's Sanitarium walterholland.com
9 Kho Hat Hasa: the holy terrors Laurie Reade: voice & instrumentationApril Goltz: voice Recorded and mixed at The Palace, Minneapolis, MN by Laurie Reade khohathasa.com
10 Rajna: end Jeanne Lefebvre: voice, bells, voice effect Fabrice Lefebvre: santoor, bouzouki, doudouk, percussions, synthesizer Recorded and mixed at Out of the World Studio, 2011, France. Rearrangement by Fabrice and Jeanne Lefebvre rajna.net
11 Attrition: memory, uncaring friend Martin Bowes: voice and electronics Julia Waller: voice Recorded and mastered at The Cage, Coventry, England attrition.co.uk
12 Lux Interna: we return Joshua Levi Ian & Kathryn Mary: guitars, hand percussion, loops, voices Ariela Marcus-Sells: spoken Arabic “We Return” was recorded in our bedroom onto 4- track, and mastered by Doug White (Watchmen Studios). For those who once gathered in the black house. luxinterna.com
When The Rope was originally released in 1986, gothic rock was in a different place. The realm of alternately gloomy/goofy bands like Bauhaus, the March Violets and Christian Death, the genre dwelt in darkness in the same way as a Bela Lugosi flick: not without its chills ‘n' thrills, but mostly harmless and a bit silly. But the goth mantle never sat comfortably on Black Tape for a Blue Girl's furrowed brow. When composer/label owner Sam Rosenthal convened his long-running project for this debut, he wasn't doing it to make an imaginary soundtrack to his favorite Hammer horror movie - he was exorcising his own pain.
Carrying enough angst (mainly over lost love, but disengagement and confusion figure prominently as well) to fill a cement mixer, Rosenthal pours his feelings into the twin vessels of his analog synthesizers and vocalist Oscar Herrara, letting guests add guitar, strings and counterpoint vocals along the way. The result could've been an exercise in solipsism so overwhelming that a Sinead O'Connor record would feel impersonal. But, no matter how emo he seems on the surface, Rosenthal is too savvy for that. On brooding tunes like "The Holy Terrors "Within These Walls" and the title track, the mix of chilly electronics and organic instruments finds a balance that pulls the songs from the precipice of melodrama. Using other singers puts distance between him and the expressed sentiments and keeps the proceedings from getting mawkish.
Rosenthal also knows when to strategically let air into his hermetically sealed cloud. The handful of ambient instrumentals feel more like the mists of dawn than the fog of darkness, and the opening track "Memory, Uncaring Friend" rocks against the dying of the light despite its downcast libretto. Plus BTFABG ends the record with "We Return," an assertion that, despite the seeming omniscience of sadness and heartbreak, we "know we will survive." Rosenthal may spend most of his time in the gloomy end of the pool on The Rope, but he knows when to climb out and find a warm towel. We can wallow in his pain with him, but ultimately we'll have to switch on the light just as he does.
Besides a superb remaster that belies the fact that the LP was recorded on a four-track, this edition includes a second disk of artists from the Projekt roster covering the album's tunes. The highlight is, unsurprisingly, BTFABG's own remake of "Memory, Uncaring Friends with Dresden Doll Brian Viglione providing drums and current singer Athan Maroulis improving on the vocal performance.
Non ci soffermeremo nuovamente su brani che dovrebbero essere già patrimonio di chi si vuol dire cultore della musica dark, o gothic se preferite: ci limiteremo a fornire il dato importante dell'opera di rimasterizzazione, che conferisce una resa audio decisamente migliorata a momenti destinati a non tramontare mai, ora come fra altri 25 anni. Ciò che fa gola in questa doverosa operazione di rispolvero è la presenza, nell'elegante confezione eco-wallet (che nelle prime 500 copie includeva anche il booklet coi testi), di un secondo dischetto, contenente le reinterpretazioni dei 12 brani di "The Rope" da parte di artisti attualmente facenti parte del roster della Projekt: un'idea intrigante per offrire qualcosa di realmente interessante al cultore affezionato, anziché la sola opera di remastering dell'originale. "Memory, Uncaring Friend" è rivista dagli stessi Black Tape For A Blue Girl in versione 2011, e quindi con la profondamente mutata formazione attuale, per un risultato decisamente più solido e sostenuto; piacciono, e molto, le prove fornite dai vari All My Faith Lost... (c'è anche un po' d'Italia in questa importante uscita), Mirabilis (superba la loro versione a cappella di "The Floor Was Hard But Home"), Erik Wøllo, Forrest Fang, Kho Hat Hasa (dove milita la ex-Attrition Laurie Reade), Rajna, Attrition (preziosi per colorare almeno un frangente con le tinte della più esperta dark-electro) e Lux Interna (per un tocco di neofolk), tutti capaci di interpretare in una gustosa chiave personale i momenti intimi musicati 25 anni or sono da Rosenthal ed affiliati. Più fedele all'originale "Seven Days Till Sunrise" rivista da Walter Holland, mentre Dirk Serries svolge per due brani il lavoro di remix, intrigando sul serio solo nei frangenti resi più spettrali. Una ristampa imperdibile per chi ancora ha da colmare la pesantissima lacuna di non conoscere l'album originale, resa ghiotta anche per i cultori della band grazie alla lungimiranza nell'offrire un gustoso surplus. -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi