The central outdoor Greek Theater remains virtually untouched, an iconic setting perched in the green hills of Berkely, California. In September of 2018 producer and archivist Erik Flannigan embarked to record The National’s two live performances onto tape cassettes, a methodology that built underground occult by the enthusiast Mike Millard, otherwise known as Juicy Sonic Magic back in the 1970s.
After the performances on September 24th and 25th, The National released the entire recording of their live set as an album at a length of three hours and 58 minutes on 45 tracks. Released alongside the music was also a mini-documentary outlining the back story and homage to the process and ritual of recording live sets, which included both Flanningan and National’s lead singer Matthew Donald Berninger.
There is an enrapturing simplicity to the return of process. The entire project adds to a lineage of sound and the tools that have come and gone in its history. It calls back to this idea of how we listen, how we relate and finding some much lost tactility within the way we are consuming media.
The tape deck recordings bring this physicality that allows the listener to return to the absolute of sound, of music - which is process: the methodology is the magic.
The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger said that, “These tapes show us why playing live and being a good live band is maybe the most important part of it. You’re hearing the best manifestation of our band live, none of us ever hear it.”
The process recalls a unifying moment of not only sound, but of experience, and in this way, suspends time. This extrapolation of sound reminds the listener of music as memory and music as place. There is a powerful stance in this replication through a modality that is no longer common practice. It ties us back to a common prayer of sorts. That lets us stop, to listen and to feel.
Perhaps there is a stronger pull now to dated sentimentalities. Whether it is this recorded concert on a tape deck, or a return to film cameras, or listening to music on vinyl records, we are returning and craving a way to consume with texture..that brings us closer to the way things were and perhaps how things could be... it gives us more room to dream because there is this strong ephemera of capturing a moment, of wanting to hold on.
Words: Rae Niwa
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