These Cassettes are EXTREMELY Rare... Here's Why.
By: Pad Chennington
When it comes to my music collection, I really don’t have a lot of cassettes. Most of you know me for my vinyl record collection, but recently, I was sent a handful of cassettes from a record label known as Liminal Garden… And what they sent me, has completely blown my mind.
The micro-label is known for their “Naturewave” releases, an outgrowth of the Vaporwave genre that features an emphasis on organic sounds and ambient moods. The music coming out of this Naturewave micro-genre, if we want to call it that, as you can tell by its name, is all inspired by the sights and sounds of nature. This has translated into some beautiful album art and aesthetics that are paired with these releases, and what I’m about to show you today has just taken the design and packaging of music to a whole ‘nother level!
So get cozy and grab a nice hot drink because we’re going to be exploring some incredible music today, all concluding with what I can now easily say is the holy grail of my cassette collection. These are some of the most rare releases I am absolutely blessed to own and we’re going to be taking a look at all of the magic that went into each of these limited edition pieces.
The sound and overall idea of Naturewave can be traced back to classic releases like 猫 シ Corp.’s 地球 (translated to “Earth”) alias, the beautiful Overgrowth split, and ロストエデンへのパ ス (translated to “Path to Lost Eden”), the legendary collab between NMESH and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者. I was able to get in touch with the owner of LIMINAL GARDEN and talk about the sound of Naturewave and how the style has influenced the creation of the label.
They found that while other genres stemming from Vaporwave may be looking critically at themes of overly romanticized nostalgia, consumerism, urbanism or futurism, Naturewave tends to find it’s outlook through spirituality and a close relationship with nature.
“When I created the label I was looking for a way to make it distinct from its contemporaries. And also a way to easily communicate to artists what kind of music I’m looking for. So in that way it’s also just a nifty catchphrase to make LIMINAL GARDEN stand apart from the rest a bit." - Liminal Garden
存在 ／ 瞑想 by 夢のチャンネル
I really want to waste no time today getting into these cassettes, there is so much to talk about and each album sent to me is just so special in their own right. I received 5 cassettes in total, and the first one I want to talk about today is 存在 ／ 瞑想 by 夢のチャンネル (translated to Existence / Meditation by Dream Channel).
Making its way onto a limited edition clear shell cassette with incredible on-body printing on both sides, this thing just feels so special holding it in my hands, it’s kind’ve hard to put into words how gorgeous this cassette looks and hopefully the camera did it justice here!
This was the first in the label’s series of physical releases, which included an exclusive, newly-composed track for the B side from 夢のチャンネル for the release. Each side is 35 minutes long and takes it’s time with a beautiful, entrancing build up. The label puts it pretty perfectly, describing it as a “hyper-emotional slushwave lullaby”.
That matte gloss finish on the on-body printing gives this design depth and emphasis on top of that translucent cassette and allows the shell to shine when placing it in front of a window. A beautiful, simple green obi-strip as the cherry on top all ties the packaging of this release together wonderfully. I love physical releases that feel layered or ones that want to be explored, and as you're about to see, Liminal Garden just knocks it out of the park with how these cassettes are designed.
“Some might look at a cassette tape as a mere medium for storing music in an inferior quality. I see it as a way to hold a tiny part of that artistic creation in your hands and call it your own.” - Liminal Garden
冥想嘅時刻 by binary deconstructed
Next up is the 4-track release from the artist binary deconstructed: 冥想嘅時刻 (translated to “Meditation time”)
Bursting to life with special spot gloss UV-LED printing on both sides of the cassette, as well as an expansive 4-panel full color j-card that also includes a short story, 冥想嘅時刻 feels like something straight out of a shrine from Breath of the Wild!
The album plays through like an expedition into a mysterious jungle. Swirling winds, ancient strings and other exhilarating sounds found throughout nature all brought to life through the cuts, lines and detail present on the 冥想嘅時刻 cassette.
“I’m mostly influenced by other labels, first and foremost Underwater Computing and Global Pattern, but also VILL4IN and No Problema. The beauty of their releases, the finesse and ingenuity that goes into making the physical representation of an album be something unique and special, is what made me want to take part in creating some as well. Some might look at a cassette tape as a mere medium for storing music in an inferior quality. I see it as a way to hold a tiny part of that artistic creation in your hands and call it your own. Physicals are what give the magical quantities of music a corporeal representation in the real world.” - Liminal Garden
Bloom by ARBRVTÆ
The next cassette we are going to be looking at is actually, as of this article, unreleased and will be coming soon to the Liminal Garden label.
This is Bloom, a 9-track concoction of field recordings, percussion and synthesizers. Bloom is given the full-body print treatment, but unlike the 夢のチャンネル cassette, this art takes up the entirety of the cassette. The full print lays over a transparent shell, so any of the areas that don’t have trees all just add this fogginess to the cassette, perfectly playing into the background behind the forest. All of the art is slightly raised up a bit which helps it pop even more.
The tape was inspired by the artist’s own photography. Liminal Garden told me that the idea of the cassette design was quite risky actually. Having daylight shining through the frosted white tape working out not only on just the mockups for the cassettes during the design phase, but on the printed tapes as well, was a complete stroke of luck.
“What I’m looking for in the artwork for a LIMINAL GARDEN release is that it’s eye-catching, tells a story and generally fires the imagination of those looking at it. Often it’s what gives an album or even an artist their identity.” - Liminal Garden
Ikebana Online by Bubble Keiki
Ikebana Online by Bubble Keiki is a special, beautiful album with a bittersweet story at its heart.
In 2019, the artist was struck down by severe illness. In this time of uncertainty and pain, Bubble Keiki discovered a strange attraction for Ikebana tutorial videos on youtube (or, the Japanese art of flower arrangements) . Those videos, albeit being often low quality, had a strange soothing effect on the troubled mind and body of the sickened artist.
This album is inspired by that cumbersome journey. Agitated lo-fi noises meet soothing melody lines and ethereal pads mimicking the ups and downs, hopes and troubles, that come with long lasting illness and slow recovery.
Ikebana Online is a symbol of hope… A promise, that relief can be found even during the darkest hours of existence in the most unusual places.
The cassette pays tribute to the Ikebana artwork with subtle pink flower petals sprinkled over the transparent cassette shell. A colorful obi-strip paired with the case also looks great as well.
“Much like with the tapes, each album deserves a tailor-made approach to its packaging. Some albums just scream for a nice obi-strip! Others need an expansive j-card with additional artwork on multiple panels. And some might have a printed shell and no j-card at all. - Liminal Garden
雨林神靈 by クリチバの地下鉄
And last, but definitely not least, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The cassette I can confidently say is the “Holy Grail” of my cassette collection: 雨林神靈 by クリチバの地下鉄 (translated to Rainforest Deity by Chikatetsu).
Where do I even begin with this one… First of all, this was the cassette that helped me even discover Liminal Garden in the first place. I woke up one day, pulled up Twitter and saw a retweet showcasing the upcoming cassette drop for 雨林神靈 , and I was immediately blown away. I’ve never seen anything like this before on a cassette; full-color on-body printing on both sides of a transparent dark blue shell.
Whether you're holding it in a room with no windows or directly into the sunlight, this cassette seems to just emit this unbelievable shine and energy no matter which way you look at it, the neon light blue in the buddha and other elements of the cassette just glow in any setting.
For this masterpiece, Liminal Garden looked at the original cover that came with the album, listened to the music, read the liner notes and then tried to envision how the tape for all of that should look. They were fascinated by the partial UV print techniques that are available, so using them for 雨林神靈 was inevitable.
“The cover has a very cool color scheme going on; it’s almost looking like it has a glowing, fluorescent effect. That’s what I wanted with the tape as well. So it’s a case of looking what tape colors are available and coming up with a corresponding color scheme for the print.
I first created only the A-side and mocked that up for Chikatetsu to get some feedback. Luckily she really liked the concept, so I could also create the B-side. Then it’s a matter of preparing the files for printing, sending them off and hoping for the best. Every graphic designer will know what I’m talking about: You can plan a design as much as you want, you never know exactly how it will come out in the printing. Fortunately they turned out really nice, yeah!
The final step – but not the least important one – is to make decent photos of the tape. I’m not a fan of presenting my releases as mockups, so creating good photos that sell the look of the cassette is essential.” - Liminal Garden
Liminal Garden is simply blown away by all the reception the label has been getting as of recent, and it’s no surprise to see why. They are currently working on a backlog of albums right now to turn into tape releases, as well as future new ones, so like I said earlier, make sure you are following them to stay up to date with what’s on the horizon. Each of these individually numbered rare cassettes are printed at runs of only 25 copies each, hence leading to these selling out extremely quickly when they drop.
“My main goal with the packaging is that the people who get a tape feel like they own something special and unique in the world. To that end I’m hand-numbering all tapes and everyone gets a personalized message on a handmade card. Looking into the future I definitely want to do even more special goodies for each package. I already have a couple of ideas planned, so they hopefully will show up soon.” -Liminal Garden
Much love, ur boi,-Pad Chennington