August 4, 2011

James T. Rao's Tape Recorder Microcosmos

Microcosmic Rule #1 - Many things sound better played backwards.

Electric Fish Life 1
For Evergreen House

If you search "James T. Rao" on the Internet you'll find a chemistry professor in Hyderabad, India, and a few cassettes on a Wiltshire, UK tape label by some inexplicable citizen of Connecticut, USA. We are concerned with the latter James T. Rao.  He's been recording songs in his bedroom since at least the mid-80s and, despite remaining almost completely unknown, somehow got hooked up with Acid Tapes in the UK and put out a half dozen albums on cassette.  More recently he's shown up as Jim Rao and Orange Cake Mix, but he's remained reclusive despite releasing a steady stream of music.

Microcosmic Rule #2 - Sing about your vegetable garden a lot (but stop short of gnomes).

Tao Window

This is where I just deleted several lines referencing other well-known artists of the past, but the list started getting long and pompous, so let's just say you might find some obvious comparisons here. Enjoy them! Rao's songs might sound somewhat derivative at times, but in such an unassuming way, that you can hardly gripe about it. Each cassette has common threads that run through the tracks that transform them into cohesive albums; not just collections of songs.

Microcosmic Rule #3 - Wear out the knobs on your tape recorder by interstellar overdriving the tracks back and forth.


Fragments of a Soundtrack Mind
Indian Smoke Ring
Be There Then
What Will Happen Now

She Always Dreams Without Me
Taking Pictures of Broccoli
Just a Feeling
Dreams for Sail

Okay, so that was a reference. I couldn't help myself.  Wearing headphones while listening to a James T. Rao tape makes you dizzy.  There are nice trancey numbers with collaged song fragments, overdubbed random spoken words, and sound effects. Those pre-digital sloppy tape cuts between songs and sounds may have been accidental at the time, but have become an elemental effect of the 80s home recording underground. The last tape is two albums in one, put out by Root Beer Floats as their first (and possibly last for all I can tell) release. It came on a recycled cassette with a few super pop songs that that jump right up into your face out of all the reverby, psychological veggie soup.

Microcosmic Rule #4 - There are no rules in the Microcosmos of James T. Rao.

Jim Rao is still recording and releasing music as Orange Cake Mix.

Thanks to Rustle Noonetwisting for lending me these tapes.


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  2. There are a bunch of James T. Rao's cassettes on Acid Tapes and apparently they're still available as CDRs:

    The tapes I posted came out on Acid sometime between 1989 and 1992.

  3. Can i dl the tapes from here or only select songs> I've got more James T Rao if you're interested.

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    2. Your comment seems to have been deleted. Is it possible to get hold of this music?

  4. its fun to listen to my old tapes! thanks for posting