Category Archives: listens

Cassette Memories

I’m not going to tell you about my first* or second** cassette, but the third – it has stuck with me all these years.

I was 10, running an errand with my parents at Caldor, when this caught my eye on the cassette rack. Maybe it was the red foil writing, the (strangely inverted) lightning photo, or the confidence that I could pay for it with three of my own crumpled dollar bills.

Image from this Ebay auction, in case you’re in the market for a cassette

When I popped it in my pink Sidestep radio and the first Black Sabbath song came on, my mind was blown. And three and half minutes into the song, I felt like I was listening to something from outer space. (The Alice Cooper song was even weirder. The irony is that both of these bands were probably on my parents’ record shelves, but children always have to discover things for themselves, right?)

I found myself wondering where this music came from. It was a different world than the insipid love songs on the radio. It made me feel uneasy, yet resonated within me like something I had heard a million times. I was hooked.

Every time I hear Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, I am ten years old again, kneeling on the green carpet of my bedroom, mind blown. It’s a feeling I’m happy to keep.

*Dionne Warwick’s Friends
** Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl
(I was 9, OK??)


Houses of the Holy

Sudden memory – it is 1992 and I’m on the phone with a t-shirt company whose ad I saw in Circus Magazine, trying to order an iron-on back patch for my black bomber jacket. I’m leaning towards Led Zeppelin but I can’t remember what the Houses of the Holy album cover looks like, even though I’m pretty sure it was on my parents’ record shelf all along.

I ask the woman on the line and she starts describing it to me: “It’s, like, this big pile of rocks and there are a bunch of naked kids climbing up it. I’m not really sure if they’re boys or girls.”

These things we did before the internet sound like a dim, ancient fantasy, right?

Bellum Gnosticorum

I’d like to take a rare break from the food-related posts and mention one of my favorite recordings. It’s called Bellum Gnosticorum and was recorded by G.O.R., a project of Italian musician and composer Francesco Banchini. His website describes it as a “journey in the antique Mediterranean cultures in the late Medieval period”.

Similar to the title’s meaning (the war between good and bad), the music is both dark and pleasant, and seems at home in many different contexts – meditation, dinner, dancing, a walk through the forest. Complex instrumentation provides a lush accompaniment for multilingual vocals and chanting – or is it the other way around? What I think is amazing about this album is that it’s accessible to people with ‘normal’ musical tastes, but is especially appreciated by musicians, music historians, and more eccentric musical palates.

Available from several online stores like, Projekt: darkwave, and of course (listed in price order). If you enjoy Bellum Gnosticorum, make sure to check out Banchini’s other projects.