Jonathan Hape embraces fragility with Glass Cassette

Andy Downing
Jonathan Hape of Glass Cassette

When schools closed to in-person instruction in mid-March, teacher Jonathan Hape started filming videos to try and help his audio engineering students learn different concepts such as mixing and mastering. To go along with the videos, he crafted lo-fi electronic soundtracks, utilizing samples culled from old VHS and cassette tapes, as well as originals he created using implements picked up around his home and recording space, including office supplies, tools and other miscellaneous found objects. 

Gradually, Hape grew to realize that these recordings could serve as more than background music, so he started taking a more intentional approach to the project, now dubbed Glass Cassette, which will release its debut full-length on streaming platforms this Friday, Aug. 14.

While beats are sourced and conjured from a variety of sources, a consistent thread of memory runs through the entirety of the album. Woozy opener “Holiday Hill,” for one, takes its name from Hape’s childhood home, the mourning dove coo laced throughout the track serving as a reminder of the sound that often greeted the musician in the backyard growing up.

“It was just like waking up in Lexington, Ohio, in the middle of nowhere and hearing that sound,” Hape said. “I kind of wanted to make the whole [album] around that idea of nostalgia, but more personalsketches of things people wouldn’t know.”

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Even the utilized samples play into this theme, with Hape pulling snippets from a 2001 high school choir concert (“I played guitar for ‘More Than Words’ while the choir sang,” he said) and a recorded French 101 assignment. “I just pitched [the voice] way down and ran it through Auto-Tune,” he said, “and now it sounds like someone singing nothing.” 

So, in a way, Hape managed to record what easily stands as his most personal record to date, even if on the surface it appears to reveal nothing new about him. The accompanying press photos play up this aspect of the recording, with Hape’s face obscured by a coffee cup in one shot and blurred by ghostly pages from a book in another. “Maybe I’m hiding myself from it because it is entirely personal,” he said. “There are voices I wouldn’t have put on [the record] if I didn’t chop them up, so, yeah, maybe I have to obfuscate the personal side of it.”

While not wholly intentional, the album has served as a source of respite during a troubling stretch defined by the spread of COVID-19, the emergence of a new civil rights movement and the loss of Hape’s uncle, a source of musical inspiration who died of a heart attack two weeks into the shutdown. “With everything going on, I had a panic attack where I went to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack; I’m an anxious person, as is, and not being around people has really taken it out of me,” Hape said. “So while making the record didn’t really help me [exorcise those tensions], listening to it really does. … The more I think about those moments that I captured, which are moments Iwanted to hear over and over again, that is a really soothing thing.”

This includes the percolating, twitchy “Catered Events Only,” which layers in vocals that Hape recorded in a tunnel during a festival at which he performed with a praise band, as well as handclaps recorded by some of his audio students during in-school exercises. 

“And I hear these moments all over this record, even in the beats, and I can see these moments and feel them coming back to me,” Hape said. “And that almost allows me to be in all of these different places at once, while also hearing something that makes me want to dance.”