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Elephant Mixtapes Hides Musical Treasures Around Chicago

By Sarah Cobarrubias in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 8, 2013 7:20PM


We get it—you’re tired of hearing about mixtapes and cassette culture and all that hipster fluff, but we have something a little different for you: Elephant Mixtapes is a new project that plants handmade mixtapes around the city and relies on participation from the people who find them.

Here’s how it work: The project’s creator (he prefers to keep his identity undisclosed and the project itself in the spotlight) assembles a mixtape and makes ten copies every month then hides them around the city. You can find them in environments fitting for an audience that might actually own a tape deck, like bars and record stores—you won’t have to go lifting manhole covers or running your hands along the gummy undersides of bus seats.

If you find a mixtape and choose to participate, you should take a picture of the tape and a description of where you found it, as well as writing down some of your thoughts about the music. You can email all this to elephantmixtapes[at]gmail[dot]com, and the creator will post your pic/review on the project’s official site (each tape’s artwork includes instructions/contact info). After that, you’re free to keep the mixtape for yourself (greedy), hide it again for someone else to discover, or make a copy for a friend.

The Elephant Mixtapes site reveals that this whole project started out on a whim, when the founder just happened to be bored and made a mixtape for no one special, and the light bulb above his head flickered on. It goes on to explain the project’s goals:

Why am I doing this, you ask? Simple: I enjoy making mixtapes. Combine that with the pleasure of giving or happening upon a little gift is something everyone can enjoy. In addition, it will, hopefully, be interesting to see where these cassettes travel to and into whose hands they may land.

The inaugural mixtape has already been composed, and five copies have been dispersed around the city so far (no responses from any finders yet). And don’t tell anyone we told you this, but the man behind Elephant Mixtapes says he’s setting records aside for next month’s treasure hunt.

You can see from the inaugural tape’s tracklist below that there isn’t one solid genre for these mixtapes, and many tracks seem to be hidden gems from various periods—songs we might never have heard of before if it weren’t for the tape. And that is pretty damn cool.

Elephant Mixtapes #1 Tracklist (with creator’s endnotes)

Side A
Megan Roberts - “I Could Sit Here All Day” *
Adriano Celentano - “Prisencolinensinainciusol”
Tim Rose - “I Know These Two People”
Apollo Smile - “Let’s Smile” (Later re-named “Let’s Rock”)
Jimmy McCracklin - “Let’s Do It (the Chicken Scratch)”
John Martyn - “Don’t Want to Know”
Unknown (Written by Cole Porter) - “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”
Louise Huebner - “The Emotional Bondage Spell”
Odetta - “Sail Away Ladies”
Nektar - “Recycle/Cybernetic Consumption”
Butterbeans & Susie - “Elevator Papa, Switchboard Mama”
Dschinn - “Rock ‘N Roll Dschinny” **
Jack Bonus - “Aye Que Lyn”

Side B
B-Movie - “Moles”
Francis Lai - “Spring Time Ballet”
The Ambassadors - “Gary, Indiana” ***
Theo Bikel - “I Hear the Laughter”
Colyn Davies - “The Hearse Song” ****
Leona Anderson - “Rats in My Room”
Country Funk - “Apart of Me”
New Electrikk - “Lust of Berlin” *****
Tom Cora - “Cruelty and Memory”
Cozmic Corridors - Dark Path
Mike Batt - “Zero Zero”
Elsa Lanchester - “At the Drive In”
Skreem - “Winner Takes All” ******
Third World War - “Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing”

*Little information could be found about her save for she is a professor in western New York focusing on electronic composition. This track appeared on a compilation entitled New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media (1977, 1750 Arch Records).
**All I know is they may have only had this one record and they are from somewhere in Europe.
***This is a young adult choir from Gary, Indiana. The common thread is that all of the members are mentally handicapped in some way.
****He was a Cockney singer in the 1940s. Little else is known.
*****I was unable to find any info on this group except that they are from 1980s Germany. Imagine that.
******I found this on a 1987 compilation entitled Little Rock Rocks, collecting Christian hard rock and heavy metal from the Little Rock, Arkansas area.