Noise Tape Self consists of slow-moving ambient compositions made with little more than a four-track tape machine and a series of tape loops. Highlighting the simplicity of this approach, most tracks are titled according to their contents. One is called "Cassette Loop"—surely one of ambient music's most nondescript titles. The track's ghostly drone is punctuated by gentle clicking sounds, as if we're actually hearing a tape being loaded into the machine. It's a self-referential move that might be brow-furrowing were the whole thing not bathed in soothing reverb.
Dickow never quite abandoned these DIY methods. (He used an identical setup for 2008 Entr'acte single Noise Tape Reggae.) But returning to them now seems like a nod to the past, specifically the US experimental underground through which he moved in the last decade. The washed-out bliss of opener "Awesome Piano" echoes that period; were it not for the title, it would be difficult to discern its audio source, obscured as it is by distortion and plumes of delay.
In spite of his purist approach, Dickow's wayward tastes shine through elsewhere. The album's middle portion strays into dub: "Lovely Loop" is the record's most Basic Channel moment, though "Ominous Lovely Piano" isn't far behind. "Hobgoblin" is spooky and downcast, its synth pads fluttering nervously in pitch. "Rhen's Loop," meanwhile, is a nine-minute drone befitting of an early Not Not Fun cassette. Dickow tackles the style as deftly as he does everything else here. By its nature, Noise Tape Self is more lightweight than many Strategy releases, but it's executed with such delicacy that it's difficult not to love.