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Analog fetishes

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Friday, Jun 4, 2010

I read this in a piece of PR about the Thermals upcoming album and thought it was pretty strange:


Personal Life was recorded to 2” tape and mixed to 1/2” tape, and vinyl enthusiasts will be happy to know the vinyl was mastered straight from tape, with no computers involved.


Really? It would have sounded so much better on 2 1/8’’ tape.


Do people really care what inch tape an album was recorded to? It seems even less pertinent than when producers would boast of how many tracks there were on the mixing board. Of course, that was back when digital sound was sold as being for audiophiles, and not as their bane. (“The new Steely Dan record was mixed direct to digital off the 96-track digital masters… The sounds have never been sullied by an actual room tone.”) Is it in Doubly? You don’t do punk rock in doubly, you know.


The idea, I suppose, is to convey the impression of being a “real” rock band, not some bunch of amateurs recording on a laptop with Garage Band. It seems a flimsy selling point though. Obviously if the music is any good, it doesn’t much matter what format it has been recorded in or gets played back on. But I guess a ramification of rapidly proliferating technology and gadgetry is that more people must consciously consume the format rather than the music, like the hi-fi stereo system zealots of old.


I’ve dabbled with consuming formats over songs lately, trying to see if forcing myself to listen to vinyl records would change my relationship to music. I thought it would function as a sort of musical dietary restriction: I would get into album sides again, and really listen and commune with the artists. I would stop consuming novelty and metadata instead of music. But I realized I was basically chasing a lost moment in my past when the relationship seemed more pure and more important to my self-concept. Playing vinyl records instead of an iPod doesn’t make me 18 again, unfortunately. All that happened was that I felt re-authorized to seek out and try to collect difficult-to-find objects—as much as I yearned for lost youth, I yearned for meaningful shopping quests even more. Now, alas, I am back to digital files. 

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