Eno on Analogue

Digital technology has enhanced music production, recording and distribution in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago, but are we losing something more essential in the process? Chris May talks to ambient pioneer and friend of technology Brian Eno about the dangers of digital dependence in modern music.

Words: Chris May

Back in the early 1970s, Phil Spector launched a Bring Back Mono campaign. More of a publicity stunt than a real protest movement, it fizzled out after a couple of stories in Rolling Stone and failed utterly to change the course of history. Four decades on, another, more serious guerrilla-action is being fought, this time against the digitisation of recording and production.

Recording history since the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll can be divided into two halves, analogue era and digital era. In this model, analogue is equated with authenticity, digital with artificiality. Proponents of the model argue that, from the mid-1950s through the mid-1980s, analogue recording was primarily concerned with making musicians sound as good on record as they did on stage. By contrast, since the adoption of digital technology in the late-1980s, studios are said to have been expected to make musicians sound not merely as good as they are, but better. Digital tools have made it possible for the most indifferent singer, drummer or guitarist to sound like the business. Real music made in real time by real people has become an endangered species.

The model is a crude over-simplification, of course. It ignores the conveniences and benefits of digital technology, not least the fact that affordable, home-studio set-ups have democratised recording. But is the price we are paying for digital’s upside too high? By embracing the new tech, are we losing the human factor which has been at the heart of music making? Are we ceding too much power to the machines? Is gloss replacing substance?

MixerB shot

Techphobics are not the only people asking these questions. Brian Eno became an early adopter of new technology as a teenager. At art school in the mid 1960s, Eno studied under the modernist art-theorist Roy Ascott, who introduced him to the idea of “process not product” and encouraged his first experiments with tape recorders. In 1972, Eno began working with Robert Fripp on the tape-looping system later known as Frippertronics, and, in mid-decade, introduced his own tech-rich, ambient music. Eno’s current enthusiasms include generative music, which, in essence, involves writing some algorithms, pointing them in the right direction and standing well back.

After 50 years at the sharp end of technological innovation, Eno is the last person you might expect to have doubts about digital recording.

Yet in an interview for Jocks&Nerds magazine recently, Eno said: “As a record producer, digital technology makes me wonder about the whole direction recording is taking.”

Screen-Shot-2015-02-24-at-13.08.50

Last year, Bob Dylan went old-school, though not across-the-board analogue, while recording his album Shadows in the Night. In an interview published in US magazine AARP this February, Dylan explained: “I could only record these songs one way, and that was live on the floor with a very small number of mics. No headphones, no overdubs, no vocal booth, no separate tracking…The engineer had his own equipment, left over from bygone days, and he brought all that in… There was no mixing. That’s just the way it sounded… We used as little technology as possible.”

Far from diminishing, the debate about authenticity and artifice is building. Artisan music is not about to roll over and surrender. Neither is digital technology going to disappear. But if commercially-successful producers such as Eno can find a humanistic accommodation between analogue and digital aesthetics, the sun will continue to shine.

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Easy and affordable ways to clean your vinyl records by hand

Stressed out by the idea of lathering your first editions in wood glue? Don’t fancy spending a packet on a cleaning machine? Paul Rigby offers easy and affordable ways to keep your records in good nick.

Words: Paul Rigby

“Oh, I can’t stand vinyl. All those clicks and hiss and noise and things.” In the majority of cases (not all, I grant you that) the source of this criticism is dirty vinyl, bunged up with so much rubbish that the poor stylus has to battle through the groove like a digitised hero in a beat’em-up computer game.

If you look after your vinyl, then there is no reason why your new, quiet record shouldn’t stay quiet for many, many years. More than that, giving second hand records a thorough cleaning will drastically reduce any noise that you hear.

Using a record cleaning machine is the best way to clean a record but they are often prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheaper, manual methods of record cleaning that do a great job. What follows is a broad selection of the different types of cleaning gadgets that you can buy.

Before we get to that, though, allow me to remove a few myths. There are certain things that you should most definitely avoid when cleaning vinyl. The most contentious of the lot and one that will have a few readers and some hi-fi journalists up in arms is pure, isopropyl alcohol (as opposed to the remnants of your last vodka and tonic). This stuff can be disastrous for vinyl. The problem is, it also lies within many commercial record cleaning products, so look carefully at the ingredients before you use them. Pure alcohol strips away much of the rubbish and gunge from grooves – which is great – but it also removes the protective coating that rests on the groove walls/floor. I don’t mean the oft talked about ‘release agent’ that a record pressing plant utilises and is often left to bung up vinyl grooves, either. Once that essential protective layer is gone, music sounds harsh and brittle. I’ve done a series of sound tests to prove this phenomenon. Initially, alcohol-cleaned records sound great. After the third or fourth clean, they sound terrible. By then, though, it’s too late and your record has been irretrievably scarred.

Another no-no is commercial cleaning products (i.e. sprays, liquids and the like) hanging around your kitchen. They can often attack the vinyl itself or, at the very least, block your grooves with more rubbish than they remove.

Also, do not rinse vinyl under a tap. You risk damaging the fragile record label. Tap water also includes plenty of impurities which re-infect record grooves.

Finally, new records need cleaning too. They are normally infested with dust – even on a micro level – plus that oily pressing plant release agent I mentioned earlier.

Now, onto the good stuff.

Microfiber

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Price: around £5-£10
www.amazon.co.uk

If a good quality brush is out of your budget range then take a look at a non-abrasive, microfibre cleaning cloth. A good quality example is offered by 3M but there’s plenty of others out there. This type of cloth is good at absorbing oils and hangs onto dust and grime.

zerostat_gun
Milty Zerostat 3
Price: £52
www.custom-cable.co.uk

This ‘gun’ cleans by removing static electricity that sits around your record: which, in turn, draws dust and grime to the grooves. When you remove your record from its inner sleeve, if you hear the crackle of static as you do so or your sleeve clings to the vinyl then you are in real need of anti-static tools. Never needs replenishing, it’s a one-off purchase.

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Sculpting Sound

For this short film, we visited three of the foremost mastering engineers working today. Travelling to Berlin, we joined Andreas ‘Lupo’ Lubich at Calyx Mastering, renowned for its astonishing attention to detail in cutting some of the most demanding avant-garde records around. Also in Berlin, we stopped by Rashad Becker’s home studio; the stalwart of the legendary Dubplates & Mastering who last year dipped his toes into producing, his Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 on PAN records making the top 10 in our rundown of the best vinyl releases of 2013. Finally, back in London, we joined Noel Summerville (formerly of Pye Studios and Metropolis, now running his own 3345 Mastering studio) to cut a record live-to-vinyl and hear of a career spent mastering for the likes of The Clash, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, and more recently Boards of Canada.

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Cat Stevens ‎– Teaser & The Firecat – 1+1 series [cassette]

cat stevens vinyl cassette

Cat Stevens ‎– Teaser & The Firecat [cassette]

The full album is on each side of the cassette but side B has its write-protect notch still attached with suggestions on cassette and inlay to record “whatever you like.”

“Plus A Full Side Of Blank Chrome Tape”

cat stevens vinyl cassette

cat stevens vinyl cassette cat stevens vinyl cassette

Label:Island Records ‎– ICT 9154
Series: 1+1 (2) – ICT 9154
Format: Cassette, Album
Country: UK
Released: 1971
Genre: Rock, Folk, World, & Country

Tracklist

A1 The Wind
A2 Rubylove
A3 If I Laugh
A4 Changes IV
A5 How Can I Tell You
A6 Tuesday’s Dead
A7 Morning Has Brokenn
A8 Bitterblue
A9 Moonshadow
A10 Peace Train

B1 The Wind
B2 Rubylove
B3 If I Laugh
B4 Changes IV
B5 How Can I Tell You
B6 Tuesday’s Dead
B7 Morning Has Brokenon
B8 Bitterblue
B9 Moonshadow
B10 Peace Train

Please contact HissAndGroove if you have this item for sale.

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

TOM WAITS – Anthology [cassette]

Tom Waits Anthology

TOM WAITS – Anthology [cassette]

Tom Waits Anthology

Trackist
1. Ol’ 55
2. Diamonds on My Windshield
3. Heart of Saturday Night
4. I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You
5. Martha
6. Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)
7. Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)
8. I Never Talk to Strangers
9. Somewhere [From West Side Story]
10. Burma Shave
11. Jersey Girl
12. San Diego Serenade
13. Sight for Sore Eyes

Jazz / Poetry / Folk / Rock
cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

TOM WAITS – Closing Time [vinyl]

TOM WAITS Closing Time [Vinyl]

TOM WAITS – Closing Time [vinyl]

TOM WAITS Closing Time [Vinyl]

Waits’ debut, Closing Time, arrived in 1973 when the singer/songwriter was 23 years old.

Track Listing
1. Ol”55
2. I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You
3. Virginia Avenue
4. Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)
5. Midnight Lullaby
6. Martha
7. Rosie
8. Lonely
9. Ice Cream Man
10. Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)
11. Grapefruit Moon
12. Closing Time

Jazz / Poetry / Folk / Rock
cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Jack White – Blunderbuss [vinyl]

Jack White - Blunderbuss

Jack White – Blunderbuss [vinyl]

Jack White - Blunderbuss

Produced by Jack White and recorded at his own Third Man Studio in Nashville, Blunderbuss has been described by White as “an album I couldn’t have released until now. I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.”

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Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison and San Quentin [cassette]

Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison and San Quentin [cassette]

Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues

Folsom Prison and San Quentin live recordings from the late 1960’s.
Audio Cassette (March 30, 1982)
Original Release Date: 1968
Label: Sony Music Entertain
Country / Folk / Rock

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Johnny Cash – American IV [double LP vinyl]

Johnny Cash American IV

Johnny Cash – American IV [double LP vinyl]

Johnny Cash American IV Johnny Cash American IV

This is the last album released before Johnny Cash’s death in 2003. The majority of songs are covers which Cash performs in his own spare style, with help from producer Rick Rubin.

Side: 1
1. The Man Comes Around Written-By John R. Cash 4:26
2. Hurt Written-By Trent Reznor 3:38
3. Give My Love To Rose Written-By John R. Cash 3:28
4. Bridge Over Troubled Water Vocals Fiona Apple Written-By Paul Simon 3:55

Side: 2
1. I Hung My Head Guitar Marty Stuart Written-By Sting 3:53
2. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face Written-By Ewan MacColl 3:52
3. Personal Jesus Acoustic Guitar John Frusciante Piano Billy Preston Written-By Martin L. Gore 3:20
4. In My Life Written-By John Lennon / Paul McCartney 2:57

Side: 3
1. Sam Hall Written-By John R. Cash 2:40
2. Danny Boy Arranged By Johnny Cash 3:19
3. Desperado Acoustic Guitar Jeff Hannah*, Kerry Marx Vocals Don Henley Written-By Don Henley, Glenn Frey 3:13
4. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry Vocals Nick Cave Written-By Hank Williams 3:03
5. Streets Of Laredo Arranged By, Adapted By John R. Cash*Violin Laura Cash 3:33

Side: 4
1. Wichita Lineman Guitar Glen Campbell Written-By Jimmy Webb 3:01
2. Big Iron Written-By Marty Robbins 3:53
3. Tear Stained Letter Acoustic Guitar Kerry Marx Drums Joey Waronker Piano Billy Preston Written-By John R. Cash 3:41
4. We’ll Meet Again Acoustic Guitar Thom Bresh Clarinet Terry Harrington Mandolin Cowboy Jack Clement Violin Laura Cash Written-By Hugh Charles*, Ross Parker 2:58

Country / Folk / Rock

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Robert Plant And Alison Krauss – Raising Sand [vinyl]

Robert Plant & A. Krauss

Robert Plant And Alison Krauss – Raising Sand [vinyl]

Robert Plant & A. Krauss

Album was released in October 2007.

Side One
1. Rich Woman
2. Killing the Blues
3. Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
4. Polly Come Home

Side Two
5. Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)
6. Through the Morning, Through the Night
7. Please Read the Letter

Side Three
8. Trampled Rose
9. Fortune Teller
10. Stick with Me Baby

Side Four
11. Nothin’
12. Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson
13. Your Long Journey

Blues / Country / Folk / Rock

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Patti Smith – Horses [vinyl]

Patti Smith

Patti Smith – Horses [vinyl]

Patti Smith

Side 1
1. Gloria: In Excelsis Deo;In Excelsis Deo/Gloria
2. Redondo Beach
3. Birdland
4. Free Money
Site 2
1. Kimberly
2. Break It Up
3. Land: Horses\Land Of A Thousand Dances\La Mer(de)
4. Elegie

Folk / Poetry Folk

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant – No Quarter [cassette]

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant – No Quarter [cassette]

Unledded Original 1994 Atlantic Records 82706 CASSETTE Tape NEW
Factory Sealed in the Original Shrinkwrap with HYPE Sticker
Features 13 Tracks

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Metallica – No Life Til Leather [cassette]

Metallica: No Life Til Leather Cassette

Metallica – No Life Til Leather [cassette]

Tracklist
A1 Hit The Lights 4:22
A2 The Mechanix 4:29
A3 Motorbreath 3:19
A4 Seek & Destroy 4:59
A5 Metal Militia 5:19
A6 Jump In The Fire 3:52
A7 Phantom Lord 3:35

Bass – Ron McGovney
Drums – Lars Ulrich
Lead Guitar – Dave Mustaine
Vocals, Rhythm Guitar – James Hetfield

Re-Mastered the original source material to maximize the sound potential for 2015 without altering the original mixes in any way.
Recorded with the first line-up of the band that appeared live as Metallica,
No Life ’til Leather has never been commercially available before.

Metal / Rock / Speed

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Black Keys – Big Come Up [vinyl]

The Black Keys Big Come

Black Keys – Big Come Up [vinyl]

Tracklist
Busted 2:34
Do The Rump 2:37
I’ll Be Your Man 2:20
Countdown 2:38
The Breaks 3:01
Run Me Down 2:27
She Said, She Said (Alternate Version) 2:55
Heavy Soul (Alternate Version) 2:38
Yearnin’ (Alternate Version) 2:27
No Fun (Vinyl Only) 2:33
Them Eyes 2:22
Leavin’ Trunk 2:57
Brooklyn Bound 3:09
240 Years Before Your Time 2:27

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Wovenhand – Mosaic [vinyl]

woven hand

Woven Hand – Mosaic [vinyl]

Tracklist
1. Breathing Bull
2. Winter Shaker
3. Swedish Purse
4. Twig
5. Whistling Girl
6. Elktooth
7. Bible and Bird
8. Dirty Blue
9. Slota Prow/Full Armour
10. Truly Golden
11. Deerskin Doll
12. Little Raven

Dark Folk / Folk / Low Folk / Rock

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

David Gilmour – On an Island [vinyl]

David Gilmour

David Gilmour – On An Island [vinyl]

David Gilmour

Tracklist
1. Castellorizon
2. On an Island
3. The Blue
4. Take a Breath
5. Red Sky at Night
6. This Heaven
7. Then I Close My Eyes
8. Smile
9. A Pocketful of Stones
10. Where We Start

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Syd Barrett – Barrett [cassette]

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett – Barrett [cassette]

Syd Barrett

Tracklist
1. Baby Lemonade
2. Love Song
3. Dominoes
4. It Is Obvious
5. Rats
6. Maisie
7. Gigolo Aunt
8. Waving My Arms in the Air
9. I Never Lied to You
10. Wined and Dined
11. Wolfpack
12. Effervescing Elephant

cassette, vinyl, records, cassette culture, hiss, groove, tape hiss, groove noise, cassette, hissandgroove, hiss and groove

Wovenhand – Threshing Floor [vinyl]

Wovenhand

Wovenhand – Threshing Floor [vinyl]

Wovenhand

Tracklist:
1 Sinking Hands
2 The Threshingfloor
3 A Holy Measure
5 His Rest
6 Singing Grass
7 Behind Your Breath
8 Truth
9 Terre Haute
10 Orchard Gate
11 Wheatstraw
12 Denver City

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