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June 24, 2006

Summer Project: Vinyl Archiving

demystification.gifMy summer project this year is to digitally convert roughly 600 LPs/12" EPs and another 300 or so 45s/7" EPs (and another ten 10" EPs) into mp3s, so I'm pleased to say that after a two month backorder, a delivery theft, followed by another two month wait for a backordered replacement, the Ion ittusb turntable is finally hooked up on my imac and ready to burn. After not having listened to these records for some 15-20 years or so, I was particularly anxious to hear these singles again (having grown up in the New York hardcore scene in the mid eighties, I knew these records would tend to be on the hard edge, Loud Fast Rules! side). Anyway, there aren't any predictable NYHC tracks on this batch of conversions, more like complementary music that I was listening to at the time, and I have to admit, the trip down memory lane was liberating.

Promenade Immortelle (Poison Girls) - Vi Subversa's vocals is something akin to Marianne Faithful crossed with Johnny Rotten, it's indescribably soulful. This, along with Reality Attack are my favorite Poison Girls songs, but this one is epic in its composition ...it breaks the heart.

You (Au Pairs) - I had forgotten how extraordinary the Au Pairs were in their arrangements, quite rare for a post-punk band. I love several of their songs, but You was the first of their songs to get my attention. As it turns out, a CD anthology of their work has been released earlier this month.

Demystification (Zounds) - There was no other Crass label band quite like Zounds, and this single especially shows their melodic sensibilities. Apparently, The Curse of Zounds CD includes this track (the original vinyl album didn't) which, along with with Fear, makes the CD an essential buy for me.

Posted by acquarello on Jun 24, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Quick Notes


So are you pleased with the turntable recorder? I've only been buying vinyl for a couple months now, but I'm already wanting digital copies. If I could easily convert vinyl, I think I'd be buying a lot more of it.

Posted by: Darren on Jun 25, 2006 11:15 AM | Permalink

Hey Darren, yes, I'm very pleased with it, actually, I ended up staying up all night last night converting! ;)

One quirk though: the recording software is Audacity (open source) which, for some reason, on my 2 year old imac, every other new file (recording) comes up mono (and you can't toggle or change settings to fix it, you have to open a new file), so I had to scrap half of the stuff I recorded earlier until I figured out that it was doing this. Not sure if the same problem exists on Windows; I haven't hooked up the turntable to my MacIntel MacBookPro either, maybe it's just my hardware setup. Also, you have to download LAME to export convert the recording to mp3 which, for some reason, they don't tell you until you select the "export to mp3" on the pulldown.

Still though, the fidelity is very good, and you can adjust the sampling rate for the level of fidelity you want (bigger files), and also the export quality.

Posted by: acquarello on Jun 25, 2006 12:04 PM | Permalink

Acquarello--I'm curious. Since you hadn't listened to these in 15-20 years, did they strike you/affect you differently than they did back then? Did certain elements (vocals/lyrics/arrangements, etc) emerge in a new light (for better or worse) than they might've back then?

I often find that when I haven't heard a certain piece of music for a really long time, it can be a surprising experience. Sometimes I "get" certain songs (lyrically) that I really didn't back then; sometimes the lyrics seem hokier, but sometimes funnier and better; sometimes the music seems a tad cliched, but equally if not more often, it weathers time well and surprises you in new ways that you didn't have the music-listening experience (or the life experience) to appreciate as well back then.

I have a lot of vinyl, about 1000+ albums, and this after I donated about an equal number to the local public radio station a few years back. But I also use my turntable regularly, almost every day or every other day, and so haven't quite felt the need as much to digitize them right away. Though eventually it'd be nice to do that.

Posted by: girish on Jun 25, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink

Hey Girish, yeah, there was definitely an element of surprise in there. There wasn't the kind of information available on these bands then the way there is now, so there wasn't this kind of contextual information available. It's always interesting to hear the political/social basis for the angry lyrics...there are so many references to Margaret Thatcher, for one! :) Then some are just utterly beautiful pieces (like The Chameleons' In Shreds) that it just really erases the distance of your memories to that particular song.

I used to buy a lot of records just based on lyrics and the philosophy of the band (which is why I gravitated towards a lot of Crass bands), so it's interesting to discover that there was melody in there too. :) Then there's definitely that hokey factor too; the hardcore scene was pretty much close knit, so you supported the bands by going to the shows and buying their records. So, while there are a lot of hidden gems like Articles of Faith or Reagan Youth in the collection, I also have some that are mediocre or cringingly bad too that I'll admit I didn't really listen critically to back then because they were "friends" from the scene. That's why I didn't really start converting from A to Z and instead, I'm just picking and choosing for now the ones that I really want to listen to.

Posted by: acquarello on Jun 25, 2006 2:54 PM | Permalink

Typically for me, much of the music I listened to 10, 15 years ago doesn't resonate much or sit well with me anymore -- the result either of aging or of my tastes changing considerably, or both! :) But, everyone once in a while, I go back and listen to something, and there's a new-found power in it. Re-discovering music can be a real thrill sometimes.

Acquarello, I think it's fascinating that you're digitizing vinyl (at first, I didn't realize it was possible, and then I thought -- in this day and age, with a little software anything can be done). You know what I miss about vinyl? The album covers. There's a lot of good album-cover design being done for CDs, but the sheer size of vinyl covers made the art-work different, made it more immediate. Sadly, most of my LPs are gone, but occasionally I like to pick up vinyl on Ebay.

Thanks for sharing the music -- I especially like the Zounds' piece; lively and organic. (I even liked the faint "pops" in the beginning, one of those characteristics of vinyl I sometimes miss.)

Posted by: Michael on Jun 25, 2006 3:32 PM | Permalink

I'm the same way too, Michael, for a few of the ones that I knew I still liked (Joy Division and New Order for instance), I'd already "replaced" them with CDs, but some were just not available or I never bothered with because of the cumulative cost of trying to replace them (or I didn't know they existed). The others, I'm scratching my head and wondering what the heck I was thinking when I blew my allowance on them. :)

I definitely agree about the covers, a 12" square is tangible art that you can hang on a wall; a 5" square is just a masking cover. It's like the Vargas cover of a woman posed seductively on a car for the Cars' Candy-O LP, love it or hate it, it was attention-grabbing pop art on a dust jacket. Placed on a CD cover, it's less "in your face".

The same thing goes for the art of the inner sleeve too, like the one for Siouxsie and the Banshees' LP Kaleidoscope, which had the lyrics spiraling inward so you had to keep turning it to read (like a kaleidoscope). It was brilliant. I don't know how they adapted it for CD, (a fold-out, maybe?) but I can't imagine that the effect is the same.

One of the things that I do like about this setup is that I can record LPs at 45, then use the software to slow it down to 33. I never could do that before, I just used to always have to park myself in front of the stereo for about an hour and half to make a 1 hr. tape for my Walkman. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Jun 25, 2006 7:31 PM | Permalink

I remember that Cars album -- I don't think I've seen it in years, but that's a great example on how LP art is so much more different than CD art (nice point about the inner sleeve, too, which is also different in the digital age). And it's interesting that you can speed the LPs up; not quite as fast as burning MP3s from a CD, but better than the old-fashioned way :)

Save for a few, I either replaced all my albums with CDs or just got rid of the LPs and didn't replace them; now I look back and wish I had kept some. I had the early Pretenders albums on vinyl and eventually sent them off for no good reason.

Posted by: Michael on Jun 26, 2006 2:12 PM | Permalink

Yeah, I got rid of mine too; most of the earliest LPs I picked up are gone (like Fleetwood Mac), especially when I got into punk and hardcore stuff, but for some reason, I held on to Abba...it's right in front of Adrenaline OD! :)

Posted by: acquarello on Jun 26, 2006 6:43 PM | Permalink

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