Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tapes 'n Tapes, Walk it Off




I picked up this little slab of vinyl based solely on a bit in Seven Days touting their ultra-cool indieness. I don't know why the music press doesn't warn us about absolutely atrocious sound quality when turning us on to a band and convincing us to plop down our $17.
Having never heard these cats I was intrigued when I plopped the platter on the turntable. I thought it funny that a twelve-songer was on two records, and the initial sound told me why, it was pressed at 45 rpm. A flick of the speed switch got things timed right, but I was then immediately assaulted with one of the worst sounding recordings that has ever graced my ears. There's lots of info out there about the problems of modern engineers and mastering techs who over compress music and blast the base volume to give an impression of 'loudness," but this one takes the cake. And not only is this compressed at the mastering end, but the actual recording is so distorted and clipped that the resulting track just plain sounds like shit. THE INTENDED EFFECT IS TO MAKE THE RECORD SEEM LOUD WHEN PLAYED ON A RADIO OR IPOD BUT IT REALLY JUST MAKES IT ANNOYING AS HELL LIKE WRITING LIKE THIS. Funny thing is that vinyl recordings tend to be better in this regard because it's hard to smash all that shit into the groove without making the needle jump. Hence, the 45 rpm speed, which allows for wider groove spacing.
As for the music, I guess the Pavement comparisons make sense, but I have a really hard time listening to it to give it a fair shake. Look for this record on eBay soon. This band either has their heads up their asses or got a raw deal on the production/engineering/mastering end.Here's a screen shot of the waveform, notice that the level is completely maxed out with no room for subtlety or dynamic:








For comparison, here's a shot of a vinyl recording of The Clash, Brand New Cadillac, a song that I consider to have great slam and impact thanks to its use of dynamics:

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