Record Store Day
In our lifetimes music has been played by computers, lasers and thin black tape. Information stored; Information relayed. But for many of us, our first dance started with the drop a needle. And though audio technology has long since passed the record player by, there’s still a magic in the crackle of vinyl. A story.
Is it the up and down curve of a warped disc spinning that mesmerizes us? Maybe the Doppler-like scratch that starts every play while the needle finds the groove.
Now we’re a technology company here at my company so we don’t only geek out about the audio. We could point out how over compression in modern mixing is limiting the dynamic range of a song’s composition. If you don’t believe us, download a remastered version of Van Morrison’s ‘Sweet Thing.’ Notice how you hear every note, beginning to end, and you never touch the volume. It’s a great mix for the car or the kitchen. It rises above the background noise. But, humor us. Slide an Astral Weeks 33 out of the sleeve and spin it.
Turn it up.
Hear the moments when the rhythm guitar whispers. Notice the recording room echo when the vocals swell at the chorus, and then drop to a distant holler as he turns his head from the mic.
Modern remixes condense that. There’s not a note missed, but it’s hard not to feel like maybe we’re missing something else.
We deal with science everyday here. So we could tell you how digital copies of music are flawless. They last longer. It’s just ones and zeros; information that can’t be affected by wear and tear.
There’s no skips. No scratches. Nothing to remind us of the time we bumped the record player. There’s no jumps to startle us during that first kiss. No imperfections to remind us of that perfect moment.
So, yes, digital music is wonderful. It’s audio science at work. But records are something else.
Whatever they are, we know that perfecting audio reproduction to its cleanest, studio-quality state can’t mean removing its soul.
And vinyl has soul.
Or course, internet music stores serve us well. For convenience and selection, they’re certainly unrivaled. But we miss, just a little, the search. The time when music wasn’t just an acoustic experience. It was tactile. It was olfactory. There’s a delicacy trained to fingers that softly roll records from their cardboard slip. An intimacy in undressing. There’s a scent inside the plastic. It’s molded with more than just the dips and dots of the analog signal; It’s molded with the heartbeat of the rhythm.
The exploration of sound was immersive. When you walked into a record store you were met with rows, of boxes, of envelopes, of tracks. You unwrapped music. It was Christmas morning. It was the joy of discovery. Music was revelation.
Now we filter “similar artists.” We slide our cursor across a 30 second sound bite and make a snap decision on its value.
“Eh… I like my tempo more upbeat.”
But what about tempos we haven’t heard?
Let’s try and remember what it meant to let the sound surprise us. To the music lovers like us, we invite you to celebrate Record Store Day on April 21st. Slide your fingers through the files of bands you’ve never heard of. Walk to the player with a stack of mysteries and give them a listen. For more than 30 seconds. Hear how the phonograph sings.
No matter how old you are.
Here’s a story. It’s about child of the 1980’s. It was the era of tape decks and boomboxes. His first record player was built by Playskool and the only thing it knew was the dialogue from E.T. on 45. Until the boy, 5 or so, found his parents box of records. He pulled out a big one, black and green with purple writing.
And for the first time, he heard Van Morrison.