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Re: Data compression, twitch factors, knee jerks and God
> Here's a question. A few years down the road could a musical aesthetic
> movement) rise up around those darned hissy four track cassette tape
> some are about to trash for the latest and the greatest?
> We're standing by.
This has already been going on for many years as part of the whole
so-called "lo-fi" movement in alternative/independent rock, where the
distinctive sonic signature of cassette multi-tracks is not only a
prevelant characteristic, but a highly desirable one as well. This
"lack" of sonic quality is a prized element of the whole aesthetic.
It's also, in some cases, tied in to a philosophical reaction against
conventional ideas of demo tape-vs.-"real album" fidelity, major label
production standards, the reliance on having to have a certain amount of
technology to make a "serious" statement, etc.
Likewise, the tremendous rise of sample-CDs (compact discs filled with
short snippets of beats and sounds, intended to be sampled in the studio
and used for song production) over the last few years reflects a similar
fixation with impure sound. A lot of what a person is buying on those
CDs is a certain unclean, artifact-ridden quality (which, ironically, is
often constructed for those CDs through elaborate and extensive
in-studio doctoring) that's hard to get from a straight drum machine or
In related areas, you can look at something like the Roland VS-880 hard
disk recorder, which actually has an effect built into it called "Lo-Fi
Processor." This is a multi-stage effect which operates upon the
all-digital signal flow of the VS-880, which allows you to dial in lower
sampling frequencies and bit rates, introduce digital distortion, and
emphasize all manner of aliasings and frequencies. In short, you've got
a cutting edge modern processor going to great pains to sound like a
low-quality sampler from a decade ago.
Some stand-alone effects processors offer similar functions, and I
remember reading a review of one which actually had a "patch" that
delivered a steady stream of sound emulating the crackling of a stylus
on a worn piece of vinyl.
It's been interesting to see the way that the playing field for what
constitutes "commercially acceptable" sound has levelled out over the
past decade, with the advent of both the hip-hop/electronic side of
things as well as the "grunge" movement. At this point, a guy with one
decent sampler, a good mixing board, and some kind of rudminentary
sequencer can record music in his home studio that's on par with most of
the records in the techno/ambient/electronic genre. The much-acclaimed
DJ Shadow record from 1996, for instance, created from nothing but
samples from vinyl records, was made using one turntable, an modest AKAI
MPC-series drum machine/sampler unit, and one 8-track ADAT unit. There
wasn't even a standalone sequencer or computer involved.
Likewise, the advent of the post-Brendan O'Brian/Steve Albini/Butch Vig
school of rock production means that a lot of guitar-oriented bands are
more able to get a mainstream-approved sound for a lower amount of
money, because the sort of sound that you hear on a Pearl Jam or Nirvana
record simply doesn't require the same sort of big-budget studio polish
that you'd need in order to make a circa-1987 Def Leppard or Whitesnake
album. (I recall a quote from the producer of the first Counting Crows
album, who told the band, "You've made a demo that sounds like an
album. Now you need to make an album that sounds like a demo.") A lot
of alternative rock acts who started out independant before signing with
a major label wind up getting their original independent releases
reissued by the majors, either straight or in remixed form, because the
current standard for the sound of rock records is "lower" in the
audiophile/_Stereo Review_ sort of sense than it was a decade ago.
Of course, fetishism with imperfection gets taken to some bizarre and
arguably obscene stages, as with the Fender Custom Shop line of "relic"
guitars, an expensive (well over the $1,000 price point) line of new
instruments which have been "aged" at the factory through the
application of artificial rust, holes in the paint job, and other types
of pseudo-wear and tear which provide the cosmetic illusion of a vintage
instrument on a newly-manufactured item. The company boasts, "No two
Relic guitars are aged in precisely the same way!"