Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hifi/Lofi Nofi/Whyfi?

In follow up to the David Byrne article I posted, here's two more articles on the same subject.

Seems to me that the mainstream press can't help but write these articles, often contradictory, often sheer twaddle, all of which serve to further raise Steve Jobs' profile as the "Saviour of the Music Industry".

But let's face it, and if you haven't figured it out yet, don't worry, you will; iPods are shite, iTunes is shite, the whole so-called iPod revolution is basically a massive steaming pile of shite and the music industry as a whole? That's just shite too.

Even 99c for a song is too much when you can get it for free, which is why kids prefer to use Limewire. Those of us with a bit more cop-on know that there are better options out there, than using something which will open a portal to the dungeon dimensions flooding your machine with all manner of nasties. Plus you get them in proper MP3 format, not proprietary ones.

Now this article is one of the few I've read that actually takes a well-deserved shot at the iPod Evangalists by saying, quite rightly, that the quality of sound, not just in MP3s, but in studio recording as a whole, has suffered as a result of this new trend in music.

I agree with some of the points raised there, i.e. the ones regarding the recording techniques. I agree that all music these days is processed and compressed to shit though I don't agree with the bleak view summed up by the article's title.

Let's face it, MP3s are handy. Even club DJs have come to appreciate their portability. That's the appeal, their availability and portability. In the old days you'd fit only a few songs on a Cd, now you can fit numerous albums. And yes, it's true there are many kids out there who never listen to anything other than super-compressed pop-punk compressed once more, to MP3s. Yes, all their music is loud but empty and a loose harmonic would probably cause their heads to explode, but leave them off.

I spent much of my formative years listening to gammy 3rd generation tapes - like bootlegged tapes of live gigs smothered with feedback or DJs spinning in sweaty, noisy clubs with whistles blowing and needles hopping - which were played in dirty old hand-me-down cassette players with oxidised tape heads I used to clean with kitchen towel and TCP.

CDs were a relatively new thing for me, but I never really did care for them. I much, much preferred vinyl and therefore only bought a CD of something if the vinyl was unavailable. There's a richness to vinyl, a warmth to it, which has yet to be beaten. Yes there's the crackle, but then I find that somehow reassuring, something familiar, something real and organic and somehow soothing as anyone who has ever drifted off to sleep to the crackle of an old record shall testify. Any wonder then, that halfway through the 90s - the decade of the CD - the "lo fi" scene emerged? Not to mention the Bristol Sound pioneers Portishead and Massive Attack who went so far as to sample that same crackle onto the end of their album Mezzanine.

See I'm at that age when I realise I'm no longer "with it" but still know what "it is" and know that it's the same "it" I had growing up, just a watered down to nothing - homeopathic hiphop, essence of punk, trance lite...

CDs were always crap, they have no warmth, they scratch far too easily, they're no fun. MP3s are much handier. MP3s mean I can listen to Rory Gallagher while I work.
But when I want to relax, I listen to him on vinyl.

Kids are starting to come around to the idea too, realising how much better classic rock albums sound like when they aren't digitally remastered and are starting to pick them on vinyl.

The depressing reality is though, I haven't heard any good bands recently, I can't remember the last time dance music made me want to dance and I haven't heard any new rappers saying anything new or interesting in a long time.

Hence the reason that I spend more time than I should perusing Discogs looking for old vinyl. It's not because I'm an old fart though, believe me, I'd love to be shocked or disturbed by some wild new music, I'd love to be challenged by some new sound, I'd love to say to some wipper snapper "that's not music, that's just noise!" but then how does a guy with as many Aphex Twin records as I do say that with a straight face?

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