Posts Tagged ‘LP review’

Vinyl review : Times New Viking – Rip It Off

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Times New Viking - Rip it Off

Artist – Times New Viking

Title – Rip It Off

Format – 180g Vinyl LP

Label – Matador

Year – 2008

Finally, I’m reviewing an album that isn’t from the 1980’s ! Times New Viking is a loud as fuck lo-fi group from Columbus, Ohio. Now I know what you’re thinking : a lo-fi recording on a hi-fi system? Is it even fair to evaluate this on sonic grounds? Well, I picked up this record to hear how my system can handle an intentionally poor recording, and to also find out if a lo-fi band can still create a recording that is in some way acoustically remarkable.

I’ve “owned” this album in MP3 form for a few years, so I am familiar with how earsplittingly hot and strident this recording is. Quite often it comes up during shuffle mode, causing me to wince and fumble for my iPod volume. Having experienced this, I lowered the tonearm on Side A expecting Teen Drama to explode out of the speakers. Strangely, and somewhat disappointingly, I wasn’t blown backward like the Maxell guy. The music buzzes and blares but makes no attempt to go forward, politely making a din at a reasonable distance. On the back of the album cover reads the advice “please play loud”, which didn’t help much when I tried. Everything is mostly the same volume. The drums sounds like someone hitting cardboard boxes. No bass frequencies to speak of. Just one constant midrangey howl.

Some of the tunes are really catchy, e.g. DROP-OUT and RIP allegory, but the rest of the album sounds like short Dinosaur Jr. songs with broken equipment and forced indie affectations. The packaging is cool, if you dig played out typewriter and collage motifs. There’s a “contains explicit lyrics” warning on the front, which I found very amusing.

I put this record on expecting shit, I accept this, but I thought it would be shit with some feeling of engagement or presence. It offers little improvement over the MP3 copies (and the album comes with a coupon for the free downloads if you want them). Buy the album here for around 20 bucks if you want some hipster cred (which is a new grade I’m adding to my reviews from now on). At least it’s on 180 gram vinyl.

Music – C+

Sound – D-

Hipster Cred – B

Vinyl review : Felt – Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Artist – Feltfelt - crumbling the antiseptic beauty

Title – Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty

Format – Vinyl LP

Label – Cherry Red

Year- 1981

Felt was an early indie band from England that mostly made jangly stuff centered around guitar melodies. The lead singer and songwriter goes only by “Lawrence” and sounds kind of like Bryan Ferry on valium.

…i’m not sure what else to say, really. Having listened through some of their 10 year discography, it’s all kind of samey : shimmering, atmospheric instrumentals paired with plaintive lyrics. They get a little poppyer and uptempo as they progress through the 80s, but this debut record is on the darker side..

The album opens with Evergreen Dazed, a 5 minute instrumental piece whose pained guitar lines evoke shuffling through chilly fall afternoons under steel gray skies. Unfortunately, the guitar on this track is kinda shrill, I mean I guess its meant to be high pitched and twangy but it’s still not as smooth as I expected from vinyl.

Our next song is Fortune , and the version on this album is different than the one i’ve heard before, it’s slower and has tribal-ish drums instead of porn music rim knocks. Wiki tells me it was re-recorded and re-released in 84 as a b-side, which is probably what I heard before. I prefer the single version.

Guitar harshness is reduced on the rest of the tracks, but still seems too jumpy and fake. On the tracks that have percussion, the drums are primitive style tomtoms and hand drums that have appropriate bass and a sense of being struck by a person. Lawrence’s vocals can get rather hissy and sibilant, especially on I Worship The Sun. In sum, the album’s sound isn’t terrible but it left me disappointed, especially since I had only heard the MP3s from the CD version before so I was expecting to be blown away by a rich sonic landscape. I guess if I had a tube amp it would mellow out the edges a bit.

Being that this is a fairly rare record, I can’t find it on Amazon for you guys. I got my copy from a guy on Discogs for about 55 dollars, which is fairly steep but at least it was in near mint condition.

Music – B-

Sound – C

Vinyl review : Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls, and Marches

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls, and Marches

Artist – Mission of Burma

Title – Signals, Calls, and Marches

Format – 2x 180g Vinyl LP + bonus DVD

Label – Matador (remastered edition, original release on Ace of Hearts)

Year – 1981 (original), 2008 (remaster)

Among the slew of post-punk bands in the early 1980s, Mission of Burma was one of the few American groups, and probably one of the best. I had known of them for years but never checked out any of their work until the autumn of last year when I downloaded their Rykodisc compilation. I was living in Scotland at the time, and something about their songs really resonated with me as I spent countless grim mornings huddled at a bus stop in the pouring rain, hood up and headphones on.

The two disc set consists of the original 1981 EP (remastered from the original tapes) and their debut 7” , both on 12” , 33 1/3 records. These are 180g LPs, which means these records are thicker, heavier and generally better quality than other discs, which are generally 120g-140g. Most audiophile grade recordings are on heavy vinyl, and the improvement in sound is apparent. This is some of the quietest (in terms of surface noise) vinyl I have ever heard. Not a single pop or crack in either the lead in or run out groove, just a faint hiss. Nearly every other record I own has a noticeable amount of crackle, even brand new ones.

Little details are revealed by the new remaster, like the acoustic guitar buried in “Academy Fight Song”, and the bass has a good punch without being overwhelming. However, the vocals are a bit thin and the drums are vaguely distant. Despite this, i’m quite pleased with the sonics: the background is nice and black like I mentioned, and the whole thing has that laid back analog sound I know and love.

The set also includes a coupon for a free MP3 download of the album, booklet with pics and interviews, and a DVD of some live performances from 79-80. I haven’t checked out the DVD yet, but they supposedly had a mixed reputation as a live band (hence the title The Horrible Truth about Burma for their live album). You can get it from Amazon for 28 dollars , but I got mine from elusivedisc , a company i’ve been a fan of for a while.

Music: B+

Sound: B

Vinyl review : Time-Life Great Men of Music series

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

One way to enhance your hipster cred is to feign interest in the high arts, so what better way than occasionally listening to classical music? Classical music on vinyl at that…

Time-Life Great Men of Music LP Boxsets

I own 8 out of the 13 pictured

Much of my LP collection started out as stuff my parents previously owned. Nearly all of the classic punk and new wave I own once belonged to my dad, but I also claimed the classical music he got via mail-order back in the early eighties. These were from the Time-Life Great Men of Music series, which consisted of 4 records each from all the major classical composers. Each set had the composer’s most famous works (e.g. Symphony No.5 for Beethoven, Rondo alla Turca for Mozart) but also had some of their lesser known pieces. The full series pretty much covered everyone from the Baroque to the early Modern period (Bach to Copland), but my dad only had 8 of the 30 box set.

The records come in sturdy, attractive boxes with anti-scratch sleeves and a booklet containing the history of the composer and notes on each included recording. Many of the recordings are sourced from the well-regarded RCA Living Stereo series. Internet research later backed me up, but I had originally suspected this when I first played the Living Stereo SACD of Van Cliburn performing Beethovens Emperor Concerto and found it…somehow familiar. Sure enough, they are the exact same recording.

The overall sound quality of the records is pleasant and mellow; as I write this I am listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2, which flows smoothly from the speakers while demonstrating a well defined soundstage (that is, every instrument has a discernible “place of origin” emitting from the speakers that mostly corresponds to how an actual chamber orchestra is set up). Mozart’s piano works are crisp and believable , if not a tad bright, while Beethoven’s Fifth is immersive and effective. The recordings aren’t always perfect though, some of the tracks, like Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, aren’t true stereo but are “electronically reprocessed” , which I personally don’t like but YMMV. Some of the speedy glissandos in Chopin’s Etudes kind of smear together, but I suspect this is a weakness of my system rather than the recording.

These boxsets are a great way to start a classical collection, and they seem like the kind of thing you could score from a yard sale, thrift store, or Craigslist. Amazon has just the Beethoven set starting at 22 bucks, but if you’re more of a completist then eBay has most of them, unfortunately sold separately.

Final scores:

Music: A

Sound: A- to C+, depending on each recording.