Posts Tagged ‘post-punk’

On Singles

Friday, November 5th, 2010

45 RPM singles collection

Image courtesy of noiseaddicts.com

Singles are often overlooked by hi-fi enthusiasts, disregarded as junk in favor of limited edition 180g boxsets and the like. In some ways they were the MP3s of the vinyl era: cheap, tradeable, compact, and expendable. So expendable that they are a dime a dozen these days and often in very poor shape (people used to stack them up on their turntable, removing one after each track to create a primitive playlist). But despite the difficulty of finding singles in good condition, they are a good way to get some easy wax into your collection. In addition to affordability, they have a supposed sound benefit because the 45 RPM speed allows greater spacing between the grooves which in turn permits better dynamics.

I own only a few singles, most of which I took from my father’s collection. The rarest in the collection is probably “Robot Love / For Adolfs Only” by The Valves , an incredibly early punk band from Edinburgh. Unfortunately, my copy was wrecked when a girl I was dating sat on it. I was sorting through my collection and set the single down on the couch next to me, she plopped down without realizing and hairline cracked the damn thing. The whole thing was my fault entirely but I got mad at her regardless, and we broke up like a month later (for other reasons, but the record cracking incident was the start of the downfall). Anyway, I’m going to give some of my singles a good listen and report back on the sonic quality or lack thereof.

Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart / These Days” : The krautrock-esque drums snap outward (but the hihat sizzles in the distance). Ian Curtis’ robotic murmuring emanates from the dead center, the synths swirl and the guitar just kinda stays there. When I flipped it over to “These Days” I hadn’t noticed that side B was at 33 RPM and briefly wondered why it was some cheesy New Order dance remix…yeah. Curtis sounds even more like an android on this tune, proper speed or not. The percussion is desperately thin but the guitars are at least up to something. Track 2 on side B is some kind of alternate take for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and frankly it just sucks.

Nirvana – “Sliver / Dive” : The vinyl is quiet for a used record, ill give it that, but this kind of stuff is hard to judge on audiophile grounds. At the beginning, the bass intro sounds promising but it disappears into mush which I guess is the point. Side A ends with a pointless recording of a hung over / strung out Cobain on the phone with his producer or something. Side B’s “Dive” is a better song and a slightly better recording.

Lou Reed – “Walk on the Wild Side / Perfect Day” : That famous bassline rumbles nicely and the acoustic guitar chills in the right-center channel. The “colored girls” surround Reed on both sides during their bit, but the rest of Reed’s vocals get that irritating sibilance which I pin more on the record wear rather than a flaw in the recording. An unfortunate buzzing quality affects the closing sax solo. “Perfect Day” lacks most of these sonic faults for some reason. The occasional popping and clicking enhances this intensely defeating and ironic tune.

So despite that these singles aren’t shining examples of acoustic brilliance, they are still worthy components of my music library. The only real pain in the ass associated with them that my turntable ( the Pro-ject Debut III) doesn’t have a speed control so I have to remove the platter and physically move the belt to a different part of the motor when I want to switch between 33/45 . Fortunately, there exists a speed box that you plug in between the power source and the table which adjusts the motor speed.

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