I step away from this and weeks turn into months, there are a couple of drafts here but are mostly only collections of unrelated words which may have been meaningful to me 9 months ago but emerge blinking into my editor confused. Any ideas I had for posts have turned to dust and symbols, A draft title of Mashed Potatoes stares up at me, and I can only guess at what it’s referring to although it could have been used for this post. I could apologise for not posting, but as I’m probably writing mostly for myself it would merely be cathartic so I won’t. I only suggest to myself that I should at least try to post more than once a year.
I was thinking about sound. Also about other things which have distracted me from writing more, but sound was my main focus of late. In parallel I’ve been back to my teenage home more times in the past 9 months than I had been in the last 9 years. I say home, but it’s kind of alien to me now. The landscapes, the colours, the people, the sounds. On one visit I tried to retrace footsteps of how I once spent days, I planned to travel from Glasgow’s Hillhead Subway then down to Argyll Street, hopefully passing shops which might have had old records or CDs. The flaw in my plan is that these places mostly exist only in my memory these days, only Oxfam Music seemed to be doing any trade and it was too full of others for me to realistically do any browsing. The reason that there were some many other people in the store was possibly one other significant Glasgow phenomenon. The rain.
By the time I’d walked down to the lower end of Byres Road my coat was soaked through and I was thoroughly frustrated with myself for my fool’s errand. The rain in Glasgow is markedly different from that compared to rain elsewhere, it’s heavy, relentless and cold. The streets are in pretty poor condition these days too so it didn’t make for a pleasant soujourn. In addition I had somehow stood on a fritter so had the added joy of cold wet potato stuck to my boots.
I continued on to the Brewdog pub instead, as I was close to Kelvin Hall at this point. In here I was able to sit, have a beer and play Galaga on an arcade cocktail table thing.
You know, I would have preferred if I could have played Sinistar or Bubble Bobble but I’ll take what I can these days. Having had my mood somewhat improved I though I’d continue on my journey but with a slightly different purpose, I figured I’d head on to the Treasure Island arcade which I used to frequent. As a 14 or so year old I fondly remember going there and drinking in the dayglo colours of Marble Madness, Peter Packrat, Missile Command et al. (as well as the smoke) and wondered what was in it these days to keep it open. Also my anti-Putin beer had run out and I only had euros which I didn’t want to sacrifice to an unhealthy exchange rate behind the bar.
I made my way further in the cold and wet that I’ve never missed since leaving and wandered through the backstreets of the city. I found my way down to Treasure Island to find only lurid TV influenced money stealing Fruit Machines/One Armed Bandits/Puggies and a single cabinet multi emulator similar to the one I had left, but this one hoped for coins. At this point it was clear my time travelling wasn’t going to happen in the fashion I hoped for and I shruggedly wiped the remainder of the now mashed potatoes from my boots.
(I should probably point out that Glasgow still has a number of record shops, just not ones that were on the path I had taken. I would have liked to gone to Monorail for instance but it was just a step too far.)
The one time capsule that did exist was in my parents loft, a collection of 7″ singles in a crate. Mostly covered with dust and grime of the age but uniquely dynamic in a sense that is lost, and that brings me back to the original point of this post. When it come to music delivery the world has changed, one of the singles I found was The Eurythmics – Sexcrime. To hear this I either had to listen to the radio hoping it might be played or I could save my money to buy it from a local shop. I seem to remember we had a small record shop in Cardonald, a branch of a small chain which also existed in Paisley. I think it was the Record & Card Center but my memory may not be up to snuff on that one. The Cardonald branch shut and I remember my dad returning from it one day with some posters he’d been given. One of which featured Devo and this was a rather bewildering sight to me at the time. Nowadays you can download everything that Dave & Annie every recorded in a manner of seconds to your phone if you’re technologically adept enough, otherwise youtube probably has their scattered works for listening to in a tinny buffering staccato.
But if you’re of my age, and with a similar upbringing you’ll probably remember the anticipation of listening to the record you bought that weekend, admiring the picture sleeve (if there was one) on the bus home, opening the sleeve with the static release of the smell of freshly pressed vinyl and eventually getting home to your turntable to hear the needle drop onto the virgin vinyl to enjoy the ~4 minutes of sound you’ve just purchased. It was more than just a song, it was an object. It’s a picture sleeve and a label, typeset and designed by someone.
But of these, it is of course the audio that’s the important part. And nowadays it isn’t quite the same. I have Gigabytes of lossless audio at home, mostly self-ripped from the decaying media tomb that is my basement. But recently I’ve been less and less interesting in hearing any of this, there’s a sterility to this sound.
I have a turntable connected to my computer and I’ve used this to record audio in the past. You might have listened to some of it before. Among communities centred on vinyl preservation there is a consideration that the highest audio format is 24 bit audio recorded from vinyl with a good turntable and amp setup but one of the steps in this process is to remove the pops and clicks of surface noise as unwanted and I’m increasingly forming the opinion that this is missing the point although I might be tilting at windmills. The watmm forum was recently putting together a kickstarter to acquire a thought lost Aphex Twin album and there was discussion about how to capture the audio as best as can be and I can’t help but think at this stage it would make more sense to attempt to licence the digital source from Rephlex considering the amount of money that’s become involved in this venture. (Actually I’ve just checked and it seems a more sensible direction has emerged with this record going to a professional studio for recording instead. I’d still imagine a D>D>D version would be better than D>A>D version that’s going to be produced.)
However that’s solely my tuppence worth.
Finding my turntable a little wanting of late I went to one of the local charity shops and found an old Sanyo turntable as well as a Pioneer tape deck and this combination has inspired me a little to try something I’ve not done in quite some time.
I made a mix tape. I sat and recorded a bunch of records on to tape from vinyl, only pressing pause between discs. I could probably have sequenced tracks better but a couple of hours on a Sunday evening going back to my roots has proved to be really quite fun and I’d like to share the resulting output. I’m not planning to send out cassettes to anyone that requests them so I’ve recorded the tape back on to my computer and encoded it as an mp3 to try and avoid losing the experience too much. I did create a flac, but it was kind of massive.
Click the pic for the files.
Gary Clail – Human Nature (Original Billy Graham version)
Olimax & DJ Shapps – Feelin’ Luv
The Grid meets Timothy Leary – Origins of Dance (Electronic Future mix)
The Orb – Suck My Kiss Mix
Tyree – Turn Up The Bass (Hip Hop remix)
Pop Will Eat Itself – Dance of the Mad (Feet on Heat)
Happy Mondays – WFL (Vince Clarke remix)
Vic Reeves – Abide With Me (12″ Mix)
Apollo XI – Peace In The Middle East (Sea of Tranquility mix)
Renegade Soundwave – The Phantom (Remix)
Stereo MC’s – Connected (Future Sound of London remix)
Depeche Mode – Policy of Truth (Trancentral remix)
The Associates – Club Country Club
Jesus Loves You – Generations of Love (The Ambient mix)
Westbam – Back To Future
World of Twist – Sweets (Barrat 200 Mix)
Lil Louis – Blackout (Temperamental Dub)