No, I’m not becoming a hipster, shut your mouth! But lately I have been lured in by the idea of vinyl. It started with thinking of what the album John and I are working on in our band (Victim Cache) would sound like on vinyl. Would it indeed sound warmer? Would the harsh squarewaves be made warmer as the needle grinds away their sharpness? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that, as a fan, there have been a few artists that I wanted to buy their vinyl when I had the chance (E Muzeki and Pendulum to name a few) and never pulled the trigger. Partly because I didn’t have a good way to play them and, collector’s piece or not, I wanted to hear it at least once.
These days I don’t think vinyl is coming back because of the superior sound (or lack thereof) but more so for the idea. The album, for instance, has largely gone by the wayside and that is a sad state in many cases. Music these days is incredibly easy to find digital and these days places like Bandcamp are even letting artists (such as myself) distribute master-quality digital downloads with it. That’s amazing and can kill the CD dead. Escaping the vinyl discussion for a bit, CDs suck. So why vinyl?
It’s for all the stuff you didn’t get in the download. The appreciation of the band, the artwork, jumbo-sized; an understanding of the work artists put into carefully arranging tracks on the album and the story it tells. It’s not about instant gratification, but long-lived appreciation. Most of the music I listen too I need not collect the vinyl for – but there are a few artists that awaken the collector in me and make me want to get to contribute to the cause as were and get something coveted in return.
There’s also the tactile feedback and process in the whole ordeal. Making a record is very much an analog process and largely still one that involves the craft of a human being. You have to treat vinyl with care which, to some, might be obnoxious, but to others, it seems like a ritual. It’s about really focusing on the music because it took some time to get everything ready to go. I can’t remember the last time, on any medium, that I just sat and listened to just the music. Vinyl is part of that experience I think in that for the work comes reward.
There is also the analog wonder. The debate between CD and vinyl may rage on forever, but in the age of being able to grab 24-bit/96kHz tracks from at least indie artists (and a few notable A-listers, such as NiN) there is likely no comparison from a fidelity perspective. It is pretty much the same sound as the artist crafted. And that’s good in many ways. The bad is that digital by itself is a cold, cruel beast. There isn’t anything there unless you add it. Vinyl, there is no doubt, changes the sound. For the better or worse is certainly subject to debate. I don’t expect it to sound superior, but I nonetheless want to hear what it sounds like.
Consider this, too. When the Zombie Revolution strikes, there might not be any electrical power. No power, no digital music. A record
is fully analog. You can make a player with some cardboard, tape, and a sewing needle. Now granted, that would be a terrible idea as it would grind your records into dust, but hey, when the zombies strike and there isn’t much left to live for, at least you can still play music! Yeah, I might be reaching there…
The point is, it is basically impossible to escape the digital world without going to the same places on the planet where cannibals still live, but the allure of vinyl is certainly one way to escape most of it, even if it’s just for about 15-20 minutes (per-side). I would like to think that we will be able to release our latest album on vinyl. The costs are a bit prohibitive, but if you want to put in your $0.02, head over to our band site to vote on it.