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Bringing Back the Old School just in time for the 21st Century

In Music, Writing (all kinds) on September 15, 2016 at 3:00 AM

By: Alex Young

For children growing up in a digital age, it’s wild to think that some kids’ entire music collection will be a collection of digital memories on their computer. In the current climate of unrest within the music industry because of Internet piracy, there’s a revolution that’s coming back to shine in the spotlight once again – the return of the vinyl record. December 2008’s issue of Rolling Stone revealed vinyl sales are up 60 per cent from 2007 in the United States alone. With the re-release of essential rock albums like LA Woman by the Doors and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, all kinds of classics are getting a brand new life on vinyl. Whatever your taste may be, there’s an album waiting for you to rediscover it in a way you’ve never heard before and it’s like listening to your favorite albums for the first time all over again. For all of you that have been keeping their loyalty to vinyl strong throughout the years, now you too no longer have to feel like the only analogue dude in a digital world. The influence of the vinyl is anything but forgotten and there are a few characters that have stuck around including like the old school sound technicians, the record storeowners and the collectors. Today you’ll get to hear from each of them and their take on vinyl getting another spin.

There are a lot of differences between vinyl and any other medium but the biggest one is the quality of the recordings themselves. No one can make this any clearer than someone who has been drowning themselves in sound on a daily basis for most of their lives as they know it. This crafty character in the vinyl revolution is like a sergeant sending his troops into battle by telling them what they’re fighting for. This is what the sergeant had to offer the troops to explain to rally the troops in today’s music market. When you are listening to vinyl you are getting a much more intimate experience with the music itself because there’s literally nothing else on the album beyond the musicians.

Analog recording captures a live musician on their own as well as capturing the natural distance and depth within the room. When artists record digitally, the files themselves are already programmed to sound like analog recordings with effects but are actually of a lower fidelity. Mike Trimmer, head of the PA and Live Sound Department at Toronto’s infamous shop Steve’s Music, has worked on the road as a sound and recording engineer for over 20 years. Trimmer took some time to discuss the difference between vinyl and digital sound recordings by pointing out “If you’re working with high end of analog equipment there’s a high fidelity difference. Meaning digital recordings are programmed to sound like live recordings but the quality is a lot thinner which makes some recordings sound more harsh or hollow.” The difference between the quality of vinyl and digital recordings also lies in how the music itself is recorded. Trimmer also said “When you use digital processing, it uses high end modeling equipment that is meant to simulate an analog recording. But when you listen to an analog recording it is just a recording of a live musician and there’s nothing coming between that. The difference is in the detail of the harmonics and textures. Digital recordings are upgraded into a resolution into the 96 range, which is what makes it popular on a recording level. But a CD is still 44.1, which makes it harsher to listen to at high volumes.”

Anyone comparing vinyl to any other medium for music has to keep in mind that vinyl provides a personal experience for its listener. Another character in the audio army breathing new air into the lungs of vinyl is the record storeowner that can speak with technical prowess of someone like the sergeant and the elite lingo of music geeks alike. This character is the record storeowner, who has both a stake in the business and an undying passion that can challenge even the most elite music geeks. Of all the time spent cleaning out your garage rooting through all your parents’ old records from high school it’s only natural to see a flush of memories come back to them all at once. One of vinyl’s biggest appeals is that it provides a truly unique connection between the listener and the music because even there might be 7 trillion copies of Led Zeppelin IV and Sticky Fingers floating around the world, that the copy in your collection was printed just for you.

The grandiose artwork that accompanies every record could be big enough to become a poster and the liner notes could be a novel; these recognizable characteristics allow listeners to identify with their favourite albums in a way that is unheard of anywhere else. Roozbeh Showoeh is the manager of Slinky’s Music in Toronto that sells CD’s, vinyl, and DJ Equipment. Showoeh discussed the personal experience vinyl has to offer anyone that’s willing to listen by saying “It’s interesting to see what an attractive product they’ve become. They’re almost like a fashion statement. Obviously you buy a record for the music but it’s interesting to see people get vinyl for the artwork. I’ve seen all kinds of people frame vinyl, hang it on their walls, use it like a poster and it’s like them using everything that came with the record itself to show their love for the music.”
With vinyl breaking its way back into the mainstream after spending decades in dusty attics and burnt out basements, not everything is perfect for the vintage revival. These are the people who do strive for a more mature quality from their music collection and the people at the heart of vinyl’s survival: the foot soldier that keeps their affection flowing from the heart of music into their inner fanatic. Justin Chard is a first-year Humber College Radio student that interns at Toronto’s heartbeat for modern rock, 102.1 the Edge, and is an absolute vinyl fanatic. Chard owns over three hundred vinyl discs and loves all of them to death, claiming he doesn’t “have the heart” to throw out his albums that are beyond repair. It’s for that reason that Chard finds himself at a crossroads as a modern vinyl collector. “The real bitch is that when you love an album on vinyl to death, it actually dies.” Chard says with a chuckle. “Because of the actual physical contact with the needle, if you’re spinning an album for years on end, it’s obviously not going to last forever. If you break a CD you can just burn another copy, if you lose a tape or hear something on the radio, you can just download it. If you carve one of your vinyl’s to death, it’s great to see how much you can love something like music, but you have to go out and buy a brand new disc.”

It’s interesting to see records get another spin after they were presumed dead for decades. After hearing so many classic cuts such as “Straight to Hell” by the Clash become morphed into MIA’s hit single “Paper Planes” last year, artists that got their start in the vinyl era are clearly not going anywhere. Although vinyl doesn’t have the same pull in the music industry it’s amazing to see that it still has a place in the hearts of music lovers in the twenty-first century even in an age when anyone can practically pull mp3’s out of thin air on the internet. The timeless qualities that come with a vinyl resurrect a connection between a fan and their favorite tunes that the world once thought was extinct with the emergence of tapes and CD’s. It was Bob Dylan that said “the times they are a-changing” but it’s nice to know that the world didn’t forget that, some things will stay golden for a little bit longer.

  1. Nice story Alex. As a long-time vinyl collector and proponent, it’s good to see the resurgence of this unfairly maligned and, usually, misunderstood format. Sure, CDs are convenient, but they lack the soul and sound of vinyl. Some of my fondest memories are going to an actual record store when I was growing up and browsing through the thousands of records on the racks. I still have and continue to listen to many of those same LPs 30 years on. There’s no experience like a vinyl experience!

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