Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Return to vinyl

2010 is the year I return to vinyl, reviving a passion which began when I received 'The Beatles Greatest Hits Volume 2' as a birthday present in 1973, and faded when digital formats arrived, first with CD, then file-based formats like mp3 and flac.

Yesterday was the most important day in the vinyl revival... the day I bought my first new record in at least 15 years. The record is 'The Big Black and the Blue', a magical collection of songs by the Swediah teenage savants First Aid Kit. Their uncanny mastery of vintage acoustic styles makes them the ideal artists to figure in the plastic comeback. I've already downloaded it as both flac and mp3, but I wanted to appreciate it as a listener, in the way it was made... that is, the old-fashioned way.

The prelude to this watershed event was the dusting-off of the turntable, rewiring its faulty RCA connectors, adding a preamp, and connecting it to the analog input of my surround sound system. It may seem incongruous to amplify ye olde records with such a digital-era amplifier and speakers, but early tests proved to my not-very-discerning ears, that vinyl responds well to my modest subwoofer and satellites.

808 State, PWEI, Dead Can Dance, and the Dukes of Stratosphear were among my 80s favourites in these early trials. The mellotron-laden Kraut-sounds of Peter Baumann emerge as I type this. Sadly, the grit and damage on some of my old records, including my precious Frank Sidebottom collection, is all too evident.

But the modern record seems to be a quality product. 'The Big Black and the Blue' is pressed on high-grade vinyl, and it looks, feels and sounds terrific. It also comes with a douwnload code so you can get an mp3 copy of the album if you like. Such features seem to be fairly common for vinyl now.

My next purchase will be 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' by Neutral Milk Hotel.