Coffee & Music : Cycles

ONE

A few centuries ago, you had no coffee in bed in the morning – and I seriously wonder how were people doing without it!

A long time ago some guys in Africa realized it was cool to get these little red seeds, then burn them a little before making this cool black beverage. Coffeeeee…

It came to Italy, then France, then England, you know the rest…

I heard about the three waves of coffee :

  1. Black coffee : cheap, sold and consumed everywhere.
  2. Starbucks culture, making coffee a candy mess with caramel, chocolate, cream…
  3. A need to come back to simple black coffee with a knowledge of origins, ethics, taste subtleties : specialty coffee.

TWO

Before the invention of recording, the music you had is the music you or people played.

It’s been a climbing :

  • Came vinyl, then LPs. From mono came stereo, waow!
  • Hi-Fi has been the word, for a few decades : the goal was to get a better sound.
  • Compact Disc came : better dynamics, no clicks and pop, no pre-echo…

Then a fall :

  • MP3 and other “compressed” sound, a music disaster.
  • Then “the return of the vinyl”, which is like this :

LPEPsales2

What I expect today, like for coffee, is a… public sudden understanding that the quality of recorded music IS important. The tools already exist, with Blu-ray audios, or portable players which can play FLAC and other uncompressed music.

THREE

So the structure is easy, it’s a three parts process :

  1. Discovery, then mass market (a cup of black coffee homemade / a good CD)
  2. Decadence, quality collapse (Starbucks horror / vinyl, mp3 or YouTube)
  3. Rebirth with high-end products for everybody (a cup of good black coffee / high definition music)

Where to apply this triplebranch? Politics? Economy? Fashion? Literatures?

Thanks for reading!

IMG_8118

Music Maps?

ONE

Yesterday I did my exercises. Nah, not pumping iron!

In my locker I chose randomly a 2-3 years old magazine, to read it while I have lunch.

(I don’t like small talk lunches. I sit elsewhere to be alone. My INFTJ alone time is my quality time).

RifRaf was a Belgian free indie rock magazine. I read some interviews of groups I never heard about, then a dozen pages of LP reviews.

I’m 52 and I grew up musically in the eighties, when the “pop-rock era” was still explorable. Gradually, this market became so complex and so huge that I had to learn how to let go – though I suffered a bit, in the 2000s, of a Fear of Missing Something syndrome.

Now that my family has exploded and my daughters adults, I have more time to dive into this indie rock universe, from time to time…

TWO

So : I read reviews and forget all of them immediately – except like 4-5 names I screenshot or write on a piece of paper I fold in my pocket.

Then I torrent’em, home. I’m sorry. It’s because I hate to discover a singer on YouTube, I don’t need images. Let’s blush and assure I’m a “good pirate” : when I love a group I FLAC or MP3 torrented, I buy the CD. I promise!

St Vincent. Blonde Redhead. Vienna Teng. Röyksopp. MGMT. Loney Dear. I bought them!

THREE

I didn’t find much good things, Bert Jansch turned my mind into grey ashes (all good but boring harminies), Animal Collective is too nonsensy – I’m bored-frightened.

I was caught though by the veils and lacy-beats of Cabaret Contemporain – you just wanna microdance with your lover (infinite little movements of shoulders, OK?) in the sunny triangles of the living room. Enough to listen to the whole album.

But how come, each time I find good songwriting, it’s from guys from the North?? The biggest discovery of my last decade were Röyksopp (Norway), and Loney Dear (Sweden). Today the 3 LPs of Jacob Bellens are playing in a happyloop here.

FOUR

Bellens is typically a Type, for me. In an harmonically so poor universe, someone who just KNOW what a bass line really is, someone who tries some smart progression of chords, who knows what a modulation is, becomes like a “Small Wizard”. The man who takes care of music.

Röyksopp are geniuses. I’ve been intoxicated by Loney Dear, Annie Clark or Blonde Redhead. No intoxication here. Jacob Bellens is just… good, always pleasant, a constant disseminator of small good ideas. A sound, a melody, a chord…

Candy for my ears.

FIVE

I found music-map.com, started with Bellens, found that Blonde Redhead links were pretty accurate, and now after a Röyksopp search I’m lost on YouTube for the day!

https://www.music-map.com/r-f6yksopp.html

 

(approaching nervous breakdown maybe ohlala)

Have a nice Sunday!

JP

 

Continue reading

The Return of the Vinyl

ONE

I’m 52 and therefore I grew up with vinyls, LPs, EPs and singles.

I had dozens and dozens LPs. I was listening to music daily. It’s strongly associated in my head with the pleasure of music discoveries.

I remember Talking Heads and King Crimson, Mike Oldfield and Yes, second hand’s Genesis’ Trick of the Tail, the first time I listened to Killing Fields, or Soil Festivities and Mask (Vangelis), or EPs of Kate Bush, Bryan Ferry, Propaganda or Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I remember the singles : AC-DC (Hell’s Bells), Stranglers (Golden Brown), Buggles (Video Killed), The Police (Spirits in the Material World), etc…

TWO

I remember, in the end of the eighties, the excitation triggered in music lovers : Compact Disc! A better sound, no more surface noises and clicks and pops, no need to clean them, no needle to brush…

I bought my first one in Germany. It was “the first CD not available in Vinyl” : Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon. And for good reason : it was one single track, one hour long!

Since then I never bought any vinyl anymore. Indeed, vinyl became boring for everyone, with all it’s flaws, the dust everywhere, the risky exercise which it to change track (a wrong move and you have a scratch).

I love classical music. 70 mn on a CD is perfect. And a great sound, and… etc. The only regret we all had was… the sleeves.

THREE

I hear today about “the return of vinyl”.

Vinyls are beautiful. The sleeves are taller and gorgeous! I know that. And it’s a pleasure to “own” your LP (and the sound IS better than any streaming shit, yep).

I have to say that the main asset of this music listening process is you go back to the idea of listening an “album”, a whole suite of tracks. There’s no “next track” on a turntable!

FOUR

This, of course, triggers facepalms for many music lovers with a little experience. The “warmer sound”? It’s noisy, with clicks and pops, and it’s dirty all the time, and more :

Digital does not really exist…

Analog or digital, it’s just a “recording thing”. In the end : the speaker are vibrating (analog), the air is moving (analog) and your eardrum TOO.

The “warmer and richer” vinyl sound does not even exist. But I do understand one has the idea of it. “Warmer”. Yeah yeah yeah. I suppose that when you grew up with MP3, you find it warmer. Vinyl listening becomes like eating roasted chicken with french fries, plenty of sauce and onions, and carrots and pees, after the MP3 diet : crispbread with nothing on it.

Hi-Fi meant “High Fidelity” – What about the sound quality, now?

 

“The LP’s drawbacks include surface noise, less resolution due to a lower Signal to Noise ratio and dynamic range, stereo crosstalk, tracking error, pitch variations and greater sensitivity to handling”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_analog_and_digital_recording

 

FIVE

The return of the vinyl is not real. The market climbs a little, because it’s trendy. I was a vinylseller in 1989, and I can tell you it was fucking something else!

 

SIX

…says the contrary, what I called my Abba shock :

One day I downloaded a HUGE Flac archive of “Abba 24Bit Vinyl Pack” (each album weighed almost a gigabyte – a CD is mastered in 16 Bits, normally). So I began to listen on my expensive Sennheiser headphones a luxurious lossless compression of Vinyl music, digitalized at an splendid rate…. with a slight wow and flutter, some clicks and pops too, and Oh. My. God. It was fantastic!

What’s that paradox? Digitalized vinyl at high rate, without compression (Flac instead of Mp3) gave me an ears orgasm. Nailed.

OK. you won. I give up.

 

Have a nice day!

 

331785795_2-abba-4-albums-vinyle-33-tours-1979-1979-1980-1983.jpg

 

 

 

Hi-Fi meant “High Fidelity” – What about the sound quality, now?

In the seventies, music became really, really HUGE. We went from mono to stereo, and we heard constantly about Hi-Fi, High Fidelity. Pink Floyd! Dark Side of the Moon were used by stereo demonstrators…

In the eighties, the Compact Disc appeared. Music became cleaner : no more need to clean your vinyl records or your turntable : a better, clearer sound. Digital recordings were the best of the best! People were chasing “DDD” recordings, digitally recorded, mastered, and played… Great sound!

(Ambient musics lovers were in paradise : no more clicks and pops in quiet spaces!

The development of Internet in the nineties and music piracy pushed the mp3. Music was “compressed” (with loss), and weirdly, nobody seemed to care.

If you really listen to music, if you compare, if you have headphones, you notice something though : compressed music is a mess, it’s a DISASTER. You lose sound, textures, dynamics. Help!

Today, people listen to music on Bluetooth devices, in streaming, on mp3, on YouTube. It’s all compressed, crushed, squashed, and if it’s very convenient, it’s… just bad. If you have time, find your best David Bowie track and listen to it in MP3, then 320 MP3, then FLAC, on headphones, and be in a awe. Yep.

If your ears are just a little bit… educated, there are many ways to get good quality. New CDs with better “rates”, like SACD or DVD Audio. Compressed “lossless” music, like APE or FLAC. Vinyl is back for its “warm” sound, too. It’s more complicated, today, consequently, but I think it’s worth thinking about it.

Let’s finish on this paradox :

One day I downloaded a HUGE Flac archive of “Abba 24Bit Vinyl Pack” (each album weighed almost a gigabyte – a CD is mastered in 16 Bits, normally). So I began to listen on my expensive Sennheiser headphones a luxurious lossless compression of Vinyl music, digitalized at an splendid rate…. with a slight wow and flutter, some clicks and pops too, and Oh. My. God. It was fantastic!

But when I was 14 years old, I was in love, I had the LP, and I listened it in loop, every day. So, isn’t the “warmth” of the LP just linked with the memory of the poor sound of this era? I, really, don’t know.

Today I miss the big sleeves, but not much. I don’t miss MP3’s sound. Do you?

Have a nice day!

 

Front.jpg