Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Butter 08

Butter 08
One of my favorite things to do when the current state of music is as devoid of personality and talent as it is now, is to go record shopping.  I don’t go to a store to do it…I start digging through my own musical archive looking for things that I have forgotten about for one reason or another.  Usually this results in a gem or two resurfacing and getting some play for a few months.
This next artist up for discussion is exactly one of those.  I heard of this group from a friend at work who gave me a copy of the album that followed me around on my iPod for a couple of years.  At the beginning of summer, I looked around for a copy online and I was surprised to see that it had at one point been available on vinyl!  Time passed and I forgot about them again, until Christmas time when my girlfriend surprised me a with a mint condition vinyl copy under the tree!  How freaking cool is that?   The band in question…Butter 08.
Butter 08 are a one album side project from Miho Hattori and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto.  Joining together with Russell Simins of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Rick Lee of the band Skeleton Key and director Mike Mills, the band churns out 13 tracks of pure fun that absolutely defy category.  Psychedelic synthesizers combine with thick bass lines, crunchy guitar riffs and hip-hop flavored drums to fuel this project from beginning to end.  Standout tracks 9MM, Shut Up and Sex Symbol leave the listener wishing there was more material available from this band.  Guest keyboardist and fellow Cibo Matto band mates Sean Lennon and Timo Ellis add a super, post punk vibe to the first side closer It’s the rage.  Surprisingly that while the full Cibo Matto lineup is together on this track, Butter 08 sounds nothing like the sum of their parts.  This is good time music and fun to play at a party or just sit back and groove to.
In 1996, this album was pressed by the Beastie Boys’ now defunct Grand Royale label.  Pressed on standard weight vinyl, it was never produced in a limited edition or any type of collectors format that would make any one version more valuable than the next, but to simply find a copy now days is a feat that is superhero-like in the sheer task of it.  The music is incredibly detailed on the vinyl copy with incredibly crisp highs.  The overall project is beautifully balanced and presented on the vinyl as neutral as possible.  This changes greatly with the cd and ultimately the digital files that originated from those cd’s.  Sadly the increased low end causes loss of much of the detail so carefully added to the mix.  Overall it is best to listen to this album on vinyl if possible, however, with the vinyl  and the cd being so hard to come by, the mp3 files that are still available in most online music stores at least allow the album to be heard instead of lost among all the other musical ventures  that just didn’t cut it.
However  you get to listen to this album, plug it in, turn it up….waaaaayyyyyy up and just enjoy a rocking good time from start to finish.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

scrap224; Rush PRESTO

This is a journey into sound.....

Rush is somewhat of an acquired taste. I also realize that music is one of the most personal & intrinsic areas of the human condition. This has been a focal point of Rush's music for nearly 40 years now.
When the 3 members of Rush; Geddy Lee (bass, vocals & keyboards), Alex Lifeson (guitar, backing vocals) and Neil Peart (drums, percussion & lyricist) decide to create they do so with enthusiasm, passion & extraordinary musicianship.
On November 21, 1989 Rush released their thirteenth studio album PRESTO. like many Rush albums it received some mixed reviews. That is neither here nor there. I remember the first time I heard this album (on CD). Gone are nearly all of the synthesizer work that dominated some of their previous albums. PRESTO is much more of a straight forward rock album which was also more indicative of some of Rush's earliest albums. As excellent as this album sounds in the digital format, for the actual purposes of this review on this blog, this review is about Rush's PRESTO as heard on vinyl.
The albums track list is as follows; 1. Show Don't Tell. 2. Chain Lightning. 3. The Pass. 4. War Paint. 5. Scars. 6. Presto. 7. Superconductor. 8. Anagram (for Mongo). 9. Red Tide. 10. Hand Over Fist. 11. Available Light.
All eleven of these songs is a heartfelt journey to me. Concepts like living ones life, lost love, potential tragedy & choices. As heard on vinyl, this album sounds 'soft', especially for a rock album. However that does not mean it is in any way inferior.
It sounds soft to me meaning in the auditory sense of sounding 'warm'. This can only be sensed or experienced though the vinyl medium in my opinion. For me, this only enhances the listening experience with this album. It's a perfect match. Any of the eleven songs on PRESTO is a perfect example of what I'm discussing. The highs are not to high but the lows are subtle. For me, listening to this album on vinyl sounds better than a CD not because it is necessarily acoustically better than its digital counterpart but because it is a limited sounding music source. It is this uniqueness, this tactile limitation that makes PRESTO sound so good coming from a record player & not from a digital device.
Rush's PRESTO is not the perfect vinyl listening experience but it is an excellent example of an intended vinyl listening experience.


Lou Reed & Metallica Lulu

  As listeners of music, we are in many ways, professional appreciators.  There's something in the music that either makes you love it or hate it.  It's either something you will pay for to take home and add to your collection or something that you may sneer at when you walk past it in the store or only allow to play as background when the local radio DJ plays it on his or her show.

       Fans are an interesting culture and as important to the music as the music itself.  Many fans see themselves as part of the band or only choose to accept their favorite artist from one time period of their career.  These are the same fans that hunger for new music from the group but once it's released judge it immediately and harshly when it doesn't sound like the time period that they love from the band.

       With this in mind, I have decided to make the first musical post of this blog about a truly polarizing album that fans either love or hate.  More accurately they love to hate.  It's a strange phenomenon.  With that in mind, let's discuss Lou Reed and Metallica's Lulu album.

       It was announced summer of 2011 that Metallica had recorded a full length album with legendary singer/songwriter Lou Reed of Velvet Underground fame.  The collaboration's earliest roots beginning with Metallica playing along with Lou Reed at his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The story is interesting in itself, but the music is what this discussion is about.  The album has received low reviews and low album sales according to Soundscan.  Fans of Metallica's early thrash days hating the album.  Of course it has to be said that this is NOT a Metallica album.  I'll say this one more time for the cheap seats THIS IS NOT A METALLICA ALBUM!  This is a collaboration between artists, but in style and presentation this is a Lou Reed album.  If you don't know Lou Reed, you should first familiarize yourself with his music.  This is pure Lou albeit a very heavy and attitude laden Lou Reed album  This album is based on two plays by German expressionist writer Frank Wederkind, Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box.

       Lyrically Lulu is about an abused dancer/prostitute, the relationships she has that eventually bring her life to an end at the hands of London's notorious Jack the Ripper.  The story weaves through ten tracks on the album in a non-linear story in a sometimes incoherent fashion.  Lou Reed is a master poet, although less of a singer.  This is where the album begins to be a challenge to the listener.  Lou half sings/half speaks the lyrics, going back and forth between melodic and off key singing and speaking.  There is no real sense of timing by Reed in the lyrical delivery so one will find it difficult if not impossible to find musical rhythm in Lou's delivery.  Personally I would find this frustrating if it weren't one of the reason's why I love this album.  This is classic Lou Reed delivery.  The voice has aged some but it still has that captivating quality that has kept him as a musical enigma throughout the past 4 decades in music.

The music itself is heavy, moving back and forth from slow, sludgy rhythms to blinding speed thrash, always capturing the feel and the emotion of the story.  Metallica arranged the music to accompany Lou's vocals and this task was accomplished brilliantly.  Rhythm guitarist James Hetfield provided backing vocals on three songs Brandenburg Gate, The View and the radio friendly Iced Honey, which many Velvet fans will find similarities to Sweet Jane.  In short, to me, this record is brilliant.  It's challenging the way music should be.  It's energetic, emotional, raw, poetic, uncomfortable and in some places downright painful, this is intended in order for the listener to take the ride that Lulu experienced through the stores to her ultimate death.  This is not a good time record to be played in the car when riding around with friends.  This album is more personal and requires a more personal approach.  Get comfortable in your favorite chair, get a beverage of your choice, turn off the lights and just absorb it on the first listen.

       Now let's discuss the vinyl itself. This record is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and cut for vinyl at Bernie Grundman Mastering.  The lows are rock solid the highs are crisp and beautifully reproduced.  I have had the privilege of doing a side by side comparison with the cd and the album delivers nuances that just aren't present in the cd release. Acoustic guitar strings ring and bass lines are far more audible in the LP.  It comes in a double gatefold sleeve with a lyric sheet insert.  The cd includes additional artwork as well as a group photo of Lou Reed and Metallica photographed by legendary photographer Anton Corjbin.  The price for this piece of vinyl though is a little steeper than others at 49,99.  I would definitely suggest listening to this album before making the investment, but for those who love this album, there is no better way of hearing it.  A full streaming version of this album can be heard at www.loureedmetallica.com.  Post your comments below and Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Welcome Vinyl Junkies!!!

Welcome to Analogs!  This is the new home for rants and raves about some of my favorite records...and yes I mean records, not cd's and not mp3s.  I don't care how this music sounds on an iPod.  I'm a true audiophile and I want to hear the music the way it was intended, not the way that iTunes has shoved it into our ears as of the past few years.  Music is meant to be touched and connected with.  There's no connection with an mp3 and really no connection to a cd once it's taken out of it's plastic case and put in the cd player.  Vinyl requires special care and has to be handled in order to get the music out of it.  There's also no better sound quality on the planet.  I'm not necessarily going to be reviewing new music but I will consistantly review good music. 

If  anyone has music suggestions, please feel free to share.  Look for reviews to start popping up here in the weeks to come. 

I am also planning on trying to provide a place for the best record and turntable care tips available.  Not all of these tips are mine because i'm not an expert so again feel free to share.  Again, welcome, let's have fun and rant about vinyl!