Monday, January 17, 2011

"Mea Culpa!!" (A Funny Story)

So last Thursday, I put up a video from John Elliot's solo alter-ego, Imaginary Softwoods. Eventually the Top 10 posts will begin... One of a few Emeralds-related re-releases from last year (collectively #2 of 2010), the self-titled double-12" is full of repetitive, hypnotic synth drones. Not my best videowork, but serviceable.

Then on Friday, Pitchfork does a 7.7 review of the album, and all of a sudden I've got like 300 views! Pretty cool, but I'm a bit wary of too much internet attention. So, here it is:

The "C2" video in question, from Imaginary Softwoods (???)

Listen to it... Whaddya think? I like it - very primal, overlapping analogue drones, with ebbing and flowing intensity. And I got one YouTube thumbs-up, and one comment, "Woah - this is good." Not bad, not bad... Then the trouble starts.

Due to some atypical weekend flakiness on my part, I was in communication with a friend about bailing on some plans. When I see an e-mail notification of more YouTube comments - Steven Seagal 1984 had informed me that I "might wanna try 45 rpm since its ripped at the wrong speed." Woah, indeed.

Imanginary gatefold
I remembered that the 2xLP package contained very little information, like track names or credits or whatever. But I pull it out to see if I'd missed anything. Plain paper sleeves, no inserts, nothing on the gatefold cover, but there... in the text etched amidst the run-out groove: "45 RPM" - on both 12" vinyl discs. How'd I miss that?!

Side C, track 2, from Imaginary Softwoods (2010)

So now we're up to 500 views and three thumbs-up, all people who have been drastically misled by my screw-up. Kind of. Anyway, I re-rip side C at 45 rpm and video-ize track 2, rename the first video the "Brains in Slo-Mo version," and try to make it obvious with comments/links. And another 100 people have watched the wrong version...

But let's look at the situation. Setting aside correctness and authorial intent, is one of them better than the other?

Softwoods back
I liked my original version just fine, having listened to the full album "wrong" several times without any real issues. I mean, the whole album is somewhat similar to this track, as discussed by Pitchfork. There's no vocals, drums, or any other benchmarks that would indicate (to me) that I'd played it too slow. The hidden message (at least to me) about record speed, especially being unusual for 12"s, seems a bit suspicious. Although it's probably more that the overall package design left minimal room for helpful text - and I have to admit I had found the ABCD side designations in the run-out text. But still...

Maybe I'm just trying to rationalize my mistake, but the nature of the music and the somewhat obscure placement of the unusual RPM for 12" discs - maybe it was at least foreseeable, if not intentional. (I believe Tribes of Neurot's 2002 Adaptation and Survival project might have allowed for different playing speeds for the vinyl discs.) Plus, one thing about synth/noise music that sometimes bugs me is overuse of the really high-range tones - so maybe I'm predisposed towards the lower-end. Maybe I would have preferred the 33⅓ rpm version anyway, if given a choice. Maybe... but I'm going to hold onto my "wrong" edition of the album regardless. If it turns out I prefer it slower, I'll be getting like 50% more music that way!! And I can accept being wrong.

I don't really draw any conclusions from the whole mess, but it made me think about certain aspects of the more abstract music I listen to. Which is alright.

original vinyl cover
Funnily enough, a very similar story was told in the review I linked to for Blut Aus Nord's What Once Was... Liber I (#16, 2010).

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