Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Loudness War

The phrase loudness war (or loudness race) refers to the music industry's tendency to record, produce and broadcast music at progressively increasing levels of loudness to create a sound that stands out from others. This phenomenon can be observed in many areas of the music industry, particularly broadcasting and albums released on CD and DVD. In the case of CDs, the war stems from a desire to create CDs that sound as loud as possible or louder than CDs from competing artists or recording labels.
However, as the maximum amplitude of a CD cannot be increased, the overall loudness can only be increased by reducing the dynamic range and distorting or clipping the waveform of the recording.
Initially, a loudness war started between FM stations competing for listener ratings. Subsequently, record labels began increasing the loudness of their releases, both on vinyl and on CD, resulting in a volume "arms race". The main reason for this practice is that when comparing two recordings with different levels, it is likely that the louder one will be regarded as sounding better. This can be attributed to the way in which the human ear responds to sound pressure at different levels: as our ability to respond to sound frequencies change according to differences in sound pressure level (SPL), the more the SPL increases, the greater the amount of low and high frequency content we perceive. Music with higher levels is easily heard and understood in noisy environments such as: riding a car, a train, or walking on a busy city street. Higher levels can also result in subjectively better sounding recordings on low quality reproduction systems such as: web audio formats, AM radio, mono television and telephones. Compounding this loudness problem is the fact that artists are more inclined to request that their mastered CDs match the loudness level of top contemporary CDs.
Apart from audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts, this practice has been condemned by several recording industry professionals including Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Doug Sax, engineer Geoff Emerick (noted for his work with The Beatles from Revolver to Abbey Road), and many others. Even Bob Dylan has condemned the practice, saying "You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like – static."
If a CD is broadcast by a radio station, the station will apply its own signal processing, which further reduces the dynamic range of the broadcast material to closely match levels of absolute amplitude, regardless of the original record loudness.
Opponents have also called for immediate changes in the music industry regarding the level of loudness. In August 2006, the vice-president of A&R for One Haven Music, a Sony Music company, in an open letter decrying the "loudness wars" claimed that mastering engineers are being forced against their will or are preemptively making releases louder in order to get the attention of industry heads. Some music bands are being petitioned to re-release CDs with less distortion. This may indicate a general public discontent to this practice, and a call to put an end to the "Loudness War".
Source: Wikipedia

More on the subject:
What Happened to Dynamic Range?
Dynamics & Dynamic Range
Everything Louder Than Everything Else
How CDs Are Remastering the Art of Noise
The Loudness War

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

X - Los Angeles (1980/2001)

X is a noted punk rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1977. While they achieved only limited mainstream success, they were widely considered one of the most accessible and tuneful of Los Angeles' many punk bands. Their landmark 1980 record Los Angeles resonated so loudly with the artisans of the city it is named after, that the band received an Official Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles in acknowledgment of their important contributions to Los Angeles music and culture. They were hugely influential on various genres of music, including punk, hardcore, and folk.
Original members were Exene Cervenka (born Christine Cervenka, vocals), John Doe (born John Duchac, bass and vocals), Billy Zoom (born Tyson Kindell, guitar) and DJ Bonebrake (born Donald J. Bonebrake, drums). After Zoom retired from the band, Tony Gilkyson replaced him on guitar. Zoom reunited with X in 1998. The original line-up now tours sporadically.
Their albums had a hard-driving sound that occasionally flirted with country and blues; one critic suggests that X "were not just one of the greatest punk bands, but one of the greatest live rock acts of all time."
In many ways — from songwriting to performances — X were arguably a bit more sophisticated and diverse than many of their punk peers (except Cervenka, all band members had previous musical experience before forming X.) One critic writes that X were "too self-conscious, artsy and ambitious to simply spew" in typical punk fashion.
X's first record deal was with pioneering indepedent label Dangerhouse, for which the band produced two singles, "Los Angeles" and "Adult Books." The Dangerhouse session version of "Los Angeles" was also featured in a Dangerhouse compilation called "Yes LA", a picture disc that featured other early-punk era LA bands like the Weirdos and Black Randy. As the band became the flag bearer for the local scene, a larger independent label, Slash, signed the band to issue its first LP.
The result was their first LP release, the appropriately titled Los Angeles (1980) (produced by The Doors' keyboard player, Ray Manzarek), was a minor hit and well received by the underground press and mainstream media. Much of X's early material had a rockabilly edge. Doe and Cervenka co-wrote most of the group's songs, and their slightly off-kilter harmony vocals remain perhaps the group's most distinctive element. Their lyrics tended to be straight-out poetry, and comparisons to Charles Bukowski and Raymond Chandler were made from the start.
Source: Wikipedia

This is the remastered version released in 2001 - includes some cool demos and alternative versions.

Tracks: 1. Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not, 2. Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, 3. Soul Kitchen, 4. Nausea, 5. Sugarlight, 6. Los Angeles, 7. Sex and Dying In High Society, 8. The Unheard Music, 9. The World's a Mess; It's In My Kiss, 10. I'm Coming Over (Demo), 11. Adult Books (Demo), 12. Delta 88 (Demo), 13. Cyrano De Berger's Back (Rehearsal), 14. Los Angeles (Dangerhouse Version).
Download - MegaUpload / Download - Rapidshare

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rock Band: E3 Stage Demo

Kneel down and pray to the gods of rock!

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Midnight Creeps - Hove Festival, Norway 26.06.2007

The extremely gifted Norwegian musician Robert Burås was found dead in his apartment in Oslo yesterday, at the age of 31.
During his short career in music Robert managed to make a huge impact on rock fans - both as guitarist for Madrugada and as singer/guitarist for his own band My Midnight Creeps.
This is one of My Midnight Creeps' last shows from the Hove Festival in Norway on June 26th.

Tracklist: 1. Kitchie Kitchie Ki Me O, 2. Violet, 3. Shaking of My Demons, 4. Made of Stone, 5. Don't Let It Bring You Down, 6. Speaking In Tongues, 7. Shot By the Blues, 8. You Need a Substitute.
Download - MegaUpload / Download - Rapidshare

Madrugada / My Midnight Creeps / Robert Burås @ Wikipedia / Madrugada @ Wikipedia / My Midnight Creeps @ Wikipedia


Monday, July 9, 2007

Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell [Japanese Bonus Tracks] (2007)

Today punk legends Bad Religion release their new album "New Maps of Hell" and - as usual - the Japanese version contains some extra songs. This time acoustic version of the two classic tunes "God Song" and "Sorrow".
Definitely not something you'll wanna miss if you're into Bad Religion - so here they are!

Download - MegaUpload
Download - Rapidshare

PS! I've been thinking about starting a seperate blog just for these Japanese bonus tracks and other country specific bonus tracks. But to do a good job with that I'll need some help. So if you have any info on this subject get in touch! Bruunski

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins - Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music (2000)

With the release of their new album "Zeitgeist" the newly reformed Smashing Pumpkins are back on track - and what better way to celebrate their return than to offer you a download of the "Machina II" album and the three EP's.

"Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music" is an album by the Smashing Pumpkins that was released for free on the Internet on September 5, 2000. A sequel to "Machina: The Machines of God", it has thus far not had a commercial release. It consists of three EPs full of B-sides and alternate versions, and one double LP which is the actual album. Both "Machina" albums are concept albums. At the time the album was released it was to be the final Smashing Pumpkins studio album

Near the conclusion of the Machina sessions, it was Billy Corgan's wish to release a double album of material, but Virgin Records was unwilling to do that following the disappointing sales of Adore. After the release, and poor sales, of the single-disc Machina/The Machines of God, Corgan then wanted to release a second Machina album separately, but Virgin declined to do this as well. As a final farewell to the fans, and as a snub to the unsupportive label (as evidenced by the album's title), it was released independently as "Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music". The album was released on Corgan's own label Constantinople Records. Only 25 total copies were made. The records were shipped via FedEx to several heavily active fans in the online community, with instructions to immediately redistribute it among the fans.

Because of the high interest in the album and its extreme rarity at 25 copies, a vinyl "Machina II" can be considered a holy grail for Pumpkins fans. On August 5, 2005 the Q101 copy (#19/25) was put up for sale on eBay. The seller decided to end the auction four days early when the bidding had reached $10,000 from a bidder in France. This bidder has since disclosed that there was a mutual agreement after the auction was ended to cancel the sale transaction. It remains to be seen if this copy (or any other) will go up for sale again publicly in the near future, but the episode suggests that an original vinyl copy could fetch a five-figure sum.

A number of a release sources exist for "Machina II". All of them are sourced from vinyl.
Virgin Promos: This source is from in-house promo CDs made at Virgin Records (sourced from the vinyls), made before Machina II was released to the public over the Internet. Two versions of the promos exist, a UK (type I) and U.S. (type II) version, both with 4 CDs corresponding to the vinyl copies. As it was done in-house at a record company it generally assumed to be a high-quality transfer, though some of the faint voices which can be heard in the background before some of the EP songs are cut off, and in general it is missing a considerable amount of audio between song transitions.
Q101 Transfer: As mentioned above, the radio station Q101 received one of the 25 vinyl copies. It was subsequently transferred to 2 CDs by the station (one CD containing the EP tracks and one containing the LP tracks). Because the transfer was done by a high profile radio station (presumably with high-end equipment and professional oversight) many assume the transfer to be of good quality. Copies were given away as prizes from the station.
SPIFC Transfer: The SPIFC transfer was produced from a vinyl copy by a member of the SPIFC. A transfer was eventually performed onto two CDs with "high-end" equipment. The SPIFC offers MP3 downloads of the transfer to members and held a contest giving away CD-R copies. When analyzed the audio from the SPIFC transfer shows a 21 kHz tone which casts some doubt on the quality of the transfer.
MP3 Web Releases: Following the vinyl release a number of MP3 versions quickly surfaced on the web. A select number of people involved in the Smashing Pumpkins online fan community received one of the 25 releases. Using audio equipment they had immediate access to these were recorded onto computer, encoded to MP3 and quickly released for the masses. Later MP3 releases may be from one of the CD sources listed above or newer lesser known transfers.
Commercial Releases: Four tracks from "Machina II" have been released commercially. These are of specific note, because these versions were sourced from the master tapes rather than amateur vinyl transfers. "Real Love" was featured on the Rotten Apples compilation. "Lucky 13" and "Slow Dawn" appeared on Judas O, which was included with early copies of Rotten Apples. The Machina II version of "Try, Try, Try" was one of the B-sides to the "Untitled" single, titled "Try, Try, Try (Alternate Version)." The studio banter that preceeds "Try, Try, Try" on "Machina II" has been removed from this version."
Source: Wikipedia

This is the 320 kbps version of the album, made available on Billy Corgan's official website - probably the best quality version you'll ever come across.

Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music:
EP1 (CR-01)
: 1. Slow Dawn, 2. Vanity, 3. Saturn9, 4. Glass (Alt. Version).
Download - MegaUpload
EP2 (CR-02): 1. Soul Power, 2. Cash Car Star (Version 1), 3. Lucky 13, 4. Speed Kills (But Beauty Lives Forever).
Download - MegaUpload
EP3 (CR-03): 1. If There Is a God (Piano Version), 2. Try (Version 1), 3. Heavy Metal Machine (Version I/Alt. Mix).
Download - MegaUpload
LP (CR-04): 1. Glass, 2. Cash Car Star, 3. Dross, 4. Real Love, 5. Go, 6. Let Me Give the World to You, 7. Innosense, 8. Home, 9. Blue Skies Bring Tears (Version Electrique), 10. White Spyder, 11. In My Body, 12. If There Is a God, 13. Le Deux Machina, 14. Atom Bomb.
Download - MegaUpload

For more Smashing Pumpkins related info & goodies - including tons of live bootlegs & rarities - go to:
The Smashing Pumpkins Audio Archive

Do yourself a favor and check out the movie "Zeitgeist" - an independent movie about what Christianity, 9/11 and The Federal Reserve all have in common.