Comments on

Wow and Flutter

Original entry posted: Thu Nov 13 22:42:46 2008

That Fuzzy Bastard @ Mon Nov 17 12:16:36 2008 EST

My personal cassette-artifacting story:

I was living in Russia the summer of 1992, just after the USSR had collapsed. Among the many illegal economies, the primary way one bought music was by going to a kiosk that had an enormous binder, listing all the albums they had for sale. You would make a selection, give them a down-payment, and come back the next day, when they would have ready for you a 90-minute cassette, with an album dubbed onto each side.

I got some Throbbing Gristle---they were bizarrely, though certainly not inexplicably, popular in post-Soviet Russia---a couple Russia pop albums, and a longstanding missing album in my collection: Talking Heads '77. After getting the tape, I listened to it plenty, and enjoyed greatly.

Back in the states, a couple years later, I was looking through a crate of vinyl, and found Talking Heads '77 for $2. For that price, I thought, it's worth getting, just to hear the vinyl. Brought it home, put it on, and... shock.

Casettes tend to subtly speed up over time (that's why they were rarely used for syncing on music-video shoots). A fourth or fifth generation dub, as I'm sure my Russian bootleg was, has a pretty noticable time shift. But because David Byrne's voice is a little high and warbly anyway, I had never been aware that was happening. So once I heard the vinyl, an album I always thought was done in a pretty consistently fast tempo turned out to be way less punk than originally thought.

Thomas @ Mon Nov 17 14:22:51 2008 EST

That's pretty awesome. Nowadays you could just plug a timestretch plugin into your music software, if you got nostalgic for your original experience. There are, sadly, very few direct "tape deck emulation" plugins, though.

It gets used on the other end, too, of course. Rush apparently used to use tape speed changes to get Geddy Lee's voice and the rest of the instruments to match up comfortably--well, much as you can say that for Rush.

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