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Thoughts On Matching Mole's Little Red Record ~ Remastered (1)

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  • Michael King
    Matching Mole s Little Red Record ~ Remastered or I ll show you mine now that you ve shown me yours. Naturally fans are pleased with the new Matching Moles
    Message 1 of 6 , May 6, 2012
      Matching Mole's Little Red Record ~ Remastered
      or
      I'll show you mine now that you've shown me yours.

      Naturally fans are pleased with the new Matching Moles Remasters, currently on offer from England's Esoteric Records. And for much good reason; these beautifully packaged sets include period mementos relevant to each title, superb notes from the venerable Sid Smith, delicious studio outtakes (!) and last but not least, remastered sound. Everybody is happy, everyone it seems but yours truly. Of course the releases are to be celebrated without criticism, after all they meet all the contemporary production standards in our digital society. However it the acceptance of the current standard of what constitutes Remastered Sound for which I make several serious contentions. Let's first agree on defining what is meant by the phrase Remastered Sound. Wikipedia summarizes the matter using straight forward, non-technical language;

      Prolonged periods of listening to improperly mastered recordings usually leads to hearing fatigue that ultimately takes the pleasure out of the listening experience. A professional mastering engineer renders mixes that have a good harmonic balance. Harmonic balancing can be accomplished by correcting and removing the tonal imbalances that result from problem mixes, thus producing a more naturally pleasing and enjoyable sound to the listening ears, and is another aspect to a mastering engineer's job. This is why mastering is considered an art as well as an "audio engineering" discipline. (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastering_engineer#cite_note-stylusmagazine-1>)

      Examples of possible actions taken during mastering:
      - Editing minor flaws, clicks, dropouts.
      - Applying noise reduction to eliminate hum and hiss
      - Adjusting stereo width
      - Adding ambience
      - Equalize audio across tracks
      - Adjust volume
      - Dynamic range expansion or compression
      - Peak limit

      In order to make a deterministic process, mastering requires critical listening.

      It is important to allow enough headroom for the mastering engineer's work. Many mastering engineers working with digital equipment would agree that a minimum of 3 to 6 dB of available headroom is critical to perform good mastering. (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Avoid_weasel_words>)

      To analyze the results of Pascal Byne's remastering decisions within the studio of The Audio Archiving Company, I loaded his Little Red Record CD into my Sony Soundforge platform. For reference purposes I also loaded the CBS record album (second pressing) using a Linn LP12 turntable, as fitted with a Rega RB300 tonearm (modified) and Shelter 501 MKII moving coil cartridge. Phono preamplifier is Linn Linto. What is clear to see in the computer files, and hear, is the plain fact that, for someone who has always wanted to hear Matching Mole's Little Red Record digitally remastered, now that we have it remastered, we don't even have a remaster. Forgive my rude out cry - This Emperor Has No Clothes!

      What we purchased is in fact little more than a basic flat transfer of the recording to the digital realm. Aside from the qualitative distinctions between continuous analogue tape, as accessed from the LP, and its sampled (44,100 times per second) CD counterpart, there are no appreciable differences between the two files. Specifically the Remastered CD shows no signs of signal flaw repair (regretfully), stereo widening or narrowing (thankfully), additional ambience (regretfully), dynamic compression or expansion (regretfully), volume peak limiting/maximization (thankfully) and volume level corrections (most regretfully). To his credit Mr Bryne did not employ many contemporary commercial mastering techniques, but I cannot help but believe that this is the result of not making any aesthetic decision whatsoever on behalf of the musical recording he was entrusted to care for!

      Here's the list of of tape problems that remain on this 'remaster'. Remember the glitch that precedes the actual music? Well, it only took 8 seconds to pass when we encounter yet another glitch, specifically;

      Side A)
      08.496 (low level left channel tic)
      8:27.070 > .081 (signal drop out)
      10:37.867 > .896 (signal drop out)
      20:50.436 > .453 (signal drop out)
      This last drop out is noteworthy in that it is very large and disrupts the musical flow in a startling manner.

      Side B)
      Only required a single second for the first lo-level tic to (albeit barely) sound.
      01.097 (tic)
      1:23.338 (tic)
      3:06.031 (left channel tic)
      3:12.531 > .537 (glitch)
      3:19.253 (tic)
      3:33.471 > .502 (glitch)
      3:41.785 > .788 (tic)
      3:50.130 > .145 (glitch)
      15:10.342 > .379 (glitch)

      That's a lot to take in. Next posting will detail the outstanding level inconsistencies endemic to the original production (signal level inconsistencies that undermine the sonic potency & potential within the tape recording). Meanwhile what is clear to see, and hear, is the plain fact that, for fans who have always wanted to hear Matching Mole's Little Red Record digitally remastered, now that we have it remastered, we don't even have a remaster. Forgive my rude out cry - This Emperor Has No Clothes!

      Why? Follow the money.

      Michael King
    • Pierre Tassone
      ... I ll stick to a purely musical understanding and appreciation of the two Esoteric CDs. S/T album: 1. Compared to the Columbia release from 1992, no big
      Message 2 of 6 , May 6, 2012
        Mike King developped a technical analysis based on:

        >Matching Mole's Little Red Record ~ Remastered or I'll show
        >you mine now that you've shown me yours.

        I'll stick to a purely musical understanding and appreciation of the two Esoteric CDs.

        S/T album:

        1. Compared to the Columbia release from 1992, no big sonic difference! I didn't feel the Columbia were especially harsh on trebles (as someone said)

        2. Except from the A & B sides of the single added and tracks 1, 3, 4 on disc 2, there is not much to win! the 20 mn long version of "Part Of The Dance Jam" (Recorded At Cbs Studios, London – 30th December 1971), an entirely new bonus, is exactly what it is: a jam! One of the worst kind! Be honest, open your ears and listen; nothing happens, the musicians seem to watch each other, hesitating, trying to launch ideas but no one follows or take off and nothing happens! The entire piece is a huge turn around built on "we're lost, let's get back to the riff and try again", turning, turning, turning; to my ears only Bill McCormick gets credit for trying to keep it tight but - with the exception at one time of Phil casting himself into what could have become a solo, quickly restrained and brought back to riff - nothing happens! This sounds like a beginner's jam, one of the kind many of us practicing music have tried once or more in one's life! "Memories Membrane" kind of suffer of a similar problem. Shortly said: should have remained unreleased as it clearly shows the musician's limits at that time, on this day.

        3. Bbc Radio One "In Concert” Session? No real bonus, already released
        elsewhere

        Little Red Record:

        1. Sound: same as above

        2. BBC Radio One. Same as before

        3. "Mutter", the last of the '72 unreleased studio sessions is 3:23 of talking, maybe humoristic for some but musically unimportant!

        The bottom line? Marketing, marketing ....

        Pierre
      • chickyraptor@hotmail.com
        ... Oddly enough, I seem to recall that the acquisition of a CD containing a bootleggy-sounding Phoenix Club Soft Heap show involved the actual exchange of
        Message 3 of 6 , May 7, 2012
          >Why? Follow the money.

          Oddly enough, I seem to recall that the acquisition of a CD containing a bootleggy-sounding Phoenix Club Soft Heap show involved the actual exchange of money. I was glad to do so; how else would we ever hear this material?

          I don't recall reading at the time any detailed analyses penned by competing label heads that outlined the sonic flaws of the record, though.

          Dave
        • allcomdown@hotmail.com
          I understand the criticism levelled at the Matching Mole re-issues, and yes, despite that we are enjoying them. But I am curious about a couple of things. 1)
          Message 4 of 6 , May 7, 2012
            I understand the criticism levelled at the Matching Mole re-issues, and yes, despite that we are enjoying them. But I am curious about a couple of things.

            1) Were any older versions still available and on the Market ?? If not, then we should be happy they are out there for the new generations that are interested in this music. I believe we have had a few 20 year olds write in to this group if memory serves... Certainly the compositions and the spirit of the music are intact and can be heard by these young ones !

            2) Are proper royalties being paid out to the musicians ? I am quite sure that if they are being paid out properly, these musicians will be happy to receive them !

            3) Yes perhaps they are,to quote an album, "Only in it for the Money"; but let's be serious... how much "Only in it for the Money" are they making ??

            As for the bonus stuff, again I find it quite welcome. Formative jams give a glimpse of the artistic process. And Take 2 of SIGNED CURTAIN is quite wonderful as is Take 1 of STARTING IN THE MIDDLE... And MEMORIES MEMBRANE and HORSES and... well you see where I am going. Oh... and the somewhat reduced hiss on IMMEDIATE CURTAIN. Mutter is just plain FUN !!

            All this to say that, yes there are problems, but my position remains at expressing the joyous side of this argument! I just love this band !

            Frederic
          • Michael King
            ... Yes, it is great to know that successive generations are discovering the timeless joy of Mole Music. Yes, the spirit of the music remains very expressive
            Message 5 of 6 , May 8, 2012
              <allcomdown@...> wrote:

              >I understand the criticism levelled at the Matching Mole
              >re-issues, and yes, despite that we are enjoying them. But
              >I am curious about a couple of things.
              >
              >1) Were any older versions still available and on the Market ??
              >If not, then we should be happy they are out there for the
              >new generations that are interested in this music. I believe we
              >have had a few 20 year olds write in to this group if memory
              >serves... Certainly the compositions and the spirit of the music
              >are intact and can be heard by these young ones !

              Yes, it is great to know that successive generations are discovering the timeless joy of Mole Music. Yes, the spirit of the music remains very expressive in these new editions - it's there to be amplified and discovered!

              >2) Are proper royalties being paid out to the musicians ? I am
              >quite sure that if they are being paid out properly, these
              >musicians will be happy to receive them !

              I remember being so happy for Phil when Sid Smith asked me to put him in touch with Phil so that his compositions could be registered for. Sid and I enjoyed a lovely long conversation about all things Mole. I also remember being so optimistic for definitive productions to fall into our laps and ears.

              >3) Yes perhaps they are,to quote an album, "Only in it for the
              >Money"; but let's be serious... how much "Only in it for the
              >Money" are they making ??

              Therein lies the rub. Look, there are no villains here. In suggesting we 'follow the money' I do not mean to discredit the legitimacy of earning a living in the music business, rather it's to cite the often restricted financial budget considerations when producing a CD release. It is not reasonable that we expect a label struggling in the MP3 based culture of 2012 to spend exorbitant money for the exorbitant studio time required to successfully produce a comprehensive remaster. It's understandable why we've seen the widespread proliferation of straight 'flat transfers' of historical source recordings since the inception of the CD medium, just over twenty five years ago. The new Mole releases are just the latest example of the futility of meaning under the banner of Remastered. When Strange Fruit released Soft Machine's Peel Sessions in 1989 both CD and LP edition were nothing more than 'flat transfers' of recordings provided by ex-manager Sean Murphy. This explains why occasional tics, drop-outs, level & tonal imbalances can be heard and so too on subsequent issues. That's just the way it is, recordings are acquired and transferred digitally often with minimal attention for aesthetic reflection, editing craft and vision. The greats of our day and in 'our field' include Steve Wilson's masterpieces, Bob Drake's visionary Cow Box, Mike Dutton;s flawless Dutton Vocallion catalogue, Daryl Shienan of Gearbox Records. Cuneiform always goes the extra mile towards getting the best source and sound for their archival projects. At any rate money remains a factor for many great projects, in my observations.

              >As for the bonus stuff, again I find it quite welcome. Formative
              >jams give a glimpse of the artistic process. And Take 2 of SIGNED
              >CURTAIN is quite wonderful as is Take 1 of STARTING IN THE
              >MIDDLE... And MEMORIES MEMBRANE and HORSES and... well you see
              >where I am going. Oh... and the somewhat reduced hiss on
              >IMMEDIATE CURTAIN. Mutter is just plain FUN !!
              >
              >All this to say that, yes there are problems, but my position
              >remains at expressing the joyous side of this argument! I just
              >love this band !

              Yes! Robert's finest hour on drums,percussion, hands down! YMMV

              Thank you,
              Michael King
            • nickn626@sbcglobal.net
              My one question from this discussion is, are these new releases as good as anything on CD already out there? Are they worse? I have no Mole disks, LP or CD (I
              Message 6 of 6 , May 10, 2012
                My one question from this discussion is, are these new releases as good as anything on CD already out there? Are they worse? I have no Mole disks, LP or CD (I swear I had one on vinyl in college, but it doesn't seem to be in my possesion now), and this is one of the holes in my collection that I've been wanting to fill for many years (along with Hatfield & the North, of whom I have a self-made "best of" cassette from the 70s but nothing else). If I want to acquire an MM collection (not re-buy for better "something or other") should I get these?
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