Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Releases of the Week: S.C.U.M & Feist

As we near the end of the busy late Summer/Fall indie release season, the number of great new releases on the horizon grows more and more sparse. This week, however, sees the release of a couple of gems.

The first is Again into Eyes, the debut full-length from arty London neo-post-punk outfit S.C.U.M (and yes, they are named after the infamous ms. Solanas' manifesto). The rekkid begs the question: Which is the best new-wave-psychedelic-shoegazing album of 2011? Again into Eyes or the Horrors' Skying? So far I'd say it's a toss-up for me, both rekkids are pretty damned fabulous. My one caveat is that whenever I look at S.C.U.M frontman Thomas Cohen, I want to hate them, but the rekkid is so good I can forgive the douche-a-matic sideburns.

The second release of the week is Feist's latest salvo Metals. I'm actually a little surprised at just how much I liked this rekkid on first listen. The music is moody, atmospheric, and magnificently composed and arranged. The use of horns and strings, the sense of musical space, and the use dynamic range of the sound are all quite masterful and delectable. This is a slightly darker and artier beast than her last (also delicious) rekkid, so I am afraid that the advertising agencies will have trouble finding a "1,2,3,4" here. That said, I highly recommend Metals to anyone with ears.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Few Words on the Pink Floyd Remasters

As with many geeks, Pink Floyd had a big influence on my life during my formative years. I still remember one day during my freshman year in high school, during a particularly useless assembly, when my friend slapped his headphones on my head and cued up "Interstellar Overdrive". By my mid-teens I was a huge fan with their complete catalogue in my collection. Over the years my love for them has ebbed considerably, and I can no longer listen to anything after Wish You Were Here (likely a by-product of no longer being a depressed teenager), and only regularly listen to the Syd Barrett era recordings. But I do still like having copies of the early rekkids around, and I've heard them enough times to know how they really ought to sound.

If you follow the new release lists and the music press, you know that the complete Pink Floyd catalogue was reissued in remastered editions this week, available as individual discs or in a massive box set. This is the third CD release for most of the albums, a couple have had more. The question you're asking yourself is: Is it worth it to upgrade from my old editions? I understand. Sometimes remasters can make such a sonic difference as to be completely revelatory, as with the recent Beatles reissues and the masterful reissue of the Stones' Exile on Main St, other times there can be little appreciable difference, or at least not enough to warrant the expense (I'm talking to you, Joy Division deluxe editions!) Here are my thoughts on the Pink Floyd reissue conundrum...

First off, if you are a fan and you still have the first CD editions from the 80s, get rid of those crusty old things post haste. CD technology has improved multifold over the years since they were pressed and the new editions will be a vast improvement.

Second, if you own the 2007 40th anniversary deluxe edition of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, there is no need to upgrade, there will be little sonic difference, plus you already own the mono mix, which is my preferred mix of their first and (in my opinion) best rekkid and is not available in the new editions. Likewise, if you own the 2003 30th anniversary edition of The Dark Side of the Moon, there is little need to upgrade unless you want to pay for the 2 disc "Experience Edition" with vintage live material. But then you may want to hold out for the forthcoming 12 disc "Immersion Edition" in November. A 5 disc "Immersion Edition" of Wish You Were Here will also be available, but if you're that much of an obsessive, you probably don't need my advice.

Third (and this is where it gets tricky), if you own the 1995 editions, there are some things to consider before upgrading. I went out earlier in the week and picked up the new A Saucerful of Secrets and brought it home to do a side-by-side comparison with the 1995 edition. What I found that there was a moderate improvement in clarity but only a slight uptick in mastering volume. My advice is that, unless you are of a particularly audiophilic humor, you can probably stick with the 1995 editions and not be missing too terribly much. That said, the difference was just enough to send me off to the Electric Fetus and pick up the remasters of everything up through Obscured by Clouds.