Toledo, Ohio is a horrible place where no one should be forced to visit, let alone live.
That being said, it’s a shockingly great place to find records, so I thought I’d share the four records I picked up this weekend while I was trapped in the city visiting my family.
Studio Ghibli Kokyo Kyokshu – Princess Mononoke Version
Last month I made a trip to San Francisco to see some friends and take in the sights. Whenever I’m in the bay area I always make sure to stop by Amoeba, one of the world’s largest and greatest record stores, and buy as much as my suitcase allows (spoiler: I had to buy another suitcase). During this past visit, I scored some CDs and LPs by Ryuichi Sakamoto, the keyboardist of the legendary Japanese synth-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and an accomplished solo artist whose work runs the gamut from silly pop music to Oscar-winning film scores.
One of his CDs that I picked up was Media Bahn Live, a concert album that chronicles his 1986 tour. One of the main reasons I bought it was because it features a live version of “Behind The Mask,” one of my favorite YMO tracks, and a song I first discovered on the American YMO compilation album X∞Multiplies. Here’s a live version by the group from 1983
In my opinion it’s a synthpop classic. It has everything I look for in the genre; a catchy melody, a dance-friendly beat, and deep, if somewhat obtuse, lyrics that convey a cold and robotic feeling.
So imagine my surprise when I popped Media Bahn Live into my computer and heard this version:
The melody remained (kind of) but nearly every other aspect of the song had been radically altered. This was no longer a synthpop track, this was a pop song, a funky, rock-influenced pop song at that.
And those new lyrics!? What the hell are they and where the hell did they come from?
Curious, I checked the CD linear notes to see if any other songwriters got a hold of the song or contributed to it.
As it turns out, “Behind The Mask” has a pretty crazy history.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the 20th Anniversary Edition of Nevermind was a gigantic piece of shit.
It was overpriced, it lacked key outtakes and included useless filler. But most importantly, it sounded like complete garbage. In the hands of Bob Ludwig, the album was “remastered” into a compressed, noisy mess. All the dynamic range of the original recordings was stripped out and replaced with loud, distorted noise.
It was a goddamn tragedy.
So as you can probably imagine, I was more than a bit trepidatious when details started to leak out about the In Utero 20th Anniversary Edition. From the second I heard about it, I thought they were going to fuck it up. I thought they were going to overcompress it, fill it with needless bullshit, and charge way too much for it. I thought they were going to go half-assed once more, and just create another needless cash-in at the sake of one of the most important and greatest albums of my generations.
I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.
Hesitation Marks came out several weeks ago, so I feel that me reviewing it would be kind of pointless by now. Want my quick take? It’s a good record, a nice return for Trent into the world of Nine Inch Nails, and an interesting change of pace. I like that he’s expanding his sound to include more synthpop and electronic elements, and I hope he continues to branch out and away from the industrial sound he’s known for. “Everything” “Copy Of A” and “Came Back Haunted” are great tracks, with the last really showing how Reznor has grown as a songwriter (while wearing his Gary Numan influences on his sleeve).
So yeah, it’s a good album. You should buy it.
You should just be careful about which version you buy.
I can be a pretty obsessive collector at times, especially when someone flashes the words “limited edition” in front of me. The second you tell me I might not be able to have it, I want it. Especially if the limited edition in question is a special color or comes in a special package. To me, these are the best kinds of limited editions. They have that aura of exclusivity and rarity that collectors like me salivate over, but they’re not keeping extra songs away from fans who may not have the luck, or economic means, to score the hard-to-find items.
Outer Battery Records, a small label that deals mostly in metal and punk, get this. So when they scored the rights to release a limited edition of Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, the sophomore album by San Diego psychedelic rockers Earthless, they did it right: it’s identical to the original in every way, the only difference being that it’s on crystal clear translucent vinyl.
Oh, and they also made if fucking RARE.
Last week, word came via Nine Inch Nails’ official Tumblr that they would be offering two different masters of their latest album Hesitation Marks: a “loud” master and an “audiophile” master. The “loud” master would be the one found on iTunes, Amazon and on the CD itself, while the “audiophile” master would only be made available as a download to those who bought the album via the official Nine Inch Nails website.
Why? Well, as the album’s engineer Tom Baker explained via the official announcement, “The standard version is “loud” and more aggressive and has more of a bite or edge to the sound with a tighter low end. The Audiophile Mastered Version highlights the mixes as they are without compromising the dynamics and low end, and not being concerned about how “loud” the album would be. The goal was to simply allow the mixes to retain the spatial relationship between instruments and the robust, grandiose sound.”
So what it sounded like was that this idea was basically Trent’s way to try and have is over-compressed album and eat his dynamic range cake too; offer a “competitive” loud mix for mass consumption while delivering a properly mastered mix with full dynamic range to those who care.
Sounds great, right?
Well, it would have been, if it wasn’t a damned lie.