For the Record

Downloading an e-book for a journey? Yes, your bag will feel a lot lighter, but what about your heart? Will it give you the same satisfaction sitting with a book will? What is reading a story without holding a book in your hands, without burying your nose in it to get a whiff of the musty-sweet pages, without feeling the texture or hearing the rustle of the pages? It’s the same with vinyl records. A CD – or an MP3 – doesn’t cut it, it’s just convenient. Record sales had dipped in the early 1990s, but in the past five years, sales have picked up again. Record buyers have always been purists. But in this age of revival – be it the beard, the undercut or the “retrosexual” man the vinyl record is now high on the list of every music aficionado.

But two of the biggest obstacles in the return of the LP, or the long-play, are the near-obsolete technology required to press a record, and its workmanship. With hyper leaps in technology, most of the recording became digital almost overnight. And most of those who know how to operate an LP are no longer around. But like all good things, the vinyl record has found a way back to us. Relatively new artistes such as Daft Punk, Jack White and Hozier have given the LP a boost by releasing vinyl versions of their albums.

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Why? Because it is “imperfect”. A major characteristic of a vinyl is its lack of audio perfection – what fans call the “warmth” of the sound. It is a distortion flaw inherent in analogue sound production, but it is this very “failing” that lends it its distinct character.

Unlike downloads, a record is personal. It is an experience. Records, like books, are meant to be collected. There is a certain joy in bringing home a new record, carefully pulling it out of its sleeve, gently placing the stylus on the record as it spins, and listening to that unmistakable crackle of a record as it plays. It sounds like the first sip of Scotch…

However, records lose the battle to digital formats when it comes to cost and convenience. A record costs a few thousand rupees and you cannot listen to records on the go. But you can carry a thousand songs around in an iPod. Possibly free, hopefully not.

I love vinyl. It’s old-school and things from days gone by have a way of pulling at your heartstrings. Write me an e-mail, but also write me a letter. I was born into the cassette generation and missed the golden age of the LP by a few years. But today, when I sit with a few of my LP-aficionado friends, I can see the passion in their eyes and the joy in their voice when they talk about vinyl records. About where they were pressed. About how they acquired each record. And all the while, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon played in the background with a signature crackle.

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Tune in

  • One of the most expensive records ever sold was by the Velvet Underground and it cost $25,000.
  • There is a difference in sound between coloured and black vinyl.
  • The best way to store records is vertically, not horizontally.

By : Tathagata Sen

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