Society of Sound Music Launches Live at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios

Grind-house

Thanks to Real World for hosting the launch of our Music Club last week in the aptly named Big Room of their Wiltshire studios. Seeing Grindhouse playing acoustic versions live of what I’d been listening to for weeks on my iPod was brilliant but nothing prepared me for the improvised genius of Skip McDonald (Little Axe).

His set involved a bizarrely successful mix of virtuoso guitar playing and audience participation following in a long line of eccentric performers such as George Clinton and Bootsie Collins. There has been much discussion on the collapse of traditional business models within the music industry. It’s easy to forget that good live music rarely loses its impact and really can’t be replaced or updated.

Cassandra Wilson explains elsewhere on this site that the location for recording her albums is as much a part of the sound as the score itself hence recording 2002’s ‘Belly of the Sun’ in an abandoned Mississippi train station. A number of the Music Club sessions have been recorded almost entirely live and I’m excited by how this really comes across, the production is fresh rather than polished to within an inch of its life and you can hear the energy from the musicians in the studio.

I’ll definitely be pointing to where you can go and see our Music Club artists out live later in the year, and in the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out this month’s Music Club podcast and vidcast for a taste of what Little Axe are like in the flesh.

1 Comment

  • MichaelCPE says:

    The so called “Loudness War”, is, in my opinion, destroying music.

    Unfortunately the first album from the B&M Music Club shows just how much damage the Loudness War had done.

    The Loudness War is when music is heavily compressed so that it sounds much louder without having to turn up the volume control.

    The good news is that the Little Axe recording sounds MUCH better than most “loud” modern recordings. On a medium quality (or worse) sound system, the recording will sound fine.

    The bad news is that, for reasons I just cannot understand, the Little Axe recording has still been compressed at the mastering stage. Compared to good CDs from the past, this recording has lost about 6 to 9db of dynamics.

    The result of this lost dynamics is that on a good system Little Axe just sounds like a slightly muffled recording. There is never any impression of the musicians “being there”.

    Why the 6 to 9db excess compressed was done in the final mastering is a mystery to me. Perhaps those responsible thought they were showing restraint because most modern (non-classical) recordings are compressed much more. The main damage the Loudness War has done is that it now seems normal to over-compress recordings such as this one.

    I have CDs of world music recorded in the field using fairly basic equipment that have amazing presence. This is because the original dynamics were kept. This shows that good mastering is much more important than the recording studios.

    Good mastering is also more important that the type of file sent over the internet. I am sure that an uncompressed dynamic range version of Little Axe made into a 192bps MP3 would sound better than the current recording.

    The way to sell good speakers is to play a recording that makes the listener feel that the musicians are actually there. The Little Axe recording does not do this, so I would not even consider it as a demonstration quality recording.

    I am sure that the original playback that Little Axe heard in the studio sounded amazing, and would have made a great demonstration recording. It is a pity I did not get to hear it.

    Fortunately there is a very easy solution for the Music Club.

    As the dynamic range compression was probably done at the mastering stage (and not during mixing), it would be very easy to create a non-compressed audiophile version of the album for download. You do not need to pay Steve Hoffman to know that it sounds better if you do not add too much compression.

    (They could also create a more compressed version “optimised for background listening and for use on your iPod”).

    Music Club members would then be able to choose which version to download.

    I suspect that it is very likely that most Music Club members would choose the non-compressed audiophile version. It would be interesting to find out for real.

    I think that this is a very realistic thing to do because it would be easy to create the uncompressed dynamic range version, and it would be fairly easy to update the website so that users could choose which version to download.

    Given that the Music Club is brought to us by a prestigious speaker company, I had hoped that the music would be something that would show off my good sound system.

    Surely it is not too much to expect for a good CD played on a good system to make it sound like the musicians are in the room with you?

    Perhaps I was wrong to have such high expectations, but I am disappointed.

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