M B V

front with drink

The Preample:

MBV.  Whereas last week I fretted for days on what I’d write about, this week was very easy.  Spent the last night with Pete yesterday listening to tunes on his rig with a copy of this LP waiting for me.  I found a VG- copy of Led Zeppelin II a few days before at Executive Stereo with RL initialized on both sides (Presswell with narrow deadwax!) and it was part of a barter that also saw a few Santana records I had doubles  change hands as well as a beer to be paid in time.

The crazy thing is I haven’t even listened to any songs from this album yet…not even a sample!   MBV has always been one of my favourite bands and I’ve waited half my life for this mystical follow up to Loveless  (fuck I hope it’s not another Chinese Democracy!)  If this was released 4 years ago when I was still digital I would have followed the rest of the kids to Pitchfork when the live samples were released, then to my beloved torrent site for the leaked release, followed by 2-3 weeks of listening to the mp3 album a hand full of times before my next ipod sync relegated the songs to the “ipod shuffle”, giving it 1 to 40,000 odds one its songs hitting my ears next.  By the time the actual album hit the music stores it would have been “so last January”, but so is life in the digital download orgy world.

So I guess this makes this LP a watermark moment on how I consume music at midlife…from my past mass mp3 download era where the music became a commodity of bits & bytes on a NAS box hidden in a closet in my basement…towards now where dropping $30+ on 40 minutes of music is the norm, yet the listening experience so moving that one feels inclined to write and share the experience with others.

As a warm up I decided to play the first two MBV LPs beforehand.  Alas, they are the critically panned Plain reissues.   Widely whispered to be redbook transfers onto vinyl, it’s not hard to believe this to be the case as I listen to them now.  Overall the instruments and vocals sound muddy (yes, I know some of this owes to the original mixing) and turning up the volume and taking the grills off the RX6’s don’t add much to the sound.  I want to borrow original CDs to compare the Plain LPs to, but where the fuck will I play them?  In my car?  (I don’t even know if it has a CD player to be honest!)  If I do I’ll have to bring them down to Executive Stereo for a demo.  Regardless, this is very familiar music and I think I feel a boner coming on as Side 2 of Loveless approaches the end.

Saying I’m really looking forward to this listen is an understatement.

The Record:

Got this one sealed.  As mentioned earlier, I received it as part of a trade with my buddy Pete who picked it up at Kops.  The gate folded LP also comes with a CD and CD booklet.  The jacket, LP and CD are all a true NM and the vinyl although not advertised as 180g certainly is “hefty”.  Overall the package feels like a UK release, especially due to the flimsy (when compared to US style) cardboard jacket.  Several of my recent vintage vinyl purchases are imports but to be honest I can’t remember my last imported “new” vinyl.  It’s refreshing to buy an indie pressing not from United or Rainbo…my anticipation continues to grow…

Artist: My Bloody Valentine

Title: M B V

Label: MBV Records

Year: 2013

Catalog: mbv lp 01

Country: UK

Notes: gatefold, comes with CD

Matrix:

Side 1 – MBV 01 A-2

Side 2 – MBV 01 BS-2

Mastering: Noel Summerville

Pressing Plant: ? (perhaps a Pallas pressing?)

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/4331747

The Accompaniment:

Pike’s Creek 10 Year Old.  My favourite Canadian whiskey, although admittedly I haven’t tried many besides Crown Royal and Canadian Club.  Bought this on a whim a few months ago and that led to repeat business.  Although it may not convert a self-important scotch drinker, it will surely make whiskey lovers take note.  Similar to its nose, the whiskey opens with a sweet taste reminiscent of bourbon but followed with a brandy-like finish …obviously imbued with its finish in vintage port barrels (after 10 years of aging in bourbon casks).  I love it and it’ll remain in my trophy cabinet indefinitely.  And at under 40 bucks a bottle, an any day sipper.  Sweet nose, sip and finish.

The Listen:

I polished off a few doubles of the Pike’s Creek by the time Loveless finalizes.  I decide to take the dog for a walk beforehand.  I cue up the needle and 10 minutes later it’s dropped and I find a place on the carpet floor to experience the Kevin Shields Front To Back Analog Experience.  She Found Now …the sound title resonates like a sequel to an earlier song in their discography, and indeed opens with a familiar sound even if with the vocals further back then I remember.  Fuck, about a minute in and surface noise creeps into the left channel, but only lasts for 30 seconds.  Now I’ll be hyper-sensitively be keying into that channel the rest of the side.  It doesn’t return, the song finishes and I feel like I’ve heard this song before…

It’s at this point I notice that Kevin Shields is the only band member with credits on the LP cover.  Who the fuck is playing drums?  Only Tomorrow opens as another pleasing tune, a bit less familiar, like a Loveless B Side.  The fuzzy, interlaced guitars indeed sound analog and coherent but with the sound stage narrow and centered.  So far no return of the left channel surface noise.  Holy man!  Who Sees You is another song you can slip into both Isn’t Anyting or Loveless without notice.  Pretty good song (third in a row I might add!).  Sweet guitar solo, at one point it sounds like Shield’s is doing his scales with clouds!

Shit…the phone rings.  Wife says it’s too loud.  I say give it 30 seconds baby.  Luckily it finishes without me having to touch the volume knob.  The last song on the side, Is This And Yes, initially sounds like church music.  It comes across as the first song heading in a different direction.  In fact, it sounds like Stereolab, especially when the vocals come in.  A so so Stereolab song in fact.  It’s the first cut on the record that doesn’t immediate grab me, but the first where the drums take me to la la land.  The side concludes and it’s a winner.  I’m sure I’ll be playing this one a few more times before the week withdraws.  I’ll have to give it a listen before taking the dog out also.

Took a quick 10 minute break to chat the wife up before Side 2.  It opens with If I Am which is another female led vocals and I immediately like it better than ITAY.  The song’s got the similar throw back feel as the flip side before New You opens with an interesting sequence before the song kicks in.  Alongside ITAY, this is the album’s second song that delivers a new sound…perhaps with a hint of things learnt from Instrumental B.  This one’s got a certain poppiness to it, and do I hear a “do do do”?  Yes I do.  In Another Way sounds average enough…hopefully not a sign of the LP petering out?  Fuck.  Another call from the wife upstairs.  This time I turn down the volume.  Not a terrible song, just average.

Nothing Is opens with an 80’s metal riff skipping on your deck.  Inevitably there will be lots of people that LOVE this song…sadly I will not be one of them.  It comes across as a novelty listen, not a song.  I will however BLAST this song at MAX volume later this week when I find myself home alone.  Promise.  Next up is a techno beat overdubbed with a jet plane taking off.  Nope, guitars not a jet plane.  Although I do not love Wonder 2, it’s another song I swear to blast on the system later this week.  But sadly it seems as Kevin has run out of material although there’s definitely atmosphere, different than anything beforehand owing to the driving drum beat.

The Postamble:

The LP presents itself as two distinct sides.  Side A may remain in high rotation but Side B will definitely be returned to.  Although I do think half way thru the second side I wonder if the album has lost its way.  Being an “analog album”, sonic qualities will always be on trial.  Largely, the sound does have a spatial quality that is superior to the Plain reissues I listened to beforehand but were the drums anywhere near a speaker (I know, I know…it’s a guitar album)?  Nevertheless is this really the best modern analog has to offer?  The sound is still a wall, not an enveloping embrace.

The whiskey, highly recommended (I think I may have drank half my bottle tonight hehe).  Taking the dog for a walk also decidedly endorsed.

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

lp n bottle

The Preample:

Well, here it is…my first review.  Which LP to play?  Which drink to pour?  The decision is proving rather overwhelming.   What will people think?  I’m beginning to know what goes through a woman’s head deciding what to wear when going out for a simple dinner with friends!  It’s a simple fucking decision…just don’t over think it…like going in on goal in a hockey shootout.  You overthink it and chances are you’ll put the puck in the stands (my specialty btw).

OK, so I’m going with what I’m currently enjoying the most these days.  That makes the decision very easy.  I’ve decided to spin my original Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere pressing by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.  I’m admittedly a late comer to Neil Young.  My oldest memory of Young is CSN&Y’s American Dream back in my teens.  I didn’t care much for the song but the part in the video where he runs into the bedroom with his guitar blaring always made me laugh.  And to be honest, I never gave him the time of day back in the early 90s when he was the “grandfather (or was it godfather?) of grunge”.   About 6 months ago I picked up Lee Hulko cut of Harvest and I’ve been a convert ever sense.  Neil Young fucking rocks, period.  Since then I’ve been able to pick up several more of his original pressings, with this being my latest pickup, and the first with Crazy Horse.  It also happens to be the first LP I played on my new MX110 setup.  I’ve had it about 3 weeks as of this writing and I’ve played every other day.   I’m looking forward to playing it again, with my body starting to have a Pavlovian response whenever I cue an LP I’m currently digging.

The Record:

Purchased about a month ago, it seems I won on eBay roulette.  The outer jacket is a NM and includes the original inner sleeve.  Both sides of the vinyl are a beautiful, strong VG+ with lots of gloss and shine and no marks that would induce an ounce of concern.  If not for a bit of “spidering” an easy NM grade.

Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Title: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Label: Reprise Records

Year: 1969

Catalog: RS 6349

Country: USA

Notes: gatefold, two tone Reprise labels

Matrix:

Side 1 – 30910 RS-6349 A 1A A20

Side 2 – 30911 RS-6349 B 1A E5

Mastering: ?

Pressing Plant: ?

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/1336190

The Accompaniment:

Paired with tonight’s listen is a Dalwhinnie 15 year old Highland Scotch.  I have my brother in law to thank for this one.  He recommended this a few months ago and I quickly liquidated my first bottle…looks like this second bottle will probably last just as long short.  Picked this up at the Orlando Duty Free back in January with the fam visting Mickey & the gang.  Damn I love Duty Free, you pay a third less and get a 1L bottle.

This is one easy drinking, tasty single malt.  If you’re not paying attention you can easily polish a third of the bottle without ever noticing.  There’s no peat or smokiness in the Dalwhinnie (a scotch characteristic by the way that I’m not terribly fond of).  I’m not going to embarrass myself with trying to come up with what I “smell and taste”, but when I sniff the dram I breathe deep and hold it in like a joint and when I take a sip I can never let it sit on my tongue long enough.  Yum.

Yup, it’s the favorite whiskey in my cupboard.  If I had the scratch, it would be my everyday sipping whiskey.  But alas, at 90 bucks a bottle…I’ll have to save it for special occasions like this.

The Listen:

Before I purchased this LP, the only song I was familiar with was Cinammon Girl.  The song starts and I immediately start bobbing my head.  Is that clapping or percussion during the first minute of the song?  Like all my other Neil Young records, his vocals come through with an unqualified sweetness and clarity.  Not a peep of surface noise as the song ends with a right channel guitar solo and a single “whoo!”  I turn the volume up.  The next song, EKTIN is a good example of a song I wouldn’t give the time of day during my younger “indie only” days.  What an amazing tune.  I don’t know if it’s the record or the tubes (or some synergetic energy between them) but the sound is HEAVEN.  AMAZING.  The “la la la’s” are reminiscent of a Beatles song I can’t remember at the moment.  Two songs in and I’m thinking to myself that these songs are waaaaay too short.  Unfortunately the record starts with tics as Round & Round begins, but ends after about 20 seconds.  I discover thinking to myself if Robin Lane was hot or not back in 1969.  I have no idea what she looks like.

Damn!  The tics come in and out for almost two minutes but the song is still honey.  The two guitars (or is it three?) are holy heaven on this tune.  And near the end of the song, who’s the high vocal in the right channel?  Sounds female, but Robin’s coming out of the left speaker….hmmmm.  The next song, Down By The River is currently my fav Neil Young song…a song I never heard until 3 weeks ago.  Everything about this one is notable; the textures are awesome, the bass, the dueling guitars across the left & right channels, the vocal harmonies.  This recording feels like a live gig.  I wonder which channel is Neil and which is Danny…anyone?  Wicked bass btw, reminds me of the opening bass riff on Harvest.  More “la la la’s”.  I shot her dead.  Damn.

Except for the intermittent tic’ing on song 3, this side played dead quiet.

Side 2 opens with probably my least fav song on the LP, but the bass is still awesome!  And I hear the first guitar solo mixed in the center.  The second song, Running Dry, actually starts out sounding like a Ween song I used to dig called Buenas Tardes Amigo and then finishes with the violin that sounds eerily like the Velvet Underground.  Keep in mind I may be getting drunk.  A little vinyl noise between track but luckily dies out as Cowgirl in the Sand starts.  Once again you get dueling left & right guitars and I’m thinking how both sides end on a high.  The sparring guitars sound great, but find myself drifting to the bass & cymbals.  And similar to the end of side one, this song has the feel of a live jam.

The Postamble:

The LP and scotch were both fantastic.  I give the album full marks from both a musical and sonic perspective.  There were one or two songs I didn’t care for on the flip side but the rest I really dug and more than compensated.  And like all my other Neil Young records the mix, mastering, etc are top notch.  I recommend any fan to bring back their empties to save up for this 45 year old record.  As for the Dalwhinnie, I better start saving for my next bottle…

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

In the Beginning, There Was Analog…

This is it, my first blog post.  Where to start?  I really don’t know.  I’m a science & math guy, not a student of words and essays.  So I guess I’ll start with the ‘why’.

Why you ask?  To offer my wife support, that’s why.  After over a decade of doing a prodigious job of raising kids (and me) and keeping a household she is re-entering the job force.  Being a holistic nutritionist and ninja of all things wellness, apparently having an online presence and being a practitioner of all things ‘social’ is just as important as knowing what the fuck an Essential Fatty Acid is.  So she asked me to help her with all things Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, WUPHF and FaceTubeSpace.  Belonging to none of these social outlets (my social outlets being booze, music & masturbating) I felt it best to actually sign up and drill in the fine arts of social media.  So here I am, with my very own WordPress blog & Twitter tweet tweet.  Think of my blog as a sandbox environment to her production environment.

What you ask?  This one’s easy, booze & music (sorry…I refuse to blog about masturbating as there’s a good chance my kids will read this one day).  Listening to records and having a drink is something I do almost every other night so it’s a very easy thing to write about.  In particular it’ll be my perspective listening to vinyl records in my collection on my analog rig.

Where?  Mostly in my basement where my set up is, but now and again at any one my bro’s house who also have an analog setup.

Who?  Me.  I’m located above by clicking the ‘About me’ link.

When?  Who the fuck knows, but let’s say once a week for arguments sake.

How?  Pretty sure I answered this in my previous responses.

Shit, so far this feels like filling out a RFP at work.

So on to the fun stuff.  I guess it makes most sense to start with what I’ll be spinning on.  So, let’s follow the signal path.

The Listening Room:

It’s a basement room, primarily below ground and rectangular in shape compromising of an uncomfortable couch, an Ikea unit full of records, some kids play toys, my HiFi rack, speakers, etc.  The ceiling’s 7 feet, a 21 foot length, and a 14 foot width with the setup set up width wide.  The floor is carpeted over concrete plus the “premium” under-pad.  Everything is setup width wide with the speakers typically 2 feet from the wall and me listening from about 8 feet away.

The Cartridge: Dynavector 10X5.  Dynavector’s entry level cart which debuted in 1978.  Here’s what Dynavector has to say:

  • Type High output moving coil cartridge with flux damper and softened magnetism
  • Output Voltage 2.5mV (at 1KHz, 5cm/sec.)
  • Channel Separation 25 dB (at 1KHz)
  • Channel balance 1.0 dB (at 1KHz)
  • Frequency response 20 – 20,000Hz (± 2dB)
  • Compliance 12 x 10-6 cm/dyn
  • Tracking force 1.8 – 2.2 grams
  • DC resistance R=150 ohms
  • Recommended load
  • Impedance >1K ohms
  • Cantilever 6mm length aluminum pipe
  • Stylus Elliptical
  • Weight 7.3 grams

stylus 800

The Tone Arm:  JA Michell Techno Arm, which is a highly modified Rega RB250 arm.  Here’s what Michell Engineering has to say:

  • One-piece perforated arm casting with internal foam damping
  • Proprietary silver litz cable in a continuous run from cartridge to amplifier
  • PTFE dielectric, metal braided shielding, separate ground wire
  • Silver-plated cartridge clips and phono plugs
  • Two counterweights, matching cartridges of 4-7g and 7-13g
  • Vertical tracking force adjuster in steps of 0.1g
  • Vertical tracking angle adjuster
  • Finger locknut for easy arm removal or VTA adjustment

The Turntable: JA Michell Gyro SE, which is essentially a GyroDec without all that costly acrylic.  Here’s what Michell Engineering has to say:

  • Spider chassis, suspended stable subchassis
  • Massive acrylic/vinyl platter of high inertia, with gold-plated brass weights
  • Inverted oil-pumping bearing
  • Custom arm boards available for most tonearms
  • High-quality standalone DC motor
  • Optional clamp
  • Optional HR supply
  • Optional Orbe-style platter and clamp
  • Optional dust cover
  • Finished in silver
  • Weight 10 kg
  • Dimensions 49 (w) x 37.5 (d) x 13.5 (h) cms

turntable 800

The Preamp: A Mcintosh MX110 (z).  A 50 year old vintage tube amp that looks like it just left the showroom.  Hard to find specs on this one, but it brings an aura of HiFi times past complete with its wooden housing and sweet vintage sound.

preamp 800

The Power Amp: McIntosh MC275 V.  A legend in the tube HiFi world, this unit puts out an impressive 75 Watts of tube power per channel.  Unlike the MX110, googling this model will return thousands of hits of information.  Debuting in 1962, this is the “Mark V” version which was recently updated a few months ago.  This thing is crazy powerful and an amazingly fun piece of hardware.  Here’s what McIntosh has to say:

  • POWER OUTPUT PER CHANNEL: 75W @ 4, 8 or 16 Ohms
  • NUMBER OF CHANNELS: 2
  • TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION: 0.5%
  • S/N BELOW RATED OUTPUT: 100dB
  • DYNAMIC HEADROOM: 1.2dB
  • DAMPING FACTOR: 20
  • RATED POWER BAND: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE +0,-0.25DB: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE -3DB: 10Hz to 70kHz
  • CIRCUIT CONFIGURATION: Unity Coupled
  • CIRCUIT DESIGN: Vacuum Tube
  • MONO PARALLEL: 150W @ 2, 4 or 8 Ohms
  • AUTOFORMER: Output Transformer
  • BALANCED INPUT: Yes
  • CHASSIS STYLE: Polished Stainless Steel
  • GOLD PLATED BINDING POSTS: 5 way
  • DIMENSIONS (W X H X D): 16-1/2″ (41.91cm) x 8-1/4″ (20.96cm) (including feet) x 12″ (30.48cm)
  • WEIGHT: 67 lbs (30.5 kg)
  • SHIPPING WEIGHT: 75 lbs (34.1 kg)

amp 800

Speakers: Monitor Audio Silver RX6.  Finished in Walnut, these are just as much furniture as loud speaker.  They double as my part of my 5.1 theatre setup.  I love them.  Here’s what Monitor Audio has to say:

  • System Format: 2 1/2 Way
  • Frequency Response: 38Hz – 35kHz
  • Sensitivity (1W@1M): 90dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL (dBA): 114.8
  • Power Handling (RMS): 125W
  • Recommended Amplifier Requirements (RMS): 40-125W
  • Bass Alignment: Dual Chamber, Bass reflex with differential tuning.
  • Twin HiVe®II port System
  • Tweeter Crossover Frequency: LF: 700Hz
  • MF/HF: 2.7kHz
  • Drive Unit Complement: 1 x 6″ RST® Bass driver.
  • 1 x 6″ RST® Bass/Mid driver.
  • 1 x 1″ (25mm) C-CAM® gold dome tweeter
  • External Dimensions (H x W x D) inc plinth & feet: 905 x 275 x 310 mm (35 5/8 x 10 13/16 x 12 3/16 inch)
  • Individual Weight: 16.4 Kg (36.13 lb)

speakers 800

Naked in all their dimpled glory…

speakers detail 800

Anyways, that’s it for today.  This will be the longest post, I promise.  Just wanted to get the equipment off my chest.  The next one is where the fun begins.