Wednesday, February 18, 2009
We Were NEVER Mnml, February 2009
I lost my mp3 player and Sennheiser HD25 headphones in the Marysville fire, (here's a full account written by my ladyfriend) and in order to deal with that, I’ve spent the week procrastinating doing the work I can’t concentrate on, scouring websites for information on players and ’phones, wondering if I could turn my loss into an opportunity to fetishise electronic products and find myself a better listening combination.
In doing this, I discovered two things I already knew (a typical google experience). First of all, I discovered that mp3 players have totally and completely transformed the way we listen (duh, but it’s true)… Most of what appears to be the big sellers at hi-fi shops, even snobby in audiophile joints, is either for iPods or has been forced to take the iPod into account.
The second thing is that ‘DJ headphones’ remains a late 90s category. Most, if not all the phones available are so tacky, tastless and ‘modern’ looking (in that aluminium look plastic kinda way) that you would have to be the kinda person who (still) wears triangle bags, Fudge 'hair product', Royal Elastics (or Acupunctures), and Alphanumeric (or Syke) to think they’re cool. Or you could get a pair of HD25s…
Then there were other new things. I noticed, for example, how canalphones like Shure and Etymotic have blown up in popularity, and that there is a market within this market that doesn’t balk at paying 600+ dollars for the top models, which tells me that a lot of people with a lot of money (even snob audiophiles) are doing almost all of their listening using a portable player. And that people have a very strong urge to totally blot out the world, the tram, and their office. The way things are going at the moment, who can blame them?
What else? All iPods, except the 4th and 5th generation models, sound like rubbish (if you believe what the geeks reckon, at least), either because of the signal routing or because of the cheap DAC. NB, the older ones were much better than the new ones. For Pod haters or jaded ex lovers, Samsung and Cowon are much better (and cheaper), but fie on you if you use OS X and want to ‘freely choose’ something un-Apple. You will be cursed with compatibility issues and zero iTunes compatibility for years and years and years. Ubuntu, here I come. But if you do have a 4th or 5th gen iPod, you can get ‘em modded to make them sound shit hot (google ALO audio). And if you have a broken one (which so many of us do) and you live in Melbourne (which some of us do) you can get ‘em repaired, cheaply, on Elizabeth St (google Happy Mobile). Don’t let anyone in an Apple shop tell you otherwise. Apple gets more like Scientology every day.
You need an mp3 player in 2009: it’s the new way to go digging. The simple reason for this is the explosion in podcasts – and not just quantity, but quality. It is now entirely possible to have an endless stream of top notch mixes delivered 100% free to your player, and mostly they’re supported by websites with exhaustive tracklists and discussion forums. Coupled with discogs, this can catapult you to the Kingdom of Geekdom in a manner of months. And no matter what style you’re into, there’s a podcast for you. Why bother nicking mix comps off BitTorrent? And why, for that matter, would you ever pay money for a mix CD? Or go to a club, unless you’re single, young, and full of the devil?
In 2009, the onus is on two groups of people. First, it’s on anyone in the business of publishing mix comps, who need to explain to their listeners why they should fork over thirty-plus dollars for something they can get better (longer sets, more community/discussion, often more up-to-date and better tracklists ‘cos of less licensing issues) for free. Second, it’s on anyone in clubland who thinks they can still take the piss with poorly organised parties (has-been DJs, shitty venues, inferior systems, overpriced drinks, thug bouncers) once their punters spend a few years getting educated. We live in interesting times.
What follows is a list of some of the better podcast series (to add to the ones we’re all familiar with [RA, BeatsinSpace, LWE, Infinitestatemachine, Modyfier}), all available for free.
Bleep43 (Impeccable selection, unobtrusive back announcing, great live sets)
Bunker (often outstanding long, live sets, heaps of minimalisms)
Bodytonic (house/techno, good, long sets, good quality files)
Rinse FM (thee spot for dubstep, bassline, ‘wonky’ etc – the shout outs are annoying)
To the Bone (great disco to house, great guests, but way too much talking)
~ NB this appears to be the unfortunate legacy of sound systems and pirate radio. All the 'casts with annoying shout outs, MCs and blathering on are British ~
XLR8R (wide variety, has beats as well, but no real 'feel'... it's not a series)
Save the Cannibals (new series that’s minimal/tech/house [Cassy, Steve Bug] so far)
Audio Explorations (M A Hobbs-style blimey, grimy, abrasive, ~step music, 320kbps)
Cool in the Pool (Balearic, twinkle disco, italo/disco/house)
What do you make of the explosion in 'casting? What's your favourite series? What's your favourite episode of all time (thus far)? And which directions would you like to see 'casting taken in?