1975-2000: 25 years of error... & bravely beyond!

Revised Dec 17 1999

DUB HOUSING
Chrysalis Records CHR 1207 (UK) Nov 1978 lp.
Chrysalis Records CHR 1207 (US) April 1979 lp.
During the 1994 digital transfer & eq session at Suma, Paul Hamann discovered that the second side of the Chrysalis vinyl release was distorted. It is subtle. So much for the glories of vinyl...

NEW PICNIC TIME
Chrysalis Records CHR 1248 (UK) 9/79.
What happened to the mix of this record is a mystery. The control room speakers might have been oddly biased-- Suma was still a new studio at the time of the session. On the other hand, we were going thru a break up and tensions in the control room likely didn't help our focus. During the 1994 digital transfer and eq we discovered that you could add or subtract 12db at any point and still not effectively change the sonic landscape. Very odd. Astonishing, in fact, and in itself quite an achievement. The Rough Trade cd release suffers as well.

THE ART OF WALKING
Rough Trade Records Rough 14 (UK) 6/80 lp.
Two versions of this record came out on vinyl. Arabia was originally recorded as an instrumental. After complaints from business-oriented people about too many instrumental tracks, David quickly improvised vocals and the track was renamed Arabian Nights. Young Miles In The Basement was edited and then a second master was cut. A mixup at the pressing plant meant that the first (and original) master was used, after all, for the first production run. Some releases on vinyl were printed with yellow letters and yellow dancers.

The corrected pressing followed. The following releases are cut from the corrected master:
Rough Trade Records Rough US 4 (US) 1980 lp.
Rough Trade/Barclay Records 200171 (France) 1980 lp & mc.
Rough Trade Records Rough CD 14 (UK) 1989 cd.
Rough Trade Records Rough US 4 (US) 1989 cd.

The following releases are cut from the original master:
Base Records Rough 14 Y5 (Italy) 1980 lp.

The DATAPANIK IN THE YEAR ZERO box set restored the album to its original form, using the vocal-less Arabia and the longer, rambling Young Miles In The Basement. During the reconstruction process a jew's harp version of Misery Goats was discovered and substituted. The recent cd reissue is identical to the DIYZ release but includes both Arabia & Arabian Nights. The Rough Trade cd release still sold by Ubutique has the vocal Arabian Nights, a slightly shorter Young Miles and the original release version of Misery Goats.

TERMINAL TOWER
Rough Trade Records Rough 83 (UK) 1985 lp.
Twin/Tone Records TTR8561 (US)1985 lp.
Twin/Tone Records TTRCD8561 (US)1985 cd.
The left & right channels are reversed and the tape transfer left all songs running at a slower speed. All Rough Trade / Twin Tone cd & vinyl releases are affected. These faults were corrected by the 1994 digital transfer & eq. The 1998 cd reissue features the Mayo Thompson / Geoff Travis mixes of Not Happy and Lonesome Cowboy Dave as released on the 1981 Rough Trade single. The 1985 Twin Tone / Rough Trade releases use the David Thomas mixes done at Suma.

SONG OF THE BAILING MAN
Rough Trade Records Rough 33 (UK) 1982 lp.
Rough Trade Records Rough US 21 (US) June 1982 lp.

This Rough Trade lp was probably the best vinyl sound we ever had. It was cut at 45 RPM by Nimbus. When it came out critics, retailers and fans, as with one voice, whined, It's not an lp, it's a 45! Like we were trying to pull a fast one. And we said, No, it's a full length record, an lp, a long-player, but you get better sound at 45. It's state of the art technology! To which, inevitably, the reply came, Yes, but it's not an lp, is it? It's a 45. The Rough Trade cd release suffers.

CLOUDLAND
We ran across this report of disk rot on the internet:
I'm not sure whether the problem you describe is the same one that I've found because the sound quality is still fine. But, on Pere Ubu's Cloudland the label has become quite tacky and has started to stick inside the player.

THE ROUGH TRADE CD RELEASES OF THE 80s
These were flat transfers. When songs are mixed they reflect the bias of the speakers on which they're mixed and the technology of the time. Older material tends to suffer from a more severe bias. A flat transfer doesn't account for this bias and can, therefore, do a disservice to the music. Comments on digital clarity and descriptions of the 1994 digital transfer & eq are informative.

RANKING & SKANKING, The Best of Punky Reggae.
Rhino Records R2 71818 (USA) cd & mc.
The entire right channel is missing. A fixed pressing should have been on sale by the summer of 1995. The chorus is misquoted in the liner notes. The chorus was It feels like heaven, It's such a problem.

DATAPANIK IN THE YEAR ZERO
On the first run there is a dropout in the left channel of "Street Waves" on Disk 1 at approx. 1:27. It was spotted with headphones. It is corrected on subsequent pressings. The individual cd reissues are fine.

Folly of Youth seedee +
We had a report of the FOY seedee + causing crashes on Macs running System 8.5. There's a workaround. The B each B oys seedee + runs fine under 8.5 and there's no problem with System 8.1.

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Notes on vinyl pressings

Pere Ubu doesn't care about sounding good.

Stop. Wait. Read that again. Let it sink in.

Sound is meaning. What is the value of finely crafted syntax if the meaning encoded by the words and grammar is bankrupt? Which is not to say that every song, every book, must be serious. Simple thoughts expressed well can also be a joy. But the first obligation of sound is to convey meaning, to pursue truth and to be honorable-- not to serve as a consumerist narcotic.

Pere Ubu is a product of the window allowed to stereo sound. Between the mid-60s and the mid-70s, stereo flourished briefly before being choked out by the monophonism demanded by FM radio and tv. Stereo and its stillborn brother, quadraphonics, emphasized that sound is a voicing of space distinguishable from the musical activity encoded by it, and that the scale of the sound of the musical activity can be manipulated, enhanced or fractured, with powerful poetic consequences. It is our misfortune to be an unredeemable product of those times, and it is our misfortune that we were schooled in the art of sound by Ken Hamann, an engineer who stressed, above all other qualities, performance, passion and vision, a sufi teacher who believed that the making of music should be a pursuit of truth.

Stereo was a technology crippled fatally by the vinyl medium. We, therefore, resented vinyl. We had two ratings for the quality of vinyl pressings:

  1. Terrible
  2. Okay, I suppose, but why bother?

Phasing
Discrete use of phasing enhances the spatial image of a recording. Phasing is transparent with digital technology. Not so with vinyl. Phasing is a definite Bad Thing on vinyl pressings.

Stereo Imaging
On a vinyl pressing there can never be more than a 36db spread between left and right channels. The stereo image or breadth of a vinyl pressing will always be narrower than what can be achieved with a digital medium. Bass guitar and the bass drum must always be placed close to center pan, to do otherwise is to risk bouncing the needle out of the groove... which is fun but a Bad Thing commercially.

Silence
With digital technology silence becomes a powerful tool. The dynamic range is extended not only in terms of technical spec but also in dramatic possibilities.

Detail
With digital technology you can hear a sound fade nearer to zero. On vinyl it disappears in a murk of surface noise. The detailing lost is significant. Compare the 1994 digital transfer & eq to any vinyl pressing. There is significant synthesizer detailing that the vinyl simply wiped away.

Warmth
The one thing apologists for vinyl hang onto with bleeding fingernails is its putative warmth. I'm not sure what to say about this. Warmth often sounds indistinct & fuzzy to me. It's no secret down the line of good Ubu players that I don't particularly like bass. The frequencies are so drawn out. The dataflow is so slow-- and Pere Ubu is predicated on superfast rates. More is better always. In any case, the warmth issue is a red herring. For years the Japanese have been designing consumer hifi and speaker systems to mask the inadequacies of, first, pop/dance sound and, lately, MP3. The range of recognizable sound has become very narrow indeed. Any warmth is consequently stripped away. These units are cynically designed to make actual high fidelity recordings sound terrible for fear of the cry, The Emperor has no clothes!

DJs
DJs like vinyl like vampire bats like mammals.

Vinyl as a medium is flawed. The digital cd as a medium is also flawed but has strengths that, on balance, make it a better choice. Much of the nostalgia for vinyl has more to do with the fragile nature of the medium. Because it can be so easily damaged, both the vinyl and the cardboard sleeve, it must be cared for more intensely. The medium must be treasured therefore that which is encoded in the medium comes to have more value.

So, what of the recent Get Back vinyl release of The Modern Dance? Rhodri, musician and Ubu Projex admin assistant, thinks it sounds good. Rhodri has, therefore, been placed in charge of okaying any future pressings on the basis that I hate them and can't be bothered to replace the stylus on my turntable. Why did we okay the pressings? We didn't. Cooking Vinyl didn't tell us they were doing it. We thought it was a bootleg. Lawyers and a phalanx of international copyright agencies were already on alert before we found out.

Bob Harding makes a good point about the process of listening.


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Footnotes

In re consumerist narcotic
Following a brief conversation with our grocery police liaison officer, Johnny Dromette, we would like the make the following clarifications:

(1) As has been noted in various articles and openly confessed by us, we have a deep affection for the consumerist society. We are proud to say that More Is Always Better. There is a difference, however, in liking a beer from time to time and being an alcoholic.

(2) America as a consumerist society is a recent transformation. Social engineers would have us believe otherwise. They are liars. As young men we had been known the last days of the golden age firsthand. No amount of Orwellian history modification can alter that. As recently as the early 70s the middle class of America was routinely raised & encouraged to pursue spiritual and artistic goals ahead of other considerations.

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