Not all supposed progress is met with permissiveness and enthusiasm, and that’s especially true if you’ve lived through the age of vinyl, disco & house music – or if you’re a young DJ who appreciates its special sound qualities and mixing possibilities. Music recorded onto vinyl has a long history that reaches deep into our cultural past. The sounds of the house era are fossilized onto the vinyl records produced at its zenith; they are now waiting to be rediscovered by future generations of music-lovers in stores and music fairs the world over.
The Art of Crate Digging
It’s known as crate ‘digging,’ for a reason. There’s something archaeological about sifting through rows of old vinyl at surviving record stores, like a scientist uncovering the shape of a primordial skeleton – you are rediscovering the long-lost music of the past.
When you find something you love, which never fails to happen during a dig, it comes with a history: who was the last person to spin this record? Where did they play it? And what was their mindset? You become intimately linked with that person forevermore.
But It’s not only people of the past who you meet through the music, it’s also people of the present. The world of vinyl is a community of like-minded people, ready to connect at incidental meetings in shops, fairs, and clubs.
Can this truly be said of digital music? Doubtfully, we shake our heads.
“Digging is not going to make a bad DJ good. But it will make a good DJ better.”From DJ Shadow featured in the movie “Scratch” (2002)
Extended Disco Mixes
We have pioneering record producer Tom Moulton to thank for the extended disco mixes that we know and love. Like all the most innovative ideas in human history, this one is simple and one we cannot live without – especially if we’re a hungry DJ, in need of a quick sandwich.
Mouton’s idea to create a twenty-minute extended mix on the flip side of a vinyl record, one that didn’t contain vocals, enabled DJs to get creative. If you’ve ever lost yourself on the dancefloor to a mix you wish would keep going on forever, you have Moulton to thank.
These extended or different mixes of a track are one feature that digital music is missing. B-Sides, with multiple mixes, don’t always get converted to mp3.
The Sound Quality of Vinyl
That brings us nicely on to the classic crackle of vinyl; that squint you hear when the needle touches the record is an ingrained experience of the true music connoisseur: similar to the smell of fine wine or the sound of a classic car engine.
If you were at odds between which is better: digital or vinyl, there may be arguments for both, but when it comes to sound quality, vinyl wins hand-down every time. In digital music, the sound wave is cut at the top and bottom. So instead of a nice wavy-wave, you get a weird kind of boxy-wave
It’s done to compress the audio file so that more information can be stored in a smaller space, and it succeeds – unfortunately, it loses some of its true colour and depth.
The Artwork of Vinyl Records
The beauty of vinyl is not only in the sound quality, the rare extended mixes, and the fun of excavating old classics in forgotten record shops. It’s also the classic art on the record sleeve, art that has inspired and informed our culture and its ideas for decades.
Think Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Frankie Knuckles, Joey Beltram – they all made records with the iconic look of a pivotal disco album or single. When you discover that classic cover on a crate dig there’s a feeling equalled only by hearing the music itself.
OK, so digital formats might come with a taste of the artwork, perhaps the front cover as a high-res copy, but it lacks the inner sleeve, details of the artists, session musicians that worked on the recording, and the worn edges and smell of an authentic vinyl record of course!
And then the Mixing
Before Tom Moulton’s ingenuity vinyl records weren’t made for mixing; they were made for listening. It was only after Moulton’s consideration for the DJ that the vinyl began to adapt for the dancefloor.
DJs began to get freaky with their mixes – all things were possible: mixing, scratching, the art of turntablism, and vinyl continues to be the first choice for professional DJs the world over.
It’s not only because of its complete audio wavelengths, and classic sound quality. It’s the emotional connection you get when you can touch & keep something.
Ask any serious DJ, and they’ll tell you that vinyl offers greater sensitivity, a deeper, rounder sound, and feels more authentic. In short, people feel connected to vinyl in a way that just isn’t possible with a chilly audio file.