what is a good cd?

a cd is a cd. right? wrong...

i've finally entered the world of digital audio as a consumer. y'see as a "musician" i actually know a bit about it. working with the mpc and making all those records 2009-2013 i got to understand digital pretty well.

now i've finally got around to thinking about what constitutes a good cd.

here are my thoughts:

1) i always believed that, in spite of the window-dressing, REAL hip-hop stopped being about vinyl in 1991. it's a very personal date but that was when marley marl in control II came out. i had the first record when it came out on vinyl. and i remember being incredibly frustrated that the sequel was on cd. i did eventually find a "radio promo" version on vinyl - but that was years later. to me it was like a line drawn in the sand.

certainly there were many hip hop classics that came after that date but i reckon that - format-wise - they were (truthfully) cds that happened to still get pressed on vinyl. this was digital music.

as if to ascertain whether this theory held water i picked up a £2 copy of ATCQ's midnight marauders. i have the record too y'see. this cd is scarily good. if you have a good DAC and a sub it's nothing short of sonic nirvana. the bass preserved on the cd - bass is sloppy on vinyl - is almost unbelievably lovely. there's multiple levels of bass. it was like entering a whole other building.

therefore - rule number one - any hip hop after 1992 is good on cd. that's a good cd to buy.

2) here's another thought. the great dance music explosion of the nineties. that was all about vinyl wasn't it? nope. vinyl was already a historic thing. i'll wager that 95% of the great "records" of the nineties were mastered, not from tape, but from CDs or digital files. straight away you lose a lot of the signal. more than that, arguably, they cease to be authentic objects.

mimicking the ATCQ test - i picked up a copy of breakdown records "drum and bass selection vol 1" on cd. oh gosh.

therefore - rule number two - electronic music of the 1990s is good on cd. that's a good cd to buy.

3) ok - i get the loudness wars argument about over compression. however the premise of examining waveforms for clipping is utter nonsense and as a test could only have been concocted by someone who knew nothing whatsoever about digital audio. mostly those silly screenshots of waveforms are just showing normalised audio files - not clipped ones, dummy. if you normalise any audio to 0db (which simply expands the waveform within its available range) it doesn't change the original signal at all. doh!

ok you can over-compress music - but the great music we love from the past has ALWAYS been compressed. compression is one of the things that makes music sound great. indeed, often, which gives it character.

if you bought the loudness wars argument - which largely i don't - you could make an argument that early digital remasters would be good cds to buy. so for instance the first wave of remasters of classic rock. however i disagree. i reckon the best "classic" cds to pick up are the most modern.

the reason for this is that we now have incredibly advanced, million dollar analogue-to-digital convertors. the technology of ADC (the opposite of DAC) is now pretty much perfect. there really isn't room for improvement. we have nailed it finally. so a modern remaster that goes back to the original analogue tapes - like the recent beatles remaster. you can't beat that. that's a good cd to buy.


Bands people love to hate

A recent Gawker post on Smash Mouth got me to thinking about those bands people love to hate.

I loved the first "Shrek" movie in all its rabelaisian grandeur. Like the equally wonderful "How To Train A Dragon" and the first "Ice Age" film - it's an animated masterpiece. In fact I like those three films more than anything Pixar ever did. The Pixar films are always preachy and bourgeois. As opposed to adult films made for children, they're children's films made for adults - the decidedly creepy "Inside Out" being the culmination of this; the cinemas were full of weeping self-indulgent adults and bored, perplexed children. The best children's books, "Treasure Island" or "Tom Sawyer" are just good books that are known as children's literature chiefly because they happen to describe the child's world with the insight and respect it deserves.

I never knew the band Smash Mouth before their song "All Star" which was in the "Shrek" movie - but I understand that they had a number hit, and something of a career before. Indeed their twitter feed is keen to point out that "All Star" was on the way to number one even before the movie. Smash Mouth are not exactly my kind of thing, but that's a hell of a catchy rock-pop tune and it fits the film like a glove. I say go fucking Smash Mouth. You guys are great - seriously, without irony, good on these boys.

So what the fuck is wrong with people that they want to slag them off? Does something like Smash Mouth impinge on them? Are Smash Mouth pretending to be something they aren't? Are Smash Mouth dishonest artists? [actually, no, they are not]. To me people who want some game out of something like Smash Mouth are the worst kind of empty, trendy, bourgeois losers. To these people art and its reception is nothing but a debased transaction made as kind of social-climbing. These people have no soul basically. They have no aesthetic criteria at all. They don't even know what they like, they only care what other people think. That makes them worthless individuals.

The very first comment in the Gawker thread [and for its failings around Hulk Hogan - was it at all necessary to post that guy's sex tape? - I like Gawker, they're funny and irreverent] is by someone called Dumpterbaby. Dumpsterbaby says: "Why you gotta be hating on Smashmouth so much? Like it has become the badge of cool hipsterdom to hate Smashmouth. They were fun at least. Hate someone who deserves it, like those douchefucks Coldplay."

Which brings me to the second part of this post. What is supposed to be so awful about Coldplay? Hating on Coldplay has become one of the great cultural clichés. It's a position generally held by people without a massive "investment" in music - although I did notice friend and colleague Mr Agreeable getting some mileage out of it and he could never be accused of that. It's a very middlebrow, Guardian-reading opinion. But really there's nothing whatsoever wrong with them! Are people's fragile sense of their own coolness (an entirely irrelevant thing to cherish in the first instance) so threatened by them? Coldplay aren't especially derivative; they make the occasional lovely track like "Clocks" or "Magic"; Brian Eno is their producer for goodness sakes; Chris Martin is a million miles from your typically boorish misogynist rock star, his ex-wife Gwyneth - come on - she's absolutely gorgeous; Kraftwerk actually let them sample "Computer World" on the very nice "Talk". In fact you could make a pretty watertight argument for them as a really positive gateway to other great music - like old David Bowie used to be; but actually I'm entirely happy to accept them on their own merits.

Is it even OK to detest a musician or band with this kind of venom? Well ultimately the answer to that is no... of course. In its essence it's not an acceptable position to take. One should seek the positive and ignore the negative. However, obviously one finds oneself in positions where it is simply impossible or too delicious not to turn on something publicly. Speaking personally I detested MIA from the word go for very strong aesthetic reasons. She was a fake who traded on a whole raft of strictly authentic culture - and foolish middlebrow people fell for her shtick hook, line and sinker. Eventually the entire world came round to my way of thinking. Back in the days of the inkies people used to hate Eric Clapton and Phil Collins for their right-wing, borderline fascist views on immigration - but eventually people forgot why they were detested in the first case and just hated them for no reasons at all. I'm very happy to welcome as many immigrants to live in this country who want to come but I don't mind Eric at all. Phil is OK for me too.

Thinking now about who really deserves to be a hated musician and I'm almost shocked to reflect that the one living musician who probably deserves to be treated with total contempt is Kanye West. His "Famous" track with its "I made that bitch famous" line directed at Taylor West was a total disgrace - especially given the fact that he stormed the stage and wrecked West's video award in 2009. That event prompted none other than Barack Obama to reflect that he was a total bell-end. The same POTUS who West, like the fool he is, pretended he frequently spoke on the telephone to. There was the frankly ridiculous appearance on Ellen where he came out with some of the most arrogant and self-important remarks ever witnessed on television. Then I read recently that, like a turd, he failed to pay Glasgow-based producer Hudson Mohawke for beats he had made for him. On top of all this, since the wonderful "College Dropout" in 2004, and 2008's good (but deeply twattish) "808s and Heartbreak" Kanye has made precious little in the way of good music. One good track on "Yeezus". And still fawning Pitchfork praise him to the skies, garlanding 2010's decidedly average "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" with entirely inappropriate accolades. Not an uninteresting individual but certainly one more deserving of the kind of hatred that is thoughtlessly directed at the likes of Smash Mouth and Coldplay.

My Top 40 Nuum Tracks 92-96

shimon - predator
doc scott - drumz 95
dj solo and dj rosssie - sure shot
roni size - time stretch
trinity - chapter 19
dj hype - come again
noise factory - my mind
dead dred - dred bass
goldie - jah
dillinja - the angels fell
droppin science - vol 5
fbd - she’s so
roni size - music box
a guy called gerald - finleys rainbow
dj crystl - warpdrive
gappa g and hyper hyper - information centre [dj ron remix]
marvellous caine - hitman
firefox and 4-tree - warning

boogie time tribe - dark stranger [origin unknown remix]
ed rush - bludclat artattack
find yourself - myerson
acen - trip to the moon parts 1 and 2
doc scott - paradise lost (last action hero)
4Hero - mr kirk's nightmare
code 071 - a london sumtin'
doc scott - VIP drumz
scientist - the bee dj hype remix
acro - superpod
jo - r type
the house crew - euphoria nino’s dream
bodysnatch - euphony
satin storm - think im going out of my head
noise factory - warning dub mix
a guy called gerald - too fucked to dance EP
foul play - murder most foul/finest illusion
enforcers 5 ep
the house crew - keep the fires burning
baby d - daydreaming
foul play volume 2
dillinja - untitled (tough toonz ep)

in response to luke's naughties nuum thread at dissensus.



This is a very personal selection of Southern Hip Hop that I love. Very old things (Ying Yang/UGK), some positively antique (DJ Jimi/Project Pat), some new tracks from mixtapes (Future/Rich Gang), some things I've only known from YouTube videos (Juicy J/Chief Keef), a new discovery via Martorialist (Apolko Don), two undisputed classics (Rae Sremmurd and Young Thug) and two Screw tracks for good measure. Drink up.


DJ Screw & UGK - Tell Me Something Good (feat. Pimp C & Bun B)
Young Thug - Stoner
UGK - Pocket Full Of Stones
Future - Perkys Calling
Apolko Don - Get My Paypa Dog
Chief Keef - Citgo
David Banner - Like a Pimp
Juicy J - Bandz A Make Her Dance
Rich Gang - Bullet
Rae Sremmurd - No Type
DJ Screw & 2 Pac - Hearts Of Men
Project Pat - Chickenhead
Lil Scrappy - F.I.L.A.
Ying Yang Twins - Salt Shaker
DJ Jimi - Where They At


There's been a major sonic upheaval chez Woebot. It reminds me a little of 96 when I went from smoking weed, to cigarettes, to total abstinence in the space of a fortnight. Weed was great but it drove me crazy. Smoking cigarettes was depressing and boring. Abstinence got more and more fun.

First there was April's process of going through my record collection, filling those holes that have always niggled me: a copy of Black Uhuru's "Showcase" with a proper cover (as opposed to a blank one festooned with Keith from Daddy Kool's handwriting), another copy of The Pixies "Doolittle" with the booklet (to replace the copy I sold in the great purge), David Pritchard's "Nocturnal Earthworm Stew" (only had a CD-R from Reynolds), finally a reissue copy of "The Strange Bernard Fevre", and if I'm being frank quite a few other bits and pieces. Then I could stand back, survey the spines and examine my conscience.

Then came a concerted attempt to improve the quality of my digital audio. I'm not an analogue purist. Any knowledge or experience of the modern recording price will blow those cobwebs away; however even a standard £200 record-player will sound better than a £5000 CD player. That's where technology is at remarkably. The drive, needle and tone-arm technology meticulously refined since Edison's phonograph in 1877 has now reached the price-point of the bucket shop. On the other hand a really good CD player can cost a small fortune.

When I listened to my old, extremely respectable, CD player I used to find it was too trebly and my ears would get really tired and sore. My DAC, the Digital to Analogue Convertor that plugged into my Mac and out my Hi-Fi was good but perhaps not great. I sold the CD player and DAC on eBay and, now without a CD player, with the proceeds bought two things a really stellar, beautiful-sounding DAC, and a Sub. Interestingly both from British manufacturers.

I always wanted a Sub - but in (sic) audiophool circles subs are angrily denounced. These people don't live in the modern world. They're all marvelling over their SACDs of Bill Evan's "Waltz for Debby". As it happens I listen to a lot of music in which the frequencies below 60 Hz are integral. Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Electro, Techno, Jungle. Anything with an 808 on it. In fact I don't think it's even possible to properly appreciate electronic music (even perhaps any recent studio-recorded music...) without a sub. It has been a revelation. In fact, one of the first things I've been rolling with is yet older music, Strutt's utterly brilliant CD-only "Funky Nassau" Compass Point compilation. CD-only. There's the rub. Getting locked into this mainly vinyl-only universe fucks up the flow of one's musical life.

However, once one is finally in this brave new digital world (sub frequencies are better respected in digital than on vinyl) - buying cheap CDs and ripping them to iTunes as AIFFs (WAVs don't support artwork - retailers like the holy Boomkat should switch to the identically uncompressed AIFFs) - then suddenly other things become more palatable. Free Mixtapes (downloadable Hip Hop mp3s at 320 kpbs), purchasable downloads (I've picked up Folkways' Bela Bartok-supervised recordings of the Folk Music of Hungary  - I always wanted that, and the dumb-ass Discogs dealers who were selling copies in Sweden and the Netherlands spent a week each not getting back to my purchase order) and even nearly, but not quite, high-quality streams off Spotify. Yeah, don't laugh, the instinct to hoard dies hard.


Where's Warhol?

[click to enlarge]

Mrs Ingram worked long and hard on this project. The amount of research she undertook to conceive these illustrations (the very talented Andrew Rae cloned her detailed but rudimentary drawings) was remarkable. The original Where's Wally/Waldo series rely on Martin Handford's genius for extemporising doodles to fill every nook and cranny with manic detail - but try and substitute that free-wheeling inventiveness with accurate historical, or culturally-relevant material and you have a mammoth task on your hands. I took affront at one particular (albeit very positive) review which had her down as writer, as though she'd just penned some blurbs at the back - no, no, no; she conceived the damned thing.

On this particular layout based on Basquiat in Washington Square I was wheeled out of my man-cave and expected to contribute what little in the way of knowledge that was relevant to the project. Andrew Rae, who is something of a music geek himself, quite rightfully included The Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth (they weren't on my list) but if you can spot among others Liquid Liquid, DNA, [Rap Acts 3+4+5] and old Woebot associate and downtown legend Stuart Argabright - well you know who to blame. The book has just been issued in France on the prestigious Centre Pompidou imprint. Do please rush to Amazon US or UK and get yourself a copy.



(Don’t Ask) - Nah Not Never
Thomas Leer - Letter From America
Schön - Pure Design
The Beat - Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret
Carmen - Schlaraffenland
The Lines - Cool Snap
Shriekback - My Spine Is The Bassline
Tall Blonde - Don’t Stop
Ian Dury and The Blockheads - Clever Trevor
Banarama - Really Saying Something
Die Radierer - Angriff aufs Schlaraffenland
Playgroup - Make It Happen
Liquid Liquid - Lock Groove
The Police - Voices Inside My Head
The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms
Pylon - Weather Radio
The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers
Rhoda Dakar - The Boiler
Fad Gadget - Ricky’s Hand
Populare Mechanik - Muster
The Human League - Love Action