Why Music Lovers Still Use Vinyl Record Players

It starts off with a soft, smooth melody and a subtle hiss, like steam slowly escaping a kettle. Gradually rising above the music is a familiar sound – a crackling one that ebbs and flows as the vinyl spins on a record player (like those featured here).

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Cleanly edited music tracks in this day and age have eliminated background noise and skipping records, so why is it that old vinyl records still hold many ears hostage? Although the sound might seem out of place in the new millennium, it’s a warm dose of nostalgia for many music lovers. Memories of setting the needle on the large black disc, smiling as it snapped and crackled to life, are far more precious to those who remember vinyl records than the simplified mp3 generation.

Slowing Down

Everything is “Go, go, go!” nowadays. Many music fans feel like they don’t have the time for the older technology they loved so much. Mp3 players and digital downloads are fast and convenient, but they take the magic out of listening to music like your favorite record player used to have. Vinyl record players allow you to slow down and enjoy the process of putting on your favorite tunes, giving you a more conscious, meaningful experience.

Time Traveling

Putting on your favorite vinyl record can also turn back the clock to a day and age when listening to music meant you were really listening. Records weren’t just a background noise – they were the only means of reliving all of the concerts and band music tours you got to see only once. Decades ago, friends would sit around the record player and spend time together listening to albums that brought them back to the bandstand all over again.

Standing On Ceremony

We’ve all heard of the phrase “being stuck in the past”, but is it really such a bad thing? The best record player to some music connoisseurs will always be a vinyl record player. It’s not just old habit – it’s ceremony. You raise the needle on the machine, place your favorite record on the spindle, put the needle back down, and listen to the spit and crackle in the few seconds before it starts. For you, it’s not about having crystal clear quality of sound or seeing the album cover displayed on a tiny screen. It’s pure memory.

Ambient Music — A Very Brief Primer

People might find you a bit eccentric for listening to vinyl records, or if you read sites like the Random Life Music. More so if you make guitar effects in a home recording studio, in an attempt to make what is called ambient music. But what exactly is ambient music, and how would anyone explain it adequately? Below, we make a “sound check” of what ambient music might be or might be not.

Ambient Music Defined

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, or simply Brian Eno, is an English musician credited for coining the phrase “ambient music.” He describes it as music made to bring about calm and space to ponder with (as inscribed in the sleeve of Ambient 1: Music For Airports, his 1978 creation). Eno’s idea of ambience is music that can either be listened to intently or passively in the background.

But of course, even before Eno defined it as ambient music, chill-out instrumental sounds have long existed (e.g. in some 1960’s psychedelic rock to as far back as the middle ages’ Gregorian chants). And so, some pundits argue that defining such sounds into a genre might be somewhat limiting. Indeed, it is more fun to trace the sources that have influenced such eclectic sounds, instead of saying which is ambient or not.

Some of the Flavors of Ambient

Dark ambient

Dark ambient is characterized by toned-down or completely absent beats with adulterated guitar effects, agitated keyboard excerpts and otherworldly samples. Other musical styles associated with it are isolationist ambient and ambient industrial. But like the entirety of ambient music itself, such “dark” iteration is just as vague — many of its artists seemingly slip in and out of the style with their successive releases. Notable artists include Mick Harris, Kim Cascone, Merzbow and Bark Psychosis.

Space Music

Space music (or spacemusic, ironically without the “space” between the words), is a broader genre including ambient and similar others. It encompasses basic to complex sound textures, occasionally bereft of traditional rhythmic, melodic or vocal elements. Space music is said to induce a sense of continuous spatial freedom and emotion, or the feeling of levitation. As such, it is often used in movie soundtracks, planetariums and as aid to meditation and relaxation. Its notable artists are often associated with the Berlin School of electronic music.

Ambient Dub

Ambient dub is the genre fusing of styles of dub. It was developed by Jamaican sound artists (notably King Tubby), who were fond of DJ-inspired ambient electronica (which is replete with effects like psychedelic, echo and drop-outs, among other things). It is often characterized as a smorgasbord of world music elements, harmonic sounds and deep bass lines. Some of ambient dub’s notable artists are: The Orb, Loop Guru and Higher Intelligence Agency.

Ambient Music and its Charm

Ambient music is nothing like pop or any other mainstream genre. It doesn’t yearn for the spotlight, but it also shines when the listener appropriates it with more interest and attention. Ambient music frames the other sounds you hear or make — like your subtle breathing, or your boisterous environment. It’s a catalyst for self-awareness, while also being a glass through which you could see a more fascinating world.

Brian Eno to deliver John Peel Lecture

Next month in London, musician and visual artist Brian Eno will be sharing his views on culture for 2015’s John Peel Lecture.

The John Peel Lecture is a continuing series of speeches by the music industry’s notable personalities. It is organized and facilitated by BBC 6 Music and is recorded on video and broadcasted on air. Its purpose is to provide a platform for expressing insights about the state of broadcasting into the future.

The lecture series was inaugurated in 2011 in honour of John Robert Parker Ravenscroft (who was professionally known as John Peel). Among the original DJs of BBC Radio 1, he served the longest and was regularly on air from 1967 to 2004 (the year he died). He was popular for his warm broadcasting style and eclectic music taste.

Photo by Albert Bridge (http://www.geograph.ie/photo/2483076)
Photo by Albert Bridge

Brian Eno (or just Eno to many), on the other hand, is an English musician, record producer and visual artist. Eno first became known as a member of the glam or art rock band Roxy Music before going solo. He then produced artists such as Coldplay and U2, among others. He is generally regarded as ambient music’s primary innovator.

Ambient music is a genre that emphasizes atmosphere and tone instead of rhythm and conventional musical structure. It originated in the UK, during the time when synthesizers and other new sound-making instruments were introduced to the mass market. Brian Eno describes ambient music as something that is “as ignorable as it is interesting.”

According to BBC, Eno will “examine the ecology of culture” and explain how cultural processes generally benefit society. Eno would be following the footsteps of the likes of Iggy Pop who delivered last year’s talk. The John Peel Lecture will be held on September 27 at the British Library for the Radio Festival by the Radio Academy.

Brian Eno’s talk will also be broadcasted on the BBC Four and the BBC 6 Music, so stay tuned.