Piuma | Articles
The Vinyl AestheticMarch 16, 2016 | Los Angeles, California
When I was about 15, I ran across my mom's record collection as I was clearing out space in the garage to record some songs and jam with friends. I remember how the artwork came to life, and inspired me to dig out my grandma's old turntable. The first album I put on was McCartney. I'll never forget the experience of listening to that record for the first time, especially when it reached Maybe I'm Amazed. Even though the collection was minimal and in not-so-great shape, I got hooked on the ritual of dropping the needle on wax, and truly listening to to each record. I know a lot of people have shared a similar experience, and more are discovering vinyl for the first time, which is why I decided to write this article about The Vinyl Aesthetic; exploring the subtle beauty of the format—fueling its comeback in the vinyl revival.
Suspension of Judgment
What is great about digital streaming is the ability to find new music, but like most things on screens—it can be very distracting—where there is a tendency to skip through songs and not give them a chance. When unplugging from a screen and sitting down to listen to a side of a vinyl record, judgment can be suspended—as you give the record a chance to develop. A lot of the time, music can be more of an acquired taste, or build gradually to a payoff that might not be experienced with immediate judgment and skipping from track to track. I try to take that mentality into streaming online, but vinyl records seem to help guide the suspension of judgment.
Works of Art
What is beautiful about vinyl is the immersive experience of not just the music and sound, but the expanded artwork, lyrics, and liner notes, which deepen the connection between the artist, musicians, and listener. The record is held more as a work of art, that is focused and finite in what you are holding in your hands. The result can be a calmer more meditative experience of the album—deepening the appreciation of all the hard work that went into its creation.
When pressing a vinyl record, a band can win the loudness war, by not fighting in it—since as a format—vinyl records retain their dynamics, when mastered properly. The result is a more detailed and nuanced sound that has more dynamic punch in the rhythm section, and smooth fluffy highs with more sparkle.
NPR reported that current music is sounding worse because of the Loudness War.1 The Loudness War is the gradual increase in over-compressed volume in digital music, as each producer/record label strives to create a record louder than their competitor—with the intention of standing out from the crowd with higher volume. The result is a squashed, harsh sound with no dynamic range from soft to loud. By properly pressing a vinyl record, the music retains its rhythmic punch.
Not all Records are Created Equal
The mastering engineer for Piuma, Pete Lyman, was interviewed in Sound Wars, an LA Weekly article about what format sounds “best”.2 Pete signaled a warning that not all vinyl records are created equal, since some record labels and producers, take an over-compressed and lengthy digital master and just slam it onto a lacquer for vinyl pressing, without regard for the requirements and benefits of mastering for vinyl. I recently wrote an in-depth article about Making an Environmentally Friendly Vinyl Record, where I went into detail about how to make a record both high fidelity—and as eco-friendly as possible. While not all records are created equal, quality ones reflect the true vinyl aesthetic.
The Vinyl Aesthetic is about the human experience of music, since records help us let go of outside distractions, have a sound that is pleasing to the ear, help us suspend our immediate judgment, and create an immersive experience that gives a deeper connection to the music and artist—along with a few pops and crackles.