Fabio vs. The Internet

Music coder / Code producer

Why Vinyl?

I used to get really pissed off when I heard people talking about how vinyl sounds better than digital recordings, independently of physical support (CDs, SACDs, audio files and so on). I won’t get into this matter in depth here; suffice to say, there is a mountain of technical evidence proving otherwise. If you want the most accurate reproduction, digital is the way to go. This is such an irrefutable fact that even if you buy the latest album from your favorite band on vinyl to enjoy that good ol’ analog sound, all the recording, mixing and mastering was certainly done using computers, plugins and ProTools.

Digital won, hands down. Deal with it.

So why are people still buying vinyl? Why go for such an ancient, impractical and mostly retired medium?

Besides the physical fetish - the album art really shines with more space, doesn’t it? - I only realized the real reason a few weeks ago, after Andrew Huang (of Songs To Wear Pants To and Team Andrew) replied me on twitter.


How could I have missed this? It’s not about the medium, but the act of listening to music. It took me a while to figure this out because I’m relatively old (36, thakyouverymuch).

You see, I grew up in an era when everybody had at least a half-decent stereo at home. I remember when CDs came out and everybody bought them, bragging about how the sound was amazingly clear, that you didn’t have to flip the damn thing to hear the B-side, that you could program the track order without having to drop the needle (causing that loud POP when you didn’t lay it down just right), and that scratches and crackling noises were a thing of the past. Yes, CDs were once the format praised by audiophiles! It’s funny how things change.

Anyway, fast-forward to 2012 and everybody consumes music in some sort of digital format. But where do you listen to it?

Crappy laptop speakers. Cheap headphones.

And when?

On the way to work, in a crowded subway or bus. During office hours, while thinking about something else. While you’re jogging, with an iPod or cellphone strapped to your arm.

So, again, why vinyl?

Because you’ll need a half-decent stereo to listen to it. Because you’ll have to stop what you’re doing, walk to the turntable, remove that big round thing from the sleeve and place the needle carefully. Because once you do that, you can’t really change the order of the songs easily without having to get up again.

Because you’ll have to STOP and LISTEN. Vinyl demands attention. It needs manual intervention. It comes with a long-forgotten ritual that a whole new generation is beginning to understand and appreciate.

Nevermind that it doesn’t sound as accurate as a digital recording, that you’ll need to replace the needle regularly and the record itself will wear down and eventually begin to crackle and pop. Years from now, when all music in the world fits into a super-dense nano-SD card, it will still make you stop and listen.

Vinyl carves a slice of attention span, pushing music back to the foreground - just like before iPods and computers slowly shoved and blended it with background noise, a collateral victim of multitasking. Since nobody came up with a technology with a built-in excuse to stop for a moment and enjoy music, vinyl sneakily stole back its place. Sweet karma.

The Manual

The Manual

I’m rereading KLF’s The Manual and after all these years it’s still pure genius. Technology has come a long way and most chapters about booking studios and distribution are quite outdated, but the main ideas about music and how to put out a successful single are sound. Take for instance the Golden Rules:

Firstly, it has to have a dance groove that will run all the way through the record and that the current 7” buying generation will find irresistible. Secondly, it must be no longer than three minutes and thirty seconds (just under 3’20 is preferable). If they are any longer Radio One daytime DJs will start fading early or talking over the end, when the chorus is finally being hammered home - the most important part of any record. Thirdly, it must consist of an intro, a verse, a chorus, second verse, a second chorus, a breakdown section, back into a double length chorus and outro. Fourthly, lyrics. You will need some, but not many.

While nobody really cares too much about radio these days, successful pop songs follow those rules to the letter. Just look at the past #1 hits; it’s all there. Also, on originality:

It is going to be a construction job, fitting bits together. You will have to find the Frankenstein in you to make it work. Your magpie instincts must come to the fore. If you think this just sounds like a recipe for some horrific monster, be reassured by us, all music can only be the sum or part total of what has gone before. Every Number One song ever written is only made up from bits from other songs. There is no lost chord. No changes untried. No extra notes to the scale or hidden beats to the bar. There is no point in searching for originality. In the past, most writers of songs spent months in their lonely rooms strumming their guitars or bands in rehearsals have ground their way through endless riffs before arriving at the song that takes them to the very top. Of course, most of them would be mortally upset to be told that all they were doing was leaving it to chance before they stumbled across the tried and tested. They have to believe it is through this sojourn they arrive at the grail; the great and original song that the world will be unable to resist.
So why don’t all songs sound the same? Why are some artists great, write dozens of classics that move you to tears, say it like it’s never been said before, make you laugh, dance, blow your mind, fall in love, take to the streets and riot? Well, it’s because although the chords, notes, harmonies, beats and words have all been used before their own soul shines through; their personality demands attention. This doesn’t just come via the great vocalist or virtuoso instrumentalist. The Techno sound of Detroit, the most totally linear programmed music ever, lacking any human musicianship in its execution reeks of sweat, sex and desire. The creators of that music just press a few buttons and out comes - a million years of pain and lust.
We await the day with relish that somebody dares to make a dance record that consists of nothing more than an electronically programmed bass drum beat that continues playing the fours monotonously for eight minutes. Then, when somebody else brings one out using exactly the same bass drum sound and at the same beats per minute (B.P.M.), we will all be able to tell which is the best, which inspires the dance floor to fill the fastest, which has the most sex and the most soul. There is no doubt, one will be better than the other. What we are basically saying is, if you have anything in you, anything unique, what others might term as originality, it will come through whatever the component parts used in your future Number One are made up from.

The Manual is not only a timeless classic, it’s been proven to work numerous times. The Pipettes used it. Also Chumbawamba and The Klaxons, and many more who won’t admit it. It’s true that anyone who uses it will make disposable pop music, but what’s a #1 hit but precisely that?

The full text of The Manual can be found online in a few places, and since it’s been out of print for so long, nobody cares about the piracy (heck, the KLF would probably be for it). Just go out there and grab it.

New Track

And it’s a weird one. The main sound (right at the beginning) actually came from tweezers that I sampled and tuned. The whole thing is full of polyrhythms and it’s actually a waltz. Yep.

As always, you can buy it at nostep.ca (name your price! give me money!).

Latest Productions

First things first: here’s the latest No Step track, which is also my attempt at making something cute.

As always, all No Step tracks are available on a name-your-price model. So go there and give me some moneys!

And here’s a quick and dirty remix I made for a Jorge Ben classic. Free download!

No Step - Browncoat

Another one of my “new track every two weeks” thing, dedicated to all Whedonites and Browncoats out there.

New Year, New Music!

I already talked about this elsewhere, but in case you missed, I started a new music project (band?) called No Step. I’m pretty committed to make more music this year, so the goal is to release a new track every two weeks. Not all of them are going to be No Step originals - I’m giving myself the option to make remixes and edits too (still counts, right?).

I’ve released two original tracks so far:

You can download the songs (name your price!) at the official (gasp!) No Step website. Also, follow No Step on Twitter and check out the page over at CBC Radio 3. Soooo Canadian! :-)


In the same day I posted my entry for the She Wants Revenge Remix contest…

…I was remixed on CCMixter.

Pretty good for a weekend, isn’t it?

New TV

So yeah, we (me and Renata) finally got a new TV to replace the old tube clunker we got for free a few weeks after we arrived in Toronto. When I say TV I mean “big 40 inch monitor where I can plug videogames and assorted computers”, obviously, since we don’t have cable and couldn’t care less about it.

But we’re movie buffs and gamers nonetheless. We love Netflix to bits (yes, precisely because of the weird movie selection) and download a few shows and hard-to-find gems to watch. Oh and there’s that Nintendo Wii too.

To be honest, a new TV has never been a big priority; it took more than a year for us to bother replacing the old one. Meanwhile the prices dropped dramatically and every TV does everything except coffee and sorting out your laundry.

This means I shouldn’t be as surprised as I was with what we’ve got. The thing is basically a full-fledged computer. Besides having all the inputs and outputs you can imagine, it comes with two USB ports - one of which with enough power to spin up a small portable hard drive - and… a network port. Yep, you plug it on your router. Once you do that, it reads movies, music and pictures from any machine that makes them available through DLNA.

All I wanted was a VGA input.

After installing a DLNA server on a Linux box (we chose Rygel if you’re interested - it’s pretty easy to setup), the TV found all the media automatically and played everything without a hitch. Pretty impressive.

Just to be clear: this is one of the cheapest 40” LCD TVs out there. The price before taxes was $549. It’s not the biggest screen out there, but it fits our living room nicely (plus I don’t have issues with the size of my penis to compensate on something else).

The only thing I haven’t tried yet is watching regular TV. But honestly, who cares?