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Chimmie Presses Up


The world of the Dance Promo rests on the broad back of the 12" single. Vinyl. The once widely held view of youth culture commentators like Anne Widdecombe and Keith Floyd that rising generations would be unable to recognise vinyl outside of museums, in the brave new world of Digital Compact Cassette players (DCCs), now seems as pointless as their views on tank top jerseys and rubik cubes.

In actual fact Vinyl has remained at the cutting edge of musical progression. These new directions have been promoted to an ever growing public through the dedication of DJs like Grandmaster Flash and Peter Stringfellow and their work on the decks which are cut-down versions of a gramophone. There is in fact no limit to the number of records that can be played at once, if you swop your gramophone for a battery of decks, something exploited by the advocates of minimalist composition.

Those intent on progressing from the bedroom studio to punishing with bass the inert masses waiting for the new message, must learn something of these discs with a hole and a spiral groove.

I myself have a stock of vinyl wider than I am high, even with my hands stretched above my head. I have a slight confession to make. I don't actually touch this precious horde now. I feel I cannot trust the Dove and the Maiden not to ruin them. In fact I need to replace the drive belt on my 'deck' as for some years it has run slow.

The modern process of phonographic reproduction is based on the inventions of Irving Berliner, who also wrote various songs including "White Christmas" using a player piano modified to run off a bicycle with three speed gears employed for changes in rhythmic intensity.

Of course this Tin Pan Alley stuff won't do nowadays and you need more foot poundals than you can get out of a bicycle. You need the gimmickry of the Mastering Suite. You need to Cheat. Techniques like limiting and compression can be used to adjust the dynamic range of the programme material so that it fits better the limits of Vinyl as a medium. Psychoacoustic enhancement may be effected using an "exciter". The real intention, however is to Make the Music Better, Louder and to let you get More Bass on it than would be otherwise possible. You may think you've done everything you can but your things only go up to 10. These go up to 11.

I guess you think that this kind of thing goes on in some airtight, particle controlled environment patrolled by white-coated, clipboard bearing technicians with Julie Driscoll haircuts, metallic lipstick and ski pants but actually it'll be somewhere really dodgy, off the back lane by the railway arches where you run the gauntlet of pavement car mechanics with their "Who the fuck are you?" faces on, and when you get in there you'll get some bloke in a grubby black t-shirt who grunts a lot.

How it works is you have to get your tracks all sorted on CD-R or DAT which is an inferior version of the DCC, promoted in the hope of popularising Karaoke in the West, with devastating results, as you will know. The tracks should be in order, "ready to go".

The Cutting Engineer operates the cutting lathe. The head of this vibrates as it moves from the outside to the centre of the spinning lacquer cutting an undulating groove. As always, it's important to pretend that you know what you're doing by saying things like "Just a tiny bit more top" and nodding in time to the beat. Now you get out quickly with the lacquers in a thing like a giant pizza box with a bolt through it and go off to some other dump, the pressing plant.