After a three year hiatus, I exhumed my turntables from under my bed last month. The “wheels of steel” proudly rest beneath Joe DiMaggio in my office now, and I’ve officially rekindled my love for analog sound, which is deeper and more “alive” than the high-fidelity of DVDs.
It’s hard to explain the enjoyment that comes from mixing and interacting with records (also known as blending or beat-syncing). It’s not as liberating as playing an instrument, but it’s not as passive as listening to a CD or MP3. The turntables are more microphone than music player. The records are the voices and are highly manipulable, thanks to the hands-on approach and tempo-shifting abilities of standard direct-drive tables.
Rather than making a play list in advance like you do in iTunes, mixing records is more about patience and experimentation than anything else. Since no two mixes are alike, you can enjoy and new sound each and every time — often times with surprising results. “I wonder if this slow hip-hop will work with this moody drum ‘n’ bass? Erasure over house music? Let’s try it.”
One of my fondest memories as both a musician and music lover was playing records in 2001 with my friend and accomplished drummer Josh Rhine. After a menial day of college and warehouse work, we’d retreat to Josh’s room and make-shift DJ stand.
Taking turns on the mixer, we’d surprise one another with a new record, then leave it to the other to decide what to blend next on the secondary table. Back and forth we would do this — turntable lights and decimal meters piercing the darkened room with color. No genre was left un-played; from Steppenwolf, to unlabeled break beat records, to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The experience was always electric.
It’s good to have it back in my life.