In a recent episode of the Darko.Audio podcast, we spoke with Chris Whitten about his journey from session drummer (Julian Cope, Paul McCartney, Dire Straits) to solo electronic music producer. This week, Whitten releases a new two-tracker under his Circles & Ellipses alias. The Glow EP is muscular techno, made with vintage hardware, primitive synths and drum machines.
That’s the news but what’s the story?
Having heard me suggest to electronic music maker John Tejada that he sell the vinyl masters of his work as digital downloads on Bandcamp, Whitten has beaten Tejada to the punch, requesting a ‘vinyl master’ of the GLOW EP from Curved Pressings, not to cut to wax but to sell as a potentially more dynamic sounding digital download.
Curved’s website expands: “Mastering for vinyl and digital can be the same process if done correctly. A well-mastered track for vinyl can be used for digital, just increased in level if required for digital after being mastered for vinyl. There are rules that have to be followed when mastering for vinyl, but no the are no strict rules for digital. When mastering for vinyl the high frequencies must be tonally equalised in a certain way, so as they do not distort when played back on a turntable. Excessive high frequencies, ‘S’s in vocals, cymbals, violins, flutes, percussion and so on can all cause unpleasant distortion if EQed incorrectly. Generally speaking, We would not recommend using a high-frequency shelf boost if your material is coming out on vinyl. The thing is, it boosts frequencies above the audible range when you do that, but this can cause distortion in the audible range. Always use more specific parametric equalisation, and only do it if you can hear the exact effect. The other important rule for mastering for vinyl, is to keep low frequencies in mono or as close to as possible. The reason for this is that stereo / out of phase bass causes up and downwards movement in the cutting stylus and this causes the grooves to get shallower and deeper. This can cause the playback stylus to jump out of the groove, as it has a conical or rounded tip, so cannot trace the shallow groove any more. The human ear cannot detect stereo below 450Hz anyway, so there is not point in having stereo information there.”
Here we are reminded that the mastering process can impact sound quality far more than a digital file’s sample rate or bit depth.
At time of writing, the Glow EP is not available on streaming services. £1.50 gets you over the line on Bandcamp. The road to less dynamically crushed music is every artist’s responsibility and Chris Whitten is doing his bit to end the ‘loudness wars’. That’s worth talking about.
Further information: Circles & Ellipses