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Craig Potter
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PostSubject: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 09:24

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to start a thread to see what people thought about the bit on the album sleeve that says -

Turn Me Up! Certified
To preserve the excitement, emotion and dynamics of the original performances this record is intentionally quieter than some. For full enjoyment simply Turn Me Up! (www.TurnMeUp.org)



Was anyone aware of this before seeing it on our sleeve?

Do you agree that there is a problem?

Does anyone care? (please be honest)

What is your understanding of this issue?

I'm going to stop asking questions now.....

Thanks a lot

Craig x
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josephblack
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 10:03

Craig,
Lots of people may not care about the quality of what is put in front of them-as long as it 'sounds' like a fair representation-fair enough. However, I'm not sure if this is linked to your point, but for me the era of the 'exciting compression' is destroying music. Listen to the radio and the dynamics are generally on one level. Now this kind of compression is being used (or has been used) at the front end of music production.
Great. Everything sounding the same.

Below is a link to an article by Alan Wilder (ex Depeche Mode), who takes the argument further onto a more sociological level. Well worth a read.

http://www.side-line.com/interviews_comments.php?id=29640_0_16_0_C

As someone who was involved in music for many years, I care about the records I listen to. TSSK is an excellent piece of work; including the production and the dynamics.
'Starlings' & 'Some Riot' are works of incredible beauty.

Thanks for being who you are and doing what you do so consistently.

_Joe
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 10:05

I wasn't aware of the site, but I do think it's a long time coming. I was thrilled on buying the album to go to this site and find out what it's all about.

I regularly read the forum over at http://www.ableton.com/forum as Ableton Live is my DAW of choice. This subject of overcompression is discussed a lot there, and it does seem that most engineers/producers/musicians are dead set against it.

It does bother me an awful lot, it seems to be a way to get records noticed on the radio and TV by increasing the perceived loudness. For some music (dance, electronica, maybe hip-hop) it's suitable, but for most other genres, it's irritating. Who wants it? Record companies? I think the radio stations apply compression as well, so everything is levelling out into a mush of no dynamics. Listen to a record from the '80s or even early '90s and the difference is astounding.

Genesis are in the process of releasing their entire back catalogue in 5.1, and have remixed everything to do this. The new mixes by Nick Davis are marvellous, but the mastering has applied too much compression for some albums, even the '70s ones, and this kind of ruins the whole magic.

When I heard "Starlings" for the first time I was immediately reminded of "Darkness" by Peter Gabriel. The sudden leap into sound from near quiet was like a breath of fresh air, cos I hadn't heard anything like that for ages.

It's an important issue, and one I am pleased that Elbow are getting involved with.

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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 10:44

I thought of Darkness too, Trev Smile

I hadn't heard of Turn Me Up before seeing it on Seldom Seen Kid, but I appreciate its cause! I suppose it's only going to have relevance with certain acts isn't it. Acts whose music is made to be appreciated dynamically. Ya ken?
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 11:14

Was anyone aware of this before seeing it on our sleeve? I had no idea.

Do you agree that there is a problem? I'm not really sure if it's a problem. Just being a listener, I'm pretty much only concerned with what I like, you know?

Does anyone care? (please be honest) Well, not to say I don't care, because I do. Please see above.

What is your understanding of this issue? That there is competition among musical artists and some are choosing to compress/crank up the volume during production to increase sales.

I think this "loudness war" is quite ridiculous. It's amazing that this actually works to get someone to listen to/buy an album. ??? Mind boggling really.

With that being said, I think folks who appreciate good music, such a Elbow fans, are not looking for music to be LOUD to be good. We're looking for quality above all else. And I can listen plenty loud if I want to. All I have to do is reach over and crank the volume.

Just my humble, and possibly somewhat misinformed, opinion.

Cheers, Craig!
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 12:07

I hadn't heard of the site before reading your sleve, but i went straight out and checked it out, unlike some of the other posts on her, i have no musical background but i have noticed how one level music is, the first time i heard starlings (In the car on the way home from HMV!) i had to stop, pull over and skip back to the begining, i couldn't quite believe what i was hearing... I bloody loved it!
The album comes into its own late at night, with the head phones on and the volume up... simply beautiful, complex little gem... I'm constantly finding something i missed, which makes me go back to it again, and again... There aren't that many artists that i can say that about... Although i have also been blown away by frightened rabbit, but they have a different sound entirely.
Congratulations on a brilliant job of producing and mixing a fabulous record, there is nothing else quite like it out there.
[/gushing ill informed rant]

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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 12:27

Yeah, i've been aware of this for a while, butI don't think it really affects the overall quality in a bad way. In fact, looking at the site, it looks like Turn Me Up is a good thing.

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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 15:01

I did'nt hear about the "turn me up" before but after checking that website and some related articles at wiki ect. I started to understand why I am strangely tired after listening to "Vapor Trails" by Rush. I really like Rush and I like "Vapor Trails" but because of its compression it is quite exhausting to listen to the full record.

Also I noticed at last.fm often, that some tracks were a lot louder than others and I had to turn up others. It gets annoying if you just listened to an uncompressed rock or folk classic and sudden the next track blows up your speakers... affraid

btw...anyone knows that phenomenom too?
I can feel the bass on different parts of my body! E.g. at the Elbow-Mix of Peter Gabriel's "More than this"; I hear the bass on different parts of my earlaps! Shocked
And when I was at a concert of "The Musical Box" I felt the very deep notes of the Mellotrone(?) on my cervix!
And during the Rush-Concert I felt it on my upper chest... Smile

And another thing...I really love the part of "Asleep in the Back" (the song) during the brass solo...that very deep bass in there makes my speakers hum like crazy... Shocked Very Happy
The speakers in my living room hum during the higher notes, the ones in the kitchen to the deeper ones...(and funnily the kitchen-ones are the smaller!)
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 15:18

I didn't know about Turn Me Up specifically until I saw it on the TSSK CD cover.

I'm not peronally aware of music getting louder (although I don't deny it's happening), but have always noticed that some CDs are (and LPs were) mixed to be louder than others - just a matter of turning it up or down, I don't see it as a problem (although guess it could be an issue e.g. for airplay on the radio?)

What I do consider as an issue, but I'm afraid I'm not technically minded enough to know if it's the same thing, is not how loud or soft a recording is overall, but the dynamic range - i.e. some recordings are "evened out" for broadcast on the radio, so you lose the contrast, e.g. as people have said, in Starlings, or Darkness. I don't think it was intentional, more an early reocrding, but I remember getting an early CD of King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic (which I'm sure has since been proplely remastered), and it was dreadful compared with the LP - there I was expecting to get my socks blown off after the quieter intro, but it was more of a whimper than a bang.

Anyway, as a listener, without knowing the technicalities, yes, dynamic range is *essential*, but I don't mind whether the general level is louder or quieter - you just turn it up or down.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 15:22

I hadn't been aware of the Turn Me Up organization or site until I saw the note on the album sleeve. I did check it and got a real education. I have no background in musical engineereing or anything of that nature, but it does interest me as music fan and the info on the site made me aware of things I hadn't been before. Of course, you can always hear the differences in sound quality/volume when you listen to different records, but I wouldn't have been able to explain what accounts for those differences before reading up on the issue.

I think those of us who are average music-listeners (as opposed to actual muscicans, or people with a music tech backgound or something) are desensitized to the loudness and compression. We just don't notice it when we're listening to stuff day-to-day. But that's why I was so impressed by the sound on The Seldom Seen Kid; when I heard it the first time, it was completely distinct in the way that it came out of the speakers. Like many have already noted here, Starlings was a track that really emphasized this clearly. And I've been playing it on headphones a lot more in recent weeks, because to me that's the best way to catch all the subtleties of the sound.

Before I heard this record, I didn't really focus too much on the range of sound in the records I played, though I recognized and appreciated those that sounded more full and varied when I did hear them. Now, though, I really can see how much depth can be added to the listening experience when the music is allowed to occupy all the points of the sonic spectrum, and I hope more artists come to realize the value of what Turn Me Up is attempting to do.

EDIT: And thanks to josephblack for the link to that Alan Wilder interview! That was a really interesting and in-depth piece, and I enjoyed reading it. Cheers, man! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 16:36

Craig Potter wrote:
Was anyone aware of this before seeing it on our sleeve?
I wasn't aware. No.
Quote :
Do you agree that there is a problem?
Now that it has been pointed out to me, yes there may be.
Quote :
Does anyone care? (please be honest)
Having heard TSSK and hearing the dynamic range of the album I think I may.
Quote :
What is your understanding of this issue?
The compression does make listening to music in noisy environments (in the car, on the street via iPod, on the radio etc) easier to hear whats going on but does kill all the nuances. Listening to TSSK at home on a proper stereo system of separates reminded me of how good music can sound when produced properly. The nuances are spine tingling. I think new music is compressed as much of it is consumed 'on the go'. Not too many people actually sit down and 'listen' to albums these days. The compression makes things radio/street/car friendly for those who treat music as a disposable item to be used and thrown away in a few months, rather than something to be savoured over a long period. The compression gives an initial hit but is in the end rather empty.
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ChrissieInFL
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 16:55

Hotblack wrote:
The compression does make listening to music in noisy environments (in the car, on the street via iPod, on the radio etc) easier to hear whats going on but does kill all the nuances. Listening to TSSK at home on a proper stereo system of separates reminded me of how good music can sound when produced properly. The nuances are spine tingling. I think new music is compressed as much of it is consumed 'on the go'. Not too many people actually sit down and 'listen' to albums these days. The compression makes things radio/street/car friendly for those who treat music as a disposable item to be used and thrown away in a few months, rather than something to be savoured over a long period. The compression gives an initial hit but is in the end rather empty.

Good points Hotblack. I know I listen to music all day, and it's often while working on the PC or around the house, while driving, etc. I am not totally focused on it most of the time, though I wouldn't say I look at music as "disposable", but it does end up being in the background rather than front and center quite often.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Thu 29 May 2008, 17:06

Had heard of it somewhere before but can't remember specifically where
..But first took specific interest after reading the sleeve. I do enjoy the ranges and dynamics more, kind of orchestra like (if that makes sense)

However from a completley non-technical perpsective....The first time i heard Starlings I thought the horns were far too loud, sort of disproportionally so. Don't get me wrong the contrast of sound is great and i think you do adapt to the variances. In the car especially (with road noise, wind etc) I find the quieter tracks have to be turned up very loud to hear them properly, and consequentially when you forget to reduce the volume, Starlings kicks back in and just about bursts your eardrums.

Hey, but what a way to burst them ! Laughing
thanks for the outstanding music.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 07:58

Like many on here I didn't know of the site beforehand, but found it quite enlightening - particularly the links to various articles about 'the loudness war' and mastering techniques. As a (very) amateur producer (mainly of bootlegs/mashups, but I'm trying to move towards original productions) it was very useful to me.

I have noticed that CDs are generally louder now than they were 15 or 20 years ago - mainly when ripping to my hard drive as an uncompressed wav for mixing purposes. As far as dynamic range goes, it's not something I'd consciously thought about until now.

I'm still not entirely clear if the whole 'loudness war' thing is to do with production, or mastering, or both... but I think it's a good thing that Craig produces the band, rather than getting some 'big name' in. I wish more bands would do the same.

And this is a side issue really, but I can't think of many other bands that have such a full 'sonic spectrum' (as Chrissie puts it), as Elbow. Massive Attack, perhaps - but then they use samples and different vocalists.

Out of interest Craig, how did you find out about TurnMeUp.org... did you approach them, or was it the other way round? I'd be interested to know which other albums have had a TurnMeUp credit - I was expecting a list on the website, but couldn't find one.
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Craig Potter
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 21:36

Thanks everyone! What a great response.

There's a few points I wanted to comment on, I'll have to read back through them now.....

Thanks again.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 21:53

I didn't really know what it was, but have now had a look at the website and I think it's great.

So no, hadn't been aware of it. Do care about it now, yeah. My understanding of it all is what I've just read on the site...! Hoping a lot more bands will start doing the same.

By the way, Lee, I'm kinda glad more bands don't do the whole self producing thing, with Elbow it's great 'cause Craig's obviously a cracking producer, but there are some bands who have taken this sort of thing into their own hands and completely ruined their record. Shame.
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Craig Potter
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 22:27

Ok, I'm not going to comment on specific points. That'll take too long.

I think that the most important thing that 'Turn Me Up' is trying to do is give the choice back to the artists.

If mastering records LOUD didn't effect the sound quality then there wouldn't be a problem, but it does. When mastering engineers squash records with compression and limiting so they are as loud as the 'latest release', not only does it kill all dynamics but it makes the sound muddy and unclear. It becomes aggressive sounding(which some bands like) and difficult to pick out individual instruments.
The problem is that some artists know this yet still choose to squash their albums to death rather than worrying that the public will put on their CD and think "oh, this is really quiet, there must be something wong" So I suppose it's about trying to let the public (and artists) know about the issue, which could in turn let bands decide whether to squash their albums or not without worrying that that album will sound quieter than everyone elses and therefore wrong.

Its a difficult thing to try and fix. I'm now confused just writing about it... Very Happy

Radio playlist meetings don't help. If one Song is significantly louder than the song before, you can imagen that initially (for the first 20 seconds or so) it could sound more impressive and therefore make it onto the playlist over a quieter sonding song.....

It's a toughy.

Thanks again for your input and all your kind words.

Craig x
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 22:34

I think too much music, at least in a day time radio playlist, dumbs down to the lowest common denominator. People that dare to be different soon learn that they stand out from the crowd, it may mean that their flaws and short comings are more obvious, but in the case of Elbow, and other bands, they shine.

(Note to self, don't drink red wine and post!!!!)

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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Fri 30 May 2008, 22:57

lee spoons wrote:
Out of interest Craig, how did you find out about TurnMeUp.org... did you approach them, or was it the other way round? I'd be interested to know which other albums have had a TurnMeUp credit - I was expecting a list on the website, but couldn't find one.

I've known about the loudness wars for a while but I learnt of 'Turn Me Up' through Charles Dye who basically set the whole thing up. I bought a Mixing/protools tutorial DVD called 'Mix it like a record' (well worth a purchase for any budding engineers out there) that Charles had made and he contacted me to say that he'd been listening to 'Leaders of the free world' with an artist called John Ralston who he was mixing an album for at the time. As far as I know, Johns album 'Sorry Vampire' (a great album BTW) is the only other TMU album so far. I might be wrong though....

I'll let Charles know that we're discussing this over here and you never know he might be able to explain TMU in a much less confusing way than I just did.

Ta

Craig.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 09:26

Calum wrote:
By the way, Lee, I'm kinda glad more bands don't do the whole self producing thing, with Elbow it's great 'cause Craig's obviously a cracking producer, but there are some bands who have taken this sort of thing into their own hands and completely ruined their record. Shame.

And I'm sure there are some bands who have had their record ruined by an outside producer's ideas of how the album should sound, which may not be the same as their own.

I suppose I'm coming at it from the other way, growing up listening mainly to dance/hip hop music, where the artist was very often the producer and engineer as well - often this 'production' was just slapping a couple of old James Brown beats together and rapping over the top, but I mentioned Massive Attack earlier, who always produce or co-produce their own albums.

I think the reason I like the idea of bands self-producing is the same reason I admire the likes of Kristin Hersh for releasing her music online and asking for donations, rather than going through a third party - her music is hers to do with it as she sees fit. OK, so Larry Lobotomy (drummer with Nobby and the Ballbags, a band I just made up) won't be able to produce his own band... but if a band CAN do it, then they should.

Craig Potter wrote:
If mastering records LOUD didn't effect the sound quality then there wouldn't be a problem, but it does. When mastering engineers squash records with compression and limiting so they are as loud as the 'latest release', not only does it kill all dynamics but it makes the sound muddy and unclear. It becomes aggressive sounding(which some bands like) and difficult to pick out individual instruments.
The problem is that some artists know this yet still choose to squash their albums to death rather than worrying that the public will put on their CD and think "oh, this is really quiet, there must be something wong" So I suppose it's about trying to let the public (and artists) know about the issue, which could in turn let bands decide whether to squash their albums or not without worrying that that album will sound quieter than everyone elses and therefore wrong.

Sounds like from what you're saying that bands make the ultimate decision on how the CD is mastered, but they're caught between wanting their album to sound as good as it possibly can, and wanting it to sound like everything else? I didn't realise there were only two albums with TMU accreditation, so I should think Elbow's involvement with TMU would encourage other bands and producers to do the same.

Going off on a slight tangent here, but with iTunes, and other digital download sites, who actually converts your music to mp3, or AAC, or whatever? Is this done at the same time as the CD mastering process but separately (i.e. the album is mastered twice, once for CD format and once for compressed formats), or is it just left in the hands of iTunes's technical bods to convert the mastered CD - and does it make a difference? Personally I wouldn't pay 79p per track for TSSK (9.48 for a 12-track album) when a superior product (uncompressed files, plus all that lovely artwork) is available for about the same price - although I might if it was in FLAC (lossless) format - (I personally think the days of crappily encoded mp3s are numbered now we have FLAC, virtually everyone's on broadband and hard drive space is relatively inexpensive - which can only be a good thing for listeners)
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 11:25

You explained it very well, Craig. From reading your responses, as well as other's, I have a much better understanding of the whole thing. It's not a matter of just making something louder, it's more or less "evening" everything out to match the loud parts, thus making it all louder and more in-your-face. Yes? I can certainly understand why you wouldn't want this done to your music.

Which leads me to something I still don't understand. Why would each individual artist NOT have the choice of this being done? Or do you just mean that it will be difficult to keep up with the Joneses without doing the compression thing?

I also wonder who is doing this to their records and who isn't?
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 11:34

It's that people feel they have to turn things up as loud as the loudest records to compete with them, even at the expense of audio quality. This is the loudness war. This is my understanding of it and I support Turn Me Up Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 14:27

Hi Craig,

I've been following your discussion about 'Turn Me Up' and...
hope you don't mind but I opened up the question on an old proggy band fan forum, as some of their recent music, (by Maestoso, lead by Woolly Wolstenholme of their original band) had the same reaction with some of their fans as 'Starlings' had with some Elbow fans, and wondered if they knew of the TMU site.

lee spoons says 'I didn't realise there were only two albums with TMU accreditation, so I should think Elbow's involvement with TMU would encourage other bands and producers to do the same'.

They are thinking of some other bands that do the loud/quiet thing successfully without killing the dynamics, maybe they will have TMU on their sleeves in the future.

http://bjharvest.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=878
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 15:56

jonny wrote:
It's that people feel they have to turn things up as loud as the loudest records to compete with them, even at the expense of audio quality. This is the loudness war. This is my understanding of it and I support Turn Me Up Smile

Jonny pretty much sums it up. People feel like they have to master their albums as loud as the loudest records to compete with them.

One thing to remeber though - TMU isn't telling bands not to squash their albums it's just trying let bands/artists who want there albums to be dynamic, open and clear sounding that they don't have to. Eventually, hopefully being 'TMU approved' can be something that artists can be proud of and therefore not scared that their albums might be quieter than others.
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PostSubject: Re: Turn me up   Sat 31 May 2008, 15:59

Lucky with disease - Thanks a lot.

This is exactly why a started this thread... lets spread the word! cheers
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