Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"There's no reason to complain about anything. Ever again."
May 6, 2014 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Jack White unveils The Ultra LP.
posted by roll truck roll (58 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
A quick description on the AV Club if you're into reading, not watching.
posted by komara at 10:23 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


He actually said "Any average Myrmidon"? I think he did.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:25 PM on May 6 [8 favorites]


Reminds me of my old "Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief" vinyl, which had a "three-sided" LP -- one of the sides would play a completely different set of tracks depending on where you set the needle down.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:31 PM on May 6 [10 favorites]


Laurie Anderson, William
S. Burroughs and John Giomo had a triple-tracked album as well. "You're the Guy I Want to Share my Money With".
posted by five fresh fish at 10:43 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Nice, but why stop at just one spindle hole?
posted by hydrophonic at 11:10 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


The spinning angel is pretty cool.

Also, Matching Tie and Handkerchief had both physical sides labeled side 2. This record was really fun because there was no internet back then and word of this trick spread more slowly by word of mouth; many of us had no warning in advance of playing this record. One time the record was one thing and then it was something else - total weirdness.
posted by caddis at 3:47 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


I wish I liked Jack White's music because he's always doing fun things with vinyl. A couple of years ago he made a record with a liquid center.

Plus if I am reading this right, this magnum opus of vinyl gimmicks is only $20 new. Respect!
posted by SharkParty at 3:48 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


One of those tracks plays at 78 RPM...

Not a lot of turntables run at 78. Even my circa.1976 Technics table only does 33 and 45.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 AM on May 7


Reminds me of something Sonic Boom did:
The first 2,000 copies of ‘Spectrum‘ came with a coupon for a free 10”. Pressed on brown vinyl, the ‘Octaves/Tremelos‘ EP was playable at four speeds – 16, 33, 45 and 78 – and consisted of two studio created drone pieces, both logical continuations of Kember’s ‘Ecstasy Symphony‘ from Spacemen 3’s ‘The Perfect Prescription‘. “Originally, the whole solo album was going to be that type stuff, experimental type stuff,” Kember recalls.
The only person I knew who had Octaves and Tremolos was also the only person I knew who had a turntable that would play at 16, 33, 45 and 78. He got it in a charity shop. The 7" of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean at 16 was pretty good.
posted by asok at 4:36 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


This really needs to go full infomercial, with the black and white 'despair vision' footage of people bored with boring old records that aren't "Ultra" and a studio audience consisting of a mix of hipsters trying really hard to act disinterested, highway drifters staring directly at the camera, 3 guys in the back row dressed in costumes who thought they were going to a taping of "Let's Make a Deal," and the front row consisting of as many surviving members of the cast of Barney Miller as possible. The key is to play it totally straight, and Jack & Co. never make any acknowledgement that anything is unusual about it at all.

Still, though, it's good to see people having fun with the design possibilities of vinyl. Sure, it's a bit of novelty, but every now and then it's nice to be able to physically interact with the listening process. Jack White's passion for the format and honest geeking out about what you can do with vinyl minimizes the sense of it being "gimmicky" for me and more about just playing with the possibilities.
posted by chambers at 5:26 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


> Reminds me of something Sonic Boom did:

This Heat did that 10 years earlier with the B-side of the Health and Efficiency 12" single. "Graphic/Varispeed" was intended to be played at any speed.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


It doesn't count unless there's a POW escape map hidden under the label.
posted by plinth at 5:58 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


This, along with the subscription model, seems like a smart way to encourage the purchase of physical artifacts that contain music. Sort of an interesting counter to Neil Young's Pono. In related news, the nation's largest viny record pressing plant is expanding.
posted by mecran01 at 6:22 AM on May 7


Wouldn't the needle chew up the paper and the paper destroy the needle?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:24 AM on May 7


Wouldn't the needle chew up the paper and the paper destroy the needle?

"There's no reason to complain about anything. Ever again."
posted by mecran01 at 6:28 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't the needle chew up the paper and the paper destroy the needle?

Chew the paper? Maybe, it depends on the kind of paper used, or if the label is some sort of plastic laminate. I kind of like the temporal, transitory aspect of it that you only get a few plays of the label track before it's unplayable (if that is the case). As for the needle, I could see it needing a a bit of cleaning afterwards, maybe, but as for ruining it, I don't think so.
posted by chambers at 6:39 AM on May 7


He actually said "Any average Myrmidon"? I think he did.

It's a reference to that Steely Dan song, "Any Gelatinous Cube"
posted by thelonius at 7:06 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


The tracks hidden under the label wouldn't work on my turntable because the needle won't track that far in. The tonearm will reach, but it quickly jumps out of the track and skitters away. I have that problem with some 78s.

I have some acetates that were cut with tracks that start on the inside for some reason. It's really annoying because with no locked groove, you have to catch the needle at the end, or turn it off so the needle doesn't start playing the mat.

I think a lot of these things are too gimmicky. That liquid-core LP is a disaster waiting to happen. The hologram is indeed a nice touch, although not exactly new.

What was the point about the edge of the record? They said is was something special, but didn't explain.

"Graphic/Varispeed" was intended to be played at any speed.

That Boyd Rice (NON) record I linked to above is meant to be played at any speed, and sounds equally good on all of them.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:08 AM on May 7


Not a lot of turntables run at 78. Even my circa.1976 Technics table only does 33 and 45

my shitty crosley suitcase record player from 6 or 7 years ago has a 78 option.
posted by nadawi at 7:08 AM on May 7


I simultaneously love what Jack White is doing at Third Man and totally understand why he is the poster boy for r/vinyljerk
posted by jason_steakums at 7:40 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


The hologram is indeed a nice touch, although not exactly new.

The holographic etching on the Styx album is an entirely different animal. That is a flat laser drawing on the vinyl.

The angels on the Ultra LP will appear as 3D floating holograms turning in space above the surface of the record if you shine a strong single light source at the right angle for viewing.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


ardgedee - This Heat did that 10 years earlier

I wonder if there are any earlier than that?
posted by asok at 7:49 AM on May 7


Whoever got the job of mastering the LP must have been either delighted at the challenge or thoroughly annoyed at the adorable inconvenience of it all.
posted by Flexagon at 8:04 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Whoever got the job of mastering the LP must have been either delighted at the challenge or thoroughly annoyed at the adorable inconvenience of it all.

That would be Bob "RL" Ludwig!!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:13 AM on May 7


Lots of cool stuff with the LP, and I guess by admitting to all the secrets they're boosting sales just for people who want to collect weird LP stuff like this (call me guilty...). But it probably would have been even cooler if they let some of the secrets come to light after the fact.

On the other hand, the following description on the pre-order site has me smiling more than all the LP tricks:

"Absolutely zero compression used during recording, mixing and mastering"

If there's one thing I hate about modern music it is the over use of compression and the loudness wars.
posted by JibberJabber at 8:15 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


> I wonder if there are any earlier than that?

The Pagan Muzak EP that hydrophonic mentions is ca. 1978. Dunno whether This Heat knew of Non -- or at least of this specific record -- at the time. They kind of operated in the same musical territory even though they were poles apart, socially and politically.

I can believe they came up with the idea independently, if for no other reason than because there was no consensus whether 12" singles were supposed to be 33 RPM or 45 RPM and some even had different speeds on each side, so there must have been a lot of people thinking, "fuck it, I'll make something that sounds good at everything from 16 2/3 RPM and up."
posted by ardgedee at 8:16 AM on May 7


"The first time there's ever been a locked groove on the outside of a record."

But which is identical to the run-in groove on every LP ever made?

Not complaining, of course. Love this stuff. Along with reading the hand-written messages that used to be between label and run-out ("Another Porky Prime Cut", "You Grin And Bear It, And We'll Grin And Bare It" - floating angel holograms notwithstanding), 8-bit software as track 7, Aphex Twin putting spectrogrammed images in...
posted by Devonian at 9:15 AM on May 7


Doesn't telling everyone you did it kind of defeat the point of hiding tracks under the label?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:19 AM on May 7


Chew the paper? Maybe, it depends on the kind of paper used, or if the label is some sort of plastic laminate.

I was wondering about that too. I wonder if it would be possible to simply dye the vinyl with the label design instead of having a paper label at all. Can vinyl be colored with that much precision?
posted by roll truck roll at 9:23 AM on May 7


Unless I missed something, there seems to be one weird trick he left out. Although just to be sure I'll see what Jacob Aranza has to say; he'll know for sure.
posted by TedW at 9:24 AM on May 7


Not a lot of turntables run at 78. Even my circa.1976 Technics table only does 33 and 45.

Turn them both on at once.
posted by inigo2 at 9:24 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


Gimmicks, schmimmicks. All I need from this album in order to never complain about anything again is for the music, mastering, and pressing quality to be as good as Blunderbuss. Simple as that, Jack.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:29 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Heh, I'm an idiot. That's how you play 78s on my turntable too, but only today did it occur to me that 33 plus 45 equals 78.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:31 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Heh, I'm an idiot. That's how you play 78s on my turntable too, but only today did it occur to me that 33 plus 45 equals 78.

Wait, really? I thought I was just making a math joke.
posted by inigo2 at 9:32 AM on May 7


Next time how about a 16" record? The turntable they're using in the video is made to play them, but can anyone still press records that size?
posted by in278s at 9:49 AM on May 7


And of course, there are two 78 speeds - 78.26 rpm in the US and other 60 Hz territories, which is the speed of a 3600 rpm AC synchronous motor reduced by 46:1 gearing. Elsewhere, 77.92 rpm - derived from a 3000 rpm AC synch motor reduced by 77:2. So British ears got slightly better value for money per pressing, at the expense of a slightly more languid audio experience.

These days, I doubt many record decks work that way. Probably most of the ones used for 78s, which will be vintage, do though.
posted by Devonian at 9:52 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


And of course, there are two 78 speeds - 78.26 rpm in the US and other 60 Hz territories, which is the speed of a 3600 rpm AC synchronous motor reduced by 46:1 gearing. Elsewhere, 77.92 rpm - derived from a 3000 rpm AC synch motor reduced by 77:2. So British ears got slightly better value for money per pressing, at the expense of a slightly more languid audio experience.

This is a level of audiophile geekery which I have never encountered before. My hat is off to you, sir.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


I used to think I missed vinyl, but these guys have changed my mind.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:02 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


But it probably would have been even cooler if they let some of the secrets come to light after the fact.

You're assuming they haven't?
posted by straight at 10:05 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's just that I rarely listen to vinyl, but the inside-to-outside/locked track combo seems like a jerk move.

"When does the album proper start? This repeating intro is going on forever."
posted by ckape at 10:31 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Interesting that we live in a time where these guys spend all this time taking about how the music is transmitted , which is fascinating, but not a damn second on how or what the hell the music itself IS.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:03 AM on May 7


This is a level of audiophile geekery which I have never encountered before.

Well I was wondering if we were supposed to switch styluses for the 78 part.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:03 AM on May 7


but not a damn second on how or what the hell the music itself IS.

They've put two songs from the album on Youtube. I think this video is aimed squarely at people who will be listening to this album one way or another, to convince them they need to own it.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:06 AM on May 7


the inside-to-outside/locked track combo seems like a jerk move.

I can see how it could be seen that way if it were presented as just a 'regular' album.

This, however, is from the get-go a combo experience in both playing of the music and 'playing' the record. I like that this kind of stuff is relatively rare. I like the idea of mixing up the interaction of you and the device you play it on. I remember do many people bemoaning the loss of the interaction and physicality of vinyl as CDs and then MP3s came along.

It's been a generation and a half since CDs, and if this is a way to show the younger folk that didn't get to have done of that. For them, it's always been just press the button and listen. Actually interacting with the machine as part of the experience is a rare thing for them.

The only time I can remember (I'm sure there's more) anybody doing this with CDs was the flaming lips multi-disc thing back in the 90s which needed multiple discs and players synced manually as a group hang out activity.

It's a little fun thing made by people just digging the medium and seeing what they can do. I don't mind some mixing it up a bit every now and then. It's not like this will be the norm or anything.
posted by chambers at 11:12 AM on May 7


Of course lots of CDs have "secret tracks" that play after the listed songs finish, but I remember one They Might Be Giants CD where you could only hear the secret song by rewinding past the beginning of the album. I thought that was pretty clever.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:15 AM on May 7


Interesting that we live in a time where these guys spend all this time taking about how the music is transmitted , which is fascinating, but not a damn second on how or what the hell the music itself IS.

Pretty much the entire planet is already aware of how and what Jack White's music is, so it really requires no explanation at this point. The guy could release an album with zero advance promotion of any kind and sell 100,000 copies the first week.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:41 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


he also put up two tracks from the new album last month.
high ball stepper
lazeretto

i will buy this, just like i've bought everything he's released. i am always and forever keeping fingers crossed for another raconteurs album.
posted by nadawi at 11:47 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Aw, that video unwrapping of the liquid LP is so cute--those two kids are so clearly excited and in love with the music just as much as the neat-o record and it makes me feel very happy.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:02 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I've seen locked grooves on the outside track before. Also missing from his Swiss Army bag of record tricks is a nested dual or triple spiral of grooves, where two or more songs share the same space and spiral concurrently.

I've also seen records where the inside track starts on the inside and runs out, and the outside runs in, and it meets in the middle in a locked groove.

Another trick he's missing is more than one locked groove. I've also seen records that were nothing but a hundred or more locked grooves which must have been nigh impossible to cut lacquers for. Spiral run outs are relatively easy to cut, you just keep cutting and then stop the tracking cutting arm from cutting while still letting the cutting head vibrate, then lift the head when it overlaps.

A single concentric locked groove with no run-in or run-out has to be cut precisely round, then the cutting head has to be lifted the exact instant it touches the beginning of the cut. If you over or under run the cut, the locked groove is going to skip or not lock, ruining the lacquer.

Now do that with any kind of precision timing or planning on what audio you're actually cutting into the lacquer.

Repeat that about 50 to 100 times per side and you probably have a lot of ruined lacquers and retries at cutting it successfully all the way through.

And this, Mr. White, is why you need some friends who like techno or who used to DJ vinyl. They would have told you all kinds of strange vinyl cutting tricks.

And lastly, I don't think you can actually cut vinyl without at least some compression and limiting. There's usually both audio processing devices integrated or built into the lathe. Without some compression and limiting the cutting head will destroy itself, AFAIR.

I'm assuming he's talking about no compression on the master tape and recording process.
posted by loquacious at 12:11 PM on May 7


I LOVE that this is the standard version of the LP, too, and not some Limited Edition Bullshit.

(A record-nerd friend of mine though is annoyed that Third Man presses its stuff at United, because he hates their pressings. He says they never press the grooves thick enough, regardless of the vinyl weight. He... he would know.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 12:28 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I've just been talking with said friend -- here's his comments about Jack White/Third Man/United:

Him:
and i guess my other criticism is that he often seems to be more concerned with gimmicks than making records actually sound good
i think most of his stuff is pressed by united and yecccch
Me:
Hm -- yeah -- the Ultra is United, he even said in the video.
Him:
it doesn't matter how heavy the vinyl is because they press the grooves about 5 microns into the surface
at least, that is how all my records made there are
actually tbh i don't think any american plants do really good work anymore

all the good stuff is from europe (like nanobots)
Me:
haha, do you mind if I post your stuff about United on MeFi? There’s a thread about the Jack White record
Him:
haha sure
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 12:33 PM on May 7


Rev: that sounds like they're either not cutting their lacquers deep enough or loud enough, but more likely they're not electroplating the mothers off the lacquers very thoroughly or well.

This might be a cost saving measure since traditionally the initial mother electroplates are a usually mixture of silver, gold and/or nickel.
posted by loquacious at 1:02 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


the initial mother electroplates

I hear they're reuniting and putting out a limited edition LP for Record Store Day called Electroplating The Mothers Off The Lacquers.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:09 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


I really want to hate Jack White because he just seems like such a snotty bastard every time I've seen him speak (with possible exception of his longform web interview with Conan), but I love his music and appreciate his dedication to dirty 'real' low tech audio and support of other musicians and even his fuckyou attitude so much that I just can't.

It's possible that the kids-these-days that aggravate me the most are the ones I want (or wanted, I guess) to be. So that's OK.

Also this disc is pretty cool. Dumb, but cool.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:00 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah, he has this thing that sets me on edge, but then I watch It Might Get Loud, and I realize that other guitarists of preceding generations respect him, and decide that perhaps his talent is greater than his persona, so I give him a pass.
posted by hippybear at 9:14 PM on May 7


loquacious - Now that I think about it I have a couple of techno locked groove records with 25 or 50 per side that should allow for some random techno creation action with two turntables and a crossfader.

Rev - I only have one or two 'high quality 180g vinyl' US pressings and the grooves are very shallow indeed.
posted by asok at 4:45 AM on May 8


> A single concentric locked groove with no run-in or run-out has to be cut precisely round, then the cutting head has to be lifted the exact instant it touches the beginning of the cut. If you over or under run the cut, the locked groove is going to skip or not lock, ruining the lacquer.

It's probably something engravers have a lot of experience with, since that's usually how DJ disks are cut.
posted by ardgedee at 9:46 AM on May 8


It electroplates the mother off the lacquer or it gets the hose again
posted by stenseng at 4:33 PM on May 8 [2 favorites]


« Older Why Tina of Bob's Burgers Can't Be Ignored "The e...  |  The world's most complex borde... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments