Free: Listen to Dave Grohl’s Soundtrack for New Film Celebrating the Days of Analog Recording

Mark your cal­en­dars, music lovers, March 22nd is Dynam­ic Range Day and March 12th is the day Dave Grohl’s new doc­u­men­tary Sound City Stu­dios gets wide release. What does this mean, you ask, and how are these things relat­ed? I’m get­ting there, hear me out. The dig­i­tal age has brought us many boun­ti­ful rewards, it’s true, but it has also brought us the so-called “Loud­ness Wars”—basi­cal­ly, for sev­er­al annoy­ing­ly bor­ing tech­ni­cal rea­sons, dig­i­tal record­ings can be very high­ly com­pressed so as to sound sub­jec­tive­ly loud­er than any­thing ana­log record­ing can pro­duce. Sounds like a real bonus, right? Loud­er is bet­ter? Not so, say the orga­niz­ers of Dynam­ic Range Day. Not so, say the par­tic­i­pants in Dave Grohl’s doc­u­men­tary about the leg­endary Sound City Stu­dios (trail­er above) and his album of record­ings using Sound City’s vin­tage ana­log Neve con­sole.

See, high­ly com­pressed dig­i­tal record­ings basi­cal­ly sound like crap­py walls of dis­tort­ed noise after a while, which is ugly and tire­some. Gone is the dynam­ic range–the nuance, or light-and-shade, as music peo­ple some­times like to say. This phenomenon—combined with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of low-grade mp3s and the dig­i­tal trick­ery that makes bad singers sound tolerable—is ruin­ing record­ed music, and musi­cians know it, which is why so many great ones were excit­ed to work with Grohl on his film and record­ing project, cel­e­brat­ing the lost art of live, all-ana­log record­ing. Well, that’s not the only rea­son. Found­ed in Van Nuys, CA in 1969, the dive‑y Sound City Stu­dios also hap­pens to be where some of the most-loved rock and roll records of all time were made, includ­ing Fleet­wood Mac’s Rumours, Nirvana’s Nev­er­mind, and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. (Rick Rubin also record­ed Metallica’s Death Mag­net­ic there—according to the purists and fans alike, one of the worst casu­al­ties of the Loud­ness Wars—but that’s a sto­ry for anoth­er day).

Now, Sound City Stu­dios is no more, but its his­to­ry has been doc­u­ment­ed by Grohl in Sound City, the movie, and Grohl pre­served the studio’s beau­ti­ful ana­log gear, now housed in his Stu­dio 606, and record­ed a suite of songs with spe­cial guests from the film like Ste­vie Nicks, Paul McCart­ney, Trent Reznor, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Nir­vana bassist Krist Novosel­ic, punk leg­ends Lee Ving and Pat Smear, and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. That record, Sound City: Real to Reel is stream­ing free now on NPR. Lis­ten to its sweet ana­log good­ness above for a lim­it­ed time  (through your dig­i­tal machine—hey, it is what it is, right?). Then, if you’re so inclined, you can pur­chase the record (or indi­vid­ual tracks) from iTunes or Ama­zon. The film will be avail­able short­ly on Blu-ray and down­load too.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Young Reveals the New Killer Gad­get That Will Save Music

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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