Gosh gee willikers! How time flies when you’re servicing high interest debt! The Big Bigot album was released 24 years ago, and the last time it was remastered is now 11 years ago! Now it’s time for Bigot to leave sevcom and join its friends over in the UK on the LTM ‘more memories than hits’ label.
Bigot has left the shop.
In 1999 I made a pretty good effort at scrubbing it up given the tools I had. Mostly a treble boost and a bit of bass to try get the ass moving. Back then the music style was pumping and I was drawn to make it sound more like the music that was coming out on 12 inch – oh the 90s! That was OK but I think it’s time to rethink the sound given the freedom (abdication of defined taste) that we have today. I dug out the original master tape from 1986 for a new listen.
Let’s look at the problems. Bigot was recorded on a Fostek 16 track open reel with Dolby C. Like most things I have ever owned the machine was second hand and a bit dodgy – the speed wobbled for a start. It probably reached 18KHz on the day it was made, by the time I got it, maybe 16KHz. Dolby C was really for domestic use, in guarding against hiss it rolled a lot of high end off the top. Not that my synthesisers had much high end. Down the bottom there’s the usual 50Hz hum of domestic power outlets, plus the burble of the tape.
When the music was transferred to Betamax PCM the old ADC added some funny business at the very bottom and an effect called ‘distant sirens’ up top, because it sounds a bit like police cars. Can’t do much about the latter, but the first thing we do is remove everything below about 30Hz. Nothing really useful there (the Fostek did not known this realm) and it instantly removes some bilge. That leaves the 50Hz hum but I have never managed to remove this without damaging the kick. Leave it be and gate it.
Bigot was recorded over more than a year and there’s no two songs the same. Last time I took what I thought was the most unique and distinctive mix (Phantasised Persecutory Breast) and matched to it. While PPB does sound great, I now see it’s a very special kind of ‘great’ that I was approaching from a political point. This time I have so far ignored that track, and have taken each song as an isolated event.
Some issues are common. The voice is coming through the shittiest microphone known to man and back in 86 I blasted 1KHz to try cut through the mix. Now, I don’t want to remove that decision, but I have to try detail around it – add some high end without touching that region. The microphone is crackling and that adds bursts of high frequencies. These will have to be, although limiting the very highest does help. Then there are the kick drums made on the SH101. They are cute, but occasionally obese, filling up all the bass space and not allowing any counter rhythm. The usual trick works here, strong compression with slow attack around 80Hz or so to tighten the boom, and then raise the bass level to compensate. On Propeller that has worked a treat – you can actually feel the bass riff now. While the SH101 and MC202 didn’t make frequencies above a certain limit I have enhanced their ‘snap’ with a little high boost above 8-10KHz to make them more effective. Really, it’s just fixing bass and treble… very delicately.
I’m going to try the most radical work on the bonus tracks (where fanatics will be least incensed) that are mostly half demos. Son Of needed a couple of hours to try coax a bit of life out of it, the bass is supposed to be, well, funky. It was instead wimpy and seeing there was nothing there I’ve added some harmonics below. The vocals needed a bit of room, oh just the faintest, teeny bit. It helps.
At this rate it’ll be a few more months before I can get around to the artwork. LTM like this to be as close to the original as we can get – I’ve found the original slides from the 86 Australian cover and will scan those. The other thing is LTM don’t like the CDs to be too long, they apparently get complaints from people with old steam driven CD players (seems that most of their sales are war time sing a longs). That could mean something gets cut. We’ll see.