Interviews & Articles


Hi Fi for Pleasure
"Digital Dreaming"
by David Aldridge
Aug. 1983

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Date: Wed, 17 Jan 90 20:30:11 EST
From: Doug Alan <nessus@athena.mit.edu>
Subject: Hi Fi for Pleasure by David Aldridge Aug. 1983

The following article is from *Hi Fi for Pleasure*, August 1983. I have typed it in to satisfy IED:


Kate Bush's `The Dreaming' was digitally mastered. It provided the sound that she wanted but next time she'll probably opt for analogue processing. David Aldridge asks her why.

Five years ago, when a young unknown named Kate Bush vocally roller-coasted her way through the weird 'n' wonderful `Wuthering Heights', few critics rated her as more than yet another addition to the swollen ranks of pop's one-hit wonders.

Which just goes to show what we know.

It's now 1983, and the delightful doctor's daughter from Dulwich in South London has established herself as easily Britian's most adventurous and exciting female singer-songwriter.

But she's not been content to confine herself to establishing a star reputation in just those two major areas of today's music. Kate's also displayed an increasing interest in, and sophisticated awareness of, the potential of production techniques over the years. To the extent that she effectively produced her most recent album, `The Dreaming' (on EMI) herself -- and significantly, it proved to be her most `produced' album to date.

The recording sessions were digitally mixed -- a pop practice that's increasingly common these days. Interestingly, though, shortly after `The Dreaming' was in the can, Kate was approached by the tech team from the pro-analogue, anti-digital Linn Products.

They'd heard of Kate's production interests, and decided the time was ripe to demonstrate to an influential industry superstar just how superior properly handled analogue recording could be.

And the word that filtered through to us from Linn -- who operate their own super-analogue recording label -- was that the lovely little lady was mighty impressed by the analogue-vs-digital dem they had laid on for her. So we thought we'd go straight to the horse's mouth and find out whether that had indeed been the case. It was -- sort of!

"I wouldn't say that I was necessarily impressed by their demonstration," Kate Bush told Hi Fi for Pleasure. "But yes, I feel that there's an awful lot in analogue recording.

"We had a lot of problems working with digital for `The Dreaming' which was digitally mixed. Editing was the main one -- it was so time-consuming.

"Some things obviously were easier working digitally -- otherwise we wouldn't have used it. But the vast majority I reckon would have been easier on tape. Particularly as I was working with people who'd worked with tape all their life."

"In the end we brought in a guy who was familiar with digital equipment from classical recordings he'd worked on. And it didn't take very long after that.

"But the problems rather put me off digital. We all felt a kind of alienation from the process of creation using it. There's something reassuring about a tape that you can see and touch. You've more trust in it somehow.

"There was a feeling of uneasiness about using digital that stemmed from the fact that we felt it wasn't as easy to use in many respects as tape is."

Kate is firmly convinced that there's plenty of life left in analogue recording yet, despite the pro-digital brigade who reckon its days are already numbered. "For one thing," she added, "there's an awful lot of really good analogue recording equipment around. And many studios I know of have sounded out digital gear, and opted to stay with analogue. Certainly it's the way I personally reckon I'll be recording in the future."

We talked more about her production of `The Dreaming'. "The fact that I was handling that side of things automatically caused me a great deal of concern because I was responsible then for the complete finished product.

"Before we decided to work with digital, we did a comparison test between analogue and digital, and all of us involved in the making of the album just felt that we couldn't really detect any difference except for a slight crystallised sound off of the digital.

"We did a lot of comparisons and we felt that, for the kind of music that was happening, that was a nice sound quality to have. Quite honestly, if it hadn't been for that subtle difference we'd have stuck with analogue.

"We'd certainly have stuck with it if we'd known the practical problems we'd encounter using digital. However, by the time we did encounter them, we were too far advanced with it.

"I'm not sorry we tried digital. But in the future I'd certainly prefer to work with analogue."

So, no beating about the Bush. That's Kate's opinion about digital. OK sonically in theory, but something of a problem-poser in practical use. So, on balance, it's analogue that gets her vote.

A fact which'll no doubt enliven the Linn pro-analogue camp no end.

<End of article.>

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