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You’d think a lament about the downside of the digital age from Galaxie 500’s Damon Krukowski would be a bitter, geezer-fied rant about how great things were in the good ol’ lo-fi days at the end of the last century.
Au contraire. In The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World (The New Press) Krukowski does manage to persuasively argue the subtle ways in which the slow death of analog has altered our way listening habits and hence our way of life. But rather than hammering readers with fire and brimstone about the stake digital technology has driven into the heart of Western civilization, the drummer-turned-author drives his thesis on a magical history tour through sound and space.
The secret sauce, according to Krukowski? It’s the noise. These days, signal is king, but the corresponding loss of noise has left the world a bit less interesting. Beyond music, he breaks down the desensitizing effects of related technologies, including GPS and mobile phones.
Krukowski knows about noise, beautiful and otherwise. He explains technological shifts over the past century and how those shifts altered the mindset of listeners, from sheet music to wax cylinders, CDs to Napster to streaming to Kanye’s post-release fiddling with The Life of Pablo. Kanye called it contemporary art. The author calls it “art severed from its own history.”
The sonic march of time gets a thoughtful scrubbing, And The New Analog is worth a read simply for those moments, from the advent of stereo, to the revolution/revelation of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on headphones, the studio trickery of 70s Krautrockers Can, or Frank Sinatra’s studio genius, his mastery of phrasing and use of the mic.