Jack White’s Experiments in Vinyl

Jack White’s Third Man Records has been riding the growing tide of vinyl resurgence at its apex. Originally founded in Detroit, the physical building which serves as both a record store and the offices for the label has since been relocated to the heart of music country in Nashville, TN. An obvious fan of the medium, Jack is seeking to push the bounties of creativity, in not only sound and songwriting, but also with the physical medium capabilities itself.

The physicality of the record album no doubt offers a somewhat unlimited number of experiments in visual, audio and playback trickery that anything digital will never be able to duplicate. Much like Radiohead’s effort to broaden the reach of their creativity beyond the boundaries of sound, Jack has recently introduced serval new “firsts” for the vinyl medium. In expectation for his upcoming album Lazaretto Jack and his cohort Ben Blackwell designed a multitude of secrets and tricks into the record called the ULTRA LP.

(From the Third Man Records site)

– 180 gram vinyl

– 2 vinyl-only hidden tracks hidden beneath the center labels

– 1 hidden track plays at 78 RPM, one plays at 45 RPM, making this a 3-speed record

– Side A plays from the inside out

– Dual-groove technology: plays an electric or acoustic intro for “Just One Drink” depending on where needle is dropped. The grooves meet for the body of the song

– Matte finish on Side B, giving the appearance of an un-played 78 RPM record

– Both sides end with locked grooves

– Vinyl pressed in seldom-used flat-edged format

– Dead wax area on Side A contains a hand-etched hologram by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science, the first of its kind on a vinyl record

– Zero compression used in the mastering

– Different running order from the CD/digital version

– LP utilizes some mixes different from those used on CD and digital version

Check out the full video starring Jack himself here:

There is nice nod to McIntosh tube amplification throughout the video, it appears Jack indeed cares deeply about not just penning good music, but producing interesting sound as well.

As if cutting edge record pressing wasn’t enough, last night Jack appeared on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, with Neil Young in tow. Promoting his upcoming album A Letter Home Neil recorded a live song straight to vinyl in an old, restored recording booth that normally resides at Third Man Records. Willy Nelson’s Crazy from the video below indeed sounds like music from an era long gone by. I was surprised at the nostalgia it conjured the first time I heard it. I’ve never been a huge collector of old mediums, but I can really see Jack’s allure to the recording process come alive here.

Here is some more coverage on the actual recording booth that serves as record studio for the performance.