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In praise of instrumental versions

24 Jun 09 | Re: Enticing musical extra

Last year I got a pretty special Christmas present from a pretty special person - the de luxe edition of the White Lies album. This comes on a series of six 7" records, all presented in a nicely-designed box, along with artwork signed by the band. It’s a bit of a collector’s item.

The only down side, you might think, is that it’s a bit impractical when you actually want to listen to the music to have to keep turning over and changing the records in between every song. But you would be wrong! In an ingenious move, the box also contains a special code that lets you download MP3 versions of all the songs as well. So you can have the box set of records to treasure, and the actual music on your computer to listen to whenever you want. Essentially, it takes the irrational attachment people like me have to physically owning their music to its logical conclusion - they produce the vinyl versions for those who want them, but don’t even pretend that that’s a practical way to listen any more. Very clever, and a good way to reconcile music’s digital future with its sentimental past. I expect more bands will do this, if they aren’t already.

And as if that wasn’t enough, when I actually got round to downloading the music at the weekend, I discovered that as well as the songs I knew I was getting, they had thoughtfully included instrumental versions of every track as well. This means that I can listen to the whole album sans vocals, all the way through. It’s quite something: you hear things that you would normally miss, and not having the vocals as a guide to the song’s structure somehow makes every transition more unexpected, making the already epic music (80s lovers, this is a recommendation) sound impossibly dramatic and thrilling. I’d now be interested to hear instrumental versions of other rock albums. I wonder if there’s anywhere you can get them?

All in all, then, this already excellent gift has turned out to be even better. Thanks are in order once again to the person who gave it.

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