Portishead Roseland NYC Live has been remastered. Readers probably know that I am a big fan of Portishead. So full of hope I downloaded the remaster. Live NYC is really a wonderful album and if it is properly and carefully polished, it must be a gem for the music collection…. Boy… Was I wrong!
Remasters… it’s more often a miss than a hit. Music enthusiasts collect the originals for a reason. Now colleague Geoffrey pointed out to me earlier differences between streaming and CD. And now it’s not so much the medium that makes the differences; it’s – my opinion – the masters.
Many of the CDs I have in my collection are originals. After all: bought them on the day of release, or shortly after that. All Portisheads, Massive Attacks, Metallica’s and, for example, Dire Staits and Sting albums are just original masters. At least: as far as I know.
During a short – quick and dirty – test between streaming from Tidal / Qobuz and the ripped albums, a clear difference is audible. Without exception in favor of the ripped CD. Yes: it is mostly recorded a bit less loud, but that does not make the difference: it is the freedom and lack of annoying compression. As a result, the recording seems to show more detail and openness, but that is deception…. a lot of calmness is lost. Natural calmness, dynamics and layering. And that’s what we all strive for in our hobby, right?
And Roseland NYC Live?
Honestly: the remaster of Roseland NYC is completely fucked up in my opinion. The “trick” with compression has been applied again. A few samples in Audition make that painfully clear.
Above is an example of the song Roads. It is immediately obvious that a compressor has been applied to it. In the process, the new one sounds “thicker” than the original. Why? It’s not necessary at all.
Now with this album, it’s not just the compression that triggers some annoyances. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And not every track on the remaster is louder. It’s the atmosphere that has been masterfully mixed out.
Roads is one of my favorite Portishead songs. And the live version in particular is full of emotion and atmosphere. In the remaster, most of that has been mixed away. How? No idea… i just don’t feel it anymore.
And that goes for most of this remaster: it’s drier, there’s more compression (more hall audible and also background effects have been brought up)… a real shame. And unnecessary.
The big question, of course, is. why? Why are remasters made this way? Why pull a recording through the console again and then make these choices? Surely a Mastering Engineer himself must feel that things are lost? And that striving for perfection includes preserving the artist’s intention? Or better… JUST means preserving the artist’s intention….
I am curious to hear your opinion…. what are your experiences with remasters? Leave it in the comments!