Lou Reed Reissues Newly Remastered Metal Machine Music

Because he could...

By , Columnist

In 1975, RCA Records released a two-LP album by Lou Reed called Metal Machine Music. That was quite a bold move by His Master's Voice considering that it was essentially four sides of a continuous flow of guitar feedback, with a side four groove lock that kept the needle playing the end in an infinite loop. The rumors of the worth of Metal Machine Music were rampant. One such rumor had it that Lou had successfully replicated important classical works within the noise of the album - if one listened closely...

One of the remaining rumors is probably closer to the truth. Lou Reed had a contract with RCA Records and wanted to finish it. By delivering this album (he supposedly had a clause in his contract that gave him complete and unquestioned artistic control), he gave RCA the album that would cause them to remove him from their roster. They released it anyway. Eventually, the album was returned by fans as being defective, but not before 100,000 fans picked one up, including myself.

I didn't return my copy. I am a fan of Lou Reed. If Lou released an album with fantastic claims, I was in, which probably explains my current affection for drone music. Who knew that Metal Machine Music, once considered awful by the leading music magazines of the time, would be a forerunner in an ambient style that is now called drone music, an extreme by-product of industrial music?

On July 19, Lou Reed will release a newly remastered version of Metal Machine Music, reissuing the personally supervised set in several forms that include audiophile-grade 180g weight vinyl two-LP, DVD (audio only), Blu-ray Audio, and complete two-LP/DVD and two-LP/BD Limited Edition packages. Sonically, the remaster is from the original four-channel Quadrophonic mix from decades back.

The LP version is from the Quad mix but presented in stereo. The DVD, and BD audio discs offer the four-channel Quad mix as well as a stereo mix. All versions, including the LP, replicate the infinite locked groove found on the 1975 original. The work was performed from high resolution (96kHz/24-bit) digital masters obtained via the original analog masters.

Metal Machine Music, sub-titled The Amine β Ring, in what may have been a ruse to get out of a recording contract, only served to become influential as an album of structured noise, a style now heard by the likes of Dirk Serries, and famously practiced by Robert Fripp. The list of ambient drone practitioners goes on.

Who would have thought Metal Machine Music would be what it is today? I'll bet Lou didn't.


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Matt Rowe began his life with an AM radio, listening to anything that was considered music. Since, he has labored intently to build a collection of music, paring it down, rebuilding, and refining as he sees fit. His decided goal is to keep up with new music by panning for the nuggets among literal mountains…

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