Allen Farmelo has been writing Tape Op gear reviews for a decade. His reviews are always engaging, educational, and importantly, inspirational. Allen always seems to find an arc up to a concept, convention, or belief that goes beyond the specific product being reviewed. He has a way of placing the gear into a more meaningful context — how it fits into the broader spectrum of what we do as recordists. I spoke to him about his new online venture, Pink Noise. "Engineers default to gear conversations because it's comfortable turf. It's not always easy to talk about ideas, creativity, vulnerable topics, and ineffable things. With Pink Noise, I'm often trying to take us — as an industry and a group of people making music — out of that comfort zone. I want to pull focus from the tools and get closer to why we make records."
Catherine Vericolli is the co-founder of Pink Noise. She owns 513 Analog Recording, a studio in Tempe, AZ with a collection of enviable gear. Allen explains, "Catherine loves gear, but often complains that conversations about gear get in the way of talking about what people are trying to accomplish. If artists ask you if you have this mic or that preamp, they rarely get to ask, 'What's the goal?' The answer to this question can eventually lead to gear choices and even to the direction you turn a knob, but collaboration should really start with the artist's vision, not the gear." The inspiration for Pink Noise came from a rant Allen wrote on Facebook about sexism in pro audio. "That rant flew out of me one morning while I was having coffee. I think it was building in me for a decade or more. We are anachronistically male-dominated, and in my opinion, there's a lot of unchecked chauvinism in our field. When I checked back on that Facebook post, it had been shared all over the world. I had lots of private messages from people, especially women, thanking me for saying something. Catherine was one of those people. Our conversation started with, 'What can we do to help the situation? How can we counter that trend?' Pink Noise is not just an attempt to talk about diversity. We're trying to open a channel for more intelligent thinking about our art form, and that should help build a more inclusive conversation."
Joel Hamilton has also been writing Tape Op gear reviews for a decade, and like Allen, his reviews are instructional and enlightening. Joel tends to move quickly into the realm of emotion, mentioning very few acronym-laced specs. He talks instead about how a product inspires him — and his artists — to capture a magical performance in a way that's far above the electrical or mechanical capabilities of whatever whiz- bang mic, preamp, or processor he's discussing. His reviews throw around phrases like "larger than life" and "romance and intrigue," while still managing to give invaluable insight into workflow and technique. Moreover, he has a way of mixing metaphors that speaks to his music-mixing prowess — with clear intentions, he wrangles together unexpected combinations to form engaging narratives that actually make a lot of sense. That's why I loved watching Joel in Art of Sound, an eight-part video series presented by Bose that covers sound and music from personal and historical perspectives. Topics include low and high frequencies; signal processing and pitch-correction; the creative process; reverb, delay, and distortion; looping with tape; and the emotional experience of sound. Each episode is paired with a Spotify playlist containing songs relevant to the subject of the video. Joel ends the series by explaining, "Perfection reads in the gesture, in the sense that that person is handing me something across time and space and through the speakers, and I'm then feeling it. When that gesture reads loud and clear, the rest of the choices are sort of the framing, or the lighting, or whatever... That's where the perfect experience in music lives for me personally."