OSWEGO – Reviving the Master Tapes with a Food Dehydrator. A story by J Robbins.

The preorder of the OSWEGO 2xLP is now up! We are offering different variants and limited bundles including an exclusive OSWEGO T-shirt which will be only available until June 20. The T-shirts will be made on demand for you folks exclusively, so make sure you place your order before June 20 if you re interested in snagging one of the T-shirt bundles.

Our Zum Heimathafen Art Series edition is exclusively available at our webstore and the mailorder Flight 13. It is limited to 200 copies on green/white/black vinyl with an exclusive silkscreen art printed, numbered and signed by the hands of our friend Alex at Zum Heimathafen. The exclusive T-shirt being offered is made of organic cotton, printed by hand at Shirtmanufaktur and manufactured under Fair Wear conditions and at Earth Positive standards. Design by Zum Heimathafen. All variants come with an insert and an MP3 download card.

Available variants:
Zum Heimathafen Art Series bundle: 2xLP (green/white/black vinyl) + screenprint + T-Shirt
Zum Heimathafen Art Series: 2xLP (green/white/black vinyl) + screenprint
Standard edition bundle: 2xLP (orange/black vinyl) + T-Shirt
Standard edition: 2xLP (orange/black vinyl)

For this release, all songs ever recorded by OSWEGO, including previously unreleased tracks, have been remixed by J Robbins and remastered by Dan Coutant. For making the remix happen, J Robbins had to literally bake the original tapes to avoid damage. Yes, that’s right, he baked the tapes. But here comes the whole story, brought to you by Mr. J Robbins himself:

“Transferring the Oswego 2″ masters into ProTools for the new mix turned into a bit of an odyssey. I thought I was just going to put the reels on my Otari MTR-90, patch the tape machine into the ProTools system, and do a straight transfer, the work of maybe an hour and a half. I was pretty sure Oswego bass player Mike Markarian had taken good care of the tapes, and they hadn’t been sitting in a moldy basement or an overheated attic storage room (although nobody really knows quite what to do with their old bands’ 2″ master tapes, do they? You can’t really do anything with them unless you happen to have a 2” tape machine sitting around, but it’s an important part of your life history, so you can’t exactly just throw them away either. So often they do end up in the moldy basement or overheated storage space).

Anyway, I put the reels on and I was so excited to hear the tracks coming back at me sounding pretty much as they had 15 years before. I remember the session being a bit tricky to mix the first time around because everyone was set up together in the small recording space at Inner Ear, like a rehearsal – there was practically no isolation between the drums and the guitars, and the bass particularly – with Mike’s deep, dubby sound, was all over everything. The bleed was also cool – it sort of glued everything together, and when you hear the record, you can feel the moment – you know that the song you’re listening to is a real performance in real time by a killer band really playing together in every sense, not some tacked-together tracked and re-tracked ProTools simulacrum. But it also made it hard to do the little tricks you have to do in a mix to get everything to sit properly together. But I love a challenge…

As I was daydreaming, sort of time-traveling into the Oswego tunes and reminiscing about the session, I started to realize that the notes were sounding draggy and wobbling in and out of pitch. NOT COOL. I stopped the machine immediately, because I had a feeling … which was soon confirmed: the adhesive which binds the magnetic particles onto the tape surface had broken down over time, turning into a sort of sludge which sloughed off onto the surface of the tape path – heads, capstans, rollers, whatever it came into contact with – carrying the magnetic particles (that is, THE MUSIC) with it. Sticky Shed Syndrome. The gunk was literally slowing down the tape by clinging to the path. This is honestly my worst nightmare.

I immediately took the reels off the machine. Then followed several long sessions going over the machine with alcohol and other assorted cleaners, getting the Otari’s tape path back to its normal pristine condition. And a lot of research and comparing of notes with other engineers about what to do next. I knew the solution was to literally bake the tapes; subjecting the reels to prolonged dry heat under controlled conditions could reactivate the adhesive and get it to cohere long enough to reverse the sticky shed and allow me to do a clean transfer. It turned out I knew a lot of musicians and engineers who had had similar experiences and had to find a way forward. Dischord Records, for example, took their old reels up to New York City to have them baked at the Magic Shop, a high-end studio there with a special tape-baking facility. This was kind of the “Cadillac” of solutions. In this case, I needed to go DIY. Fred Weaver, an old friend of the band and proprietor of the Apocalypse Recording studio in central PA, saved the day by recommending a food dehydrator, the Nesco Snackmaster. He had used this piece to bake tapes several times in the past with good results. One Amazon order later, a few hobby- knife modifications to the insert tray to allow the 2” reel to fit inside, 8 hours per reel at a medium-low heat, and presto, the Oswego tapes would no longer threaten to ruin my tape machine or destroy themselves on playback. Onward to the remix, finally, as planned. They say every crisis is an opportunity, and in this case that was true. I learned a lot, and now I have the gear and know-how to bake anyone’s old tapes when it’s necessary. AND I can make fruit leather.”


Oswego – artist info
Oswego – 2xLP pressing info

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