Many classical recordings are difficult to play in certain environments, because the parts are written so quietly. If you have ever listened to classical in the car, you’ll know there are times you think the music has stopped just because you can’t hear the subtle instrumentation over the road noise. Put it on headphones and it’s a different story.
Ravel’s Boléro is one such composition. Over its 16 minutes, the music slowly and gently builds from silence. The entire piece is a gradual crescendo. This can be illustrated visually by looking at the entire track in Audacity.
This is where we get technical. According to Techmoan, the greatest Youtube channel dedicated to odd formats and players, LP records suffer from inner groove distortion due to the compression caused by the shorter grooves at the end. Classical music often takes a dip in quality when you get to the end of the record. Boléro always suffered on vinyl releases because it gets abnormally loud at the end, and the compression makes it sound worse. This release of Boléro, on Tacet records, plays from the inside out. This way, the compression caused by the inner groove happens when the music is quietest. When Boléro builds to its full volume towards the end (the outer groove), there is no distortion present. Hence, this release is named oreloB! Both sides work the same way. The side two composition La Valse also begins very quietly and finishes loudly. Because the end distortion is no longer a concern, they were even able to master oreloB a little bit louder than a normal-playing version of the record.
Immediate impressions upon listening to the familiar Boléro again: Wow, Deep Purple ripped off a lot of classical music! It sounds like Boléro was in Jon Lord’s record collection. Even old Star Trek themes — listen carefully and you will hear from where bits and pieces were poached. Cultures clash on this simply beautiful piece with pomp and circumstance. You have certainly heard it before and will recognise its themes gladly.
Sure, you could sidestep all the end groove distortion by simply listening to a CD, but that would take the fun out of it wouldn’t it?