You Sound Like a Broken Record

Petrol At 4pm today we have Paul Nataraj’s ‘You Sound Like a Broken Record’ – a practice led interrogation of the ontological resonances of vinyl record culture.

The vinyl record is complex piece of black plastic. It is a cultural hobo that holds a dialectical position as both symbol of cultural subversion and the product of a mass-market industry, remaining equally totemic in both paradigms. In being able to sustain such paradoxes, the object of the record itself has a mythic value that continually fascinates its users. As Eisenberg writes, ‘a shelf of records is a row of possible worlds’.

“My practice uses the vinyl record as a site to interrogate people’s personal relationship to this object, and the potentials of the materiality of the ‘thing’ itself. Volunteers donate records for this work and I record an oral history interview documenting their personal stories about the gifted disc, and their wider musical lives. These narratives are then hand etched onto the surface of each disc creating a palimpsest that indelibly connects the owner and object. As Bartmanski and Woodward write, the surface of the record which is ‘kind of taboo…poses a temptation.’ It acts as the mechanised embodiment of the siren song, drawing us into its hypnotic spiral and affording us a tactile pleasure. This practice carves out the enmeshments present in all our musical histories, opening them up for further scrutiny.

I then use these records as the basis for musical compositions, playing back the vandalised records and sampling their fragmentary mediations of the original sound. These compositions question commercial sampling practices, especially in hip-hop production and wider dance music forms. They also have resonances with ideas of indeterminacy in composition and uses of the graphic score. The narratives shared by my respondents are the lead influence on the form of the compositions; in a complex play of objective and subjective space, record, owner and artist share in a temporally dislocated ‘ecoute a trois’, exhumed from the grooves of the record.

I have collected and ‘vandalised’ 14 records over the course of this project, ranging from Glasgow’s post punk band Badgewearer to Brotherhood of Man. The uniques palimpsestual records and the sound pieces produced are an instantiation of some of the inherent tensions with our relationships to sound, music, memory and time.”