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Nirvana...In Utero..."Steve Albini mix": the definitive thread.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Stefano G., Oct 15, 2017.

  1. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    I've been listening and collecting music for decades but I have to admit that I've never been able to decipher the mystery behind the notorious "Steve Albini mix":

    • true or pure fantasy story?
    • what are the musical differences between the Steve Albini mix and the "official" mix?
    • how do you distinguish a record containing the Steve Albini mix?
    • how do you distinguish the CD containing the Steve Albini mix?

    I would like to thank all those who will contribute to clarifying the mystery that envelops the famous Steve Albini mix!
     
  2. Turntable

    Turntable Senior Member

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    All your questions are answered in the 2013 20th anniversary reissue that includes the Albini mixes.

    Nirvana - In Utero

    The Albini mixes are great. Heavier and chunkier sounding.

    It is a wonderful release.
     
  3. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    I think this does not explain anything at all. Anyway I could even go wrong.
     
  4. Efus

    Efus Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    No mystery.
    Label considered the original Albini mixed album to be unlistenable, too harsh.
    They got the hot engineer of the time, Scott Litt, to re-mix Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies.
    And those replaced the Albini mix for those 2 songs on the original release.

    The 20th anniversary remaster features a 2013 mix done by Albini, and the bonus disc/album features the 2 original 1993 Albini mixes for HSB and All Apologies that were axed from the original album.
     
  5. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    The proof is in the pudding: the Albini mix is better. Somebody got in there, for some reason, and screwed it up, originally. Someone in another thread told me it was the mastering engineer. I always thought that the songs had a hard time making themselves known with the way it sounded. I still came to think of it as great, but it was a hard time getting there. There was always a conflict between the uncommercial nature of the songs with the shiny sparkle that was put on it. And it wasn't only on the two Scott Litt doctored songs. It was put over the whole album.
    There's a lot of confusion between the 2013 remaster and the 2013 "Albini mix". Two different things. The first is the original album remastered.
    The Albini mix has the black cover, is the only way that I've seen it presented.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
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  6. AZRunner

    AZRunner Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW FL
    There was a German vinyl reissue in 2001 that used the original Albini mix. Geffen 424 536-1
     
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  7. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    It still begs the question: was Cobain on board with the changes that were requested, or was it basically forced upon them by the record company? I really don't think Scott Litt added anything to Heart Shaped Box or All Apologies. He made the former sound grungey like Alice In Chains, and accented too much of the pop sweetness in the latter, which was better lower in the mix. Both are better in Albini's original mix.
    There may be a hint in this quote from Albini on interference from the record company:
    “All of those people were afraid that if this Nirvana album wasn’t awesome, somehow it would affect them,” he continued. “Their first presumption wasn’t that this band actually knew what they were doing when they went off into the woods to make a record. Their first presumption was, ‘There’s no way this record can be good without us in charge.’ Despite the fact that the band had done really well by following their own instincts up to that point.”

    Steve Albini Slams ‘Parasite’ Label Execs Over Nirvana ‘In Utero’ Treatment
     
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  8. Efus

    Efus Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Yeah, that was an interesting part of Cobain's conflicted personality.
    He wanted to be huge, but not be seen as a corporate sellout, how he thought that was going to work by signing on with Geffen I don't know.

    Him picking Albini was no mistake, he complained how Nevermind had ended up more polished than he wanted.
    In hindsight, I agree that ego at the label wanting to put their hand in this was unnecessary , but it had worked on Nevermind, so why not do the same for the followup?
     
  9. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Location:
    Seattle Area
    it's interesting though. cobain did seem to want to sell his music to a wide audience, but maybe his motivation was to slowly chip away at the mainstream. of course, we saw what happened when grunge became mainstream, but i'm certain many of cobain's heroes got some exposure that they never would have just because of nirvana's popularity.
     
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  10. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    To add to the mystery: I remember Cobain at the time being quoted as saying that Albini had ruined PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, too. I don't know if that's a literal reference to Albini's production, or maybe a comment at how the industry was pressuring it's better artists. Harvey did in fact release an album of the demos for that album after the fact

    Of course, in the article I posted above, it says that Albini did not take a liking to Courtney Love. Was she having Kurt badmouth him out of revenge? Some people have speculated that she possessed an unhealthy influence over him.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
    enro99 likes this.
  11. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    Not pure fantasy. But there is no Albini mix vs. "official". The album was mixed by in it's entirety by Albini to a master tape. The 2 singles, Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies, were remixed by Scott Litt. It was decided before the album was released that the singles remixes would replace the Albini remixes and a new master tape was made. Albini never took on the role of Producer. The band was the Producer and this is how he wanted it. He wasn't there to tell them what to play, they were to have songs ready, show up and he would record them. So Albini never had any authority about in this decision after they left the studio.
    It sounds more consistent to the rest of the album. Albini only agreed to record the album if the band was going to make a punk album with few takes and minimal overdubs. The Litt singles sound radio friendly and more refined. Albini mixes of those tracks sound more consistent with the rest of the album.
    The 2003 UK Geffen release was cut from the original Albini master tape. Probably a mistake by a clerk sending the wrong mater tape to the UK. Discogs link
    This should not be confused with the 2013 remix version, which at Novoselic's request was also done by Albini, along the rest of the remaining band, but intended to be an entirely different version.
    2013 20th anniversary set. Discogs link
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  12. DTK

    DTK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Europe
    Many seem to still not understand that the original album IS the Albini mixes aside for Heart-Shaped Box and All Apologies.
     
  13. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    It's not. Dumb and Very Ape are both noticeably different mixes. As well as perhaps in other places. Different mastering choices perhaps as well make them both entirely different.
    I think that's the "mystery" the OP is referring to. Were these changes made posthumously by Albini? Is the Albini mix even the original mix?
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
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  14. Mistermono

    Mistermono Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Didn't Albini say that in addition to the two remixes, Litt/Geffen futzed with his EQ (not mixing) decisions on the rest of the album?
     
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  15. DTK

    DTK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Europe
    Myth. Kurt was a strong and opinionated guy, he wouldn't have badmouthed anyone on his wife's orders. He wasn't Lennon and Courtney wasn't Yoko.
     
  16. DTK

    DTK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Europe
    If we go by what Albino has said himself, his original mixes were on the album, but the mastering, which he wasn't involved in, made them sound quite different.
     
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  17. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    Then what exactly did he mean by saying Albini had "ruined the PJ Harvey album, too"? Odd because the Albini mix seems better and more in line with Kurt's artistic intentions. I can't see the same problems with sequencing and recording on In Utero, as perhaps with Rid of Me. I guess we'll never know.
    And Lennon was a very opinionated guy, too. I can see some possible parallels there. Both were highly damaged people clinging onto a strong woman for their salvation. Both were also very defensive/protective of them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  18. WonkyWilly

    WonkyWilly Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paradise, PA
    No they're not. Just mastered differently.
     
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  19. ianuaditis

    ianuaditis Evil Twin

    Location:
    Long River Place
    That's pretty much boilerplate stuff though, I'd think that'd be pretty common for any record company with any group that had a smash first album.

    IMO In Utero as originally released is a better album than Nevermind.
     
  20. swedgin

    swedgin Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ireland
    Noticeable how? What are you comparing them to? As has been pointed out
    The original mix is the Albini Mix except for HSB and AA. The Deluxe edition has Albini's original mixes of those 2 tracks as bonus tracks And a new 2013 Albini remix of the whole album.
     
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  21. swedgin

    swedgin Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ireland
    First time ever heard this, PJ Harvey is on record as praising Albini's production of the album, especially the drum sound. A copy of the album was sent to Nirvana during the hiring of Albini for In Utero.
     
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  22. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    For record collectors: this record edition has the 320 code (indicating a German edition) in both sides matrix numbers. And the spine has the catalog number 424 536-1
     
    funknik likes this.
  23. keithdylan

    keithdylan Master of His Own Domain

    Top 10 dumb luck purchase in my collecting was getting the German 320 when they originally made them, and not having to search for one as I learned about it later.
     
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  24. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    Dumb is lacking the cello part (which makes it better, imo), and Very Ape just sounds very different, like the distinctive guitar drone is lower in the mix. I also think there's a different guitar solo on Serve the Servants, but I may be thinking of Heart Shaped Box, which also has a different guitar solo.
    I could be wrong about the Cobain quote, I went looking for it but couldn't find it on the internet. I do have a specific memory of it, for what that's worth. Take it with a grain of salt.
    As I noted, PJ Harvey did release an album of demos of the songs on the album. If I remember correct, some of the talk was that Albini had ruined the songs with his particular touch, but perhaps that was just marketing for the 4-track Demos album The album definitely stands for what it is, though. I personally think the harsh production works for about the first 4 songs, but becomes too much of a sonic onslaught to last through the entire album.
     
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  25. PlushFieldHarpy

    PlushFieldHarpy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    Does that explain the lack of the cello on "Dumb"? I'm no mastering expert, so I don't know.
     

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