Yesterday I was listening to a couple songs from the M83 album “Before The Dawn Heals Us” on my iPod, and I noticed a lot of annoying click/pop noises over the music. I own a promotional CD copy of the album that I got back in my music writer days, and that’s what I had ripped the songs from. So I grabbed the CD and put it into my MacBook to see if I heard the same clicks and pops when listening to the CD, and sure enough I did. Then I spotted the “Copy Control technology” notice on the back of the CD case. It occurred to me that maybe the clicks and pops were there because my computer was having a hard time with the Copy Control technology. I turned to the Internet and found a couple mp3s of songs from the album, and lo and behold they had the same clicks and pops, so I knew I didn’t just have a bad copy of the album. It seemed that the Copy Control technology might be the culprit here, but then I tried the CD on a “regular” CD player, and the clicks and pops were still there. Copy protection theoretically shouldn’t affect listening to CDs on a traditional CD player, so I started pondering other explanations than just “it’s the copy protection’s fault”. Ultimately I was able to find one place where the songs were free of clicks and pops: last.fm. (Last.fm streams the tracks from this album in full for free.) So I know that these annoying clicks and pops aren’t just something the artist intended.
So, what’s the explanation here? The weird thing is, the mp3s I found on the internet have the exact same clicks and pops as I do (that is, the clicks and pops are in the exact same places in the songs). So it seems that the clicks and pops aren’t just introduced by computers having a hard time dealing with the Copy Control technology, but rather that they’re part of the actual master audio. Were these clicks and pops added to the master audio for the promo CDs to make it just a little too annoying to listen to recreationally, but close enough for a reviewer to be able to do his or her job? Or was the promo run of CDs just a bad pressing? Or can copy protection introduce the exact same digital glitch noises across many copies of the same CD? (I don’t really understand how that stuff works.) If anyone has a non-promo copy of this CD, I’d love to hear it to find out whether this problem is specific to just the promo run. In any event, until I solve this mystery, “Before The Dawn Heals Us” is BANISHED from my iTunes library.