Decades ago, visitors to the local state fair could pay 35¢, step into a booth, record themselves singing or talking, and receive a playable acetate record with their voice on it. The technology was fundamentally similar to that used in recording most music from the 1920s, with the results distinctly lo-fi -- a connecting thread through the era's blues, folk, jazz and opera recordings.
Earlier this year, San Francisco's own Goodnight, Texas recorded in one of these same booths -- a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph, to be exact, restored by Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville. You might remember the eerie-sounding album Neil Young released a couple years ago, recorded in this booth; you can watch him recording a song in it below.
Goodnight, Texas' For My Mother's Wedding isn't an album, per se, but rather a collection of songs released via pay-what-you-want download, themed around frontman Avi Vincour's mother's wedding. As recorded in the 1947 Voice-o-Graph, the music sounds wonderfully jarring. The booth's acetates aren't perfect, by any means; in these Goodnight, Texas songs, the pitch fluctuates, the sound drops out, and surface noise abounds. The sensation is akin to viewing a photo of a close friend done in tintype -- a current object replicated through a process inextricably linked with the past.
"Hearing them for the first time was pretty unbelievable," says Goodnight, Texas' Avi Vinocur. "It really sounded like it was recorded 80 years ago."