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Classic Radiophonic bleeps and hums
on 6 February 2012
The Radiophonic Workshop was always an essential ingredient in the initial brilliance of Doctor Who. Whether or not you're a dedicated Whovian, these are still really interesting pieces of sonic otherworldliness. A straight re-release of a 1978 LP, these are predominantly 1970s sound effects, and although sound of the incidental music at that time was just beginning to veer into novelty synthesizer cringeyness, the sound effects remained raw, experimental and really interesting.
The effects are all in their original mono, but they've been cleaned up as necessary to sound absolutely perfect and practically brand new. As it's a faithful re-issue of an LP, you only get just over half an hour's worth of sound.
Side one (the first 8 tracks) is predominantly background atmospheres ('atmos')- most are actually quite sedate and some even end up feeling like ambient meditation noises, but some, like "the Dalek control room" (the sound effect that continued to be used so brilliantly in the series from 2005 onwards), are familiarly sinister and tension-inducing. By weeding a couple of the more dangerous-sounding atmospheres out, I've got myself a playlist to help get our baby daughter to go to sleep- that's a bonus!
Side two (the other 22 tracks) is a little more atmos but also a range of spot effects- some alarms sounding, the sonic screwdriver (less squeaky than you may remember it), a few squeaks from the TARDIS, and a range of alien weapons being fired- not least the Dalek gun. These are more of a curiosity than a proper sit-down listening experience but they're still a joy. Some of the noises may sound cliché now (not all of them), but that's generally because the Radiophonic Workshop did them first, and everybody else copied it!
If you want to use Doctor Who noises for (for example) your ringtone or your alarm sound or your home movie (well who knows) then this is NOT the complete set of sound effects you'll be after. However, if you've downloaded the Doctor Who Adventure Games from the web site and you're willing to poke around a little with converting OGG files, then you'll find that between this excellent disc and the files already hidden on your PC, then you'll have a very thorough and generally outstanding Who sound effect library.
The inclusion of CD Text (so if your CD player is compatible, it will display the name of the track as it's being played, without having to look it up on the internet) is a small plus but a real sign that a bit of care has been taken on this release.
If you're a Who fan, or even just a fan of electronic sonic wizardry and ambience, then this is an essential and bargain addition to your collection.