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10 Best Moments Salvaged From SXSW's Bloat

One of the beautiful themes among the exhibitors this year was a kind of steam punk, "back to the future" meme. This vinyl cutter could record anything you want directly to vinyl. I sincerely doubt very many people are going to want one in their home or request that their new CDs are vinylized. But it points up how vinyl -- pronounced dead in 1990s -- has been brought back to life as a niche market for audiophiles, answering a longing for higher-quality music ownership notably absent in digital music markets.

Elsewhere among the exhibitors, the Hammond organ company had a display of its latest digital keyboards recreating the classic sounds of its old tube-driven electronic organs and the accompanying Leslie rotating speakers. That combination defined what we think of as gospel and soul records for decades and has maintained significant cultural currency through decades of synth-pop, electronica and hip-hop sampling.

Another business, Bohemian Guitars, was displaying its boutique electric six-strings made almost entirely from recycled instruments, except with a body made out of lunch boxes and other colorful metal tins. I played one of these small, travel sized instruments -- with a Beatles lunch box body -- and found them surprisingly well-balanced, with satisfying action on the finger board and a solid, blues-tinged tone. The metal body acts like a resonator, giving the tone -- even unplugged -- a bit of character and heft.

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