Nirvana's In Utero "2013 Mix" Examined Song by Song

09/25/2013 10:59 AM |

“Very Ape”
My favorite aspect of the 2013 mix, so far, is how much meatier and fuller the rhythm guitars sound. There’s nothing too different about this song besides that they added the lead guitar’s feedback in the intro following the rhythm guitar. This new mix definitely sounds very, very ape.

“Milk It”

What I’ve noticed about the new mix overall is how they’ve made the songs feel more “live” rather than “produced;” by which I mean that Kurt’s vocals or guitars don’t get a huge volume boost over the other instruments. “Milk It” is a good example. While the drums are quieter, they’ve given more of a definite shape, and you hear the room more than Kurt’s cords in this song again. My favorite part about this one is that, in some ways that I can’t totally describe, I hear Grohl wailing away more than I do in the original release.

“Pennyroyal Tea”
Like “Frances Farmer,” if you listen closely to the original release, you can hear the tape whir-up—which 2013 has removed—and Kurt clear his throat. They got rid of that too. The acoustic guitar sounds much dryer, and Grohl’s toms and kick fill out their end of the sound spectrum a bit more prominently.

“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”
In the beginning, you’ll notice that the guitar noise stays on the right channel, and Kurt’s moaning on the left. The snare has less of a pop and more of a crack and bottom-end and, like the guitar, has more body to it. Headphones recommended, but definitely at your own risk.

I’ve always really loved this song, mainly for the punchiness of Grohl’s kick. But I’ve never really liked how “trebly” it is; the 2013 mix fixes this right up. Grohl’s kick retains its pop, but, as is the trend on the new mix, is given more of a body. The guitars and the drums are about as loud as Kurt’s vocals, too, which better emphasizes what the boys were trying to thematize: a noise spasm.

“All Apologies”
This remix kills it. Overall, the new mix makes this song feel much more like a finale. The classic lead riff is given less prominence, which lets you hear the rhythm riff way more clearly. The introductory cello drone is given more of a place. It’s also a bit quieter, and remains more in the corners of the mix during the verse. On the 1993 mix, you’ll notice that the instruments hang out on the left and right channels and bleed into each other to meet in the middle, but the 2013 mix has them dead center. The ending isn’t much different, except that the refrain is a few seconds longer which, I think, adds that “finale” sense to the song.

I’m really into this 2013 mix. To be a bit hyperbolic, if the band had released this through Touch & Go in 1993, I would like to imagine that it would’ve sounded like the 2013 mix. In the Reddit AMA, Albini notes that there were tons of powers outside of Nirvana pushing and pulling the record in a lot of different directions, and this was what inevitably characterized the sound of the original mix. The 2013 mix sounds more straightforward, bare, and quietly more brutal.

8 Comment

  • Great article!
    I’d love to reader deeper into the interviews you’ve mentioned.

  • I gotta say, on the other 2 that are the original Albini mixes supposedly scrapped for being too punk, vocals too low, etc….sound about the same to me. Don’t see what the big deal was.

  • Hey Jeff, thanks for reading. There’s a lot of debate centered around those supposed “Albini mixes” before this 2013 mix; namely that they’re cassette bootlegs that have transcoded out into the universe for forever. NME ran a piece comparing the Litt/Albini mixes, and I gotta say that the levels on “All Apologies” are all over the place and definitely sound like transcodes.

  • Thanks for writing this. Really enjoyed your take on it. Reading it and listening to 2013 mix at the same time. Loving Albini’s fresh take on my favourite album of all time. You pointed out a few things I may have missed

  • That’s awesome. I found a hilarious and awkward interview of Steve Albini. Check it out:

  • Interestingly, I actually own the original 1993 Albini Mix on vinyl. It is available, though expensive (in most cases). You see, what happened was that back in 2007 a German pressing of the album accidentally swapped the “standard” mix with the original Albini. So they were sent out all over Europe and Canada. I ordered mine from Ontario cheap. The local record store owner did not know it was an Albini (they are not labeled, after all).
    Here’s a link to one on ebay:

    In Utero is my favorite album and, after having listened to all editions, I think the original 1993 Albini is the best. Followed by the 2013 mix.

  • This was a great article and you made some great points that I completely agree with.
    I’m a Nirvana completist and enthusiast, and your sentiment of the 2013 mix sounding “quietly more brutal” is right on point.
    My only problem with it is also something you mentioned… the fact that theres no cello on Dumb. Thats a major bummer.
    Other than that, I found the 2013 mix to be just as revelatory as the original was in 1993.

    Great article, man.
    Nice job.

  • Hi Ryan, Amazing article. Reading it has really opened my eyes to the differences in the mixes. I think that it is incredible that everything In Utero has gone through that Steve Albini actually mixed it again. I’ve noticed that it is mastered quite a lot louder as well. Is this something that you considered when you were writing the review. It seems like a lot of producers these day like the record to sound louder when playing and even willing to let us hear the edge of the record more than ever before. I’ve just started my own label and I am actually the studio producer and engineer for most of the work that is featured on my label. It would be great to chat with you.