Recent LP acquisitions – stopgap edition

Deepchord Remastered artOn deck (all 2013 releases unless otherwise specified):

Biosphere N-Plants (Biophon/Touch, EU) (2011)

Deepchord DC07|DC08|DC09 Remastered (Echospace) (reissue)

Dylan Golden Aycock Rise & Shine (Scissor Tail)

Lee Hazlewood Trouble Is A Lonesome Town (Light In the Attic) (reissue)

Bruce Langhorne The Hired Hand score (Scissor Tail) (reissue)

Roy Montgomery Hey Badfinger (Yellowelectric)

Mountains Centralia (Thrill Jockey)

Roedeluis Selected Pieces 1990 to 2011 (Bureau B, Germany)

Michael Rother Esperanza (Random Records, Germany) (1996)

Valgeir Sigurðsson ‎ Architecture Of Loss (Bedroom Community, Iceland) (2012)
Valgeir Sigurðsson Ekvílibríum (Bedroom Community, Iceland) (2007)

Snow Palms Intervals (Village Green)

William Tyler Impossible Truth (Merge)

Brock Van Wey White Clouds Drift On and On (Echospace)

Recent LP acquisitions: part III

Cole/Roedelius album artLloyd Cole & Hans-Joachim Roedelius Selected Studies Vol 1 LP (Bureau B, Germany)

The noble Bureau B label has undertaken the long-overdue (and admirable) job of re-releasing the Sky Records catalog on high-quality LPs. Sky issued some of the best German electronic music of the late 70s/early 80s, but the vinyl nearly always crackled and popped, and wore poorly under repeated plays. Bureau B has cleaned up the recordings and pressed them on better vinyl.

Bureau B isn’t limiting itself to reissues. One of its newest recordings is an instrumental collaboration between British singer-songwriter Lloyd Cole and Cluster keyboardist Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Selected Studies Vol 1.

This potentially odd couple work well together. Parts of the album sound as though this could be Roedelius solo. I’m not sure if that’s a feature or a bug for folks looking for more, but I’m a fanboy for Hans-Joachim’s Germanic and winsome keyboard stylings.

There’s no shining new sound that’s greater than the sum of the collaborative parts, or anything. And this is no Lustwandel or Jardin Au Fou. Most of the selections could pass for Roedelius’ basic approach to instrumental electronic background music. A couple songs have a darker, more atmospheric (and sometimes menacing) feel, sounding a bit like less-freeform concepts from recent Cluster live shows. My favorite track concludes side 1 of the LP:  “Still Life With Kannyu” has some impressionistic, echoey piano work overlain with floating synth pads and slowly phased drones. My kind of music.

Packaging plus: the LP includes a CD of the same music.

Packaging minus: the album cover artwork looks pretty generic– a simplistic graphic consisting of wavy gradations of blue.

To sell or not to sell?

This one could grow on me. I think some late-night listening on headphones could win me over. Keeper.

I didn’t look too hard but it doesn’t appear this album is available for digital download sale other than iTunes’ 256kbps AACs.

Buy the LP+CD or CD from Bureau B

Buy the LP+CD or CD from Forced Exposure

Buy the LP+CD or CD from Boomkat

Lucre

Doty residence pool, Na Aina Kai preserve, Kilauea, Kaua'i. Photo by ME. After 7 days decompressing at Kaua’i’s Moloa’a Bay, I’ve resumed what nearly resembles normal life. Tanned (OK, mildly sunburnt), somewhat rested, semi-ready…albeit with an bad head cold caught on the plane home.

While sneezing, blowing my nose, totaling up receipts from the trip, wincing, and chiseling away at my my checkbook balance, my imagination somehow drifted to the California Lottery and the material delights it might afford my girlfriend and I. I mean, with a long-desired, tropical-inspired heated pool in the backyard, would we even have to plan trips to Hawaii?

And with a tube preamplifier like the Zesto Leto, would I even bother whining about substandard remastering jobs on LP reissues?* Wouldn’t that $7500 bit of hardware take some of the sting out of a sibilant and lamely uninspiring piece of vinyl?** Wouldn’t those LPs sound BETTER?***

The Leto, you ask? Yes. The Leto.

* Yes.

**Probably.

***I like to think so.

Latest LP acquistions: part II

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 2xLP reissue artworkDavid Byrne/Brian Eno My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 2xLP (Nonesuch US)

Color me late to the party on this 2009 reissue.

The remastering isn’t an improvement. Overly bright in the mid-highs, meaning the already-tinny found vocals sound unpleasantly harsh, and the scratchy guitar chordings and electronic rhythms are especially metallic and jarring. Even at moderate volume, listening fatigue sets in long before side one is over. Conversely, the bass and mid-bass sound as if they’ve been kneecapped. Exasperated, I jump up, flip the first disc over, and engage the “bass EQ” switch (sacrilege!) on my old Adcom preamp and mitigate the wimpiness to an acceptable degree. The latter portion of the original album is a lot quieter and moodier than the first four or five songs, lacking a lot of the chattery rhythm machine programming. The album sounded MUCH better during this segment of listening.

The real reason I shelled out for this LP is the second disc of outtakes and basic tracks. These don’t disappoint. “Defiant” is an alternate version of “The Jezebel Spirit” with a different found vocal; it’s my favorite of all the bonus tracks. Side two of the second disc has two batches of three basic tracks: vocal, drum and “ambient” bits from “Help Me Somebody” and “A Secret Life.” The “ambient” track to “Help Me Somebody” gives a glimpse into the construction of the original– none of the thudding percussion or lo-fi found vocals, just a Busta Jones bass groove with ratchety guitars and atmospherics.

As for surface noise, the pressing’s not pristine, but the more subdued parts of the album play atop a mostly quiet background, with not too many pops and clicks. The discs aren’t classical-quality– whatever that is nowadays, by even Nonesuch standards, but they’re adequate (I was jolted by a bad skip at the end of “Pitch to Voltage” the first track on the second disc, as soon as I wrote that, of course).

Packaging: primo. Heavy stock tip-on gatefold sleeve, poly-lined innersleeves, extensive liner notes by Byrne/Eno (though, from the tone, I suspect they’re mostly Byrne), with an inner gatefold essay by David Toop. Points off the latter for his timeline– namechecking John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich, Gavin Bryars, Jon Hassell, yes, yes, the goatee-strokers nod sagely….yet specifically not mentioning 1969’s Holger Czukay / Rolf Dammers album “Canaxis”, or Czukay’s masterpiece Movies (1979) as forerunners to Bush Of Ghosts’ found-vocal pan-ethnic pastiches. This is an omission that Byrne had the good grace not to make in his notes, but still.

To sell or not to sell?

I’ll hang on to this one. If I were more of a collector-scum crank (me?), I’d return it to SoundStageDirect.com for the bad skip on side three, but I’m not gonna, so maybe there’s still hope for me, who’s to say.

(As a side note – I ordered this LP and Marvin Gaye’s “What Goes On” (Mobile Fidelity) on sale from SSD and got free shipping via media mail. But It took them 6 days to process the order – not impressive. Their packing method and materials are the best, however. So I’ll not complain anymore than I already have. Plenty of time for that later).

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 2xLP from SoundStageDirect

Latest LP acquistions: part I

A week away from the office. Four cardboard mailers and a dozen or so LPs scattered across the desk…such a pleasant welcome-back.

No choice but to just dive in.

F.S.Blumm & Nils Frahm LP artworkF.S Blumm and Nils Frahm Music For Lovers Music Versus Time / Music For Wobbling Music Versus Gravity (Sonic Pieces Germany) 2xLP

On the first disc, Music For Lovers Music Versus Time, Nils noodles on the piano while Blumm drops in found sounds, a bit of trumpet, and acoustic guitar. When it works, it’s pleasantly disorienting. When it doesn’t, it’s still disorienting, but veers more towards the, um, challenging end of the listening spectrum. There are some glitchy moments, there are some musical moments, there are interludes that take you gently by the shoulders, lean forward, and stage-whisper “avant garde”  into your pink-shell ear. Sometimes it’s whimsical, sometimes a tad clinical or just downright difficult. Not so much difficult-for-the-sake-of-being-difficult difficult, but experimental -and-exploratory-difficult. You know the difference. Trust me.

The second LP, Music For Wobbling Music Versus Gravity, is a relatively straightforward affair: piano and guitar, for the most part, plus varied creakings, rustlings, blips, chirps, twangs, tape manipulation and whatnot from Blumm. There are some beautifully arpeggiated segments that have a shimmering, dreamlike vibe and there’s some Frahm-esque music-box loveliness (I could happily listen to one or two LPs worth of that shimmering/music-box-loveliness stuff. Hear me, Blumm/Frahm?). There are more melancholy pieces where the graceful use of pauses and silence reminds me of Steve Tibbetts…if he was collaborating with Oval. Or Ron Geesin.

The LP package is an exercise in tactile low-key excess. The grey textured stock comes across as flimsy as it is sober, but the die-cut square wraparound inset of blue cloth (with yellow printing) gives the LP a sturdy, bright, crafty feel. When I run my fingers across it, it occurs to me that the jacket’s differing textures and overall presentation sorta mirror the music within. Or maybe that’s just the vodka talking.

The LP is numbered (well, the download card is, anyway) of 350 copies. The downloads are nifty 320kbps MP3s hosted by A Number Of Small Things.

I will be keeping this LP. If you like your music a varied combo of fun, studied, minimal, acoustic, arty, melodic, gently noisy and thoughtful, you just might feel compelled to keep it, too.

I’m embedding some song samples via Boomkat below. You can buy the LP or FLAC/MP3s from them, or A Number Of Small Things. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a U.S. mailorder distributor for this release.


Read full review of Music For Lovers : Music Versus Time / Music For Wobbling : Music Versus Gravity – F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm on Boomkat.com ©

I’m back from vacation. I will post more, I promise.

My sunburn itches. But I’ll get it together soon, I promise. In the meantime, permit me to tread water by reminding you that I can be stalked on Twitter and Facebook. And for those who insist on getting their RSS on, I encourage you to go RSS yourself.

“Why don’t you guys just listen to the music?”

This is the first DSD shootout I’ve seen chronicled online, with units ranging from $850 to $13,000.

Link Dump

Album art for Nick Drake tribute As I gear up for my first real vacation in longer than I’d care (or are barely able) to remember, posts are going to slow down for a bit.

Here’s some recent links of interest:

This repost in Analog Planet looked like it could’ve been written yesterday– until I got to the part about buying LPs at Tower Records.

A site devoted to the late artist (and Brian Eno collaborator) Peter Schmidt.

“Nick Drake’s Mom Recorded An Album Back in the ’50s, And Here It Is”

and

Joe Boyd is putting together a tribute to Nick Drake. The version of “Which Will” by Vashti Bunyan is guaranteed to be worth the price of admission.

DSD

DSD logoI’m gonna start this with some blustery, self-involved credentials. Okay? Good. I’ve been buying, downloading and playing high-resolution digital music files since about 2009, when I bought a PS Audio PerfectWave DAC. Earlier this year I decided there was no turning back, and began ripping LPs to 24/96 via “needle drops” on an old M-Audio Firewire 410. I hardly ever listen to MP3s or AACs at home, and have taken to listening to 24/96 FLACs on my iPad via FLAC Player while on BART. I barely play CDs anymore, either – it’s pretty much all high-resolution digital or vinyl.

Yet, somehow, I’m always wanting more. It’s a kind of sickness. I doubt DSD is the cure, but it might be a quick fix – “fix” as in a short-term solution to addiction.

The advent of the DSD format is becoming 2013’s big digital music development. Neil Young’s Pono might be fighting for attention as well (who knows, Pono might be DSD?), and I’m willing to split my allegiances, depending on how (and when) the latter is implemented. Other than a glimpse of the Pono hardware unit on David Letterman, and some repeated, rambling references in Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace autobio, though, Pono might just as well be considered vaporware at this point.

So let’s talk DSD.

I haven’t heard it. Nearly everyone who has, though, and has written about it, has raved about the quality. One of my favorite local hi-fi stores, Music Lovers, hosted an extensive demo of the format this past weekend. I spend so much time commuting to San Francisco during the week that it’s hard to get me across the Bay during the weekends, so I decided against attending. Now I’m kind of regretting it.

At the Music Lovers event the hardware and associated system were crazy expensive, of course, and the listeners (I assume) about as discriminating and high-falutin’ as they come in audiophile circles. The folks running the demos at stores and hardware conventions seem to have all sorts of mysterious, high-level access to native DSD files sourced from original masters. How? Dunno, but the consensus seems to be that this is the format that stereo snobs have been waiting for.

There aren’t many sensibly-priced DACs that can process DSD at this point. And there’s not a whole lot of music available on the format. Ripping to DSD isn’t anywhere near as easy as just converting a CD to FLAC or AIF or WAV, either.

But, given the increasing choices in hardware and music, as well as some improved marketing muscle, will DSD finally pry iPhone/iPod users from their MP3s and crappy earbuds? Not anytime soon. But DSD could very well give jaded sound-quality buffs and audiophilia nervosa cases– finally– a good reason to buy all their favorite music over again.

 

Kevin Ayers 1944-2013

Kevin AyersKevin Ayers passed away in his sleep on February 18th. He was 68 years old.

MOJO has posted a sincerely touching and thoughtful remembrance.

My closest encounter with Kevin was in 1993 at a solo acoustic show at the much-missed Club Komotion in San Francisco. There was a seemingly bottomless glass of (I think) sherry on the stool next to him, and as night progressed he became quite…relaxed. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to forgive him when he forgot the words to “Lady Rachel”.

The mood in the room– essentially a long, narrow, dusty, warehouse-storefront rehearsal space/studio with tattered couches and 2×4-and-plywood risers– was happy. You got the sense the audience knew this wasn’t the sort of thing that would happen again (or be forgotten!), and everyone appreciated that.