Please find other with this

Minggu, 21 Februari 2016

Music Matters, Steve & Claus and why deadwax doesn't lie.

A kind reader flipped me a couple of links this week that I found somewhat disturbing.

This is a link to a "fansite" set up by a minion named Claus, who seems to have some strange kind of hero worship thing going on. It is a  listing of all the Music Matters titles Hoffman claims to have mastered.

It lists 77 titles as having been mastered by The Mullet.

Completely false. Hoffman mastered 38 officially, and I have counted it myself. I have them. Easy to tell from the deadwax.

Since this has come to light, Hoffman has taken down the discography on his own website that made similar claims.

But the deadwax doesn't lie. The deadwax has Hoffman's initials in 38 titles. No more. Everything else has the 'KG' initials in the deadwax,and that's who mastered them - Kevin Gray.

Why does Hoffman make false claims? Who knows. Pathological, most likely. Or - more simple. Music Matters is the hottest reissue series going, and has been for some years. It single handedly raised the bar on reissues, not only in sound, but in presentation as well, forcing others - most notable Chad Kassem's Analogue Producions - to up their game, stop ripping off customers, and meet the new standard. No more lame double LP's in single covers so cheaply made the glue falls apart before they even get unwrapped. No more wussy Hoffman sound. No more dubious sources. It happened because of Music Matters.

So that is why Hoffman wants to claim he did more than double the number he really did. He wants to take credit for the best reissue series of the vinyl revival. The guy doesn't exactly get a lot of work, after all.

Some of those titles claimed to have been mastered by Hoffman not only never were released, they were never even mastered. That's how comical these guys are.

Looking at the Hoffman board, my earlier post previewing the 2015 Music Matters releases caused a few guys some angst, as it clearly attributes the mastering to Gray, some angrily stating that the only reason they ever bought MM was because of Hoffman. These guys aren't bright enough to realize that Hoffman hasn't done a MM titles for years. Dumber than that - they take 'buy by the label' to an extreme, valuing their hero fixation on a minor mastering consultant over the music and the sound. Amazing.

I sometimes get emails from Hoffman acolytes attacking me for the scorn I heap on their guru. Fact is, it is stuff like this - taking credit for other people's work - that makes me want to keep on exposing this insufferable egotist.

Fact is - Hoffman mastered 38 Music Matters titles. They got better after he was dumped, and they even went back and redid some of those 38 and made 'em even better.

Linn Records - Sibelius Symphonies 2 & 7 - Sondergard

I hesitated for some time to purchase this new recording of the Sibelius second and seventh symphonies on Linn Records from Thomas Sondergard and the BBC Wales Orchestra because it got panned in a Gramophone magazine review - badly trashed, in fact, the review opening with the word "disappointing".

There was a time when a classical recording literally lived or died on a Gramophone review. But my take on this new Sibelius is almost exactly the opposite of that review, and may be symptomatic of just how far the influence of Gramophone - and the quality of some reviews, from the current crop of 'reviewers', has fallen. It is quite true that a recording, and interpretation, can have widely differing impacts on people, accounting for a wide range of differences in reviews. However, there are also cases - more so today, and much more so in online reviews - where a review is just plain dead wrong, and cannot be excused by simply saying 'different people will hear it differently'. There ARE some absolutes, and this is a good case of that.

The Gramophone review claims muddy sound, particularly the timpani in the 7th, and recessed, reverberant sonics overall. The reviewer must have been listening through a 1930's horn gramophone while situated in a closet. That is simply not true, the acoustic is far from distant, it is quite clear and upfront, with amazing inner detail and nuance.The 24/192 sound is exemplary; demonstration quality in every respect. The dynamics on display here remind me that, in the analog era, conductors were quite conscious when recording of the limitations of the vinyl record in reproducing dynamics - true ppp would be obscured by surface noise, true fff caused the needle to jump out of the groove. To some extent this carried into the CD era. Now we are hearing recordings that have no such limitations.

I am no longer looking for "definitive" performances. For the most part, those have already been done long ago and are easily obtained. I am looking for interesting performances that offer an interesting point of view.  That is what I find here.

The performance of the 2nd is sublime. There are dozens of moments of subtle nuance, and the score unfolds organically, hanging together beautifully. If the climax at the finale - every work really has only one true climax - is the defining moment, Sondergard takes it wonderfully, bringing the work to what must be a transcendent exposition. Karajan is a reference point here, and Sondergard has much the same approach. Pacing overall is very similar to Karajan on both his Philharmonia and Berlin recordings, yet Sondergard has more of a feel of the Nordic wind at his back. Reminds me in many ways of the old Kamu on DG.

Comparing to modern reference points - Songergard is vastly superior to the recent Storgards on Chandos, superior in every way to Vanska on Bis, which while well played, conveys a certain 'ordinariness' about it,  is in every way more idiomatic and better recorded than Jansons RCO reading, has also a big advantage in recording over Colin Davis on LSO Live and is also a better performance as Davis takes a broader view and has much less inner detail, and reaching a bit further back to Neeme Jarvi on DG - who takes a far too fast pace and seems rather blunt about it, again comes out more satisfying.

Going further back to the analog era - Karajan may well be king here, but Sondergard is much better recorded and doesn't suffer much in comparison. The Kamu on DG is hard to beat and essential. On Living Stereo there is the Monteux which is quite magisterial, but more Tchaikovsky than Sibelius. Szell was never really inside this work, Barbirolli is to me a reference point that Sondergard still holds up well in comparison to. From the digital era - Ashkenazy on Decca really doesn't get Sibeius other than the 3rd, Oramo on Erato is a fine reading but misses the subtelty of Songergard, Bernstein is a mess on DG as is Levine, and so on.

With regards to the 7th, here I was less convinced by Sondergard, feeling that Barbirolli is the real gold standard, as is Karajan. The performance seems a bit more episodic, less organic, unfolding less naturally. But still, it has a lot going for it. An excellent recording, a great deal of air and space which serves the piece well, and much detail to enjoy. It may not be a first choice, but is a very valid alternative.

So again - don't be dissuaded by one shitty Gramophone review. It is in my opinion completely wrong. I think this recording is outstanding performance-wise and a reference recording. I hope Linn will continue the series and I look forward to the next installment.

Kamis, 18 Februari 2016

Emerson Lake & Palmer - Trilogy, new 2015 remix in hi-res 24/96

Just got the new remix of Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Trilogy", which is one of my favorite albums of all time, and what I consider to me ELP's best work.

I have just been dying to hear the new remix by Jakko Jaksysk. Contrary to the usual complainers, I thought he did a fabulous job of remixing Brain Salad Surgery last year.

First up - the remix of Trilogy is fantastic. The purpose of a remix in my opinion is to clarify and update sonically, to perhaps do what could not be done first time around, to bring new life and to allow the listener to revisit a work with new perspective. Jakko nailed that.

The first thing I hear, aside from a tremendous increase in clarity, it how much texture is revealed. Going back to the original mix at 24/96, it sounds louder, muddier for lack of a less used word, almost smashed together - the new mix has layers upon layers, and reveals the shifts between keyboards and the layering of keys with both tremendous clarity and a beautiful, shifting sense of texture and color. This is the greatest improvement.

There are many moments where beautiful subtle details emerge. Very often they are previously buried keyboard figures, in other places percussion details ring out. Palmer's kick drum has much more impact, Lake's bass lines are tighter and more powerful - as is his guitar, frequently 'fuzzed'. On 'In The Beginning', there is a faint pre-echo of the vocal in the left channel that emerges with great clarity that I never really was able to pick out with such effect before.

On key tracks like "The Endless Enigma', the piano section has dramatic dynamics, and sounds like a true concert grand. The electric keyboards enter forcefully, a dramatic yet seamless shift that comes across with great impact. The keyboard articulation is remarkable. The original mix - and the new 24/96 remaster I find far from a good one - just doesn't have the transient speed, particularly on Emerson. Jakko's mix has those keyboard parts flowing with great speed while also having a tremendous percussive quality, that feel of fingers hitting the keys. The Hammond in particular feels like it is almost burning, and not to spoil it, but there is a one note keyboard beat in the final section that I never really heard before.

I figured I would get this up before thhe internet complaints forums start picking it apart. It isn't the original mix cleaned up. It is a new mix, and it does exactly what a new mix should do - bring new life, making the familiar sound new again. fantastic job by Jakko.

A lot of the usual complainers assassinated Jakko for his mix of Brain Salad Surgery which was not only unfair but dead wrong. He made choices to make the familiar fresh. It sounds fantastic. A good part of that criticism I suspect is because Jakko is not Steven Wilson, who is the new internet darling - all those folks who typically bought in to the idea that old masters should never be tampered with via a remix suddenly became converts because of Wilson, and that is fair enough. But the limited thinking often displayed doesn't seem to extend beyond Wilson, to appreciate that there are others out there just as good - any maybe better for some projects. Wilson brings a fair bit of Porcupine Tree into his remixes, while Jakko brings a fair bit of late era King Crimson into his. Wilson screwed up Tarkus badly and thankfully isn't doing more ELP, Jakko seems to get the music much more deeply and is the right guy for this. Trilogy proves it. Fantastic job, I hope Jakko not only gets to "Works" next, but gets a crack at redoing Tarkus and - if the multitracks can be located - doing the first ELP album right.

ANEKDOTEN - Until All The Ghosts Are Gone 24/96 hi-res new release!

It is a great year so far for progressive rock.

Last summer saw a new record from Opeth, this year Steven Wilson - in both cases, simply masterpiece level work.

Now - Anekdoten.

Unfortunately, aside from the odd pocket of prog-dom this excellent Swedish band are not well know in North America.

Unfortunate, and hopefully new record Until All The Ghosts Are Gone will change that. This is an amazing record.

I have the hi-res 24/96 files, and they are superb sounding. There is little to no compression added, there are wonderful dynamics. That alone justifies going the hi-res route over CD. The tonality is very much realistic and must surely be the closest to how the band sounded in the studio.

So in terms of sound - a winner, in hi-res. This is as it should be - the hi-res should be the ultimate in sound.

Anekdoten very much have their own sound, although the lineage comes through unmistakably - Poseidon era King Crimson, bands from the U.K. scene such as Cressida, and the Swedish scene such as Young Flowers even - yet a very much modern prog band of the moment, taking those influences forward - heavier elements, as well as some wonderfully pastoral ones. The connection to Porcupine Tree, Opeth and King Crimson is reinforced by the presence of members of those bands in guest spots.

This may well be the best work Anekdoten have done so far. Their last was a good record, but this surpasses that - maybe even Gravity, which has until now been my favorite. The record is sequenced just perfectly, it flows together organically and the 6 songs flow into each other seamlessly, suspending time, and grabbing the listener. An immersive and magnetic experience.

The mellotron is a strong voice, but the lead guitar is superb, the playing is fantastic - searing, electric - the bass playing reminds me as lot of John Paul Jones (strangely), and their is powerful drumming of great accomplishment. The band seems more organic and unified as a voice than ever before. There is not a weak track here, in fact, strong as each individual track is, the whole comes together as greater than the parts - a rare album that does that.

I can't recommend this highly enough. Until All The Ghosts Are Gone is a wonderful record and in hi-res sounds glorious. This will surely be one of the best records of 2015 in any genre.