Saturday, 30 May 2015



For a number of years now the Japanese have been issuing high end audiophile releases in the SACD format. These have been judiciously chosen titles, taking the original analogue master tapes wherever possible and making flat transfers using the DSD process, rather than the usual PCM digital transfers. DSD is the natural process for SACD production. These discs, though expensive must be popular as this year has now seen whole catalogues rather than the odd title being issued in the format. For instance Roxy Musics studio albums were issued earlier this year. Now Van der Graaf Generators studio work gets the same treatment. Maybe on the face of it a strange choice as VdGG were never big sellers in their heyday apart from maybe Italy. But in terms of how their work sits within the classic progressive rock canon of the 70's they are an important band. They never made a bad album when signed to Charisma. Peter Hammill's songwriting was bold, epic and singularly impressive as was the band surrounding him. Obviously the Japanese appreciate originality and quality songwriting and musicianship.

Hammill himself remastered the catalogue back in 2005. For many it wasn't a total success. Overly compressed and EQ veering towards the bass too much, it was in yer face stuff. These new discs represent a much more natural and balanced sound, with the dynamic range much more well judged. The results are increased clarity and detail. As I have said before about these SACD discs, I feel they offer a rare glimpse into how the actual master tapes sound. This is the nearest us mere mortals will ever get to hearing these original recordings as they exist on the finished masters. I know DVD-A and blu-ray can offer PCM up to 24 bits, 192kHz resolution, but there is something about SACD that sounds more natural, analogue even. They somehow "feel" so much better, even on my not-so high end system. These Japanese discs are pricey, but when you hear the clarity they offer, for me it is a more exciting listening experience compared to CD, vinyl or even high resolution stereo on DVD or blu-ray. That together with the Japanese detail for packaging do make these issues a very worthwhile investment.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Brian Eno - My Squelchy Life

Here is my first piece of new vinyl for many a year (apart from what are included in deluxe box sets, but that doesn't count)!

Brian Eno's My Squelchy Life has been the holy grail of Eno devotees ever since he withdrew it because of Warners delaying tactics. He replaced it with Nerve Net. Some tracks did appear on the Vocal box set, but it eventually saw the light of day as part of the recent Nerve Net 2 CD reissue. Bad move! Nerve Net is a great album and deserved a 2 CD reissue. But the second disc should have been made up of b-sides and remixes making it a complete edition, not with My Squelchy Life tacked on as a poor relation. It annoyed me that there was no track credit information produced in the notes, basically nothing was added apart from track listing. It really should have been given a release on its own. So, for this special Record Store Day vinyl release we have the album, plus bonus track presented in a 2 disc gatefold edition. It's a beauty too. All the credit info is reproduced on the inner sleeves. The bonus track is a nice slice of typical Eno funk and I wonder why it was left off the CD edition? So for the present this vinyl edition is the best way to own My Squelchy Life. Maybe there will be a proper, separate CD edition somewhere down the line!


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Snarky Puppy - Sylva


Music never ceases to amaze or surprise me! When you think you have heard most things, something comes out of the blue to simply take your breath away. A few months ago I had never heard the name Snarky Puppy, nevermind heard any of the bands music or who was actually in the band. But a few comments on the progressivears forum prompted me to do a bit of digging around. I found out there was a new album coming out called Sylva so I took the plunge, as I have done on many an occasion. Music is about risks and jumping in head first, hoping that you will come up with a gem. And my goodness is this a gem. This band is absolutely fantastic. On this disc there are 12 core band musicians plus the orchestra. They mix classical, jazz, rock, big band and techno to make a joyous, heady brew. They seem to be lead by bassist Michael League who writes most of the material. The music and the soloing throughout is incredible! Take the 15 minute piece The Curtain. A wonderfully elegiac orchestral opening leads to a beautiful flugelhorn solo, a tense distorted bass solo, a moog solo, the like of which would make Keith Emerson blush and then on to a touchingly soulful piano solo. The whole album is like this. Flawless, joyous and beautifully played compositions which cross genres with ease and aplomb. I am now searching their back catalogue with relish. That's what truly great music does!