pl | en

No. 105 February 2013

CONVERSATIONS XIII
Musical stock-taking 2012

The famous aphorism, believed to have been said by Frank Zappa, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, is very accurate, it would seem. Like any good aphorism. The author’s seriousness made it enter pop culture forever, becoming a sort of antidote for what critics say – not only about music. I don’t perceive such “epiphanies” as something final or unmoved, however. They are, in my opinion, picklocks intended to let some fresh air into a discussion. Their effectiveness allows for taking a deeper breath, but nothing besides that.
Zappa did highlight the untranslatability of certain categories – in this case, music and literature. It must be said, though, that this problem is apparent in many different kinds of arts and is more of a convention than the controversy Zappa would like it to be. After all, we do write about paintings, dancing, wines, films, photography, architecture and – yes, yes, – music. We, audiophiles, also write about sound. In the end, it’s not about being able to do it, but about how well one “translates” it into words. (cf. Michał Libera, Kultura dźwięku. Teksty o muzyce nowoczesnej, Warszawa 2011, see HERE).
If we said there’s a line dividing dance from writing, writing from painting and music, we could only remain silent about it all, because words are the basis of description and belong to a completely different division of the arts. And we do speak and write about music – and thank God for that! Otherwise, I believe music would go extinct. Its strength stems from the fact that it is described and criticized.

The critique of sound, or the way music is played back by different devices, is one of the least recognized and described categories. There are, of course, magazines that specialize in doing precisely that (see: Audiophile in the reading room or audio magazines), and some, like the British “Hi-Fi Magazine”, are well over 50 years old. They are still regarded as hobby magazines rather than specialist magazines. Despite that, we try to cross the barrier between text and sound in them. Even right now in this very place. A great majority of the contents of audio magazines are the descriptions of sound reproduction devices. They are supplemented by interviews, reportages and columns, all talking about the same thing – audio equipment. An equally important part of hi-fi magazines is information about music; some believe it is the most important part of all. Because, as they say, that’s what it’s all about – about the best and most accurate reproduction of MUSIC, in precisely that hierarchy.
And again, it’s difficult to argue with that. As with the aphorism we began with. If we decided to delve deeper into it, it would turn out that although music is the most important part of it, the category we’re dealing with, “audiophilism”, “audio”, “hi-fi” or however one may call it, deals with “sound”, not “music”. I’m not trying to say that music isn’t important – quite the contrary, I completely understand and respect the fact that Steven R. Rochlin named his magazine “Enjoy the Music.com” (see an interview with him HERE). On the other hand, what we do is represented equally well or even better in the title “The Absolute Sound”. That’s why I think the complicated relationship between sound and music in audio magazines is best described with the title “Hi-Fi News & Record Review”, a magazine created through the incorporation of “Record Review” and the more audio-centred “Hi-Fi News”.

Stock-taking 2012

This is why every good audio magazine has a section dedicated to music. The way it is written differs from magazine to magazine and ranges from musicological analyses to clear sound, meaning the way it was recorded, mastered, re-mastered, and released. In “High Fidelity” we try to keep some kind of balance between these two polar opposites. In hindsight, I can see, however, that we’re closer to the second option. Nevertheless, no matter how we write, the most important thing is that we DO write.
That was put slightly on hold in 2012. We fell victim to our own popularity and growth. Every month we receive dozens of review proposals from Polish and international distributors alike. More of the latter, in fact. Because our “processing power” is limited, we usually have to make a choice – product test vs. record review. A proper record review takes only slightly less time (if less at all) than describing the sound of an audio component. That’s why there has grown a nice pile of records that were supposed to be reviewed but were put away on a shelf and listened to only for pleasure or during auditions. They have never been “properly” reviewed, though, like the stuff you get in the HF section titled Music.
If I was seeing some light at the end of a tunnel telling me that this could change, I wouldn’t touch the subject and would just live on. However, it seems stuff won’t ever get better (in regard to the amount of time we’ve got). If I wanted to, I could plan out all reviews until December 2013 and I would still be leaving many things untouched. That’s why I wanted to offer you bit of a musical inventory of what I was planning to do in 2012 and what I never did. They won’t be full reviews, but just a few words about this and that and a grade of the sound quality. I still hope that even this shortened approach to the subject matter will be useful for the reader. If that will be the case – please tell me about it. I would also like to hear from those of you who think this kind of marginalisation is unacceptable.

PETER GABRIEL

So. 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Realworld 884108001400 PGBOX2


Although the 25th anniversary of the release of So, the album of ex-Genesis vocalist, was in 2011, it’s “anniversary” edition wasn’t released until 2012. As it turns out, the artist didn’t make it on time, busy with his regular projects, including the albums Scratch My Back from 2010 and New Blood, released a year later.
This “deluxe” edition is special. It is comprised of four CDs, two DVDs, two vinyl LPs and a 60-page book about the record’s creation. All of the above enclosed in a beautiful white box, of course.
On the CDs you’ll find a new re-mastering of So, the first drafts and demos of these tracks (DNA), and a 1987 concert in Athens on the third and fourth discs. The DVDs show the very same concert and a documentary about the behind-the-scenes creation process of So. The vinyl contains a new, digital re-master of the record (24/96 digital master tape), and the other one a 45 rpm alternative version of Don’t Give Up and two extra tracks - Courage and Sagrada. Also included is a download code to download the album in high resolution (24/48) with the extra tracks from the second vinyl.
The release is very beautiful and the sound is really good, with no brightening and with a higher selectivity and resolution. Tonal balance has also improved. The original seems much more chaotic-sounding. It’s a pity, of course, that the vinyls are pressed from digital masters but the re-mastering was done in that domain.
So what’s missing? DVDs are things of the past and we should get Blu-rays instead, like in the new Led Zeppelin Celebration Day release. I would also prefer to receive a classy, exclusive USB stick with music, like the special edition of New Blood. I would also like to listen to DNA and Live in Athens 1987 in high-res. And receive some sort of lithography. Other than that – it’s all great stuff.

GRADE
Sound quality: CD - 7/10 | LP - 7-8/10 | 24/48 - 8/10

BILL EVANS

Bill Evans Live At Art D'Lugoff's Top Of The Gate
Resonance Records, HLP-9012
"Limited Edition - Promo 104"


It all began with me buying a 10” vinyl record with the same title. This limited edition (1,500 copies), released on a blue vinyl, turned out to be a selection heralding the whole record, chosen “Record of the month” by “Stereophile” in July 2012 (see HERE). The history of these recordings is incredible. It was released by a tiny company Resonance Records, managed by George Klabin, the sound producer. And it was him, aged 22, who registered this material on the 23rd of October 1968 on a stereo tape recorder without any prior soundcheck or preparations.
The result is marvellous. It’s beautiful, really well recorded music. The sound is very close and you can tell the microphones were set up close to the instruments. The dynamics is very high, and the resolution is surprising. The box is aesthetically pleasing, the LPs are well pressed and traveling noise is very low. However, I think that along with the vinyl we should receive free access to the high-res material, or even a USB stick with it. The material was released in a few different editions. I received the vinyl version, comprising of three 45 rpm records. A 2 x LP + 2 CD version is also available, as well as a high-resolution 24/44.1 version you can find in the online store HDTracks.

GRADE
Sound quality: 9-10/10

DIARY OF DREAMS

The Anatomy of Silence
Accession Records, A 132


The Anatomy of Silence that premiered on October 19th, 2012, is this German band’s 11th album. Labelled “dark wave”, closely related to gothic music, the band decided to release a very different album. Adrian Hates, the DoD frontman, founder and the owner of Accession Records, decided to re-record some of his most important tracks, this time in “unplugged” versions. The Anatomy of Silence therefore contains nothing but drums, grand piano, acoustic guitars, cello and double bass. And it works. Although I’m a fan of their One Of 18 Angels period of time, I remained faithful to the band until this very day. The new record doesn’t change much, although it allows one to notice the potential lying in these tracks. It’s a nice bonus, especially since it’s really well recorded – and it’s something that Hates usually has trouble with.

Previously reviewed:
Ego:X, see HERE
(if), see HERE

GRADE
Sound quality: 7/10

HEY

Do Rycerzy, do Szlachty, doo Mieszczan
Supersam Music, SM 02


The first record released by Supersam Music was Nosowska’s solo album 8 from 2011. The beautiful, wonderfully recorded CD really showed what place the artist was at. The whole band’s recording of Do Rycerzy, do Szlachty, doo Mieszczan seems to be its continuation, although official information is that it was recorded over a two-year period.
Regardless of what the order was, it’s great stuff. The arrangement is very modern, tasteful, and is more of a musical and literary pill. And it doesn’t matter that the lead singer still thinks she isn’t a poet. It’s no wonder that even a guy as outspoken as Kuba Wojewódzki almost prayed to her instead of asking her questions (see: Kuba Wojewódzki, episode 192, HERE).
Hey’s 10th album was recorded in Sarnowa Góra with a six-man line-up – the band was joined by Marcin Zabrocki, a composer and multi-instrumentalist, known for his cooperation with Biff, Pogodno, and Mordy. Paweł Krawczyk is the composer of most tracks but he was supported by: Katarzyna Nosowska, Marcin Zabrocki and Jacek Chrzanowski. Katarzyna Nosowska is the author of all lyrics, except the last song on the album Z przyczyn technicznych, written and sung by Gaba Kulka.

The sound is focused and multi-layered. It has depth seldom found in such dense music. The dynamics is rather compressed, which doesn’t prevent every instrument from sounding powerful and kicking. The vocals are warm and saturated. You won’t find ultimate resolution known from David Sylvian’s records, for example – however, this makes no difference when you’re listening. The keywords are: density and fullness. It’s with material like this that well set up, sophisticated audio systems will show what they were made for – we will constantly re-discover new details that there is lots of, for commercial material like this. It was clearly very carefully recorded.
The album is really well released, which is characteristic for this group’s records. It’s an opening box with a booklet and a tiny, IKEA-like pencil we can write out name with – it’s precisely why the inner side of the lid has a stamp saying: “This album belongs to: …………..”.
The record premiered on the 6th of November.

GRADE
Sound Quality: 7-8/10

PIETER NOOTEN

Surround Us
Rocket Girl, rgirl85


Although he is best known as the composer and keyboardist on the first three Clan of Xymox albums, Pieter Nooten is much more than that. His 1987 album Sleeps With The Fishes, recorded with Michael Brook, put him on one level with the mother-band. It seems this Danish man, currently residing in London, wasn’t able to lift that burden, as he fell silent for twenty years. Only in 2007 did his second solo album, Ourspace, get released, followed by Here Is Why in 2011 after signing a contract with the Rocket Girl record company.
The newest album Surround Us was released on the 26th of May, 2012. Taking into account the artist’s many years of silence, you can have a deeper idea about its contents – you can say it’s the second part of the diptych from Here Is Why, it being the first part. Both albums were recorded in typical conditions at the time, i.e. at the artist’s house, using his MacBook Pro. As we find out from the description, all instrumental tracks were created using that computer, except for the cello heard in a few songs, and the vocals.
It’s slow, contemplational music – the sort I like. Using a computer as the only “instrument”, while it also serves as the recording studio, is quite a challenge. Here Is Why didn’t sound too great, I understand it to be sort of an exercise. Surround Us sounds a lot richer, fuller, with more saturated sub-ranges. The selectivity is better, too. It’s still just an idea of how great this could sound recorded on an analogue, like the amazing Sleeps With The Fishes, however this idea is surprisingly good.

GRADE
Sound quality: 6-7/10

"HIGH FIDELITY", CZY NIE "HIGH FIDELITY"?


It is said that copying is the highest form of appreciation… That’s how I understand what the Greek, few-year-old, printed magazine “High Fidelity” did. Their newest, 47th edition has a cover almost identical to the cover of the magazine you are reading right now, released as its 96th edition in June 2012. Please take a close look at both of them and find 10 differences…
Bartosz Łuczak, the owner of Piksel Studio and the author of our cover, contacted our Greek friends via facebook (http://www.facebook.com/HighFidelitymag). And what was the result? Aye, like I said at the beginning, the graphic editor of their magazine is a huge fan of our covers, calling them the “best in our trade”. She explained the similarity to be caused by using the same, official photo of an AMG turntable. How does one explain the identical colour scheme, though? The text positioning and other details? Well – you can’t sensibly answer that. That way or another, we wish much luck to the Greek “High Fidelity”!

KING CRIMSON

Larks' Tongues in Aspic
40th Anniversary Series
WHD Entertainment, Inc., IECP-20220/221


This could’ve been expected – Steven Wilson, in his other life the frontman of Porcupine Tree, remixed the album Larks’ Tongues in Aspic by King Crimson, originally released on the 31st of March, 1973. It’s incredible how much Robert Fripp trusted him. Re-mastering is one thing, and remixing – or creating a new version of an album – is another. Wilson received a carte blanche, however, and prepared new versions of all the Crimson’s records.
Fripp appears to be striving for perfection, because his subsequent albums are released with the precision of an atomic clock. And each of them is a little different from the previous. The most interesting ones are, of course, the HQCDs released in Japan.
The A.D. 2012 version is something completely different. It’s a new look at familiar things, “blessed” by Fripp who appears next to Steven Wilson as the co-author and co-producer of the remix. The record is available in a few different versions: a single HQCD, a double HQCD + DVD-A (with high-res material) album, and a double HQCD album.
The latter, being the one I bought, contains a new mix, enriched with three alternative remixes, and the second disc contains version from 10 years ago, on the 30th Anniversary Edition, re-mastered by Simon Heyworth and Fripp in Chop-Em Out in July of 2000.
The comparison is fascinating. Leaving the artistic aspect aside, it must be said that reaching to these multi-track tapes allowed for a much better sound cleansing. It’s not about clarity, per se, but about better sound – with better resolution, being more fun when you listen to it. The “30th” version sounds pretty “patinated” by comparison, but not in a good way – simply subdued.
The record was released in Japan on the 21st of November, 2012, by WHD Entertainment, Inc.

GRADE
Sound qualit: CD1 - 9/10 | CD2 - 8/10

KRAUTROCK

Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream

If we’re talking Japanese editions, I would like to bring to your attention Krautrock’s best release yet. In 2011 and 2012, the Japanese company Belle Antique released whole discographies of such bands as Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream and others. The records were released with beautiful cover art as SHM-CD discs. Kaiko Sakurai (Ravensbourne) and Suguru Firata@Marquee Inc. led the team reproducing the original cover art. The digital re-master was prepared by Kazuo Ogino.
What’s interesting, some of them are double editions, with live material from the time. Even more interesting is the fact that these second discs are regular CDs, not SHM-CDs. I wonder why? Along with the records, released in Japan only, wonderful little boxes prepared by Union Disk were released. You can get them on ebay, although they are quite costly. It seems that it’s time for the discography of the icon of krautrock, Klaus Schulze, which isn’t available on SHM-CD yet.

GRADE
Sound quality: 7-9/10

MARYSIA PESZEK

Jezus Maria Peszek
Mystic Production, MYSTCD 214


When Marysia Peszek’s third record was released on the 3rd of October, 2012, I wanted to write a long article about it right after listening to it a few times. It was a combination of elements that are seldom seen together – smart lyrics, beautiful music, great arrangements and great production. The article has never been written for obvious reasons (not enough time), however I’ve been listening to the record for the past three months and it just makes me marvel further at the artist. She’s stirred up quite a storm, as even politicians have been commenting on the record. Is there anything else we could demand from art?
The sound really is something... Even Marysia’s first record, Miasto Mania (2005) elicited many beautiful sounds, really well produced. However, only now it all came together. For me, this is the Record of the Year 2012.

GRADE
Sound quality: 9/10

BAJM (book)

Ewa Tutka, ''Płynie w nas gorąca krew''
Warszawa 2012


On the 28th of November, 2012, the first official biography of the Polish band BAJM (an acronym) was published, written by Ewa Tutka and titled Płynie w nas gorąca krew (“Hot blood runs in us”, Warsaw 2012). The book is sold during BAJM gigs and it’s a chance to get it signed – I’ve got my copy signed by Beata Kozidrak and Ewa Tutka.
The book is written from a fan’s perspective. It’s a burden to tackle because it “sets” the message within. You won’t find any embarrassing information, personal life facts about the band members they themselves would rather forget, and the book lacks a critical analysis of BAJM’s popularity. From a literary point of view, there’s nothing special either – just solidly prepared material. Despite all that, I read Płynie w nas gorąca krew without putting the book down. That’s because I’m a fan of BAJM myself. Their second Long Play, Martwa Woda, was one of my first vinyl LPs I owned and since that time I’ve been the band’s faithful fan.
The biography has been written in chronological order, beginning in the 70s with the first musical meetings of Beata and Andrzej, the band’s two core members, until 2008. Besides the main text, comprising of quotes of particular BAJM members, you also get some fun facts, short biographies of artists that cooperated with them, and song lyrics. The material has a pretty and proper form, and a rather aggressive orange colour scheme works surprisingly well. The biography is worth a read not only to all BAJM fans, but to anyone willing to learn more about the realities of the Polish rock scene.

Wojciech Pacuła
redaktor naczelny



About Us

We cooperate

Photo

Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

enjoythemusic linia positive-feedback linia hifistatement linia

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE TESTED DEVICES ARE MADE USING THE EQUIPMENT OF THE COMPANY



Digital camera:
Canon EOS 5D MkIII

Lenses:
EF-16-35/L II USM
EF 100 mm 1:2.8 L IS USM


The site is powered by