Music Discussion Thread #06: A Higher Resolution

Let’s discuss any and all music here. You’ve got a new artist who’s rocking your boat that you want to talk about? Post a video! Found out about that unearthed Coltrane album that has the jazz freak in you losing your mind? Lay it out for us! Do you have a theory about what your favorite band might do for their next album? Let’s hear it! Anything and everything music-related goes here, but do please remember to also pay attention to the more niche threads; if your post would either fit better or equally well in one of them, please post it there as well. I absolutely do not want to steal traffic from those threads.

Prompt for this week (inspired by my special Journal theme: What’s your audio set up(s) like? Does a good speaker/headphone set up matter to you? Are there some releases that you prefer to listen to on certain set ups? Are there any that you refuse to listen to on anything but the most ideal set up?


Sigil’s Music Journal (2018-08-09/2018-08-16): Special Edition

I just got some new audio equipment, a set of new Sennheiser headphones and a Dragonfly Black USB DAC, so I decided to take a break this week and focus my attention on listening to some of the higher resolution files I’ve acquired over the years. (I realize that there is a lot of suspicion about the actual value of high-res files, and since I bought some great headphones and a DAC (plus headphone amp), the actual value of these can be hard to tell. Indulge me, though). Also, I should note that I’ve been on vacation this whole week, so these reviews are about a week old.

S1Laurel.jpg1. Laurel Halo – Raw Silk Uncut Wood (44khz/24bit, 2018). This record just came out, and, though I’ve heard it streaming, I haven’t heard it enough to make a judgement on how much the new equipment has improved the sound. This is a really interesting record from Laurel Halo, though, who seems to change directions rather drastically for each release. For this ‘mini-LP’ she focuses on an electro-acoustic dreamscape, though she also gets into fairly intense new jazz territory with a few tracks. It’s a gorgeous release. One of my favorite of the year so far 8/10.

S2Roulette.jpg2. Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House – Roulette of the Cradle (96/24, 2015). Probably the first hi-res album I bought, though I was mostly interested in the really unusual (to me at the time) compositions on this disc. Laubrock has come to be one of my favorite free music composers, and the players on this release have all come back in various iterations of releases. But this still one of my favorite ‘jazz’ records that I own. The hi-res seems to really highlight Tom Rainey’s drum playing on this one, and Halvorson’s guitar tones come through in all their pitch bending glory. Still a totally great release and the new fidelity makes this definitely worth revisiting. 10/10

S3Proto.jpg3. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent (44/24, 2017). My favorite release from last year. The sound field is significantly expanded here, with the different parts more discernible. I figure this is probably more the headphones and lest the bit-depth. This is already a pretty bass heavy record, and it hits harder and deeper here. Oddly some of Joe Casey’s sibilants are slightly clipped, a small detail that is unfortunately brought out with the greater detail. Regardless of the mastering, this is certainly one of my favorite records. 10/10

I just want to quote a verse here, from the first song, because it’s one of my favorite recent lyrics:

Elvis outside of Flagstaff
Driving a camper van
Looking for meaning in a cloud mass
Sees the face of Joseph Stalin
And is disheartened
Then the wind changed the cloud into his smiling Lord
And he was affected profoundly
But he could never describe the feeling
He passed away on the bathroom floor

This highlights one of my favorite poetic techniques, the marrying of the sublime and the prosaic. Elvis’ ineffable vision, is contrasted with the fact that he’s in a camper van, and the first ends, as all things end, in squalor and failure. The rest of the song features the repeated phrase, “She’s just trying to reach you,” which reads as a more cynical version of E.M. Forster’s ‘Only connect.’ Only connect, but you can’t, but try anyway.

S4Absolute.jpg4. Neotropic – The Absolute Elsewhere (44/24, 2018). I had a Neotropic album for awhile back in the early ’00s, and I enjoyed it a bit, but didn’t give it much consideration. Bandcamp recently had a primer on Folktronica, which, I guess, includes Neotropic? I don’t think I would necessarily place this in that paradigm, but what do I know. This is a much more stately affair than the other album I had, La Prochaine fois. There’s a fair number of horn accents that add a certain gothicness to the record, and Neotropic sings on almost every song in an almost operatic voice. I’m not sure how much the higher resolution helped here, but it still sounds great. 7/10.

S5Felt.jpg5. Felt – The Splendour of Fear (44/24, 1984). I started getting into Felt because of the reissues that have been trickling out throughout the year. The have one of the most inconsistent discographies that I’ve ever seen, but this album is an absolute classic. Most of the songs on here are instrumentals, though that’s not an entirely unusual mode for them to be working. Maurice Deebank’s beautiful classical guitar playing is hightlighted in this record. The mastering doesn’t really highlight his playing however, and there’s a few artifacts in the higher registry. The drums seem to dominate more, and they hit ominously throughout, except for the last track which is Deebank with a keyboard. It’s probably no surprise that it’s the flattest track on here as far as sound goes. Still, a fabulous record. 9/10

S6Goths.jpg6. The Mountain Goats – Goths (88/24, 2017). Another favorite from last year. I had, actually, never gotten into The Mountain Goats before this album, but I feel hard for them with this one. It says something, because this is kind of a departure for them. John Darnielle is a master lyricist, weaving stories and characters easily into his songs, so The Mountain Goats have always been indisputable because of that, but I just love the instrumentation on this one. Given The Mountain Goats reputation as ‘lo-fi’ band it’s interesting that this was distributed with such a high resolution and sampling rate (rather discreetly, I might add. Merge is one of the labels on bandcamp that just gives you the master files for a normal price without really mentioning it).  This setup brings out even more detail, a subtle marimba on “Stench of the Unburied,” a greater fidelity in the choir of “Wear Black.” Absolutely essential, and mastered extremely well. 10/10

S7MayYour.jpg7. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain (96/24, 2018). I have something to confess, I was interested in this record because there’s a pretty lady on the cover with nice legs. I know, NCAYB, but in this case my B led me to an absolutely incredible record. The pretty lady on the cover is, of course, Courtney Marie Andrews and she has the type of Country and Western voice that just drips with sadness. And that type of feeling pervades this record, which mostly consists of ballads about heartache and regret. Indeed, this release features one of the most pathetic lyric I’ve heard this year.

I like when I have to call you a second time
It keeps me wondering if you are mine
Mother says we love who we think we deserve
But I’ve hurt worse, I’ve hurt worse

Yikes. Of course, as with most country like albums, some of the lyrics on this lean hard on lamenting the good old days. One of the other highlights for me, “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo,” hits pretty hard on that. But it also contains one of my favorite lyrics on the record “Stuck in Nickel City on the tainted side of a coin/El Niño brought a blizzard, the Greyhound brought a boy”.

S8Blurred.jpg 8. Biliana Voutchkova; Michael Thieke – Blurred Music (96/24, 2018). I just bought this on Monday, after becoming aware of it through Erstwhile Records’ mailing list. I’m not entirely sure of the provenance of this label, elsewhere, though I believe it’s run by the wife of Erstwhile’s Jon Abbey. In any case, this is some really great stuff. It’s three concerts performed by Biliana Voutchkova on violin and voice, and Michael Thieke on clarinet. The Bandcamp page for this emphasizes the difference in technique demonstrated on each night, which is quite impressive. The first night can be downright cinematic at times and the third night has some extended drone sequences. This type of music really lends itself to the higher quality with a lot of detail and depth evident. I mean, I think so, I haven’t listened to a lower quality of it.