Hi-Res Downloads

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B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 30, 2018
Fleet Foxes, insofar as I have been able to determine, is a millennial cult item from Seattle. Their first album in six years, Crack-Up is an exercise in high-minded art for art’s sake, in which densely orchestrated and intensely overproduced music obscures reverb-heavy lyrics whose meaning is known only to their author or his acolytes. Was the reverb intended to evoke the sensation of a live performance? Throughout most of these inscrutable compositions, one can hear echoes of every ambitious big-statement pop-rock album of the past 40 years. Some tracks are intriguing – or have intriguing parts – and the musicianship is very good, but for the most part Crack-Up is heavy-handed, self-indulgent, pretentious, overwrought, over-engineered, and baffling beyond comprehension.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 23, 2018
These four young Spanish musicians decided they would like to undertake the three Brahms Piano Quartets – composed for piano, violin, viola and cello and first heard in 1861, ’62 and ’75. No 1 is by far the most popular, not least for its final ‘Rondo alla Zingarese’, and it was later orchestrated by Schoenberg (and twice recorded by Rattle). The 1949 set by Serkin and the Busch players is still current and these new recordings face huge competition. The stage width in this Zaragoza studio production is rather narrow and the 1862 Vuillaume violin sounds less generous in tone than I would have liked.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 16, 2018
Forget the PDF booklet hyperbole about a project ‘opening new doors’ and seeking the ‘spirituality and sounds’ of Bach. Now 27, Christian Grøvlen plays 18 works – the Chromatic Fantasy And Fugue, Sinfonias Nos 1-15; French Suite No 3, Partita No 5 – on a modern Steinway and he’s recorded with an array of mics set up in a Norwegian church. There’s a pleasing ambience to the sound which is as clean as Grøvlen’s own fingerwork. He’s a thoughtful interpreter and unafraid to use the pedals (which András Schiff avoids in Bach keyboard works), while his ornamentation ripples and gives a fluidity to the musical line.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 09, 2018
This contemplative, introspective collection by saxophonist David Haudrechy and pianist Grégoire Aguilar is what classical composers would have called ‘variations on a theme’. The key to what lies ahead is all contained in the opener, ‘Melancholia’. In the ensuing tracks, the two musicians do their best to find out how many ways they can plough the same plot of ground, but it’s a refined and delicate kind of ploughing. Lost Lake would serve well as background music for a moody French film, in which two obsessed lovers quarrel and copulate until they’ve exhausted their enthusiasm for both.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 02, 2018
The latest from a stellar group – drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers, and trumpeter Stanko – December Avenue is a collection of beautifully rendered tone-poems. There is a great delicacy to the musicianship – they are all fully engaged with their bandmates – and each track seems approached as if they have all the time in the world, and all the space they could possibly need to explore it. Even at his most upbeat, Stanko has a sweetly mournful quality. The opposite of frantic jazz, this collection is maturely intelligent, emotionally resonant, aesthetically unassailable, and gorgeously executed, without a hint of cliché.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 26, 2018
96kHz & 192kHz/24-bit, FLAC*; Linn CKD572 (supplied by www. linnrecords. com) Sibelius’s First Symphony has long attracted hi-fi enthusiasts with landmark recordings by Collins, Maazel, and Vänskä that showed off your system – not least in the exciting scherzo with its textural contrasts. The Sixth, by contrast, was his most austere symphony, described by the composer as offering ‘pure cold spring water’.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 19, 2018
Remember Ten Years After? This is the sort of ‘roots music’ that inspired that band, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Little Feat, and countless others. Heavy white-boy blues, simple lyrics, extremely repetitive rock arrangements with almost no rhythmic variation, an exaggerated bottom octave, and too much slide guitar all add up to minimal interest for this reviewer, but despite its utter familiarity, or perhaps because of it, lots of blues-rock fans will likely devour this album. Opinions vary, and that’s a very good thing. Many of its songs have been done better by other bands (‘You Got To Move,’ ‘Bid You Goodnight’) and fortunately, none of them runs longer than five minutes.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 12, 2018
Fifty minutes of Charlie Parker’s hard bop could induce trepidation in some listeners, but that’s not what this intriguing collection is all about. Instead of Parker retreads or outtakes, it’s an assortment of all-star reinterpretations of Bird’s compositions, some of them superbly soulful and engaging (Madeleine Peyroux’s opener, for example) and others requiring true-believer enthusiasm for bebop (Barbara Hannigan’s ‘Epitaph Of Charlie Parker’, Jeffrey Wright’s ‘So Long’). The band features veterans from David Bowie’s Blackstar, with Craig Taborn on keyboards and musicianship is beyond reproach, as is the recording quality. This album will grab your attention – listen to it once, then maybe via the ‘random play’ function on your player.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab  |  Mar 05, 2018
There’s a beguiling immature quality in Ariel Pocock’s voice – she’s in her mid-twenties but sounds much younger – that contrasts with the sophistication of her musical arrangements and the band backing her on this recording. Her vocalisations evoke a sweet innocence that older jazz singers can’t and shouldn’t try to imitate. The title track comes off almost like a college girl’s improvisation-on-the-spot – a really good one that succeeds so well it surprises even its creator. Amusingly, she tackles more than she can handle with Cole Porter’s ‘So In Love’, but it’s a valiant attempt, and the extended instrumental break is wonderful.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 26, 2018
The album title refers to oboist Nicholas Daniel’s teacher Janet Craxton, whose London Oboe Quartet premiered the Knussen Cantata, Op. 15, and Françaix’s Cor Anglais Quartet here. Besides the familiar Mozart Qt, there’s a completion of his fragment K580a, Adagio For English Horn, and – not mentioned in the booklet – a bonus track, Colin Matthews’ arrangement of Schumann’s song ‘Mondnacht’. It is a programme of extremely wide contrasts – the Mozart classic fresh as new paint, the Françaix (Daniel playing a cor anglais) the epitome of Twenties Gallic sophistication and the Britten precociously clever (he was 19).
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 19, 2018
Her breathy contralto and big compositions have long been the core of Diana Krall’s appeal, but this release goes in a sadly soporific direction. Her band almost starts swinging on a handful of tracks, including ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, but it’s more tease than fulfilment. ‘Sway’ has huge interpretive potential, but here it’s given a ponderously intimate treatment loaded down by an overproduced cinematic ending. Krall’s singing isn’t quite up to the fine standard she’s set over the decades: frequently awkward phrasing made more apparent by shortness of breath on sustained notes, all while keeping the dynamic lid on tight.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 12, 2018
This programme by a Belgian piano trio which debuted in 2011 contrasts those by Shostakovich, written (No 1) as a teenager, the other during the war years. His contemporary Sergei Prokofiev is represented by the Cinq Mélodies, ‘songs without words’, revised in 1925 for violin and piano, and the early Ballade for cello and piano. It’s quite a shock to hear this flamboyant music after the introversion of the Shostakovich masterpiece (especially as the transfer levels leap up for the duos!). Reconstructed from incomplete parts, Trio No1 is a competent essay but the step to the cello’s harmonics opening No 2 is to move to another artistic world altogether.
S. Harris (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 05, 2018
Having scored her biggest international hit with her 2010 album Same Girl [ACT 9024-2], the South Korean-born singing star takes a new direction with this one – her ninth (and fourth for ACT) – recorded at Sear Sound, New York, in Dec ’16, and produced/arranged by keyboard wiz Jamie Saft – he’s also co-writer with Vanessa Saft of track 3, ‘Too Late’. Youn Sun Nah opens with her own five-minute ‘Traveller’, a characteristic blend of strength and melancholy, and goes on to offer an eclectic choice of covers, all beautifully done. Marc Ribot contributes brilliantly to several tracks, with electric and acoustic guitars, from the fast-moving Paul Simon song that’s the title tune to perfect Staples/Al Green funk on Lou Reed’s ‘Teach The Gifted Children’ and a majestic reading of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Drifting’. It’s a great album with great sound too.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 29, 2018
The Brodbeck trio is a group at the peak of its considerable artistic power. This hour-long instrumental expedition opens with three densely orchestrated, upbeat, and engaging pieces (‘Ich Will Meine Seele Tachen’, ‘Im Strom Der Gezeitzen’ and ‘The Night Comes Soon’) then takes a contemplative detour with ‘Song For The Ancestors’ and the languorous ‘Brahms Ballad’. An extended bass solo in ‘Juno Is Touching Down’ leads to a compellingly rhythmic, melodically forthright section that in turn ushers in a sweet piano passage in ‘Return/No Return’. The punchy ‘Rocka-Roas’ showcases the trio’s interplay, running the gamut from fascinating to maddening with a repeated figure near the end.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 22, 2018
Rarely heard live today, these colourful scores by Manuel de Falla have been ‘demonstration disc’ material, right from the early days of LP. Indeed, classic versions were recorded under Ernest Ansermet – his Three-Cornered Hat is still on Speakers Corner 180g vinyl. Falla described Nights (one of Arthur Rubinstein’s favourites) as ‘symphonic impressions’, a better way to think of it than as a piano concerto. The pianist here (married to Kent Nagano) is set rather forward, but so was de Larrocha [Decca].