Hi-Res Downloads, February 2024

hfnalbumThierry Fischer/Utah Symphony

Messiaen: Des Canyons Aux Étoiles
(96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68316

There's a sense of 'full circle' about this fine recording, in that Messaien's epic 1970s composition – From The Canyons To The Stars – was inspired by his visit to the desert landscapes of Utah, and completed to mark the 1976 bicentenary of American independence. This recording follows performances Fischer and his Utah forces gave in the very canyons that motivated Messaien, though here the piece is played in the more conventional surroundings of Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City – not that this in anyway diminishes the spectacular sound captured by Andrés Villalta for Hyperion. The orchestra is absolutely on point, Fischer allows his soloists space in the massive sonic pictures created, and the whole thing is entirely breathtaking, from the whistling wind of the opening to the great interplay of piano, percussion and orchestra in the finale. AE

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
Dynamic range is well above average – peak-to-RMS levels are typically >20dB – while only tracks 7 and 11 punch above –1dBFs. Alto flute, piccolo trumpet and percussion all reach out across the ~46kHz bandwidth of this 96kHz file. PM


Espen Berg et al
Water Fabric (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.odinrecords.com; ODINCD9588

This beautiful album by Norwegian pianist and composer Espen Berg shouldn't really be considered as a jazz set, even though there are moments one might identify as such. Instead, it's a suite played by jazz musicians, Berg being joined by trumpeter Hayden Powell, drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, violinist Harpreet Bansal, violist Ellie Mäkelä and cellist Joakim Munkner. There's little improvisation here, the six-part piece being tightly composed, and as a result being closer to the classical tradition. That makes it an altogether more satisfying experience when played in full, while still enjoying the individual contributions of the ensemble Berg has put together. It's melodious, intriguing, and exciting, helped greatly by a sparkling recording: what Berg has created here is a work that defies classification, but is as easy to listen to as it is musically rewarding. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
While trumpet and flügelhorn have a wide harmonic range, some ultrasonics here look like distortion or limiting from downstream electronics, albeit beyond audibility. Dynamic range is good and all tracks are normalised to –0.65dB. PM


Jack Dejohnette's Special Edition
Inflation Blues (96kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 1244

More than 40 years after it was recorded at the Power Station in New York, this album by drummer, pianist, and composer DeJohnette and his Special Edition band – reed players Chico Freeman and John Purcell, trumpeter Baikida Carroll, and bassist Rufus Reid – still comes up fresh in this hi-res release. There are just five fairly extended tracks, opening plaintively with 'Starburst' underpinned by Freeman's bass clarinet. It hints at indigenous Australian music, before settling into a comfortable groove on 'Ebony', and then powering hard through 'The Islands'. The title track has a lolloping reggae feel, driven by the leader's precise sticksmanship, while the closer, 'Slowdown', has a free, improvisational style seemingly at odds with its title. With assured production by ECM's Manfred Eicher, the recording has more than enough space to let the musicians shine. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
All five tracks here are normalised to a high –0.2dBFs but with a typical peak-to-RMS of ~17dB dynamic range remains above average. This is a 96kHz rendering of a 1983 analogue recording so the practical bandwidth is <30kHz. PM


Chris Kramer & Jens Filser
Roots Music (44.1kHz/24-bit, WAV)
btm-musikverlag.de; Blow Till Midnight Records LC10394

You get what the title promises with this set from singer and harp player Kramer and guitarist Filser – well that and an accomplished guest list which merely starts with Long John Baldry, resurrected in a 2001 track recorded with Kramer. Add in Rolling Stones ivory-tinkler Chuck Leavell in fine boogie/blues form on 'Shaking The Shack' and you have a journey through country, soul and blues likely to delight enthusiasts as much as it does hi-fi demonstrators. Released on vinyl as well as digital, but not on CD, it's a generous set, running to 22 tracks and 75 minutes, and Kramer's voice is persuasive, as are the accompanying musicians. Slide guitar, banjo, gospel choir and of course that harmonica – it's all here in a fine album both entertaining and authentic-sounding with its all-acoustic instrumentation and a very refreshing lack of over-production. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Aside from trk 10 (–3.3dBFs) all tracks here are normalised to –1dBFs while the intense sound of banjo and harmonica fills the available ~22kHz bandwidth to its endstops. A higher 88.2kHz or 96kHz sampling would have exposed more. PM


Sons Of Liberty
The Detail Is In The Devil (44.1kHz/16-bit, WAV)
www.sonsoflibertyband.com; n/a cat no.

The third album by the Bristol-based band – which curiously seems to take its name from a rebel coalition who fought the British in pre-Independence America in the mid-1760s – is not what you'd call an immediate audiophile favourite. It opens with a slam, and then proceeds through much hard-rock snarling across 13 tracks, including a couple of bonuses at the end. Vocals, two guitars, bass and drums is a tried and tested rock/metal configuration, and here it creates a convincing wall of sound, in an album honed through extensive touring, with a sound engineered by Devon-based Momentum Studios' owner Josiah J Manning to unleash the full force of the band. The effect has elements of 'if you like that sort of thing' about it, but it's hard not to appreciate the clarity of the whole enterprise, and the sheer impact of the CD resolution recording. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Electric guitar is restricted to <8kHz here and with peak-to-RMS levels limited to a little over 1-bit, dynamic range is necessarily squeezed. However, ...Detail Is In The Devil is loud – the album pushed up to within –0.1dB of full scale. PM