Hi-Res Downloads, January 2024

hfnalbumDominic Miller
Vagabond (88.2kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 2704

Guitarist Miller is about as multi-national as you can get: he was born in Argentina to American and Irish parents, educated in the States and the UK, and now lives in France. A long-time collaborator with Sting, with whom he wrote 'Shape Of My Heart', he's joined on this third album for ECM by pianist Jacob Karlzon, bassist Nicolas Fiszman and drummer Ziv Ravitz, the four creating a set more about quiet reflection than instrumental fireworks. Produced by label founder Manfred Eicher in the South of France, the album lives up to Miller's description of songs without words rather than guitar pieces. While the music is tricky to pigeonhole, the combination of superb recorded detail, fine musicianship and a lazy, easygoing Mediterranean warmth to the whole enterprise is hard to resist. Go back for repeat listens and you'll spot more little nuances in what seems like simple music, and enjoy it even more. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
True 88.2kHz files are rare, especially when not part of an SACD/DSD release, but this French recording is the real deal. Dynamic range is above average and peaks are held to –0.4dBFs, but there is evidence of spuriae [black spectrum]. PM


Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Edward Vesala
Triptykon (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 1029

Saxophonist Garbarek is an audiophile favourite, his classic early 1990s Officium set with the Hilliard Ensemble being widely used in hi-fi demonstrations. But don't be too put off by that: Garbarek's technique and tonality make his work a delight, with the high quality of ECM's recordings ensuring the most of all that talent. This album goes even further back, being recorded in 1972, with a lineup partnering Garbarek with compatriot Arild Andersen on bass, and Finnish percussionist Edward Vesala, in a series of free-flowing improvisations and Scandinavian folk influences that have stood the test of time. From the atmospheric title track to the chaotic 'Bruremarsj' closing the set, this is both a thrilling listen and a fine introduction for newcomers to Garbarek's music. Frankly, it sounds fabulous. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
This 96kHz encoding of an analogue tape recording from 1972 – never peaking higher than –1.7dBFs – has a wider dynamic range than most modern digital files we test in these pages, despite the elevated noise floor [see Graph]! PM


Joe La Barbera Quintet
World Travelers (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.samfirstrecords.com; Sam First Records SRF003

Recorded, like all this label's releases, at the Sam First cocktail bar and jazz club out near Los Angeles airport (the location having been kitted out and optimised as a studio as well as a live venue), this album features time-served 75-year-old drummer Joe La Barbera, who made his professional debut all the way back in 1968. Joe has worked with Bill Evans, and a 'who's who' of jazz greats, and also teaches at a wide range of music programmes. And from the opening drum roll this album really grabs the attention with a wonderfully live, 'in the room' sound that's not the last word in finesse, but certainly brings out the interplay of the musicians. Specifically, Bob Sheppard (tenor) and Clay Jenkins (trumpet) providing the brass, Bill Cunliffe on piano and bassist Jonathan Richards all sound especially vivid. Pour the cold drink of your choice, and enjoy! AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Recorded at Sam First in LA, these are all genuine 96kHz files (albeit with signs of spuriae at 45kHz), except trk 1 which is an upsample from 48kHz [black trace, above]. All tracks are normalised to an excessively high peak of 0.0dBFs. PM


Maven Grace
Sleep Standing Up (44.1kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.heliumrecords.co.uk; Helium Records HeLP066-WAV

Four years in the making, this debut album by the trio of Mary Home, Henry Jack and Tom White owes more than a little to a 2018 encounter with Bryan Ferry, who offered the use of his Avonmore Studios, the trio drawing in contributors as diverse as Goldfrapp bassist Charlie Jones, violinist Diana Galvydyte and Chinese erhu player Yu Hongmei. The whole project was pulled together by producer Chris Hughes. With so long a gestation, it's hardly surprising that the album sounds more mature than a typical first release, and is very definitely on the grand scale, with layered synths wrapping round Home's poignant then impassioned vocals. Does it work? Well, sort of – there are just a few too many 'now what does that sound like?' moments, and the production quality can get very dense at times, but there's enough here to hold the interest – just… AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
With every track normalised to –0.6dBFs and with only 1.5 bits of the available 24-bit range used to separate the peak-to-RMS output, this close-miked 44.1kHz recording exhibits signs of compression during the busiest sequences. PM


Ricardo Dias Gomes
Muito Sol (44.1kHz/16-bit, WAV)
www.hivemindrecords.co.uk; Hive Mind Records n/a cat no.

If the Maven Grace album [opposite] can distract with those soundalike moments, there's not much danger of that with this third solo album from Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Dias Gomes, which has just about a whole world of music, from thumping bass and swirling lo-fi organ to odd electronica – and that's just in the title track, opening the album. In fact, throughout this set it's hard to guess what's going to happen next. There's a whirl of what sounds like fairground organ to a break of sax or trumpet disappearing into the depth of the soundstage as it plays. Then there's the acoustic backing of Gomes's dreamy vocals on 'Come 6 Anos' contrasting with the phasey, grinding synth opening of 'Coração Sulamericano', giving way to chaotic sax and then thrash metal. With so much going on, this can be a dense listen, but it's always an intriguing one. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Offered in CD (44.1kHz/16-bit) res., all tracks are normalised to a high –0.3dBFs and, with the peak-to-RMS ratio falling as low as 6-8dB on some tracks, dynamic range is a little below average. Digital filtering looks relatively gentle. PM