Hi-Res Downloads, March 2024

hfnalbumDaniel Knaggs
Two Streams (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.cappellarecords.com; Cappella Records CR-429

Like me, you'll be forgiven for not being familiar with Daniel Knaggs' 2021 cantata for voices and strings, based on the messages received in prayer by Polish nun Faustina Kowalska – this is, after all, a world premiere recording, performed by the excellent Houston Chamber Choir plus soloists, and string ensemble Kinetic. And it turns out this is both a striking piece, drawing on musical styles from the medieval to the modern, and a fabulous recording, with a simple but enveloping sound evoking the contemplative nature of the work. Dedicated to Knaggs' father, who didn't live to hear the finished piece, Two Streams conveys Kowalska's message that peace cannot be achieved without mercy. Moreover, it does so with amazing vocal and instrumental intensity, diligently captured by the recording team in the generous acoustic of the Stude Concert Hall of Houston's Rice University. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Tracks/parts 3, 6 and 13 peak very close to the digital limit and the ~88kHz filtering is more likely to have occurred with 176.4kHz sampling. Noise is slightly high too but dynamic range is still wide and spurious peaks well suppressed. PM


Edward Vesala
Nan Madol (96kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 1077

Recorded in 1974 and originally released in 1976, this 'big band' jazz album carries its age, getting on for half a century, very well – it's still powerful, dramatic, and fascinating throughout. This was Finnish percussionist Vesala's debut album for the ECM label, and he certainly arrived with a bang. The title means 'spaces between' (or may refer to mysterious ruins in Micronesia), and the set covers a lot of ground, taking in European and Asian influences, motifs drifting in and out, and the aural landscape constantly changing. True, it's not exactly a foot-tapper, but its experimental and improvisational tracks find the musicians bouncing off each other, all captured in another of those consistently fine ECM recordings. The set's masterwork? The near-13 minute 'Areous Vlor Tal', combining mystical sounds with driving rhythms in one huge, delirious wall of music. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
The 96kHz sampling of this analogue recording is more than sufficient to capture the mid-20kHz tape bandwidth, while quantisation to below –1dBFS prevents overload. Dynamic range is good too – a fine ECM transcription. PM


Inger Marie Gundersen
Five Minutes (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.sundance.dk; Stunt Records/Sundance STUCD23082

Norwegian singer Inger Marie Gundersen's first album in five years – and her sixth since she embarked on a solo recording career – covers familiar songs associated with the likes of Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Dire Straits and Elvis Costello. Working with producer Espen Lind to select and hone her interpretations, she brings a fresh approach to each track, not least due to her dark, languorous voice. For example, her take on 'Sailing' – yes, the massive (and massively overproduced) Rod Stewart hit – strips the song back to its romantic roots, while 'Why Worry' couldn't be further from the Dire Straits original in its breathy rendition. Even Richards and Jagger's 'Wild Horses' gets the Inger Marie treatment with more than modest success. So, while the singer's voice is sometimes a little recessed in the mix, a result of that dark tone, there's much to like in this very intimate presentation. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Recording information is sparse/non-existent but while this is a 96kHz file there's clearly little bandwidth beyond 28kHz – an analogue recording, perhaps? Either way, dynamic range is good and there's no peak-level compression. PM


My Life Story
Loving You Is Killing Me (96kHz/24-bit, WAV)*
www.exilophone.com; Exilophone Records MLS16

Formed in Southend in 1984, My Life Story have gone through a variety of iterations, from Britpop pioneers to a big ensemble with strings and brass, and from collaborations with the likes of Morrissey, The Pogues and Marc Almond to appearances at Glastonbury and the Reading Festival. Touring ended in 2001, then started again in 2016, and now the band is back with overtones of the tight songwriting and clever lyrics of The Divine Comedy. Written by founding frontman Jake Shillingford with Nick Evans, and produced with excellent weight and clarity by Ben Hillier, the new set doesn't have a duff track among its ten numbers. Let the infectious sound wash over you, or delve deeper into the lyrics, apparently covering 'empathy, profanity, vaingloriousness, coercive behaviour and naturism'. Either way, this is a hugely rewarding set. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
While this file will light up the '96kHz' indicator on your DAC, and trk 10 looks the 'real deal', most are sampled at 48kHz [black spectrum]. All tracks peak at a high –0.1dBFS, and dynamic range is squeezed, but are otherwise 'clean'. PM


Amaro Freitas
Y'Y (88.2kHz/24-bit, WAV)*
www.psychic-hotline.net; Psychic Hotline n/a cat no.

Get in touch with nature via this new set by Brazilian jazz composer and pianist Amaro Freitas, who says his album is a 'homage to the forest, especially the Amazon Forest, and the rivers of Northern Brazil', and that it's 'a call to live, feel, respect, and care for nature, recognising it as our ancestor'. Joined here by musicians including flautist Shabaka Hutchings, drummer Hamid Drake and bassist Aniel Someillan, Freitas has created a series of pieces that carry the Brazilian jazz heritage lightly while creating captivating sonic pictures from the opening – and very short – 'Mapinguari' to the breezy, driving 'Encantados' ending the set in toe-tapping fashion. The theme may be worthy, but there's nothing dull or preachy about the writing or playing here – it's served well by a tight, crisp sound, revealing the contribution of each of the performers, but note PM's caveat. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Although this will appear as an 88.2kHz file on your streaming device/DAC it is, in fact, an upsampled 44.1kHz rendering. Moreover as all tracks are normalised to a hot peak of 0.0dBFS, this can cause digital clipping in some DACs [black]. PM