Hi-Res Downloads

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A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 21, 2018
Even those who have recovered from the waves of affected horror attracted by Sam Smith’s title song for the last James Bond movie will find little comfort here. This is an album of relentless introspection and downbeat thinking, all plaintive vocals and mournful accompaniment, with nothing much to raise the spirits. Smith’s voice is undeniably a matter of taste, but is heard here in all its close-miked glory, albeit with more than a touch of sibilance to distract the ear. Or maybe irritate even more.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 17, 2018
Like other conductors, Stéphane Denève finds Prokofiev’s orchestral suites from Romeo And Juliet and the later, more traditional ballet, Cinderella, dramatically unsatisfactory and has prepared his own ‘Suites Romantiques’ that follow the story-lines more clearly. In the famous dissonances opening R&J his Brussels Orchestra articulates the brass writing with complete security, and these spacious readings – I have never heard the minuet with Paris and Juliet [trk 5, 1m 56s] taken so slowly before – allow every colour in the score to emerge with perfect clarity.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 14, 2018
Start to play this set by Polish saxophonist Obara, note the label on which it’s released, and you’ll be pretty sure what you’re in for – the opening track has all the tinkle, breathiness and ethereal plaintiveness you’d expect from an ECM release. But before one dismisses it on those grounds, listen a little longer, for while that opener may show off Obara’s sax and the sympathetic piano accompaniment of regular collaborator Dominik Wania, with Gard Nilssen’s cymbals pattering and shimmering away, things take on added textures when bassist Ole Morten Vågan steps up and plays a greater part.
S. Harris (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 10, 2018
For Souvenance, Anouar Brahem’s last release and HFN album of the month [HFN May ’15] this master of the oud enlisted a string orchestra to join some of his regular accompanists, but this time he’s started afresh. Having recruited the great ex-Miles bassist Dave Holland (who played on Brahem’s album Thimar in 1997), the renowned fusion drummer Jack DeJohnette was a natural choice. British composer Django Bates was suggested by ECM co-founder Manfred Eicher, who’d just been recording the pianist’s Belovéd trio, and though absent from the contemplative ‘Bahia’, Bates brings a wealth of ideas elsewhere. In the final, aptly-titled ‘Unexpected Outcome’, what seems at first a simple, even jazz pulse from Holland soon develops into something far more subtle.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 03, 2018
Like Mavis Staples, Gregory Porter brings an awareness of civil rights issues to his music, but this tribute to his hero, Nat ‘King’ Cole, was clearly made for the easy-listening Christmas market. The album opens with a swirl of strings as he launches into ‘Mona Lisa’. Porter’s voice has always sounded very much like that of Cole, of course, and his rich tones are undeniably warm and attractive. Yet his performance on many of these tracks is so note-perfect that it often feels like an impersonation rather than his own interpretation.
Reviews: Hi-Fi News Team, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 01, 2018
This month we review and test: RCO/Daniele Gatti, Sullivan Fortner, Quatuor Cambini-Paris, Brenda Navarrete, and Leo Sidran.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 27, 2018
A sequel to their demanding Adès/Nørgård/Abrahamsen ECM album [HFN Dec ’16], this is a self-produced, helpfully annotated 16-track collection of mainly Nordic folk music, arranged by the group and including a reel after Dowland, ‘Shine You No More’, by the leader, Rune Tonsgard Sørenson. To add textural variety, he also plays harmonium, piano and glockenspiel. And cellist/bass player Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin contributes three compositions, ‘Shore’, ‘Intermezzo’ – especially delightful – and the unwinding ‘Naja’s Waltz’ with pizzicato backing. The traditional pieces also include ‘Unst Boat Song’ from the Shetlands and the Faroese ‘Stædelil’.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 20, 2018
That sombre cover portrait sets the tone for Benny Andersson’s latest solo project, which consists of 21 tracks from his decades-long career reinterpreted for piano. The mood is generally melancholy, and the album largely concentrates on Andersson’s post-Abba material, including songs written for musicals such as Chess, as well as his current ‘group’ – the Benny Andersson Orkester. Inevitably, though, it’s the handful of familiar Abba classics that stand out. The piano version of ‘My Love, My Life’ lacks the lush harmonies of the original, but the bittersweet melody still shines through.
C. Joseph (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 13, 2018
‘This life surrounds you, guns are loaded. . . .
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 06, 2018
The time when the Manfred Symphony was cut (Toscanini, Kletzki) or worse, cut and pasted (Ahronovitch), has long gone; and it now seems it was Balakirev who first suggested replacing harmonium with organ in the finale – which nearly all conductors do (Markevitch excepted). In this marvellous recording from Prague’s ample Rudolfinum it’s the way Bychkov integrates all those finale episodes and flashbacks into a coherent whole that impresses most. Back in 1972 a HFN editorial review suggested that Decca’s earlier VPO/Maazel version ‘would be unlikely to be surpassed’ as an orchestral recording – but it clearly is by this one over 45 years later! Bychkov’s is a powerfully dramatic account with a glowing richness missing from Pletnev’s cooler Pentatone Manfred with the Russian National Orchestra, which we also reviewed in this section [Album Choice, HFN Jun ’14]. CB Sound Quality: 90% Hi-Fi News Lab Report Digital throughout (recording, mixing and mastering) and mercifully free of obvious distortion or compression, this file still shows some low-level (<–80dBFs) spuriae, particularly 20kHz-48kHz.
Reviews: Hi-Fi News Team, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
This month we review and test: Bobo Stenson Trio, Bahamas, Bettye Lavette, Chris Thile, and Imelda May.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 30, 2018
As one whose knowledge of the accordion stretches all the way from ’Allo ’Allo! to the Tour de France theme music, I approached this homage to the instrument over the years with un peu d’inquiétude. However, led by Vincent Peirani – ‘le “Jimi Hendrix” de l’accordéon’, apparently – this set is strangely captivating, with a mixture of ‘where have I heard that before?’ and unfamiliar music. It’s all very Gallic, and there might be a temptation for quite a lot of the tracks here to sound a bit similar on a casual listen, but both the performances and the recording justify closer attention, at which point it’s much easier to appreciate the quality of both. Yes, the artists will be new to most listeners, but this is actually a fascinating set, and one that rewards repeated listens.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 23, 2018
We’re constantly being told times are tough, so if you’ve had to tighten the old belt and forgo this year’s cruise, then this one could be for you. Put yourself back in the ‘late night and rather overfed Ocean Bar & Lounge’ mood with this collection of ‘so lightweight they’re almost flimsy’ jazz covers. Austrian singer Kopmajer is big in Japan, and that’s not surprising, given that this is audiophile jazz at its finest, of the kind essayed by many a Japanese chanteuse. True, PM has his own observations on the provenance of some of the tracks – see his Lab Report below –, but there’s no denying the smoothness of the entire enterprise.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 16, 2018
There’s not exactly a shortage of piano trio albums out there (despite the strong challenge seemingly being staged by accordions in this month’s hi-res selection), and while Martin Tingvall’s trio’s album starts unpromisingly with the low-key ‘Evighetsmaskinen’ (it means ‘Eternity Machine’) – a mid-set track if ever I heard one – it soon hits its groove with the impetus of ‘Bumerang’. That sets the pace for the rest of the album, notably the pacy ‘Skånsk Blues’ and ‘Sjuan’, and while the set has its contemplative, introspective moments – well, it is a jazz trio album, after all! – there’s more than enough here to have the listener coming back for second helpings. True, this isn’t the cleanest-sounding recording ever, with occasionally a bit too much cymbal splash, for example, but it’s certainly punchy and definitely enjoyable – and goes out with bang. AE Sound Quality: 85% Hi-Fi News Lab Report There’s evidence of mixed sample rate content here (trks 3, 4, 7, 8, 11 and 13) while the piano feed carries a deal of spuriae at 26kHz, 28kHz and 33.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 09, 2018
Those of the view that audiophiles only like obscure and ‘plinky-plonky’ music, of the kind no-one would actually sit down to listen to for pleasure, are going to have a field day with the title of this one, but behind the ‘lost in translation’ is a truly lovely album. In contrast to our other squeezebox offering this month on p95 (and there’s a phrase I never thought I’d find myself writing!), this album is of tango pieces associated with guitarist Roberto Grela, and beautifully played by Louise Jallu on bandoneon together with acclaimed Japanese guitarist Hiroki Fukui. It’s a delightfully simple set, treated to a wonderfully intimate recording, combining crispness and warmth to winning effect. And boy, can these two play, with an easy rapport and that sense of firing off each other that’s the sign of true musicianship.

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