Hi-Res Downloads, August 2023

hfnalbumBobo Stenson Trio
Sphere (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 2775

Now more than half a century on from his headline ECM debut, 78-year-old pianist Stenson is showing no signs of settling for the quiet life of the familiar. This stunning-sounding set, recorded for ECM in Lugano, is the fourth outing for Stenson's trio, with Anders Jormin on bass and drummer Jon Fält. The easy familiarity of the three playing together allows them to tackle a range of works by 20th and 21st century composers, including three original works by Jormin. Opening with Per Nørgård's 'You Shall Plant A Tree' before moving into Jormin's tribute to Charles Ives, the set swings into Jung-Hee Woo's 'The Red Flower' and on to Sibelius's 'Valsette op. 40/1' before coming back to rest with variations on the opening track. The musicianship is sensational throughout, in both arrangements and performances, and enhanced by a stellar recording by ECM founder Manfred Eicher. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano, in Apr '22, this genuine 96kHz rendering offers a fabulous dynamic range with peaks spanning –0.3dBFs (trk 4) to –8.1dBFs (trk 9). The 20kHz drone [black trace] should not be audible. PM


Tamara Stefanovich, WDR SO/Ciaccarini, Rundel
Abrahamsen: Left, Alone (48kHz/24-bit; WAV)*
www.prestomusic.com; Winter & Winter 9102872

The 10 Sinfonias might look unsatisfying on paper – each around two mins – yet Abrahamsen packs more than a single idea into each. The searing chromatic string writing is a relic of their origin in the much earlier First String Quartet, and comparison between the two reveals how the composer has evolved over the longer span much as these pieces do in miniature. Left, Alone is a notable contribution to the left-hand piano concerto literature. Past an opening nod to Ravel, it's full of Abrahamsen's crazy-paving phrases, jazz-canonic rhythms and Escher-staircase patterns. The mood is nonetheless private and reflective, like the title. Stefanovich is captured at close range but her playing rewards the attention. The acoustic expands for the sustained, monumental writing of the Two Pieces for wind and brass. PQ

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
While generally available in 44.1kHz/16-bit CD format this 48kHz file shows what looks like a 'kink' of aliasing between 22-24kHz, suggesting it's an upsample. Otherwise the recording shows 'safe' peaks of –22 to –1dBFs. PM


Thom Lafond
Lawless (DSD64-256; 44.1-352.8kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0029

I got quite hooked on Thom LaFond after hearing his first release for PS Audio's Octave Records, The Moon Leans In [HFN Jun '22]. Now comes the seemingly not-so-difficult follow up, Lawless, described by the label as 'a huge release of a major musical work that harkens back to great bands like Pink Floyd'. The concept is certainly high – the romance between a human and an alien – and LaFond worked with Octave engineer Jay Elliott to create 'a soundscape beyond anything we've done at Octave Records so far. The weaving of synths, vocals, and acoustic and electric instruments, is expansive in a way that will put any great audiophile system through its paces'. PM [below] has doubts about the provenance of the various file formats, but LaFond's affable voice and the depth of the sound is enough to carry the day. Ignore the concept, perhaps, and enjoy? AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Dynamic range is excellent and digital peaks do not exceed –4dBFs. However, the DSD128/256 files look more like upsamples of DSD64 [black trace] while the '352.8kHz' LPCM file [red, peak; blue, RMS] is filtered at a lower rate. PM


Jimmy Regal and the Royals
First And Last Stop (44.1kHz/16-bit, WAV)
www.lunariarecords.com; Lunaria Records n/a cat no.

OK, so it's 'only' CD quality, but who cares when the music is as exuberant and fun as this set from South London blues trio Jimmy Regal and the Royals. It's an unusual set-up, with Joff Watkins on vocals, harmonica and guitar, CJ Williams on more guitars including bass and lap steel, and Sammy Samuels on drums, percussion and backing vocals. Yet the ensemble works convincingly, giving the band a presence with worldwide influences, captured so well in this recording. Williams describes it as 'South London meets West Africa meets North Mississippi meets New Orleans', and it's not hard to hear why this outfit is carving itself a reputation on the live circuit – late night and South of the River, of course. Listen to the funk of 'Mickey Two Suits' or the pared-back 'straight to tape' track 'Do Whatever You Can', and prepare to ride all the way to the end of the line. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
All but the final track are normalised to –0.14dBFs with the typical RMS-to-peak dynamic range being a modest 11-12dB. Otherwise this is a by-the-numbers CD resolution file free of lower sample rate synth effects or obvious spuriae. PM


Caesar Spencer
Get Out Into Yourself (88.2kHz/24-bit, WAV)*
www.caesarspencer.com; New Radio Records

Well, this is all a bit high-concept, from the cartoon artwork of the booklet, opening with Julius Caesar and Frank Spencer (of course), with its Peruvian-born English/Swedish frontman, now living in France, taking a journey that 'begins with the angst of confused adolescence… and ends with understanding and serenity in the shape of the two closing tracks. But the initial journey is all about feeling trapped and confused and wishing you could exorcise the demons that you think are holding you back'. Umm, OK, but Spencer's voice sounds far too mannered, while the French influence is there throughout, right down to a Serge Gainsbourg-esque duet with former beauty queen Mareva Galanter, even if it is rather tamer than 'Je t'aime'. Is it all a parody, supposed to be funny, or should we take the album, with its lush orchestrations, seriously? Je ne sais pas. AE

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
Track 4 is a 2x upsample of a 44.1kHz recording [black trace] while track 10 contains 44.1kHz samples. Otherwise all the other 88.2kHz tracks hit the 0dBFs endstop and offer a best case peak-to-RMS dynamic range of just ~9dB. PM