Hi-Res Downloads, July 2019

hfnalbumKaren O & Danger Mouse
Lux Prima (48kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.highresaudio.com; 30th Century Records 538446272

After an illustrious career both as a solo artist and with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the first decade of the century, then taking a child-rearing sabbatical for the better part of the next ten years, Karen O is back. This time she's in the hands of producer Danger Mouse, who sets her songwriting and vocals against a dense multilayered production that enhances the music without ever threatening to overwhelm it. As PM's Lab Report suggests, this set takes full advantage of the 48kHz/24-bit format, with excellent clarity in the four-part title suite, with its powerful rhythms and spacey strings and keyboard. But the album can turn on the snarl when it wants, as with the punchy 'Woman', in which the voice really opens up, and 'Leopard's Tongue' is a smoky stormer. There's so much to like in this set it justifies multiple plays, during which I defy you not to get drawn in and find it a new favourite. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Trks 4 (the single, 'Woman'), 5, 6 and 7 are especially energetic and will exercise your DAC at the 0dBFs limit [Graph] but the ultrasonic spectrum is mercifully free of aliasing and other distortions. This is 48kHz/24-bit up to the endstops! PM


Madison Cunningham
For The Sake Of The Rhyme (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Universal Music/Verve 89926662

Now here's a relative rarity; an EP that's rather long for the format at six tracks, and yet too short to be a real album. And while, yet again, PM's Lab Report [below] suggests it went through lower sample rates at some point in its life, that doesn't detract from the sympathetic view it presents of the young Californian singer/songwriter's voice, whether in the attack and snarl of the storming opener, 'Beauty Into Clichés', apparently written on the way to Walmart (!), or the gentle opening of 'Last Boat To Freedom', which suddenly explodes into ethereal strings and rock slam. Kudos, too, for the effective cover of Simon & Garfunkel's 'Goodbye Frank Lloyd Wright', which is simply lovely. I have to admit to having listened to this album first time around and having a sort of 'Meh' reaction to it. But you know what? It's beginning to grow on me... AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Yes, this '96kHz/24-bit' file will appear as such on your media player and/or choice of software but spectral evidence [peak, red; blue, RMS] strongly suggests that it was mixed/post-processed at 48kHz before being (re)upsampled to 96kHz. PM


4 Wheel Drive (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; ACT Music ACT 9875-2

While this album download isn't quite what it seems [see PM's Lab Report, below] it does sound surprisingly good, as you might might expect from the 'supergroup' lineup involved. Trombonist/vocalist Nils Landgren joins forces with pianist Michael Wollny, bassist Lars Daneilsson (who also doubles on cello) and drummer Wolfgang Haffner to deliver a sort of 'songbook' drawn from the likes of Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Phil Collins and Sting. After a Wollny-written opener, we're into more familiar territory with well-known tunes given the jazz treatment, the quality of the musical forces (just) avoiding the set straying into easy listening territory. It rocks well enough when required, the short-form songs mean solos are pithy and to the point, and above all it sounds pretty good – yes, and despite those apparent mastering shenanigans. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Here's an (im)perfect example of a 48kHz recording upsampled and then offered as a 96kHz file – which is how it will appear to your DAC. Furthermore, trks 10 and 12 show clipped samples with bursts of aliasing distortion up to 48kHz. PM


Fumio Yasuda

Forest (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Winter & Winter 910 253-2

I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate the spare recording and style of this album, which stands somewhere between jazz, 'new age' and classical in its styles, setting Yasuda's compositions and piano against the ethereal voice of Akimuse, the clarinet of Joachim Badenshorst and the bass of Nobuyoshi Ino. It's all very free-form and atmospheric in its evocation of landscapes, natural phenomena and so on, and it's best just to kick back and let it wash over you. You'll search in vain for solid tunes to latch onto, and instead revel in the way clarinet and voice entwine on 'Thirst For Love', or the perky rhythms of 'Waltz For Monique' that end the set, which is more structured than the soundscapes created elsewhere. Give in to this album and you'll find much to appreciate, although you may discover that getting there is slightly hard work. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Recorded in three separate sessions over a two-year period, with post-production a further two years later, this is something of a 'mixed bag'. Trks 3, 5, 6, 7, 12 and 13 [black spectrum] look to be upsampled from, or mastered at, 44.1kHz. PM


Boston SO/Andris Nelsons
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos 6 & 7; King Lear; Festival Overture (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; DG 483 6728

This is the fourth instalment in Nelsons' 'Under Stalin's Shadow' series with his Boston orchestra and it duplicates the – now properly appreciated, once scorned by critics – 'Leningrad' Symphony, No 7, which he did very well in 2012 when chief conductor of the CBSO [Orfeo]. Punctuated by five brief Fanfares, the Suite of incidental music for a 1940 Bolshoi Theatre production of King Lear (filmed post-war) was composed between these two symphonies. It's variable in quality, if grimly impressive as Gloucester is blinded, stark as the Storm approaches and Mahlerian indeed in depiction of the Military Camp. The rapport between Nelsons and his orchestra is never in doubt, although the performance sheen in the Symphonies places the listener too safely away from the painful truths inherent in the writing. CB

Sound Quality: 75%


Lab Report
These are very odd spectra for a 96kHz file – low-pass filtered at 28kHz (or sampled at 48kHz?) with bursts between 24kHz-48kHz at high levels. As recordings were made over three months, this must be a post-production issue. PM