Hi-Res Downloads, October 2022

hfnalbumMarc-André Hamelin
William Bolcom: The Complete Rags (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68391/2

For many, the fleeting revival of interest in piano rags was centred around Scott Joplin and the use of his music in the 1973 movie The Sting, but from the mid '60s for about a decade, composers were discovering Joplin's music and writing their own rags. On this set, pianist Marc-André Hamelin presents the entire output of William Bolcom, written between 1967 and 2015, when the composer revisited the form for a last piece, 'Contentment', which he says he hopes will end his rag addiction! Captured in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Mass., this comprehensive set is both a fascinating survey of lesser-known works and an exemplary blend of pianism and recording, with the instrument given room to breathe in the spacious acoustic. If, like me, your knowledge begins and ends with Joplin, this will come as a hugely enjoyable surprise. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Tracks 8, 10, 15 and 27 hit the 0.0dBFs digital endstops but this 96kHz rendering is otherwise clean and possessed of a wide dynamic range. The ~48kHz bandwidth is more than sufficient for the Steinert & Sons piano. PM


Carmen Sandim
Mini Brazilian Beasts (44.1-352.8kHz/24-bit, FLAC; DSD64-256)
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0026

There's clearly a thriving music scene in the area around PS Audio's home base in Boulder, Colorado, so strong is the roster of artists it has mustered for its PS Audio label. Pianist Carmen Sandim is a fine example: born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, she now lives in Boulder, and teaches at several universities in the state, as well as being a superb jazz musician. This set, best heard in its stunningly crisp and clear DSD64 form, finds her working with a fine collection of musicians to create a collection of tunes at once bright and breezy, as in the opening title track, but also darker and more reflective, for example in 'Disturbia Nervosa' or the reflective 'Eventual Ocean' for solo piano. Great musicianship meets a state-of-the-art recording, finely balancing weight and openness, ambience and focus, to great effect. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Recorded in DSD64 and offered in upsampled DSD256 and converted 192kHz guises [black trace], the former peak ~4dB lower than the LPCM format but all have moderate audioband and ultrasonic requantisation noise. PM


The Gesualdo Six
Fading (96-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68285

We've visited the works of this wonderful-sounding all-male vocal group before, when I think we've noted that the 'Six' are actually seven, the extra being director Owain Park, who also sings bass. Here they present a programme of music from across Europe and spanning many centuries, all inspired by the service of Compline, the church's traditional end of day worship. Quiet reflection is the mood of this set, with the sense of day fading into night. It makes a perfect wind-down listen before sleep, even if that's in a comfortable chair before the hi-fi system with a glass of something soothing, rather than in a reverberant ecclesiastical building. You don't even need to worry on that score, as the Hyperion team has made a great job of capturing the ensemble in the full acoustic of the lofty 1930s church of St George, Chesterton, on the outskirts of Cambridge. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Well... this is an unusual 192kHz file that rather looks like it's spent some time at DSD128 before being converted back to LPCM. The available ~50kHz is more than sufficient to capture the Six's harmonic span and dynamic range is excellent. PM


Jeremy Mohney
Dreams Of You (DSD64; 44.1-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0024

You can't get much more classic old-school jazz than the second track on this set by saxophonist and vocalist Mohney, the appropriately-named 'Octave Stomp', which will transport you back to the early part of the last century with its brass, banjo and percussion. But then that's the tone of this entire album, which has a real toe-tapping swing throughout, as Mohney is backed by the talents of Conner Hollingsworth on bass, drummer Braxton Kahn, trombonist Andrew McNew and Matt Cantor on guitar and banjo. It's a tight little group, and Mohney slips effortlessly between playing and singing, with his sidesmen contributing fine solos as well as keeping the rhythms moving. Yes, it's an exercise in nostalgia, with a beautiful 'late night at the ballroom' feel, but it's every bit as captivating as it is fine-sounding, and everything we've come to expect from this innovative label. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
PS Audio's native DSD64 recording offers a slightly wider dynamic range than the 192kHz LPCM conversion [black trace], the latter normalised up to a full 0.0dBFs. The only 'win' offered by LPCM is its bandlimiting of DSD's ultrasonic noise. PM


Oscuras Flores (48kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.denovali.com; Denovali DEN369

The follow-up to the darkness of the live/improvised Minotaur [HFN Jul '21] finds composer Jason Kohnen, formerly of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, on bass and electronics, joined by oud player Dimitry El Demerdashi and vocalist Martina Horváth in a set said to be 'a musical testimony for a return to an organic and healthier symbiosis with our planet'. That's hardly a unique theme – it seems almost every month brings at least one album re-examining our place in the world, but Mansur pulls it off through a simple combination of restrained electronica and plain and simple differentness. Yes, you can just kick back and let the waves of sound roll over you, or you can home in on the skill of the production here, both in the layering of the highly detailed sounds and their placement in the stereo soundstage, which is sometimes startling. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Most of the tracks here are normalised to –0.2dBFs (trk 5 peaks at –0.5dBFs) and while there are no spurious stopband signals there is clearly some sub-48kHz synth content mixed into the master file [black trace] – to be expected. PM