Hi-Res Downloads, September 2023

hfnalbumRalph Alessi Quartet
It's Always Now (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.ecmrecords.com; ECM 2722

The latest release from trumpeter and composer Alessi is a dreamy, easy-flowing outing, bringing together a Euro-American quartet with pianist Florian Webber, who also wrote three of the tracks here, bassist Bänz Oester and drummer Gerry Hemingway. From the opening track, 'Hypnagogic', the other-worldly mood is set, with Alessi playing at the top of his instrument's range, before things settle back into the relaxed, contemplative 'Old Baby', with that legendary ECM sound quality very much to the fore. Then we're into the gentle rhythmic flow of 'Migratory Party' before the band swings oh so lightly of foot on 'Residue', and the same understated virtuosity underpins the rest of the set, recorded in Italy's Artesuono Studio, with ECM founder Manfred Eicher as producer. This is a wonderful coming together of great musicians and a reflection of the care the label puts into its recordings. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Lab Report
Sensitively recorded by ECM at 96kHz, with peaks never exceeding –1dBFs (trks 8 & 9), it's the (background) percussion feed that fills the ultrasonic space here – trumpet and piano typically reside within the 20Hz-20kHz audioband. PM

Basic RGB

Mahan Esfahani/Prague RSO
Martinu, Krása & Kalabis: Harpsichord Concertos (48kHz/24-bit)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68397

Tehran-born Esfahani is on a mission, aiming to rehabilitate the harpsichord from a historical novelty back into the classical mainstream. He's been doing this for many years, exploring the repertoire for the instrument while also commissioning new pieces, but this is his first concerto album for Hyperion – and it's every bit as thrilling as the cover suggests. Recorded in Prague, where he's now based, with the city's RSO, it excites from the start with the 1930s spirit of the Martinu, the orchestra providing the perfect counterpoint to Esfahani's fluid, dynamic playing. The Krésa, meantime, evokes the spirit of a busy café, while the later Kalabis piece, written in 1975 for Esfahani's teacher, finds the soloist seemingly trying to break free, only to be roped back in by the band. Huge fun, and with excellent sound throughout. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
A pity this fine 48kHz recording was not made at 96kHz – the 24kHz bandwidth is insufficient to fully capture the range of trumpet, sax and, of course, the higher harmonics of the harpsichord. Peaks are high, but dynamic range is excellent. PM


Bill Kopper
Ancient Rhythms (DSD64-256; 44.1-352.8kHz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0023

This album really swings, with Kopper showing his considerable talents on a range of guitars – electric, classical and seven-string nylon-strung – playing a complete set of original compositions backed by a tight, crisp band. Album co-producer Erik Deutsch is on piano, Bijoux Barbosa on bass, Paa Kow on drums and percussion, and John Gunther tracking the guitars with his light-as-air flute. Count the influences and flavours here: there's everything from Brazilian samba to African jump, taking in classic jazz styles along the way to create an irresistible sound perfect for late-summer listening. From romantic lightweight pieces to rhythms driven by that extra low string on the guitar and the superb percussion here, it's all revealed in a stunningly clean Octave production job. Load it up, and let in the sunshine! AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Dynamic range is better than the Graph suggests, but the 'blackest' silences are still set by analogue noise. This looks like a DSD64 recording, with DSD128/256 upsamples offered, alongside a 'perfect' 176.4kHz conversion [black trace]. PM


Trustfall (44.1kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.pinkspage.com; RCA 19658-77265-2

Go on, fall backwards, and I promise I'll catch you – that little method of discovering your true friends gives P!nk the title for her ninth album, and while it still carries an 'E' warning for language, this is a much more mature set than some past efforts, seemingly designed purely to shock. It opens with a song imagining her late father's life 'on the other side', typical of the album's more thoughtful ambience. It's all delivered with her powerful voice still able to tingle the spine on everything from the driving, synth-powered title track to the truly sensational 'Our Song', where she nails the piano in no uncertain style. The album swings from radio-friendly bangers to more country-tinged numbers featuring the likes of Chris Stapleton and First Aid Kit, but left this listener gasping for more dynamic range to illuminate some light and shade. Dull it isn't, but neither is it subtle. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Despite being mixed into the endstops (trks 4, 5 & 8 hit 0.0dBFs) the dynamic range realised by this '24-bit' recording is still limited – peak-to-RMS hovers around one bit (5 to 9dB). What Trustfall lacks in low-level res. it recovers in energy! PM  


Time's Arrow (44.1kHz/16-bit, FLAC)*
www.ladytron.com; COOKLP826

Dense doesn't even come close to describing the production of 'City Of Angels', the uncompromising opener to this seventh album from Liverpool's electro-pop outfit Ladytron. I'm sure there are lyrics in there, and different instruments playing, but aside from the much-repeated title nothing much is clearly audible in the mix's wall of sound. On more than one occasion I had to resort to Roon's lyrics display to work out what I was hearing in the flat, less-than-dynamic soundscapes here. Even in the simpler numbers such as 'The Night' and 'The Dreamers' this 'grab the kitchen sink and hurl it at the mix' approach all but subsumes the vocals of Helen Marnie in the sheer wash of synths and assorted electronica. And that's a pity, because there's some interesting lyrical and musical stuff going on in Time's Arrow – or at least I think there is… AE

Sound Quality: 70%


Lab Report
With only slightly greater dynamic range than P!nk's Trustfall (trks 4 & 9 peak at 0.0dBFs) Ladytron's extensive use of synthesisers inevitably means that sub-CD sample rates feed into the final mix [black trace]. Set speakers to stun! PM