Kip Peterson has been writing DSD Album reviews since November 2017. His earlier reviews include Bill Evans: Some Other Time – The Lost Session from the Black Forest and Rachel Podger: Vivaldi – La Stravaganza
Today we publish 3 more DSD reviews written by Kip!
1. Joe Holland Quartet: Klipsch Tape Reissues Vol II (from HDTT)
2. Gayle Skidmore & Maya Fridman: The New York EP (from TRPTK)
3. Rachel Podger: Bach – The Art of Fugue (from Channel Classics)
NEW REVIEW No. 1
The Joe Holland Quartet
|Qualities:||DSD 64fs, DSD 128fs|
One of my favorite things about NativeDSD, and which I’ve commented upon previously, is the sheer variety of high-resolution music it offers. I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit sampling tracks from many albums in DSD, much to the detriment of my savings account! But for anyone who finds music to be one of the true joys of life, it is an exciting repository of fabulous artists, venues and sound.
On one such recent sampling journey, I came across the album “Klipsch Tape Reissues Vol. II” by the Joe Holland Quartet. Though I’ve never owned any products from the audio company Klipsch, I was very eager to hear this album because it unabashedly states on its cover that it is from a “first generation stereophonic copy” of the master tape, when it was originally sold as a tape to lucky owners of tape machines back in 1955 (which I suspect was a rare group). Of course, this release is a DSD version of the recording, but from my experience digitizing tapes I own from my analog tape machine to a DSD recorder, the results can be magic. As it turns out, so is this DSD album.
If you’ve ever been curious about how analog tape sounds on a high-quality audio system, this album conveys much of what you would hear. There is an organic richness to music on tape, and a sense of density that seems lacking from CDs or even vinyl (of which I am a big fan). It’s just fun to listen to tape, and it remains my favorite format. In my opinion, the DSD format seems to preserve much of the subtle nuances of the sound of tape very well. This album is incredibly open and transparent with startling dynamics, all hallmarks of tape. The drums on this recording are a standout in this regard. Without knowing how it was made, I have a strong suspicion that compressors and limiters did not find a role in its creation.
Also, I’ve always felt tape sources sound closer to the true timbre of instruments. This release is an experiment in instrumental veracity, I think, and so the timbre of all the instruments on this album bring you to the venue wonderfully. To hear what I mean, listen to “Holland’s Holiday Drum Solo,” as it contains great examples of these attributes.
The mix generates a soundstage that seems a little too separated at times to completely suspend disbelief, but anyone familiar with Blue Note recordings will feel right at home and comfortable with this effect, as I do. One thing modern recording have become very good at, I think, is soundstage. But if this quibble is the only price one pays to be brought so close to a performance of great jazz, I’ll gladly pay it.
With terrific, virtuosic performances, great jazz standards like “Night and Day,” foot-tapping swing melodies and several mellow, slower entries anchored with a beautifully sweet clarinet, I can’t imagine any buyer of this album finding it anything less than stellar. Thanks again, NativeDSD, for bringing a great DSD release to music lovers!
NEW REVIEW No. 2
Genre: Acoustic, Pop, Vocal
|Qualities:||DXD, DSD 64fs, DSD 128fs, DSD 256fs|
I imagine anyone reading these reviews knows that historically, music recorded with DSD technology has been predominately classical. One of my favorite things about NativeDSD is the variety of genres now comprising their catalog. I enjoy poking around the corners of this catalog, and to my delight, I recently stumbled upon a very interesting album from Gayle Skidmore called “The New York E.P.” As the EP moniker suggests, this album is short, containing only three songs, but each of the three make a compelling statement about contemporary songwriting. It also contains some surprises.
The first surprise was learning that Ms. Skidmore hails from San Diego, California, the area in which I live. I suppose this might positively bias my assessment of her music, but truthfully, I approached this album with complete objectivity, as it was my first exposure to her work. The next surprise was learning that the main instrument on the album is a banjo, an instrument not frequently encountered in modern music. One might be hard pressed to imagine that the music style on this record could be matched to a banjo—and yet, it seems a perfect fit in this artist’s hands. Ms. Skidmore’s playing has a way of evoking warmth and depth to the serious works presented here, and so each song brings a fresh, pleasant perspective to the sound of a banjo. By coupling this talent to the haunting, ethereal musical structure and lyrics of her songs, the use of backing violins, and her crystalline voice, the album becomes irresistible.
In the first track, “New York,” her note picking is very reminiscent of a piano, my favorite instrument. So, I fell for this album very quickly. The next track, “The Impossible Sum,” created a very emotional response in me as its heart-rending lyrics, combined with solo banjo, describe joy during what appears to be an insoluble personal relationship. Violins return to add a rich sound in the final track, “Sleepwalking,” which again finds a way to describe the reality of daily living as a combination of sadness and happiness.
I have a habit of choosing the version of an album from Native DSD in the format in which it was digitized (a feature of the website I particularly appreciate). In this case, that was DXD. I do not own very many DXD albums, but my impression is that it serves this performance very well, conveying an open, clear, present voice while supporting the tonal richness of the supporting stringed instruments. It’s a perfect choice for powerful and simpler, less-layered music that also benefits from a silent background to create an authentic recreation of a performance. I imagine Ms. Skidmore was very pleased with the result of this recording and count me as a happy listener.
NEW REVIEW No. 3
Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque
|Qualities:||DSD 64fs, DSD 128fs, DSD 256fs, DXD|
As a young boy, two things became quite apparent to me in elementary school when I began piano lessons. The first was that math was unlikely to ever become a favorite subject. The other was how difficult any Bach piece would be for me to master. It was only later that I began to believe because of my dislike for math, the structure of Bach’s music was particularly challenging to me. As a child, I thought that any composer who could willfully request the brain to command one hand to do what the other was doing exactly but delayed by just one measure (as in his Two-Part Inventions), was either cruel or brilliant. The truth, of course, is that only brilliance drove Bach’s wonderfully creative mind. In every category and style of his compositions, and perhaps especially in his fugues, one can find an unparalleled insight, inventiveness and brilliance at work. His compositions that make up the body of “The Art of Fugue” display this in an almost overwhelming manner. Yes, this work represents extensive mathematical and technical challenges, but as always, there is a musical beauty only Bach could have brought to us.
Fortunately for listeners today, there are several incredibly gifted artists who can not only flawlessly execute the compositions in Bach’s The Art of Fugue, but also can do so with their own unique interpretive skills. For me, trying Rachel Podger’s album of these pieces was a must since, as I have written here before, her prodigious talent never disappoints, and the tone of her violin playing is always breathtaking.
Interestingly, Bach never dictated what instruments should be used when playing these compositions, so our tonal choices are multiplied. For example, Native DSD even has an album of these pieces played on a saxophone! Though hearing these pieces played on a keyboard instrument are also very appealing to me, this album excels in several areas.
First is emotion. Ms. Podger has an unbridled enthusiasm for the works here, as displayed most wonderfully in the “Canon alla Ottava.” In this performance, she somehow continually respects the technical precision of the fugue form while injecting a playfulness and lightness that is irresistible. This ability reveals a brilliance all her own and insulates the listener from ever becoming acutely aware that the fugue form demands instrumental rhythmic independence. Instead, it flows in a truly harmonious way, both musically and intellectually. Next, the incredible musicians on this album make these pieces even more inviting that they might be otherwise through the warmth of their string instruments and execution. Finally, the transparency that this recording provides brings us believably to the recording venue.
Math, music, Bach and Podger. It is magic.