Calexico – Garden Ruin

Calexico have cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

Last year's successful collaboration with folk tunesmith Iron and Wine appears to have encouraged Arizona's Calexico to cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

The Morricone-influenced instrumental epics of earlier recordings have been replaced by melodic, jangly country-rock numbers such as opener "Cruel", together with a sizeable dose of electric guitar on heavier tracks like "Letter To Bowie Knife".

Only on "Roka (Danza De La Muerte)", featuring Andalucian singer Ampara Sanchez, and the Gotan Project-style modern tango of "Nom De Plume" are Calexico's Latin inflections allowed to take a front seat. Elsewhere, while their trademark violins, trumpets and shuffling percussion do flit unobtrusively in and out of the mix throughout, the band's variety of textures and moods has been significantly pared down in search of a more accessible but ultimately less interesting sound. One could argue that thislack of variety hasbeen replaced by a stronger set of songs than their earlier efforts.

Longer term listening leads to greater enjoyment and rewards.

Beautiful matt gatefold cover with lyrics printed within and extra artwork on the inner sleeve also. The packaging is a work of art in itself. Decent weight vinyl and well pressed. And the usual very good Calexico sound. Possibly a bit clinical but deep and well rounded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/8qf9/

Piazzolla – buenos aires- carrefour, per arne, glorvigen

Piazzolla: Buenos Aires – Carrefour, Per Arne Glorvigen (NorthWest Classics NWC 205275) (Stereo-only SACD)

Audio system: Sony ES, Placette, Rogue, Meadowlark, Cardas

Availability:

Northwest Classics is based in the Netherlands . At present, they have very limited international distribution and availability. Titles can be ordered directly from their website. The service is quick and professional.

Music/Performance:

Admittedly, I have very little experience upon which to base a judgement of this music or performance. These pieces by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) are orchestrated for marimba quartet (including a variety of non-pitched percussion) and the most "Tango" of instruments, the bandoneon (sounds similar to an accordian). The project of orchestrating Piazzolla's music is explained by Carrefour: "Sonority and melody are Carrefour's primary concerns, and therefore as a marimba ensemble we experience music making more intimately connected to the piano or the human voice than only to percussion instruments. For us every possible rhythmic impulse comprises myriad opportunities to play with the subtle and complex colors encapsulated in a single vibration… These ideas perfectly served the music while at the same time shedding new light on these timeless pieces." As someone who until this recording never gave Tango a second thought, I can say that the results are very engaging. Pieces such as " Buenos Aires hor cero," " Soledad ," and "Anxiety (from 5 Tango Sensations)" are intricate and exciting music that move far beyond the newcomer's obvious expectations of "dance music." The sheer range of sounds, the fluidity with which they are integrated, and the particular sonic characteristics of the marimbas make for a distinctive and memorable performance. One interesting thing to note is that this is the first recording a new musical instrument, the "Grubbophone," which is described as having a "sound color between that of a marimba and a double bass, but with a much lower range."

Sonics:

Sonic curiosity was the reason I ordered this SACD, and I was not disappointed. The "Producer's note" got me excited right away: "…The pieces recorded on this SACD have a wide dynamic range from the whispering and barely audible to the loud and brash." Initial caution is advised when setting the playback volume. Basically, the sonics on this SACD qualify it as a true audiophile reference recording. If you are auditioning audio gear, it is one of three or four SACDs you should have with you. The dynamics are absolutely stunning. They are not big swells of sound like one gets with orchestral music, but rather the kind of exhilarating transient dynamics that I would guess are only possible with expertly recorded pitched percussion. The background is absolutely black. In fact, it is actually spooky. Despite the fact that the mechanical sounds of the bandoneon are retained for authenticity (the bandoneon is featured on about half the tracks), the overall sound has an almost eerie quality of emerging out of, and receding back into, nothingness. That said, the recording achieves a very good sense of depth in the few places where the music is given a context of extra-musical sounds, such as the lead-in to " Buenos Aires hora cero." The different sounds blend and integrate in ways that enhance the musical collaboration, and yet retain their distinctive sonic and spatial characters.

Recommended for Tango fans and general music lovers; highly recommended for curious audiophiles.

© Lyle Crawford

Eleanor McEvoy – Out There

Eleanor McEvoy – Out There

 Diverse records has been one of my favourite record labels. I've been disappointed because they have been very quiet for the past couple of years. But I am delighted to see the following announcement. Eleanor McEvoy's 'Yola' was magnificent. I have not heard this new album but hope it reaches the same highs.

 

We are delighted to announce that the next release on the Diverse Records label will be the 5th album by the Irish singer songwriter, Eleanor McEvoy "Out There".

Forever associated with 'Only A Woman's Heart', massively underrated Irish singer songwriter Eleanor McEvoy raises the stakes with an ambitious self-produced, self-arranged album. It tackles Marvin Gaye and Lowell George and includes a Dave Rotheray collaboration along with her own immaculately tuneful, lyrically potent tales of love and life.
"Out There" has already been a hit at the hi fi shows this year on SACD, but along with "Early Hours" and the repress of "Yola", we're hoping it's going to sound even better on the Diverse label proprietory 180g audiophile vinyl.

As usual, mastering duties will be handled by Ray Staff at Alchemy Mastering, and pressing at Pallas in Germany. Release date to be confirmed at the moment, so please keep your eye out for more news as it breaks.

Useful link: http://www.diverserecords.com