May 26, 2012

Playlist Week of 5-26-12

Storm Corrosion

* Hesperion XXI et al. (Savall): Le Royaume Oublié (d.1-2) (Alia Vox 3SACD)
* J.S. Bach: 7 Harpsichord Concertos (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)†
* J.S. Bach: Suites For Violoncello (ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions (d.1) (Columbia/Legacy 6CD)
* John Coltrane: Coltrane Time (United Artists/Blue Note CD)
* Bobby Hutcherson: Conception: The Gift Of Love (Columbia LP)
* Lowell Davidson Trio: Lowell Davidson Trio (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* Elvis Presley: Elvis At Sun (RCA-Victor CD)
* Gram Parsons: GP (Reprise/Mobile Fidelity SACD)
* Grateful Dead: Cape Cod Coliseum, S. Yarmouth, MA 10-27-79 (d.1-2) (SBD 3CDR)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (Experience Hendrix/Sony LP)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold As Love (Experience Hendrix/Sony LP)
* The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix/Sony 2LP)
* Jimi Hendrix: First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (Experience Hendrix/Sony 2LP)
* Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (Limited Edition SACD) (EMI/Analogue Productions SACD)
* Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Black Sabbath: Vol.4 (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Peter Gabriel: Plays Live (Charisma 2LP)
* Camel: Moonmadness (Gama/Janus LP)
* Camel: Rain Dances (Gama/Janus LP)
* Roxy Music: Avalon (Virgin HDCD)
* Tears For Fears: The Hurting (Mercury LP)
* Tears For Fears: Songs From The Big Chair (Mercury/Polygram LP)
* ABC: The Lexicon Of Love (Mercury/Polygram LP)
* Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring (EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Spirit Of Eden (Parlophone/EMI LP/DVD)
* Talk Talk: Laughing Stock (Polydor 2LP)
* Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (Elektra LP)
* Buckethead: Colma (CyberOctave CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Steven Wilson: Insurgentes (KScope CD/DVD-A)
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope 2CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Special Edition) (Peaceville CD/DVD)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Special Edition) (Roadrunner HDCD/DVD)
* Opeth: Watershed (Special Edition) (Roadrunner CD/DVD)(†)
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Meshuggah: Destroy Erase Improve (Reloaded) (Nuclear Blast CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)
* The Mars Volta: Tremulant EP (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CDEP)†
* The Mars Volta: De-Loused At The Comatorium (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Amputechture (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Noctourniquet (Warner Bros. CD)†/‡
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop 2LP)



Storm Corrosion, the long-awaited collaboration between Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, et al.), has finally been released and it is not at all what you might expect, given its pedigree. Then again, if you had been paying attention to all the pre-release hype, you would have a rough idea of what they were up to: the deliberate antithesis of a “prog-metal supergroup”—the very thing everyone expected and, indeed, wanted from them. Obscure and incongruous bands like Comus, Popol Vuh, Univers Zero, David Crosby and Talk Talk were mooted as primary influences on the music, raising more than a few eyebrows. It was further revealed that the project grew out of a casual get-together at Wilson’s home in England back in 2010: several relaxing days spent record-shopping and nights spent drinking wine, watching movies and, sometimes, recording in the studio. Easy as pie. Wilson says Storm Corrosion is “the third part of a trilogy,” starting with his solo album, Grace For Drowning, and Opeth’s most recent record, Heritage. Accordingly, careful (or obsessed) listeners should have known exactly what to expect: some sort of psych-folk-prog monstrosity, overflowing with shimmering electric pianos, swooning Mellotrons—and a total absence of “death metal” vocals.

Yet Storm Corrosion manages to be more than the sum of their respective record collections, resulting in a remarkably fruitful collaboration between two distinctive musical personalities. Åkerfeldt’s intricate guitar work meshes easily with Wilson’s grand orchestrations—which is not that surprising given their history. But the overall mood is quiet and dark, grim and foreboding, only occasionally raising the emotional temperature with blasts of noise or almost (but not quite) rock-ish outbursts. Most of the singing is handled by Wilson, but Åkerfeldt’s unique and slightly skewed sensibility is pervasive throughout, tempering Wilson’s tendency towards grandiosity. Drums (played by PT’s Gavin Harrison) are nearly subliminal or wildly distorted,  just part of the richly atmospheric musical texture, which deploys strings, woodwinds and dense layers of vocal overdubs along with the guitars and keyboards. With nary a trace of post-modernist irony or naïve sentimentality, Storm Corrosion pursues its own take on old-fashioned progressive rock music with an earnestness and ambition that is frankly astonishing in this day and age. They could have taken the easy way out and given the fans exactly what they wanted but have instead delivered a difficult and eerily haunting record that many will likely find perplexing. But for the adventurous and open-eared, this is an album that will reward multiple start-to-finish listens.

As with most things Wilson-related, the limited edition vinyl and CD/Blu-Ray editions sold out well before the official release date on May 7 so I’m glad I did the pre-order thing. The two-LP set is gorgeously packaged, with a luxuriously textured gatefold jacket and giant-sized poster—and it came with an autographed lithograph of the cover. Cool! Unfortunately, my copy is a bit noisy (even after a couple of rounds on the Nitty Gritty record cleaning machine), which is particularly distracting given the quiet and contemplative nature of the music. Oh well; it is still a lovely object d’art. The Blu-Ray disc, on the other hand, more than makes up for the vinyl’s shortcomings: containing both surround-sound and stereo mixes in high-resolution digital, plus demos and instrumental versions, it sounds utterly fantastic. I wish more music was released on Blu-Ray as the sound quality can be stunningly good, right up there with the best analog—without all of its obvious faults. If you missed out on these special editions, rumor has it a repress is coming later this summer. Otherwise, the plain old CD sounds very good indeed.

See and hear for yourself with this evocative video for the opening track, “Drag Ropes,” which features Åkerfeldt on lead vocals. It will give you a pretty good idea of what these guys are up to. Enjoy—or not!

May 19, 2012

Playlist Week of 5-19-12

Opeth - Mikael Akerfeldt 2012-05-12a

* Eric Dolphy Quintet: Outward Bound (Prestige/OJC CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Out There (Prestige/OJC CD)
* Joe Henderson: Our Thing (Blue Note CD)
* Tony Williams: Life Time (Blue Note CD)
* Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (Blue Note CD)
* Grant Green: Street Of Dreams (Blue Note CD)
* George Benson: Weekend In L.A. (Warner Bros. 2LP)
* Bob Dylan & The Band: The Basement Tapes (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity 2LP)
* Grateful Dead: Terrapin Station (Arista/Analogue Productions LP)
* Grateful Dead: Reckoning (Arista/Analogue Productions 2LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Penguin (Reprise LP)
* Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna (Modern/Atco LP)
* Deep Purple: Shades Of Deep Purple (EMI/Odeon LP)
* Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Emerson Lake & Palmer: Trilogy (Cotillion/Atlantic LP)
* Emerson Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery (Manticore/Atlantic LP)
* Camel: A Live Record (Decca 2LP)
* Camel: Nude (Gama/Decca LP)
* Camel: The Single Factor (Gama/Passport LP)
* Tangerine Dream: Ricochet (Virgin LP)
* Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Into The Great Wide Open (MCA LP)
* Tom Petty: Full Moon Fever (MCA LP)
* Elvis Costello: Get Happy!!! (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity 2-45RPM LP)
* Elvis Costello: Almost Blue (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Meat Puppets: Meat Puppets (SST EP)
* Meat Puppets: Meat Puppets II (SST LP)
* Meat Puppets: Up On The Sun (SST LP)
* My Bloody Valentine: EP’s 1988-1991 (Sony 2CD)
* My Bloody Valentine: Isn’t Anything (Sony CD)
* My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (Sony 2CD)
* Guided By Voices: Alien Lanes (Matador LP)
* Kyuss: Blues For The Red Sun (Dali/Elektra/Warner Bros. CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (KScope CD/DVD)†/‡
* Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun (KScope CD/DVD)†/‡
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner 2LP/CD/BD)
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†(‡)
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Legacy Edition) (Sony CD/DVD)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner HDCD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Deluxe Edition) (Roadrunner CD+DVD)(†/‡)
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (10th Anniversary Edition) (Peaceville CD/CDEP)†
* Katatonia: Viva Emptiness (Peaceville CD)†
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville 2LP/CD)(†)
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)†
* YOB: The Illusion Of Motion (Metal BladeCD)(†/‡)
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Mastodon: Live At The Aragon (Reprise 2LP/DVD)
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse CD)†/‡
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse CD)†/‡



What a week! Part two of the “Mountains & Metal Tour 2012” was a total blast. On Friday, May 11, we drove down to Chattanooga (which meant crossing Lookout Mountain) and spent the afternoon at the Tennessee Aquarium, a beautiful state of the art facility which opened in 1992 along the Tennessee River. There are actually two aquariums, an "Ocean Journey" and "River Journey," offering equally in-depth explorations of both salt water and fresh water environments. In addition to fish, there is a lively butterfly pavilion and plenty of reptiles, penguins and other birds around to re-create diverse natural environments. There are no “killer whale” shows or jumping dolphins at the Tennessee Aquarium, just a series of meticulously maintained ecosystems to observe and contemplate. Truly, it is really one of the nicest aquariums I’ve ever seen. The most impressive exhibit, for me, was the several rooms of various jellyfish, quite possibly the trippiest of nature’s creatures:

Jellyfish 01

On Saturday we headed down to Atlanta for the final show of the "Heritage-Hunter Tour," featuring Opeth, Mastodon and Ghost. Unlike the historic Tennessee Theatre (where we saw them on April 16), the Masquerade Music Park is outdoors, general admission and located in a funky post-industrial area on the North side of downtown Atlanta. Being a Saturday, the crowd was a bit younger and a lot rowdier than in Knoxville—but that actually made it even more fun for an old fart like me. The music started about 7:00, so there was still plenty of bright sunlight around for Ghost’s set—and I was wondering if Papa Emeritus would melt or burst into flames or something. Now, that would have been cool! I guess they’re not so scary after all! Frankly, I find their music to be pedestrian at best and their whole schtick utterly ridiculous. Sure, it was mildly amusing, but I was glad when their blessedly short, thirty-five minute set came to an end.

Ghost 2012-05-12a

Opeth had canceled their appearance in Minneapolis on May 7 and rumors abounded of Mikael Åkerfeldt being in a car wreck and breaking his arm. Oh no!  As it turns out, he only bumped his head on Mastodon’s tour bus just before the show, but it was severe enough to require eight (!) staples at the emergency room. Now, that's what I call head-banging! Amazingly enough, he returned to finish the last couple of shows of the tour—what a trooper! He looked tired and seemed a little subdued (not a lot of witty banter on this night), but his singing and playing were spot on. In fact, the whole band sounded superb and I noticed some subtle changes to the arrangements had creeped into a couple of songs over the past month. Predictably, a mosh-pit broke out during “Demon of the Fall”—a first for Lizzy!—but, despite the surface display of aggression, it was all just harmless kid stuff. I’m too old for that kind of thing, but it looked like good clean fun. Regardless, the moshing and crowd-surfing certainly seemed to energize the band and they turned it up a notch in return, clearly enjoying themselves and the resulting spectacle. It was totally intense, totally heavy metal! I just adore this band!

Opeth 2012-05-12a

The hometown heroes, the mighty Mastodon, closed the evening and their relentlessly pummeling sound benefitted enormously from the outdoor acoustic. Unlike the distorted, smeared mess at the Tennessee Theatre, their sound was crisp and clear—I didn’t even need my earplugs! They tore through their set with extra enthusiasm and the crowd was obviously way into it, despite the soft rain that had begun to fall. Although singing may not be their strong suit, Mastodon’s instrumental virtuosity is undeniable and their performance that night was a stunningly impressive display. Being the last show of the tour, they brought out Opeth, Ghost, roadies, friends and families on stage for a rare encore: a big sing-along on “The Creature Lives.” It was really quite touching! You know, despite the trappings of evil and Satanism and all that stuff, the metal scene strikes me as remarkably wholesome:

Mastodon - Opeth - Ghost 2012-05-12 encore

Hopefully, Åkerfeldt is getting some much-needed rest and letting his head wound heal. Both Opeth and Mastodon will be playing the various European festivals throughout the summer—but according to this interview  with Frederik Akesson, Opeth will be returning to the U.S. in September with their buddies Katatonia for another headlining tour. If true, we are so there!


Not surprisingly, I was too wiped out to make it to the Noa Noa thing  on Tuesday. I’m lame, I know. Maybe next time...

May 13, 2012

Avant-Garde Nashville

Believe it or not, there is a small but vibrant avant-garde music scene here in Nashville. It can be a little bit hard to find as the venues come and go and the mainstream press is largely indifferent. But there are all kinds of interesting things happening on the fringes of Nashville, including cracked electronics, experimental rock and free improvisation—you just have to know where to find it.

Well, let me hip you to a really exciting event: On Tuesday, May 15, Noa Noa will host trumpeter Peter Evans and saxophonist Travis LaPlante, both from New York, along with local saxophonist Craig Schenker in an evening of solo improvisation. Evans, of course, is a heavyweight player in the “out jazz” scene, touring the world and appearing on numerous recordings, including a solo trumpet CD, More Is More, released on Evan Parker’s psi label in 2006. LaPlante is a relative newcomer but his startlingly aggressive band, Little Women, made a highly acclaimed record for AUM Fidelity in 2010 and he has a new one out on Skirl titled, Heart Protector, an EP of solo saxophone pieces—the first vinyl release by this adventuresome label. 

Noa Noa is located at 620 Hamilton Avenue Nashville 37203 and the program begins at 7:00pm. This will be an evening of challenging and highly personal music and should not be missed!

See for yourself:


As you might have noticed, Sun Ra Sunday is on a brief hiatus but will return...eventually.

May 12, 2012

Playlist Week of 5-12-12

* Olivier Latry: Midnight At Notre-Dame: Organ Transcriptions (DG SACD)
* Bartok: Concerto For Orchestra, etc. (Chicago Symphony/Reiner) (RCA-Victor SACD)
* Miles Davis:  Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud: Complete Recordings (Fontana/Polygram CD)
* Ella Fitzgerald: Sings Songs From Let No Man Write My Epitaph (Verve/Classic LP)
* Eric Dolphy: ‘Out To Lunch!’ (Blue Note/Music Matters 2-45RPM LP)
* Ornette Coleman & Prime Time: Dancing In Your Head (Horizon/A&M LP)
* Ornette Coleman & Prime Time: Body Meta (Artists House LP)
* Ornette Coleman & Prime Time: Of Human Feelings (Antilles LP)
* James Blood Ulmer: Tales Of Captain Black (Artists House LP)
* George Benson: Breezin’ (Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Pat Metheny: New Chautauqua (ECM LP)
* Steve Tibbetts: Safe Journey (ECM LP)
* Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (Tamla/Motown LP)
* Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (Tamla/Motown LP)
* George Harrison: Early Takes Volume One (Universal CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Bonus Disc 2012 (Landover, MD 7/29/74x) (GDP/Rhino HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.2: Dillon Stadium, Hartford, CT 7/31/74 (d.1-2) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name… (Atlantic/Rhino LP)
* The Soft Machine: The Soft Machine (ABC/Probe/Sundazed LP)
* The Soft Machine: Volume Two (ABC/Probe/Sundazed LP)
* Black Sabbath: Sabotage (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Emerson Lake & Palmer: Tarkus (Island LP)
* Clear Light Symphony: Clear Light Symphony (Virgin LP)
* Camel: A Live Record (Gama/Decca 2LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Reprise/Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Phil Collins: …But Seriously (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity CD)
* Big Star: #1 Record (Ardent/Classic LP)
* Big Star: Radio City (Ardent/Classic LP)
* Wilco: The Whole Love (Nonesuch 2LP)
* Radiohead: Kid A (Capitol CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991-1997 (KScope 2CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Orchid (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner HDCD)†
* Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville 2CD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records CD)†
* Mastodon: Leviathan (Relapse CD)
* Mastodon: Blood Mountain (Reprise CD)†/‡
* Mastodon: Crack the Skye (Reprise CD)†/‡
* Mastodon: The Hunter (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)

‡= car


Gone fishing.

May 5, 2012

Playlist Week of 5-05-12

Clearaudio Concept

* Schmelzer, et al.: Unarum Fidium (Holloway/Assenbaum/Mortensen) (ECM CD)
* Biber: Mensa Sonora (Musica Antiqua Köln/Goebel) (Archive Produktion CD)
* Poulenc: Works For Piano (Parkin) (d.3) (Chandos 3CD)
* Miles Davis: Agharta (CBS-Sony 2CD)
* Herbie Hancock & Headhunters: Sendsaal, Bremen, W. Germany 11-06-74 (FM CDR)
* Stanley Clarke: School Days (Epic/Friday Music LP)
* Barre Phillips: Three Day Moon (ECM LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: Pat Metheny Group (ECM LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: The Way Up (Nonesuch CD)
* Steve Tibbetts: Big Map Idea (ECM CD)
* Mephista: Black Narcissus (Tzadik CD)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Camino Cielo Echo (Intakt CD)
* Aych (Hobbs/Halvorson/Bynum): As The Crow Flies (Relative Pitch CD)
* Peter Lang: Lycurgus The Wolf Driver (Flying Fish LP)
* The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (EMI/Capitol LP)
* Grateful Dead: Wake of The Flood (GDP/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck Group (Epic LP)
* Deep Purple: Shades of Deep Purple (EMI/Odeon LP)
* Deep Purple: Deep Purple (Tetragrammaton LP)
* Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Black Sabbath: Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Yes: Fragile (Atlantic/Analogue Productions LP)
* Emerson Lake & Palmer: Emerson Lake & Palmer (Cotillion LP)
* Gentle Giant: Three Friends (Vertigo/Alucard CD)†
* Gentle Giant: Octopus (Vertigo/Alucard CD)†
* Gentle Giant: In A Glass House (Vertigo/Alucard CD)†
* Camel: Mirage (Gama/Janus LP)
* Camel: (Music Inspired By) The Snow Goose (Gama/Passport LP)
* Camel: Moonmadness (Gama/Janus LP)
* Camel: Rain Dances (Gama/Janus LP)
* Camel: Breathless (Gama/Arista LP)
* Supertramp: Breakfast In America (A&M LP)
* Patrick Woodroffe/Dave Greenslade: The Pentateuch Of The Cosmogony (Dragon’s World/EMI 2LP)
* Peter Gabriel: Plays Live (Charisma 2LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Reprise/Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Reprise/Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Steely Dan: Aja (ABC/Cisco LP)
* Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Elvis Costello: This Year’s Model (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador 2LP)
* Lee Ranaldo: Between The Time And The Tides (Matador LP)
* Guided By Voices: “We Won’t Apologize[…]”/”The Unsinkable Fats Domino” (Matador 7”)
* Guided By Voices: “Doughnut For A Snowman” (GBV, Inc./Fire Records 7”EP)
* Guided By Voices: “Chocolate Boy”/”As The Girls Sing Downing” (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Guided By Voices: “Keep It In Motion” (GBV, Inc. 7”EP
* Guided By Voices: “Jon The Croc”/”Breathing” (GBV, Inc. 7”)
* Robert Pollard: Mouseman Cloud (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity 2LP/CD)
* Jim O’Rourke: Eureka (Drag City LP)
* Porcupine Tree: The Sky Moves Sideways (KScope 2CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (KScope CD/DVD)†/‡
* Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun (KScope CD/DVD)†/‡
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD) †/‡
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* High On Fire: Death Is This Communion (Relapse CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Ray LaMontagne: Trouble (RCA/Legacy LP)



Despite regular maintenance, my eighteen-year-old turntable, a low-end but trustworthy Thorens TD-260 Mk.IV, has been showing its age lately. It won’t get up to speed at the press of the button like it used to and requires a vigorous push on the platter just to get it going—and when it gets there it sometimes wavers, creating an audible wobble. Now, if you are at all sensitive to pitch fluctuations (as I am) this is simply intolerable and is just the kind of thing that makes me want to ditch the LP altogether. Despite its faults (and there are many), digital doesn’t have this particular problem: the music is always pitch-perfect—and no surface noise to boot!

But the truth is: I can’t live without a turntable. I love records too much—and I have a lot of them! Moreover, we are now living in a vinyl renaissance I would have never predicted: there are more high-quality “audiophile” LPs available now than perhaps ever before. In this dark era of harsh, dynamically squashed CDs and miserably lossy downloads, the LP remains the format of choice for folks who care about sound quality. Go figure. The music industry’s relationship with technology is needlessly fraught and completely retarded—but this has also been a boon to obsessive record collectors like me.

So, my old Thorens has been replaced with a Clearaudio Concept, the entry-level table from another highly-regarded German company, makers of a complete line of fine turntables, including the notorious Statement, which stands five feet tall and costs a whopping $150,000.00. That might sound completely ridiculous, but the relatively affordable Concept incorporates some of the cutting edge technology of its bigger brethren with a frictionless magnetic bearing on the elegantly designed carbon fiber tonearm, an ultra-dense acrylic platter and a hefty (yet tastefully diminutive) plinth. Available with a factory-mounted cartridge (either moving magnet or moving coil), the Concept is about as close to “plug-and-play” as you can get in the realm of high-end turntables—which is just what I needed.

Right out of the box, the combo sounded very nice and has only gotten better as the cartridge breaks in. Is it the last word in vinyl playback? Certainly not—and I look forward to tweaking it. But here’s the thing that blows my mind: I have been staying up way way too late spinning records well into the night and I never, ever do that with CDs. That tells you all you need to know about why I will always need a turntable—and why I am deleriously happy I am with the Clearaudio Concept.

Now, excuse me; I’m going to go put another record on.