American WADAX distributor Rick Brown in Munich holding a test pressing of a new vinyl reissue of one of Todd Garfinkle's most highly regarded m-a recordings, Será Una Noche. Garfinkle records to 96/24 digital using minimal miking techniques so here, the master file's output went directly to the WADAX DAC, the analog output of which drove directly a Westrex cutter head and lathe at 45rpm owned by History of Recorded Sound's Len Horowitz. Release date should be in early summer.
Read a musicangle.com review of the previous 33 1/3 vinyl release from 2007
M A Recordings Issues a "Two-Fer" LP Set of Renown: "Será Una Noche" and "Segunda"
This new double LP pairs Será una Noche with the appropriately titled follow up Segunda two of M A Recordings’ most popular releases, first on CD then on XRCD and later available as high resolution files. Será una Noche was previously released on vinyl and reviewed onmusicangle.com. Naturally vinyl cut from high resolution digital sounds better than the same files decimated to 16 bits.
Todd Garfinkle’s simply miked, spacious-sounding 24 bit recordings have earned him a following among audiophiles, even though most of the exotic “world” music Garfinkle prefers to record is anything but traditional audiophile fare.
Garfinkle’s recordings, produced in acoustically grand venues, create unusually spacious, transparent, three-dimensional soundstages on which are placed solid instrumental images possessing Technicolor-like harmonics and dramatic dynamics. The approach is roughly similar to the Chesky Brothers’ productions. While the music Garfinkle records isn’t tailored for 21st Century audiophilia the way, say, Persuasive Percussion was during the 1960’s, it often tends to be a dramatic, almost theatrical style of “world music” that lends itself well to open spaces and the production of large percussive dynamics.
No doubt m a recordings has attracted a following beyond the audiophile marketplace because Garfinkle is, above all, a musician and an ethnomusicologist who manages to find, record and expose some highly talented performers and groups, placing them in moody, atmospheric settings.
There is an M A Recordings esthetic, sonically, musically, and graphically. In some ways, Garfinkle reminds me of Windham Hill’s Will Ackerman, though that’s a comparison I’m sure he’d rather I not make!
The music on the two albums was recorded five years apart. Será una Noche in 1998 at 96/24 resolution, I believe on a DAT recorder and La Segunda in 2003 at 176.4/24 bit resolution on a Fostex DV-40 DVD-RAM recorder.
M A has previously released Será una Noche in 2007 on double 180g vinyl using a different process and mastering team. The files used for this LP mastering by Len Horowitz at History of Recorded Sound in Los Angeles were first converted to 5.6MHz DSD and stored on a special edition of the Korg MR2000 and then decoded using a WADAX DAC. Though the LP says the LP was mastered in 5.6 MHz DSD from original 176.4/24 bit sources, the earlier album must have first been upconverted from 96/24.
The lacquers were plated at Mastercraft Record Plating in New Jersey and then, according to the jacket, pressed at Bill Smith Custom Records in Los Angeles. I’m not sure if the jackets were produced at Stoughton Printing before the pressing venue was changed or if the pressing venue was changed because the original test pressings I and a few others were sent were so awful I told Garfinkle to not bother with this project unless some serious changes were made.
So either Garfinkle made Bill Smith see God or he took the project elsewhere because this double 180g+ set is beautifully pressed and packaged. (Garfinkle confirmed after this review was first posted that the final version was pressed at Bill Smith, under his supervision).
The music is based on the tango, an Argentinian creation circa 1900 fused from music brought there from Italy, Spain, Germany and Africa. Tango has the fire of Flamenco, the romance of Italy and the signature sound of the Germany-originated, accordion-like bandoneón.
For the earlier album co-producer and percussionist Santiago Vazquez assembled an eclectic group of musicians to realize a blend of tango, Indian classical and baroque, among other genres and allowed them to attempt an “organic” whole. What could have been a free-form mess, brilliantly fuses, which is why this recording retains its appeal sixteen years after its initial release.
The second album built upon the first but with more specified musical gestures and more African influenced rhythms. According to Vazquez there was less of a push to fuse and more of an attempt to allow the various styles to co-exist to produce a kind of musical rebirth.
Freed from having to analyze the strands, what you have here is atmospheric, smoldering, dramatic Tango-based compositions, mostly sinewy instrumentals, arranged for flute, clarinet (including an almost menacing bass clarinet), cello, bandoneón, guitar and percussion (mostly persuasive) that leave large hunks of open space between the notes and between the instruments. They are as much soundscapes as songs. There are also vocals from Lidia Borda
The playing is compelling, accomplished and organic and some of the compositions are confident and memorable, but there’s filler too, some of which exposes a shallowness of purpose that detracts from the overall impression. However, even the less than extraordinary pieces sound so good, you’ll just flow along until the next memorable piece. If exotic rhythms are your business you'll be kept busy for a long time!
The sound is absolutely spectacular, the space produced enormous, the percussion thundering, the guitar textured and the bandoneón liquid and breathy. The shear physicality and visual solidity of the production will keep you enthralled from the start. You are in the room.
I wanted to compare this vinyl edition of Sera una Noche to the previous one but I can’t find it. I know it’s here somewhere along with a Bach solo piano record M A released some years ago.
Everything about the production from the graphics to the sonics to the LP mastering, plating and pressing and inner sleeve is top quality as it should be for the $66.00 asking price.
Just be careful: Todd Garfinkle has issued dozens of superb sounding productions over the years. He has his “musical groupies” who are so mesmerized by the sonics they buy everything he produces, most of which is at the very least interesting and challenging. You might become one. At least if you’re seriously into vinyl, your choices will be for now limited.
Two unique records that put a fiery yet appropriately cool spin on the term "World Music".