Friday, 19 April 2013

Thoughts about Storm

No wonder twitter and Facebook were alive with the news of Storm Thorgersons passing. Anyone seriously into 70's prog or classic rock will have an album designed by Storm. His design team, Hipgnosis designed some of the truly iconic sleeves of the album generation. Dark Side of the Moon is his best known, but he designed sleeves for all the big guns, like Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Yes.

As a teenager it was de rigour to walk around with a Hipgnosis sleeve under your arm. From Hipgnosis came Storm Studios who went on to design sleeves for The Mars Volta, Muse and The Pineapple Thief. Bad decision on Mars Volta for not using Storms sleeve for Amputechture.

His sleeve for Pink Floyds Atom Heart Mother is typical of his style. What has a picture of a cow to do with the album. Nothing, but it works. There does seem to be a sort of underlying connection between the album title and the sleeve. It just seems to work as all his sleeves do, elevating a so so Floyd album to something more than what it probably is.

Storms legacy is that as we enter a time when music as a physical medium seems less important, album design is integral to elevating the music to something more special, something to be cherished. His work made my life that much better for his wonderful artwork which adorned some of my favourite music. For that I will be eternally grateful. Thanks Storm!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day Blu Ray Audio

Surely this is the best way to hear LZ's live recording of their performance at the O2. Presented in 24bit/48kHz, this is as good as the original source recording. Eschewing all videos, this is purely the soundtrack in stereo or surround. I believe the blu ray video of the concert is presented at 16bit resolution for some reason. Probably something along the lines of the record company wanting us to buy multiple copies.

I do think that more music should be presented in this format. Whereas the usual is to present hi res stereo or surround as DVD Audio, my experience is not many people have the kit to play the audio portion. I believe more people now have blu ray players which can play video or audio discs, there is no differentiation. For now DVD Audio seems to be the way most want to present hi res material. Just look at the series of Steven Wilson remixes of King Crimson studio output. All on DVD Audio. Even his own material is released in the DVD Audio format. It's only if you want the expensive deluxe edition that there is a blu ray option as was Crimson's Larks' Tongues In Aspic box set. So maybe the tide is turning.

With SACD still on the radar, DVD Audio and blu ray, there is still multiple formats keeping the enthusiast of physical product happy. Lets not forget CD either, which does get a raw deal.

I do see the future as digital files. But not as a purely download phenomenon. I think the credit card size MasterFlash as produced by the Fidelio Musique company may be the way to go. It can store very high resolution files in different formats. Interesting times!

Here's my playlist of my favourite blu ray audio discs.

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing

Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning

Rush - 2112

Rush - Moving Pictures

King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day


Monday, 1 April 2013

Best Of Year So Far

Now into the second quarter of the year already. Here is my favourite new releases so far. It's looking like a strong year already.

Lifesigns - Lifesigns New band that includes Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson). I was expecting some nice neo prog. This is much more complex and involving.

Riverside - Shrine of New Generation Slaves Poland's premier prog band delivers their most song based collection. They never disappoint.

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing For me the culmination of everything that has gone before. This is now more about a fantastic band playing fantastic music. Album of the year so far.

Guapo - History of the Visitation This band has changed a lot since their early Magma influenced Zeuhl sound. With the great Kavus Torabi from Knifeworld on board this album bristles with complex, dark, brooding instrumental prog. Their best yet.

Thieves Kitchen - One for Sorrow, Two for Joy 2008's "The Water Road" was a complete triumph, with ex-Anglagard member Thomas Johnson giving the band an added dimension to their sound. This follow up is just as good. One of Britains best prog bands who don't get as much attention as they deserve.

Cosmograf - The Man Left In Space The second album by Robin Armstrong under the Cosmograf banner is even better than the previous "When Age Has Done It's Duty". Helped out by a host of great musicians from Big Big Train, Spocks Beard and the like this is a superbly executed concept piece about the space program. Quite touching as well.

Henry Fool - Men Singing Brilliant instrumental music in the vein of Quiet Sun. Hence why Phil Manzanera is on two tracks. Another great project with Tim Bowness.

Big Big Train - English Electric Part 2 Amazing that they have kept the quality up after last years exemplary Part 1, which was one of the albums of the year.

Von Hertzen Brothers - Nine Lives A great modern rock record with prog overtones. These guys should be huge!

Sanguine Hum - The Weight of the World Another great release from Esoterics Antenna imprint. The second from this band and very sophisticated and original.