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Sunday, June 27, 2010

A 211 N.O.S. triodes loaded trunk

Gianni, my friend and tube pusher, was yesterday travelling with this audio-related load, just bought from a collector... '40s/'50s New Old Stock 211 by Westinghouse, General Electric, RCA...

A truly impressive trunk, indeed...

Just brewed: WE 171/R 120 integrated amp

Me and my pard just finished a lovely project, using ONLY vintage premium parts, irons, caps, resistors and tubes, of course...

The chassis, made of 2 mm copper, is old-timey and new at the same time... other features: Hirshmann's speakers posts and two line inputs, with a Clarostat carbon pot and ALL Allen-Bradley's resistors and Western Electric's wire throughout... on anode two '30s wire non-inductive 10W/600 ohm Western Electric huge, super-sounding wire-resitors complete the hardware...

One pair of sought-after, original Western Electric 171A output-transformers adds its own sonic footprint, musical, smooth, yet detailed, with a seldom heard sense of rhythm and trueness and a mind-boggling resolution which, at first listen - yesterday afternoon - made me wondering about soundstage and its misteries: there is no end in improving this or that parameter?

A record, actually a disk, which is in my DNA, proved to better than ever, demonstrates this: on Angel Song by Koonitz, Frisell, Holland and Wheeler, the sense of depth, the distance of musician(s) from microphone and the studio dimensions are truly impressive!

... but also on Tiny Vipers' limited-edition double LP-set (a TRUE winner, musically AND sonically, and an instant audiophile classic, folks!!!), the acoustic guitar and Jesy's beautiful voice gives shivers a go-go: the sound is so pure and mighty from these gorgeous 5 Watts it's quite embarassing, as I'm still using the Zeiss-Ikon/Klangfilm luggage speakers, NOT the Goto;-)))

The tubes are the much beloved tubes of Jean Hiraga-san - those R-120, sort of 2A3 european version, sports a cool true mesh-plate structure, a very rare find on these triodes, and... the sound, well... my pard Gianni demonstrated the R-120 little monster vs. an Audionote (UK) Meishu, several times its cost and, with Tannoy Arden and 15 Red speaker, the result was a no-brainer at all.

Seated, ultra-forgiving sound vs. sparkling, live, ever-surprising, x-ray detailed... R-120 won soooo easily.

I'm enjoying this little hand-made amplifier a lot... waiting to recover from my physical troubles and being so able to re-install Goto's in my new studio.

A nice way to being wished "Happy Birthday";-)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Donate: a foreword

I guess some words are due to explain the new "Donate" push-putton I yesterday - June 25th, 2010 - installed in my Blog - i.e. how you, the reader, passionate or occasional, can or wish to support Twogoodears.

Writing is for yours truly, an healing, pleasing, relaxing, (self) enriching act, so no money is due for my time at the computer screen...

... but, disks, vinyls, the Mojo Magazine subscription - so often the source for the news - the concerts tickets - and, why not, the electric-bill ALL have some weight and - sadly - someway shadow the pleasure of getting in touch with you all...

Plainly said: my birthday will be tomorrow, June 27th and I'm not begging your money for gifts and the like... BUT, if you feel confortable in donating those 50 cents which rattles in your pocket to support yours truly... please do, don't feel shy, as I'll not feel offended;-)))

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Horny garage;-)

Swedish do it better?

Thanks to Roman B. and - by the way - MANY wishes to him for his VERY own quest.

Record of the Week: Tiny Vipers - Life on Earth

Tiny Vipers is the stage name of Jesy Fortino, an acoustic musician from Seattle, Washington. After having started as out a more conventional pop singer-songwriter, she has since developed a very distinct style. She uses both minimal but complicated melodies and techniques that move her away from the pop sound of Hands Across the Void into more abstract music.

Her guitar technique is very acute, and during live performances, she will play non-repeating instrumental guitar parts between songs. It is hard to tell when one song ends and the next begins, or what is improvised and what is written.

Life on Earth was released on July 7, 2009 on Sub Pop. Luckyhorse Industries released a limited edition 180 gram double vinyl on November 16, 2009, which included a bonus track "Audrey's Well".

A blogger note: the writings on cover are soooooo shy to demand a STRONG (or right) light just to read the title on cover... shame;-) - we're not all young and eagle-sight!

After usual Wikipedia's cold facts, let me say Jesi, her guitar playing, smooth, precise, inventive and intriguing, her soft melodies and atmospheres, her VERY Seattle-ish vocals and Nick Drake-like musical soundscapes are a true, little, humble find!

Go and buy or download it... apparently a nice AAD recording worth the vinyl expense and hassle - i.e. search, being a (very) limited-edition of 500 copies, only;-) - to reach full-AAA glory.

... the vinyl-lover, as a bonus - beside the bonus track - will also better read title and liner notes;-)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Garrard 301's heaven: how to upgrade and restore our beloved idler-wheel turntable

301's goodies

Sure a new springs set, as fresh bearing oil or grease or a new mat or a set of large O-rings for strobe-platter is an always welcome add to any Garrard.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jesse Fuller's mighty twelve strings guitar

This afternoon, a lazy, rainy, autumn-like Sunday afternoon, I indulged in some good, ol' blues records, spinned on the EMT 930st: Big Bill Broonzy on Philips, Jesse Fuller's "Frisco Bound" and his mighty 12 strings guitar on Arhoolie, Son House and Skip James on Vanguard...

Beside enjoying all the above, it was years since I listened last time to this Jesse Fuller's disc and, folks... the old bluesman from Cincinnati really swings: his "Motherless Child" it's to die for.

I still had in my ears a Sam Mitchell's awesome version of this tune, from "How to Play Blues Guitar - Vol. 2 " by Stefan Grossman, with Sam, Mike Cooper and Jo-Ann Kelly, where Sam used Grossman's own, mighty Stella 12 strings acoustic, tuned down to B and I immediately recognized the source and inspiration: Jesse Fuller!

Jesse Fuller owns a very unique guitar sound, more akin a voice, than a string instrument: it's coming from a very cheap, battered, old, huge twelve strings acoustic, as shown on Arhoolie's cover, maybe a Stella... it's growling and rattling, low in tone and, also if far from being a perfect playing, his bottleneck screams and his version of "Amazing Grace" is giving shivers and goose-bumps: like listening to the source, the spring where ALL Americana comes from.

This mono recording - made in 1955 - it's truly powerful, with the bluesman introducing every tune with some words, and an immediacy seldom heard everywhere... it's almost a field-recording, BUT still keeps the feeling mr. Fuller be in your room, with his working trousers and BIG hands and all... impressive.

... and his voice: low, dark, deep...

An intense listening session, indeed.

Turntable spindles and bearings: grease or oil, science or magic?

Wish to share (part of) a recent conversation still on-going with MJ, a Canadian friend, very well informed, almost "obsessed" and passionate enough to quite deeply understand the several parts which compose the puzzle.

"I think that a TT bearing lubricant must provide a conductive path for static charge build up. That way the charge at the stylus tip can flow to the platter then to the bearing and finally to ground. This presumes that you provide a path from the disk surface to the platter surface to the bearing asembly.
Yes no matter what material you use for the bearing assembly there will be compression and deformation in the metal parts. Lubricants not only provide for a no metal to metal contact and low friction but they also provide damping to the system.
I spoke with an application engineer at the HQ of Power Up Lubricants. I asked him to explain how moly type lubricants work. I had been under the impression that they worked into the metal surface and bonded there filling in any small surface irregularities in effect leaving the surface smoother. That is not the case. Moly products actually form a molecular matrix which envelopes the structure. Should there be any impact that coating can crack anf break open which then leaves the equivalant of a rough spot untill the moly components rebuild which takes some time to do. Your graphite infused lubricant while not as slippery as a moly product does not suffer the same issue as the moly as it does not encapsulate the metal surface. It simply provides a layer of slippery graphite and there is never any chance of roughness as with the moly. I will say that if a bearing is left undisturbed the moly product should work very well. But my impression is that the moly while slippery than graphite will not damp as effectively as the graphit. I would guess the graphite would have the sonic edge over a moly product. You could hoewver add about 3% of a moly additive to your graphite lubricant and get the best of both.
Now the power Up engineer told me that there product would have a lower coefficient of friction than moly or PTFE loaded lubricants. So you could also experiment with Power Up as an additive to your graphite lubricant to lower the friction while maintaining and improving the damping qualities of the graphite lubricant. Again about a 3% mix would do.
As far as graphite lubricants go I would say that the larger the molectural structure of the graphite particals the better the damping qualities. Graphite is a flaky structure by nature. With the addition of the Power Up additive there is no longer any need to keep the graphite particals small (so as to make them an effective lubricant) they can be made as large as possibel to enhance damping qualities. Do you know if the lubricant company who make your black oil provide specific data on the oil? Knowing the composition would make it easier to replicate (or improve on) while adding a superior lubricant at the same time.
I think the easiest way of making a custom task specific lubricant would be to find a top quality graphite based lubricant designed as a damping compound with the same viscosity as your black oil then add in the Power Up additive. Then you have the right weight of lubricant with maximum damping qualities with optumum lubricating qualities all in one bottle."

Also worth reading this.

Sure an apparently "cold" topic, BUT if and when you listen to a properly lubricated Garrard 301, you understand in a snap about the path.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

جورج ميشيل 1961 ملك العود

Beautiful ensemble from Kuwait - 1961


beautiful santoor and oud solo

Farid El-Atrash and his Oud

Maestro El-Atrash

Despite the VERY poor quality of this old B&W, historic Syrian television program, I always loved this performance and the soccer-like screaming and applauding from the audience.

Farid El-Atrash sure deserves serious investigation and following... he was born in Syria around 1915 and moved with his family to Egypt when he was a child. His mother sang and played the oud, and he became interested in music from an early age. Farid went on to study at a music conservatory, and among his teachers was the famous composer and oud player Riyad al-Sunbati. In the 1930s he began his singing career by working for privately owned Egyptian radio stations. Farid was later hired as an oud player and singer for the state radio station, and in 1941 he appeared together with his sister in a film, for which he composed all the music. His work went from strength to strength, and he became famous for his acting, singing and oud playing. He is now considered to be one of the best oud players of his time, and remains one of the most imitated singers in the Arab world. Farid al-Atrache died in Beirut in 1974, leaving a legacy of dozens of films and over a hundred songs. He has a huge fan base worldwide, and there is an outstanding website devoted to his life and music.


Tibbetts and Tibet - again about Steve and Choying Drolma - Selwa

Choying Drolma and Steve Tibbets

"In 1997, with the world music craze in full swing, a guitarist from Minnesota created an international stir with a remarkable album of Tibetan Buddhist chants paired with atmospheric soundscapes of guitar and percussion. The guitarist was Steve Tibbetts, and while he'd built up a bit of a reputation through his critically-acclaimed albums for ECM Records, he created something profound, and profoundly different, in Chö, a collaboration with the Tibetan Buddhist nun Chöying Drolma. Rather than a slick piece of Western dance music with appropriated Eastern melodies, this was a carefully produced, deeply felt sonic environment built around and in response to an ancient practice of visualization and meditation. The Tibbetts/Drolma album was unlike anything else that was happening at the time, and it's taken seven years for anyone to follow in their footsteps. Finally, in their Six Degrees Records debut, Steve Tibbetts and Chöying Drolma have released a new recording, called Selwa, which expands on the work they began in that first groundbreaking album.

Selwa (which can mean "luminous", "clear," or "awake") is an album with 11 tracks, but it unfolds as a single, unified expression. Tibbetts' instrumental work reflects the spiritual and meditative nature of Drolma's songs and chants, and grows out of his own long-standing interest in the sacred music traditions of north and south Asia. If that sounds like a recipe for yet another album of New Age noodling, Selwa will be a bracing surprise. Chöying Drolma practices a form of Vajrayana Buddhism that involves cutting through the various physical and spiritual obstacles to enlightenment (the title Chö means "cutting"), and that practice can take the form of a fairly vigorous meditation, often undertaken in provocative settings like graveyards. Tibbetts approaches this sort of source material with an uncommon humility and a healthy amount of respect.

On Selwa, Tibbetts establishes his panorama of sound early on, with the moody, nocturnal instrumentation of "Palden Rangjung." Its flowing ambient acoustic guitar, drones, effects, and slow, almost tribal hand drumming echo the dark vision of Drolma's supplication:
Powerful blood drinker, glorious vitality
In the land of Yama, you are Ekajati
Fire eater, blood wearer, wearing the naga emblems
Kali, the Blood Dripper, I praise you.

On a somewhat lighter note, Chöying Drolma's singing on the track "Vakritunda" reflects both the sounds of devotional Hindu bhajans and contemporary Hindi pop music. "Vakritunda" is a piece with slightly more Western-sounding percussion and an example of the tasty, guerrilla guitar solos that sneak into much of Steve Tibbetts' work.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the album is "Song of Realization," an epic blend of multiple voices, hand drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and other less easily identified sounds. It is at once a transcendent and grounded work – again, because it follows the text of the aspiration prayer:
I do not recognize this earth as earth
It is an assembly hall adorned by flowers.
I do not recognize me to be me
I am the supreme victor, the wish-fulfilling jewel.

The new album was built around recordings made by Tibbetts and his longtime percussionist Marc Anderson in Boudhanath, a Tibetan enclave in the Himalayan country of Nepal. There, not far from a school for nuns that Chöying Drolma has founded, they recorded her chants, often feeding a drone into her headphones to set the pitch before letting the tape roll. "It seemed like she was singing with four lungs," Tibbetts recalls. "Some of her takes left Marc and I somewhat stunned. She'd finish the song. I'd quickly save the recording file on the laptop. Chöying would say 'Tik chha?' – meaning, 'it's okay?' and Marc and I would slowly nod." Back in Minnesota, Tibbetts and Anderson wove together tapestries of acoustic and electric guitars, shifting drones, and subtle hand percussion. They enlisted the support of Lee Townsend, who has produced most of Bill Frisell's recordings, and created an organic blend of ancient and modern, Eastern and Western.

Guitar aficionados have been following Steve Tibbetts' since 1977 as he has steadily gone about making himself one of the more inventive musicians on the American music scene. To a wider audience, however, Tibbetts remains a mystery. His albums reflect his own interest in everything from 1970s progressive rock (King Crimson, Eno, etc.) to ambient electronica, to world music. But the two collaborations with Chöying Drolma occupy a special place in Tibbetts' music.

Chöying Drolma is a fascinating character herself. She told an interviewer "Even before I was a nun I always had this thought, this question, wondering why, if boys can do something, why can't girls? "That kind of attitude continued with me even in the nunnery. I would see lots of male teachers come and teach. All males. Why is it only monks that go on to become teachers, to get these chances? The Tibetan word for 'woman' translates as 'low birth.' I hated that." She decided she wanted to change the traditional lot of women in Tibetan society, and given her notoriety since 1997's Chö, she has found the opportunity to do just that. "That's what I want to do with the school I've started, the Arya Tara school. I want nuns to learn many things and know why they are doing what they are doing, what the benefit is in it. Not just in practicing Tibetan Buddhism, but in learning math, English, learning basic medicine. If they're doing something, they must know why they are doing it."

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Selwa is that the musicians know "why they are doing it." On the surface, it seems a bizarre collaboration: Why would a pair of American musicians want to spend the time and effort to learn these chants and create a sonic environment that brings them to the West? Again, the answer lies in the text of one of the aspiration prayers. The concluding lines of "Song of Realization" read:
If you understand this song, it will be molasses for your ears.
If you cannot understand it, you have no connection with this song.

Selwa is about understanding – not a literal understanding of the Tibetan meditations themselves, but an understanding of the practice of undermining the machinery of conceptualization; creating a space of non-thought, clarity, compassion, and bliss. Selwa offers an unexpected connection to a tradition that's over a thousand years old."

... after briefly reviewing last Steve's effort, I had a listen to his Tibetan... aehm, Tibbettan;-) disk, where his guitars and loops are partnered with the beautiful female voice of Choying Drolma.

A superb record, so new and ancient, and so sincere, deep and easy to the heart.

A much worth re-listen for yours truly and, I bet it, a wonderful discovery for who never listened to it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Steve Tibbetts - Natural Causes

Steve Tibbetts’s first ECM recording since 2001’s “Man About A Horse” is keenly awaited by his dedicated following. “Natural Causes” features the Zen-guitarist of Minnesota and his trusty sidekick Marc Anderson in an all-acoustic programme, a first in the Tibbetts discography and the demonstration which is far, far better issuing a record if you REALLY have something to say.

Worth remembering the disk is also featuring an eponymous dedication to Michael Gulezian and his 12 strings acoustic guitar.

Steve Tibbetts
Natural Causes

Steve Tibbetts guitars, piano, kalimba, bouzouki
Marc Anderson percussion, steel drum, gongs

Sangchen Rolpa
Kili-ki Drok

Recorded 2008

ECM 1951

... one word: superb!