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Saturday, April 27, 2013

No jokes!

Thanking Pierre Bensusan and Jamie Tate...

Insound Choice - Wooden amp for iPod

Cool, mains-less "amp", using natural wood resonating properties...

Yesterday was Earth Day and coincidentally, I watched an extremely frightening documentary about the environment over the weekend. You could actually say it’s not all that coincidental since I watch/read/intake information that frightens me and gives me no hope for the future on the reg, but hey – I digress! This particular documentary focused on the oil crisis and how in about 40-50 years, there will be no oil. If this doc is to be believed, unless we can come up with some viable alternatives, we can say goodbye to car travel, air travel…MAYBE EVEN ONLINE RETAIL – NO SHIPPING! Society as we know it will crumble to the ground and I’ll be riding a horse to work at an artisanal accordion stand in McCarren Farm.

I know that no speakers (at least none that I know of) run on oil, but I’m sure oil is used somewhere in the manufacturing process. Honestly, oil is probably even used in the manufacturing process of these beautiful wood “speakers” (power tools, y’all), but let’s focus on the positive. Once the Koostik Original is handcrafted, there’s no need to plug them in or recharge them or stick batteries in them – they use the natural acoustics of the wood to amplify your favorite jams. I mean, YES, you will still have to charge your phone in order to play the music in the first place and YES, electricity isn’t oil, but a lot of electricity is generated from fossil fuels, so conserving energy in any form is a good thing that you should do.

In conclusion, according to my rock solid logic, by buying the Koostik Makore Original Speaker, you will be saving the planet. Case closed.

– Nicole Johnson
Add To Cart
$119.99 $101.99

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bob Brotzman passed away yesterday, April 24th 2013

... so sad news!

He was a genius and a dandy... I'll give a listen to one of the several discs I have in my collection... maybe the duet disks with Woody Mann or with David Grisman.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

R.I.P. Dept. - Richie Havens passed away yesterday, April 22nd, 2013

Freedom, freeedom, freedom... at last.

... no need to feel like a motherless child, anymore!

I loved him and his Guild D-40 acoustic/grater and so ancient way of playing and his SUPERB - griot-like - voice... pure Africa!


... no, not wasabi, the green, super hot sauce we enjoy, sweating and jellying while having sushi;-)))

Wabi-sabi is a concept in Japanese aesthetics which represents the exact opposite of Western beauty ideal, usually seen as something huge, abiding or spectacular; wabi-sabi deals with lesser and hidden, simple and fragileness of art and nature.

Also something ungainly, irregular, ugly - as per common aesthetics - can be full of grace and poetic, as well.

"Wabi-sabi things own a spontaneous and unevitable aspect; they neither do not flag their importance nor claim to get center-stage and full attention of the world.
They're discreet and unpretentious, yet they own a quiet authority, their own personality and a natural, unassuming elegance". (Leonard Koren)

The above is the VERY best description of my audio system I'm aware of, folks... it's not LED-blinking and chrome finishes, it's someway ugly (Gotorama's speakers) and WAF unfriendly, yet the inner beauty of the care infused in the making of such a complex system simply shines at the very first notes.

Wabi-sabi, the humble, human-flawed perfection!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The mini passive line-stage survey - Fidelity Research AS-1 (reprised)

The Luxman AT-3000 represented a personal fave of mine, a Zenith, as an audio lover, scholar and collector...

So, using it for the past three days, now... well, it's an emotion and a satisfaction difficult to be forgotten.

I already got the little, unassuming, yet elegant FR AS-1, but didn't listened to it, yet... today, after enjoying Luxman's, I told myself... "Hey, I got it, paid for it... am I so silly to do not try it?!?"

... and wasn't prepared for what I heard, period.

Fidelity Research AS 1 is an humble gizmo vs. Luxman AT 3000 Ultimate, but quality is well present, thanking Ikeda-san, also in this smallish package.

Aesthetically, FR made something, using a solid thick aluminium chassis and cool mat finish grey faceplate with a seldom seen 18K gold silk-screening lettering... left and right gain controls are very useful to correct slightly unbalanced recordings and a quite purist choice... knobs are a little miniature sized, but you know - respectfully said - Nihon-jin aren't famous for being giants:-)

Sound-wise... ohhhhh my!!!

AS-1 is clear, zest-like, speedy-as-the-light, maybe just a tad darker than AT-3000 in the low register, while mids are PERFECT, as per my VERY taste, transparent, unboomy, extremely different from previous & next notes, highs are silk-like, female and male sybilants are giving goose-bumps, as detailing, on same par than Luxman's.

Soundstaging and ability to follow more and more music and harmonic layers is, maybe, a tad, just a (significant) tad better vs. AT-3000.

Micro-dynamic? A specialty! Awesome...

Resolution? impressive: for example, Lee Koonitz and his alto register tapping before soloing and little noises from sax necklace on instrument brass body... amazing!

I've been speechless for a couple hours... oh, well, I was alone:-)))... so I called a friend who arrived in half-an-hour (myself always enjoying more and more music, always sounding sooooo brand-new) and... no doubts: he gave a distract look to AS-1, seated on Eames', and we had superb Howling Wolf's "Spoonful" - two times - from this month Mojo magazine complimentary disk, some Tom Waits' Mule Variations, beloved The Grateful Dead's "Nobody's Fault but Mine" from Dick's Picks' Live in Tampa, FL Dec. 19th, 1974, Wheeler/Holland/Frisell/Koonitz "Angel Song", the "Polka" from Malcolm Arnold's Lyrita SRCS 109... ONLY after the above mentioned music-shot we talked, at last... and it was only one word...


If you'll patiently check the whole Blog, while talking about my system, you'll never, ever find such a statement on my part...

I repeat, without any shame: PERFECT!

... and like Forrest G-g-g-gump seated on the bench... "I've nothing m-m-more to say!"

Friday, April 19, 2013

Records Shop Day 2013

Let's support our local brick records shop, folks!

Amazon is cheap and easy,  Ebay,  Discogs,  GEMM,  flea-markets and record fairs are super... but the relationship you establish with your record store is... magic!

Hey, Ivan... I'll be visiting you and your "new" shop, tomorrow:-)))

Robert Crumb or... who else better than him to know ups and downs of the vinyl records collector

Always loved him... from his comics (Fritz the Cat!!!) to Cheap Suit Serenaders' discs (I own them all, incl. the rare 78 rpm) I cherish in my collection.

Look at this extremely interesting interview... also if he's a 78 rpm freak, collecting dynamics are the same... down to... dreaming about a record!

An extract from the interview: "I spend some time listening to records almost every day when I’m at home, and I spend time just pawing through the collection, just looking at what I have.  Sometimes I’ll pull a record off the shelf and just marvel at it, that it exists and that I own it.  Again, it’s a sickness. It’s embarrassing to admit openly to such behavior, like talking about masturbation or something.  Sometimes I have to listen to records in the endeavor to purge and make room for new acquisitions, since I’ve run out of room to put new additions to the collection on the shelves.  I have to get rid of something before I can put the new ones in.  This involves tough decisions.  My natural impulse is to save everything, don’t wanna get rid of anything.  If I had endless shelf space, I guess I’d have ten times as many records.  Purging, however, is good for the soul and just makes the collection better, more intense.  Borderline items must be eliminated, moved out, sold if possible."

He knows!

Thanking LencoHeaven's pals for suggesting this...

DEEPEST thanks and appreciation go to Robert Crumb for... being Robert Crumb.

... and to Discaholic Corner's folks... superb site, indeed!

Storm Thorgerson (1944 - 2013) - Pink Floyd's Sleeve Genius Passes To Dark Side

Some of the most famous progressive discs covers and - most of all - Pink Floyd's wouldn't have been, without his eye.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A mini passive line-stage survey - Luxman AT-3000 Ultimate

I choose, at last!

A new passive line-preamp entered my system, folks...

Luxman AT-3000 took the place of Thomas Mayer's 801A Line Stage, lately "only" used as a buffer to Mayer's Passive crossover... shame to me!

Due to the below-par use, I someway felt slightly unconfortable with using built-in Slagle's AVC full open, resulting in some (light) random microphony during warm-up and some (light) noise on one channel... but, hey... I was badly or so using it: who... WHO uses a preamp with volume at VERY maximum?

This way - I told myself - I freed Thomas' Line Stage for more proper use/gain settings.

Back to the AT-3000... it's a truly awesome piece of gear: deadly silent with a smoothness, resolution and overall beauty and rightness which I only experienced at Serge Schmidlin's studio.

Dynamics is impressive, perfectly balanced, correct... ambience retrieval is among the VERY best I ever tasted, going much further vs. my previous layout.

Look at building quality: shielding copper chassis and clever trannies positioning.

Luxman AT-3000, near Thomas' WE 437 LCR Phono Stage.

Everyone has his opinion about passive preamps... my own - very limited experience - was... aehm:-)... limited to a quite boring and unsatisfying exposure to a Shindo Arome, years ago.

Sure a transformers-based preamp is a completely different, far superior beast... and this very preamp TRULY is among the VERY best ever.

Was considering... when NOT using phono with WE 437A, my system is currently NOT based on tubes, at all... many irons, silver wire, but no tubes, anymore... at least if not using the above mentioned LCR phono-stage:-)

Who cares! Music first...

Enjoyed the adding immensely: The Grateful Dead's "Nobody's Fault but Mine" from Dick's Picks Vol. 1 NEVER played this good.. I mean it's not a signorina kind-of-sound, but natural, very beefy and full, yet sublimely detailed!

As a plus, the classy "Direct" input option, by-passing the Input selector, straight to irons, helps.

Welcome to Luxman AT-3000 Ultimate!

... and many thanks to Paolo.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Derek Bailey - The art of improvising, unveiled...

  • Derek Bailey and his beautiful, Samuel Beckett-like face... the dare-devil improviser which almost went famous (...) after collaboration with David Sylvian on " Blemish".
  • This book, Derek Bailey's Improvisation, originally published in 1980, and here updated and extended with new interviews and photographs, is the first book to deal with the nature of improvisation in (almost) all its forms: Indian music, flamenco, baroque, organ music, rock, jazz, contemporary, and free music. By drawing on conversations with some of todays seminal improvisersincluding John Zorn, Jerry Garcia, Steve Howe, Steve Lacy, Lionel Salter, Earle Brown, Paco Pea, Max Roach, Evan Parker, and Ronnie Scott... Bailey offers a clear-eyed view of the breathtaking spectrum of possibilities inherent in improvisational practice, while underpinning its importance as the basis for all music-making.
  • 1992 DA CAPO PRESS (USA)

  • ... great reading, folks.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A mini passive line-stage survey - Thomas Mayer's Passive Line Control Unit

Thomas Mayer's aesthetics is VERY elegant and using Dave Slagle's AVC and solid silver wiring throughout...


A mini passive line-stage survey - Fidelity Research AS-1

A cool add to my (small, humble) audio collection...


Balance available via the two attenuators...

The heart for a nice sounding, simple, cheap phono-less (or using a sep Phono stage) audio system...

I'm currently diggin' passive preamps world and... surprise, surprise!

... more to come, VERY soon.


... or everyone's wish?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Joe Boyd presents: "Way to Blue - The Songs of Nick Drake" - out Mon. 15th April, 2013

... so far, far away from being like someone - i.e. Joe Boyd or al. - milking a cow (Nick's memory) to death, Way to Blue was... IS an amazing flower blossoming and blossoming again, from Australia to USA to UK and Mainland Europe... the most different musicians paid and are still paying their kudos to the art and songs of the late, yet soooo vastly and fondly remembered Nick Drake.

Here is a 90 minutes concert held in London...  also covered by BBC Four, and it's a masterpiece.

It's keeping the flame burning, it's living music as only truly unique music can be...

Joe Boyd knew and produced and cocooned Nick in his Island days... so, who better than him!

It's classical music and the DNA of my musical world.

The disk quoted in the title will be out soon and worth adding to any (classy) collection.


P.S. - looking for the ultimate fondness and attention to Nick's voice and guitar playing? Dig here... Plectrum34... aehm, Leon is a  SUPERB musician: not simply copy-catting... Nick's soul speaks through his voice and playing!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Dirk Sommer's Sommelier du Son - "Soyeusement" by Michel Godard & Steve Swallow

Imagine: a swinging, jazzy theorbo (...), a throaty, traditional voice - Mongolian/Tibetan-like - from Sardinia (Italy) and... a serpent, a dinosaur-like medieval wind instrument whose sound seems to come from the mists of the past.

... as a plus, Steve Swallow, the IMMENSE bass player I met and listened to so many times is swinging and improvising, too: last track, side two is worth the disc.

From Sommelier du Son's site:

"Michel Godard is a “dream-walker” between epochs and cultures. He belonged to the innermost core of the “Folklore Imaginaire” with Louis Sclavis and Valentin Clastrier and played for many years with Rabih Abou-Khalil, the Lebanese oud player’s band. He loves the adaptation of Renaissance and Baroque melodies while performing as the tuba player of choice in experimental jazz bands. Godard’s own music reflects all of these worlds and times. He improvises his path through the imaginary and transforms space where visions can come true. Years ago, he found such a space in the medieval Castle del Monte in Apulia, a mysterious building brimming with the past and future. That is where Michel Godard let Renaissance and jazz musically meet as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Now Michel Godard has found another space, the former Cistercian monastery of Noirlac located in central France, that seems to have fallen out of time. The medieval abbey with its history, architecture, ambience and surroundings possesses exactly that certain as well as uncertain magic that Godard’s music needs: openness in all directions and connections to everywhere. For Godard’s music does not commit itself, it loves being in limbo – prancing, gentle, improvised, muted, dark, somewhere between the Middle Ages and jazz. The instruments that came together in Noirlac symbolize this floating between the worlds. The electric bass comes from rock and jazz-rock fusion. The saxophone is reminiscent of the great emergence of the 19th century woodwind instruments before they changed their character into jazz. The serpent – a snakelike winding bass zink, the theorbe – a polyphonic bass lute, and the baroque violin open sonic doors to the distant, cross-cultural past. And not to be overlooked is Gavino Murgia’s raspy throat singing – a reflection of the millennia-old vocal tradition of Sardinia.

These instruments find many niches and connections in Godard’s timeless space of the imagination. Both the duets of serpent and electric bass, as well as theorbe and electric bass merge together into trans-epochal instruments. Although the soprano sax reaches more jazzy peaks, the theorbe can swing as well, violin and serpent come together, while the throat singing provides drone accompaniment all improvising together. Whether in swinging waltzes or as etudes over complex meters, lyrical melodies enchant the moment with hypnotic power. It is an effortless sleepwalk through time and worlds. Of course, trust plays a role: Godard had already worked with the American, Steve Swallow in Abou-Khalil’s group in 1994. He has been playing in a duo with the Sardinian, Gavino Murgia for a long time. These are bridges that can connect the most opposing styles, cultures and epochs creating music that is incredibly improvised, almost disembodied, and smooth as silk. They are the magical dream bridges of Noirlac, the black lake where all lines intersect. A type of jazz, fallen out of time and space."

Hans-Jürgen Schaal
Translation by Joe Grand

Thanks a lot to Dirk Sommer for the GREAT engineering, recording and mastering jobs... as a plus, the lacquers have been cutted by Willem Makkee, who used to work for the Emil-Berliner-Studios in Hannover, and has retired and runs his own cutting studio, now. He's Dirk's friend and he gladly offered his nearly 50 years of cutting experience for the project.

Pallas from Germany pressed the discs... it's among the VERY best pressing facility on the planet... ALL the above care paid: the sound is so rich of harmonics and nuances... also if not a minimalist miked recording, the live-mixing-to-two tracks approach SURE pays a lot vs. the average overproduced, post-produced, over-handled recordings... a sense of zestness, relaxed joy comes from the grooves.

With Dirk's compliments, one song of "Soyeusement" has been digitalized from the master tape and can be downloaded free of charge on (link to in CD-quality, in 24/192 and in DSD.

Thanks to Serge Schmidlin for this... and more.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fund-raising Concert in Berkeley for "Voice of the Eagle - The Enigma of Robbie Basho" movie

Berkeley Arts presents
A Robbie Basho Tribute Concert and Documentary Film Benefit

Robbie Basho/photo by Jeffrey Dooley. at Cragmont Park, Berkeley 1977

When: May 8, 2013 8PM
Where: Berkeley Arts, 2133 University Ave. Berkeley, CA
Berkeley Arts presents a concert in tribute to the late guitarist and Berkeley
resident Robbie Basho. The event is also a benefit to raise funds to complete
the first ever documentary film about Basho - titled Voice Of The Eagle: The
Enigma Of Robbie Basho - currently in the works by London-based filmmaker Liam

The lineup includes several Bay Area performers whose work has been inspired in
some way by Robbie Basho's music, including two guitarists who personally knew
Basho: fingerstyle guitarist Rich Osborn and renown improvisor Henry Kaiser.
Drag City recording artist Meg Baird, who appeared on the 2010 Basho tribute
compilation We Are All One In The Sun will also be performing.

The concert will include short sets by:
Henry Kaiser
Rich Osborn
Meg Baird
Chuck Johnson
Danny Paul Grody
Aaron Sheppard
Andrew Weathers
...more TBA
We think this will be an historic event, and a fitting tribute to Basho's legacy
- in the same spirit as the John Fahey memorial concerts that took place at the
Freight And Salvage in 2002.

About Robbie Basho
Robbie Basho (1940 - 1986) was a Berkeley-based composer, guitarist, and
vocalist and one of the foremost proponents of steel string acoustic guitar as a
solo concert instrument. Along with John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Basho was part of
the triumvirate of pioneering guitarists on the Berkeley-based Takoma label in
the 1960s. Basho went on to record for Windham Hill, and was an important
influence on the label's founder, guitarist William Ackerman. His innovative
guitar compositions incorporated American folk, European, and Eastern
influences, and he is credited for developing the improvisational "American
raga" style.

About the Film
Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho is a journey into the heart of an
artist's lifelong struggle - designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans
while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated. Self-funded
entirely to date by director Liam Barker, Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of
Robbie Basho features interviews with Basho's former students, contemporaries
and few close friends; interspersed with abstract employment of archive footage
and photography of the natural phenomena and localities that informed Basho's
work. Basho claimed to paint America with music; the film will attempt to
transfigure Robbie Basho with sound and images.

Principal photography began on Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho in
October 2012, with the filmmakers shooting (and intermittently battling
superstorms) in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado and California. A
Kickstarter campaign is set to launch in spring 2013 to enable the film's
continuing production and subsequent post-production costs.

Liam Barker - Writer, Director, Producer, Editor
Justinas Vabuolas - Director of Photography

Thanking Jeffrey Dooley for his Robbie's photo.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Well Kept Secrets Dept. - EMIA Audio

Yes, sure a well kept secret in audio and music reproduction... EMIA is the Zen-creature of Dave Slagle and Jeffrey Jackson: their respective ALL hand-made stuffs workshop are serving discerning audio community members with among THE best autoformers, LCR modules, TVCs and assorted coils and irons ever made (Dave) and exotic, superb LCR phono-stages, amps and crossovers, plus some Le-Cleach-like round wooden horns  (Jeffrey).

They sensibly felt the need to feed the goodears around with a minimalist line of products - i.e. a Manual Passive preamp (using Slagle's TVC, of course... with 1,25 db resolution volume control), a Remote (superb, indeed... 1 db resolution) and a tube, two-chassis Phono Stage... ALL very elegant, no-frills cubic boxes...

Mr. Salvatore, among my VERY audio sensei-san, choose an EMIA Remote Passive as his Class A or something... and he hears.

Another goodears? Dick Olsher get his illumination, as well...

Myself, as a satisfied user of  Thomas Mayer's gears, using a-plenty of Dave Slagle's TVC and coils - in Line Stage and Passive Crossover, I know EMIA actually IS affordable beauty, period.

So, after Western Electric, Luxman AT-3000, Serge Schmidlin's SolidRock and Audio Consulting Passive... EMIA!

... sssshhhhhh... I told you, it's a well-kept-secret... yet, grab it before scheduled delivery time get awfully lengthy;-)

Hand-made, bespoke audio is THE gears to get, folks!