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7 March, 2015

Steven Wilson : Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Filed under: Listenings,Lossless Audio,New Music and Video,Now Playing — James Richard Sutton @ 10:09 PM

Steven Wilson‘s new album entitled “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” is based on the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who was found dead in her London flat 3 years after she had passed. It’s an incredibly haunting story, one that is difficult to accept as real.

All of the things that I’ve come to expect from Wilson is present with this new album. Every minute detail, in every aspect of the project, appear to have been carefully thought through.  The musicianship is once again that of heroes, and the overall production and sound quality is simply mesmerizing.

As I listened for the first time, opting for the 5.1 surround mix, I read the lyrics from the blu-ray booklet and watched as the brilliantly crafted artwork moved accross the television screen. It’s a delicately choreographed slideshow that continually amplifies the emotions of the music.

In just a little over an hour, I was moved to chills of both beauty and uneasiness. I even found myself on the verge of tears as “Happy Returns” closed the album. This album is a reminder of the sometimes sad reality of modern life and how the precious existence of an acquaintance or a stranger can be so easily forgotten or ignored.

Steven Wilson has created yet another one-of-a-kind work, proving that in a seemingly predictable world where everything’s already been done, there’s always a hopeful glimmer of originality left to be explored.


22 February, 2015

Jackson JS22-7 Dinky Project

Filed under: Gear — James Richard Sutton @ 7:09 PM

Back in early 2013, I bought my first electric guitar and started out with 6 months of weekly private lessons. It’s now almost two years later and I’m even more excited about the instrument than I was originally. When I bought my ESP LTD H-308, I naively thought it’d be the only guitar I’d ever need or want.

After extensive research, the best budget 7 string guitar for modding was clearly the Jackson JS22-7 Dinky, especially at a 26.5″ scale length. I now own a great playing and well made sub-$200 guitar.

I must say that straight out of the box, the playability of this guitar was astounding. All of the reviews I’d read stating that no other guitar of this type under $200 played this well were true. I was in love with this thing even before I had plugged it in. When I did plug it in, even if just into my little Yamaha practice amp, the stock pickups sounded surprisingly good considering. Even so, I had plans for this guitar.

Friday evening and most of Saturday whilst a snow storm was raging on outside, I upgraded the pickups, tuning machines, all of the electronics, and even added strap locks. I’m very pleased with not only how it turned out, but how much I learned. Besides the guitar, here’s what I started with:

The stock Jackson machines were smaller than the Planet Waves tuners so I had to drill out the holes slightly to accomodate the upgrade. These tuners are brilliantly designed and with the auto-trim feature, I don’t see why anyone would choose otherwise.

Drilling out the 3/8″ holes for the straploks was a little scary for me, but once installed, they looked great and worked perfectly.

Installing the pickups and electronics was the biggest challenge for me. Although I had previous experience soldering and working with electronics, it had been a long time and I wanted to make sure I did this right. Taking my time and doing plenty of research online paid off, because neither myself nor the guitar were damaged in the process.

I am very proud of myself for having the guts to take something like this on and actually seeing it through to the end. This guitar cost me less than $400 total and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. (Honestly, the solder joints look a bit amateur, but fortunately nobody will see them.)

4 February, 2015

Now Playing : Kings & Queens

Filed under: Compact Disc,Lossless Audio,New Music and Video,Now Playing — James Richard Sutton @ 8:41 PM

Guitarist Timo Somers (Delain, Quest, Tri-Head) and drummer Sander Zoer (Delain) recently posted online that they were both involved in a project with singer Leah McHenry. Knowing the kind of quality work both musicians were capable of with Delain, I knew Leah’s new album would be worth checking out.

I’m on my fourth spin since the album’s release earlier this week and I’m very impressed. I enjoy the longer, yet focused arrangements, and I’m getting a lot out of the overall production. The performances by all involved are exceptional and I must say, the occasional use of fretless electric bass makes me smile.



31 January, 2015

Rediscovery : Ultra-Obscene

Filed under: Compact Disc,Now Playing,Rediscovery — James Richard Sutton @ 4:07 PM

It was around 1992-1993 when I first discovered some of the fresh and experimental electronic music coming over from the UK, and bands like TACK>>HEAD and Massive Attack undeniably whetted my appetite for more.

As the 90s progresed, I found myself listening to a lot of Björk, Hooverphonic, Sneaker Pimps, and various other trip-hop artists and compilations. It wasn’t until late in the decade that I really got into the drum & bass/jungle sound.

Breakbeat Era released only one full-length album and it still stands as one of my favourites from the genre. Roni Size’s fresh approach to drum & bass and Leonie Laws’ unique vocals made Ultra-Obscene a go-to disc for me back then.


26 January, 2015

Rush : Fly By Night (Reissue)

Filed under: Lossless Audio,New Music and Video,Vinyl — James Richard Sutton @ 10:07 PM

Mercury Records is reissuing all of their Rush catalogue on 200g vinyl this year, along with selections on blu-ray in 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. I plan to post throughout the year as each release reaches my door. Today I’ve received the first installment, Fly By Night.

The first thing I noticed was just how well it’s all put together. The packaging, especially the vinyl, is delivered in a very simple and elegant way. The LP is pristine, with almost no surface noise, and blows away any previous vinyl pressing I’ve heard. The DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes breathe new life into the album, adding excitement to many of the tracks. The solo section of By-Tor & The Snow Dog is particularly amazing.

With all of that said, the winner here is clearly the incredible 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo mix. I believe this is the only way to truly hear what the musicians and engineer heard in the studio as this music was created.

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