June 17, 2015

Bismillah Khan: Music From India [EMI ASD 2446] (1969)

Here is an excellent LP which was released in 1969 on the "HMV" label (a subsidiary of EMI) in India. The condition of the vinyl was pristine and the performances above criticism.

Track List:

Side 1:
1) Raga Sarang: Aochar and Drut Gat in Teentaal
2) Dadra (Dhun): Aochar and Madhya Gat in Dadra Taal

Side 2:
1) Raga Chandrakauns: Aochar and Madhya Gat in Teentaal
2) Raga Kajaree: Aochar and Madhya Gat in Keharwa Taal

Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in water, with no additives, followed by a  quick vacuum drying with a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.

Recorder: Tascam DR-70D at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution
Software: Audacity to normalize and carefully remove one or two clicks. A very subtle (1-2dB) boost was applied between 40 and 60Hz. Conversion to 16/44.1 took place in Audacity. xAct was used to convert to FLAC and mp3. So-called "noise removal" was avoided in order to best preserve the dynamic nuances and tone quality of the original sound. There is some surface noise still present in the transfer but it is very minimal.

June 16, 2015

Stunning sound from 1964

Recently I had chance to catch up on some releases on Raga Records which had not been released the last time I ordered from them (about 5 years ago).

The bad news is that they seem to have gone to the absolute minimum of packaging: a CD and a paper thin sleeve with a only a modicum of information given. Don't try to find this release on your shelf either, because there is no spine onto which the CD info is printed.

The good news is that one of them, a concert by the amazing Nikhil Banerjee from late December 1964, recorded on a small portable Nagra tape machine, has absolutely exquisite sound. Frankly, I can't really believe how good this release sounds. Three microphones, a Nagra mixer, and a Nagra III recording at 7.5ips in glorious full track mono -- one cannot imagine a more simple setup.

However, the simplicity has worked its charm on this recording. With the exception of a few recordings on the Water Lily Acoustics label, there have been no Indian Classical CDs recorded in the past 30 years that I have heard which boasts such a lovely sound.

In addition to producing an underwhelming physical product, Raga Records has also chosen to essentially make it optional to buy their CDs, which are widely available on commercial streaming services as well as YouTube. It's almost as if they have given up any attempt to be a self-sustaining enterprise. This is quite a shame, given how often they have enriched my life with their releases.