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Medeski Martin and Wood's "Univisible" dvd-audio

Discussion in 'Music' started by LanceJ, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    I've had this disc for almost three weeks but due to an equipment changeover, wasn't able to listen to the surround mix properly until this past week. So now that I have listened to it that way (in addition to stereo in the meantime), here we go............

    Music: I only buy dvd-audios nowadays if I would also buy them in CD form--no more "Woohoo, it's a surround recording so who cares if the music sucks!" like I've done with four other dvd-audios. I did as much listening as I could to all the samples I could find and also did quite a bit of reading on the band itself & their reputation. And all the samples & all the reviews added up to a good feeling about the music. And the things that finally made up my mind to buy this disc was that this album has elements of hip-hop (via certain beats and the use of a DJ); elements of chill-out music which I am quite interested in; and a Jimmy Smith influence, who I like quite a bit so far though I only own one album from him.

    This is turning out to be music that is deep enough to simply listen to all by itself but is also great to read or work on some hobby with. Don't let that last comment bother you: this is simply this music's chill-out aspect at work. Because for me at least, the beats of the drums, bongos(?) and soft sounds of that organ can lull me into a "zone" where reading is easier and more meaningful. And to use a well-worn but accurate description this music can cause involuntary head-bobbing and toe-tapping, a sure sign to me that I should invest some quality time with it.

    The closest music I own to this is a CD by DJ Cam called Mad Blunted Jazz. Both albums have a darkish, smoky feel to them. Though both have occasions where you'll be startled out of your reverie: on the MMW disc it's usually caused by the awesome Antibalas horn section, who are guests on this album. Along with the horn-assisted sections there are tracks that have a happy, carefree attitude so they help to prevent this from becoming one of those albums I have to be in just the right mood for (Pink Floyd, that DJ Cam album, Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Massive Attack fall into this category).

    I was talking about this band to an employee at a local Guitar Center & he said he had seen them in Austin at a music festival and he said quote "they gave me goosebumps". After listening to this album I could easily see this happening.

    So in other words, I like the music enough to where I wish I could listen to it in my car while on my cruising-for-the-hell-of-it trips, but it only has a CD player. [​IMG] I wish DTS would throw in a CD like the Flaming Lips did with their dvd-audio.

    Surround mix:

    It is quite aggressive. There are instruments in a full circle around you. And like on the Crystal Method dvd-audio there are moving sound effects, nothing overt or obtrusive, but just enough movement is used to add some extra life to the music & many times you can hear them only if you're consciously listening for them which adds some mystery to the music. And during the last track, a ping-pong game is literally being played: the ball starts from the left front main, then bounces diagonally over your head to the right rear surround, and then back again. Mindless but fun stuff. [​IMG]

    The drum kit is in the same place for every track: arrayed along the right side wall. And that brings me to the reason I had to wait for my new speakers (those Infinitys I speak of periodically were only being borrowed while the owner was away) and a warning to the owners of small satellites. Most of those drums seem to be present in full-force in the front right main speaker AND in the right rear channel. And I do mean full force--my Pioneer's 8" woofer back there was receiving a cone-blurring bass drum workout at only 50% of my receiver's full volume level. My former speaker's 5" woofer was beginning to bang against its frame at this same point. As per most surround mixers advice, all of my speakers are set to "large" on my receiver.

    The left rear surround usually features the organ and conga drums, along with other instruments periodically. And that same organ can also dip to very low frequencies so beware.

    The center channel is also responsible for some important instruments (this is where my lack of music training is really going to show). There is almost always a full-blown electric bass guitar present in this channel, i.e. more cone-blurring was going on!. Other times, it sounds like a stand-up acoustic bass is present (but in the liner notes there is a mention of a baritone guitar used sometimes--maybe that is what is actually playing). On the track "Your Name Is Snake Anthony" a spoken-word piece is done by a guy with a very low-pitched voice, very similar to James Earl Jones. So HTiBs that use centers with 3" woofers will have a very difficult time trying to reproduce these sounds properly (probably some frequencies will emanate from the center itself & the rest from the subwoofer--bleh). Other varied instruments and effects also appear regularly in the center. So try to make sure your center speaker is as physically level as possible with your mains to hear the music as realistically as possible.

    The LFE channel is used extensively. This is a disc that almost demands a good subwoofer (I don’t own a sub yet myself)--that bass drum on a demo 12" Klipsch sounded awesome and added quite a bit to the music's power.

    Overall the recording has a very warm sound to it and IMO this fits the music's mood. I think the type of sound from The Nightfly or Legion Of Boom albums would be too jarring for this type of music. And it is very possibly from an analog source based on the amount of hiss present (nothing disturbing mind you, just an observation). Compared to most of my modern CDs and other dvd-audios, it is recorded at a rather low level, probably because this music has a very wide dynamic range. Watch out for those horns!

    As usual the DTS track couldn't reproduce high frequencies the way the MLP & PCM tracks could: on the latter the cymbals had the proper delicate metallic "shimmery-ness" that a cymbal should have; on the DTS track the cymbals sounded a little bit hard & a little grainy. Nothing bad & probably only another audio nerd would notice this. [​IMG] Also there was more "air" around the instruments in the surround field with the MLP tracks (I guess some might call this better imaging). Though I don’t have a sub yet, I do have the analog outputs of my Pioneer DV-656A hooked up so I can listen to the 5.0 channels to make these judgments.

    Techie stuff

    The 5.1 MLP track is of the 48kHz/24bit variety; the stereo PCM track for playback on dvd-video & dvd-audio players uses the 48kHz/16bit format. And this is another disc that uses the 6.1 channel DTS-ES format, but which can still be played normally with regular 5.1 DTS decoders.

    Extras

    The included video is decent & well-photographed. Though I think it's mostly a way for people to see who the band members are, since there is nothing really special going on. I might watch it a couple more times but that's it.

    One funky but useful feature shared with the Crystal Method dvd-audio: at the end of the album when playing the dvd-audio tracks, a full-screen 20 second countdown timer appears with a note underneath advising you that you have X amount of seconds to hit the main menu button. If you don't, the disc stops completely just like a regular CD. This is significant because some of my other dvd-audios go back to the main menu automatically, which isn't really a problem I guess. But what IS a problem is that on some of those discs music is played along with the menu......music that is played in a loop over and over and over again. Very irritating.

    This is my second DTS Entertainment dvd-audio in a row that I can recommend to others with no hesitation.
     
  2. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    Great comments!

    In my review in DVD Etc. a few issues ago, I believe I called them "Booker T & The MGs from Mars!"

    Very cool stuff!
     
  3. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Felix: was that a review of this disc? Because I don't usually write such long descriptions if someone else has already done so. Oops!
     

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