Have I mentioned my recent obsession with Chinese music? It’s not just Chinese music per se, but recordings of Chinese music that I find fascinating. The sound quality is always magnificent whether it’s from First Impression Music (FIM) CD/SACD hybrid discs, or LPs from Rhymoi Music or Todd Garfinkle’s MA Recordings. But this new pressing of Music Odyssey – China from PureAudioProject might be classified as a first among equals, an incredible sampler of traditional folk music as well as modern symphonic works that seems to build upon that fundamental love I have for this music. In a way, Music Odyssey might be the perfect entry point into Chinese music for just about anyone–especially audiophiles.
Ze’ve Shlik from PureAudioProject was very excited about this album when he first told Scot Hull and me about it, and how this was a labor of love. On the PureAudioProject website, Ze’ev summarizes Music Odyssey this way: “This project is not a typical ‘commercial act’ for a loudspeakers company. It is more of a sharing of our own unique musical and audio journey with all of you.” Like me, Ze’ev grew fond of the Rhymoi Music catalog the minute he listened to a track. Unlike me, he decided to do something about it–he worked with Rhymoi to curate this collection of music, choosing tracks that sounded incredible while maintaining “western” appeal.
This is lush and beautiful music that seems culled from the some historical epic about Europeans visiting the Chinese mainland in the late 18th century in an effort to establish better trade relations, while a Flemish sailor falls in love with a young Chinese girl who is already engaged to a local merchant twice her age. (Spoiler alert: the incident escalates into an international crisis.) I’m not trying to be smug here, but that’s what I imagine when I’m listening to this exquisite album. I see the images, in rich colors, moving across the screen, and I am swept away for a few hours (or in this case, 43 minutes).
By now you’ve figured out that Music Odyssey is a sonic masterpiece, and you’ll probably be hearing it in all the exhibit rooms at the next high-end audio show–whenever that will be. There’s a reason for the excellence of this pressing, and it circles back to what I was doing when I first arrived at PTA–visiting Eric Astor at the Furnace Records Factory, a story that appeared in The Occasional. Ze’ev gives Eric all the credit in the world for coming up with such an amazing pressing, one so quiet and pristine.
As Ze’ev further explains: “To provide top-end sonic experience, Eric suggested their top quality pressing plant in Germany, Schallplattenfabrik Pallas GmbH, for this task. The press is true audiophile grade, dead quiet, with the tiniest musical nuances coming to life as the record spins!”
All of this, of course, is in the service to music. This extreme care and love not only produces a great-sounding LP, but one that is so free from recording artifacts that you begin to hear deeper into the performance than usual. I often mention this while talking about the interaction performer and instrument, those subtle cues that reveal how the performer creates these sounds out of thin air. Folk music, built with instruments that are unfamiliar, takes on such a mystical quality when you can walk around it and feel its shapes and ideas.
Basically, Music Odyssey – China is one of those samplers you might find at the audio shows, but taken to the nth degree. Ze’ev Shlik heard the music, fell in love with it, made important connections and friendships with the people who made the recordings and used his own experience to bring it to a new level. Highly recommended.