DALI Music | The Vinyl Anachronist

dali music

In my recent article on the debut of the DALI KORE loudspeaker, the Danish company’s new ultra high-end flagship, I neglected to talk about one part of the factory tour–the DALI Music presentation. It was the final presentation of our three-day trip back and forth across Denmark, and I must’ve made a wrong turn somewhere in the sprawling DALI factory and became separated from the others. By the time I figured out where I was supposed to be, my fellow journalists in the middle of a presentation from Inez Bukdahl, DALI’s head of music culture.

It took me a while to get my bearings–who is this person and why is she talking about music and not the KORE? Well, it turns out that this Danish loudspeaker company now has its own label, DALI Music, and Inez was telling the group about the journey in making that happen. It’s all about sound quality, of course, in response to the dearth of modern pop recordings with true dynamics combined with a natural, lifelike sound.

vestbo trio

We listened to a few tracks from four DALI Music titles: Vestbotrio’s Reflector, Nicolai Kornerup’s Circles, Jacob Dinesen’s Let the Hard Times Come and Soleima & LiveStrings Present: Reworks of Powerslide. I may have expected a “Danish” version of pop/rock circa 2022, but those Danes are tricky with their perfect English and a big chunk of the music on these four albums is what we in the US call “Americana,” or roots music, an increasingly nebulous term which may lose all meaning in the near future.

In other words, you could stick these four titles from DALI music in your car CD player–if you still have one–and drive around for months, listening and singing along, never realizing these musicians are from Denmark. Then you can take those CDs out of your car, put them in your reference audio system, and then realize that these are some of the most entertaining “audiophile” albums to come along in a while. Everything sounds natural and present on these recordings–no “loudness wars” here.

Just before we left the DALI factory, we received a gift bag that contained all four titles on CD, plus two of them–the Vestbotrio and the Jacob Dinesen–on quiet, pristine LP pressings. If you’ve read some of my latest reviews, you’ll notice I’ve been sneaking some of these titles in–that’s how great they sound.

dali music

My favorite of the DALI Music bunch is the clumsily titled Soleima album, which has a handle that doesn’t seem to fit this brand of graceful, playful pop music. Soleima is a Danish pop singer, and she has one of those classic New Wave voices that focuses on the sweet, the expressive and perhaps a little of the dangerous. She’s usually surrounded by an army of her on her previous albums–she plays most of the instruments herself–but this time she gets assistance from pianist Nicolai Kornerup and the string ensemble LiveStrings (named for its leader, cellist Live Johannson). Together this group reworks some of Soleima’s past songs, while adding a couple of brand new tracks recorded live. There, now that title makes more sense.

You’ll listen to Soleima and you’ll instantly think, who is this? Shouldn’t I know this singer? Shouldn’t I be hearing these songs on the radio TV internet digital streaming service? I know, that’s how I felt, like the disc inside had been swapped at some point. This is really catchy stuff, more of an indie rock vibe than Top 40, with smart lyrics and serene melodies and superb production values. Needs a better title, though.

jacob dinesen

I’m also a fan of Vestbotrio’s Reflector, which heads the DALI Music train straight back into Americana. This album starts off with some moody instrumentals, lots of Metheny and Bill Laswell, dry and starkly midwestern in its soundscapes. Guitarist Michael Vestbo, drummer Eddi Jarl and bassist Jesper Smalbro play in a relaxed, open way that allows all those feelings to creep in and marinate in poignancy. When guest vocalist Bjorn Fjaestad steps up to the microphone, with his wounded yet mesmerizing rasp, the album jumps up a notch when it comes to pure meaning. It’s a sad album, but it’s fascinating in so many ways. Of the four, this one sounded the most spectacular, especially on the vinyl.

The Nicolai Kornerup album is mostly solo piano, with spare accompaniment from strings along the way, but the arrangements are inventive and Kornerup has a direct and winning style. Plus, this is a downright stunning recording of a piano. Jacob Dinesen’s Let the Hard Time Comes is heavy on the blues, but it’s noteworthy for a 23-year-old Danish singer to have this much scruff, this much dust, this much of the Delta running through his veins.

DALI Music, in other words, is a great new audiophile label for audiophiles who want their contemporary music releases to sound great, without all the compression and processing you hear with the mainstream stuff. The DALI KORE loudspeaker may have surprised me with its ambitious excellence, but this new music label seals the deal. DALI is a company to watch over the next few years, and for many reasons just like this.