I'm not sure I can keep the fact that, at forty, I'm going through a separation following a marriage that's lasted half my life from my readers. Do I have a choice? Though I'm doin' all this "work on myself" to keep movin' forward, that inescapable fact is always lurkin' in my mind. I'm no Yoda.
So what the fuck does this have to do with OccupyHifi? It's what's been saving me, aside of the kind people who've stayed in my corner through all the madness seemingly gobbling up the world at the moment: And that's MUSIC. Music is fuckin' powerful, and whether I'm scribin' bout some fresh new headphone gear, a new LP, or experiencing a classic record washing over me, triggering memories and emotions - I'm forever grateful for the healing powers of music. In the last few months I've looked into the eyes of someone I loved forever, and didn't recognize them. I found myself depending on other people to keep a roof over my head, and, perhaps for the first time, writing became another challenge to overcome. Don't get me wrong: I ain't complaining. I know this is a blessed opportunity - connecting to others through experiencing music, I'm just referring to the actual act of sitting down to write. It's rare, feeling like that's a chore. Usually it's my most-cherished place of solace. But, given how life's been spinnin' itself lately, it's tough to focus., and if the flow isn't there I can't force it. Believe me, I've tried, and luckily I have some homies that can tell when I send em' rough drafts before publication. :-) But the music always draws me back in. Thank fuckin' God for music.
I went from being a happily married man to a person in a Mini Cooper lookin' for a spot to lay my head - in what feels like seven minutes. Believe me, that'll shake you to your soul, or maybe you're a superhero- but it shook me. Next thing you know, I'm swimming through a shit-pile of drama - down seemed like up, and up was down. The events that transpired between my last post on OccupyHifi and now are enough to pack a pharmacy romance novel, unfortunately. But a constant presence that kept me grounded (again, aside of a few key peeps) has been music. So of course, being a Head-Fier and accused "audio snob", I've been relying on a few components more-so than others lately, and I'd like to pull the spotlight off my fuckin' drama and bring it back to the music experiences I'm preaching about, and the gear that acts as its delivery mechanism. That mechanism is of great importance to many of us, just like the song is for the artist (or, sometimes not, as we find out occasionally). Many of us can enjoy music no matter what, we just prefer a high-quality playback experience.
- so I've been thinking about starting a weekly column here - YES - readers, I welcome your rolling eyes and doubtful shrugs! Damn it, I gotta put myself to the flame if I'm gonna keep living this shit - Sorry, of course: Back to the music and gear - but don't forget how we announced we're gonna monetize OccupyHifi - after all, gotta keep the lights on - and I maybe joining other evangelists/brand ambassadors ranks at a couple new audio companies, intel to follow ASAP -
Back to the music and sound that's been "savin' my soul" - I'm such a burn-out. I worked with Jewel, and I can't remember if that's the actual title of her hit song that opened the flood-gates for her rockstar status - My mind isn't great for many things outside of music and sound currently - so, it seems the headphone Gods have been good to us Head-Fiers and music addicts lately:
There's been a slew of cool shit in the personal audio hobby lately, and it's been a grand distraction for me. I also made the move back to Los Angeles far ahead of schedule, so getting to see good friends at the Schiit Show (as in Schiit Audio ) down in Marina Del Ray was awesome. Schiit made a fuckin' cannonball with the Schiit Show, organized our by our partner from Audio360.org, OccupyHifi Homie, and Canjam/Head-Fi teammate, Warren Chi - the jack of all-trades (he's also an been an un-paid copy-editor here once or twice). The event was a spectacular example of how a smaller, boutique show should run. It was classy and welcoming, and I look forward to more like it.
MrSpeakers also dropped my jaw with the newly-announced ETHER C closed-back planar headphones. Dan Clark seems to be takin' the torch from Alex Rosson (Founder of Audeze) in the planar headphones world, and good for him! I've been a fan of Clarks since his first MrSpeakers modded cans, thanks to the recommendation Jude Mansilla (Founder of Head-Fi.org). I always knew - if that some' bitch could make a modded Fostex T-50RP sing to my ears, he was going to make a killer set a' cans when he broke free and did his own thing. ETHER proved he could do it. ETHER C shows he's still pushin' himself, and I wholly appreciate that hunger for excellence. It's inspiring. So the new Schiit Audio products were all fantastic, especially the Gungnir Mulitbit upgrade.
I'll be writing up a report for Sonic Satori bout the show ASAP. Right now I wanna shine the light on a few records, tracks, and components that've been providing a bit of an escape from the madness of late:
I'm really digging Questyle's CAS 192 DAC in my current Occupyhifi on-the-Road desktop system, as well as their slick QP1R DAP (digital-audio-player). The 1Rs sound, first and foremost, is dynamic and colorful (NOT-colored), it's got this cool-feelin' tactile feedback going on when engaging play other panel buttons, and my MacBook Pro recognizes it as another hard-drive: Truly drag-n-drop, which is NICE when dropping files on it and trashing stuff too. I'm going to give this and the new A&K a full spot of their own here. But the Questyle has amazing value - bottom-line. The new Astell-n-Kern AK380 DAP is certainly the Rolex of the recent wave of DAPs IMHO. I'm not sure the unit alone is worth the money, but its sound is more seductive to my ears than it competitors - though not by as wide a margin as I'd expect. It's gain stage has twice the steps of its predecessor, the AK240 (my all-time portable reference DAP, to-date ;-) and it doesn't have twice the volume! That's an issue that's aside of the player iteself believe it or not - as A&K talked about the stackable amplifier that might be available as I type these words, I'm not sure. I do know one thing: You don't ask people for that much money and not provide a more reasonable route to the amp for AK380 owners! Lets see what they do. It's resolving capabilities however, w/ the AMS, and handling of 32-bit up to 384kHz - is astounding for a portable audio player. Mated with MrSpeakers ETHER planar cans, the 380, like the now-legendary AK240 before it, sets a new standard for resolution and overall sonic engagement for me. But I still think making a "stacking-amp" is a dumb-ass move - pardon my French. Still - if I could afford it - I'd buy the damn prototype - nuff said.
As for records that've been movin' me, because without those, none of this audio shite means anything, I've been holdin' onto a few anthems lately:
The first and foremost on my list is Matisyahu's "Built to Survive". I'm not even sure if I coulda' made it through all the bullshit lately without this song. For me, it's synth, drum, and vocal-driven ascent is like an audible sunrise. The chorus a call to action, and a time to chill at the same time. It's like Bob speaking to generations before us, coming through our generation. I hear it and I know, no matter what stands before me, I'll push through it. I know, sounds a bit over-reaching. Sorry. Everyone's gotta seek their inspiration somewhere. Matisyahu grabbed a hold of the infinite for a moment through this work, IMHO. It got the roots of reggae and a sound that is now. Highly recommended.
Another track that feels like an anthem lately, thanks to my friend Alex Rosson, is a sorta' sonic looking-glass into the underground electronic music scene. Jamie XX's "All Under One Roof Raving" gets me movin' no matter where I am when I hear it. Case in-point: The picture above, from Schiit Show in Los Angeles. I Couldn't help but shake my ass to this track while rockin' MrSpeakers brand-new ETHER-C closed-back planars, and the AK380. It's a drivy six-minute journey, dipping into vocal samples hovering over tin drums and bass drops that clear-out your ear drums. It's an audible story, a snap-shot of the UK underground. I absolutely love it - and I gotta give it up again to my brotha Alexander Rosson for bringin' this track back into my consciousness. Bang it in your whip, on your DAP, whatevs. It's a head-knocker for those of us who need, if nothing else now-and-then, to bobb our heads to some BASS in this crazy world.
An LP that's been getting constant spins throughout my travels is Yo La Tengo's Extra Painful. I reviewed the album for Headphone Guru, though my By-line has mysteriously disappeared. That's unusual. But rest assured ITS THERE. Please get on top of that guys. Anyway it's a killer dual-LP. I think it's a crown-jewel of mood music. It's soaring guitars, ghostly distortion, and noise-pop sensibilities make it such a pleasurable listen. It's like audible maple syrup: It's thick one second, thin the next, as it drips on. But the flavor remains. Though admittedly I'm a serious sucker for Yo La Tengo. Anybody that dig's their epic song "The Fireside" should enjoy Extra Painful.
Another record that literally saved me, that's still getting massive spins over here, is Mumford and Sons Wilder Mind - reviewed HERE at OccupyHifi. Listening to this record is so personal to me now, as it's become the soundtrack for this transitional period of my life.
The new Beach House record - Depression Cherry - is also gettin' lots of play recently, and is next on my list to cover for Positive Feedback. The record harks back to the extreme mellow-side of Beach House, flowy and dreamy - it's soundscapes are ocean-like, with lovely peaks and valleys and a soulful texture. Highly recommended for hangin' with your loved one, watchin' the sunset.
There's MORE IN STORE SOON!
Keep your eyes peeled, and your ears open.