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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

I remain, as I was in 2017, naïve about Air. What I do know, however, is that Air is a musical duo that is unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. While I’m curious to know more, I’m not sure I really want to know the individuals behind the music, for if I look behind the curtain will the magic that is Air, dissipate?

Perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic, but long-time readers will likely note that I tend to avoid discussing the artists directly and focus on their creative output instead. There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps if I knew more about their personal lives, such knowledge would deter me from appreciating their art. Similarly, if I know the artist’s meaning behind a song, can I then make it my own? I think there is a case-by-case argument to be made here that would provide validation to that thought process. Most importantly, however, I don’t know why I love music, I just do. Subjective Sounds allows me to explore the reasons why, but I’m also terrified of knowing the answer for when you know why you love something you can subsequently fall out of love with it. Hence, naivety is a blessing, rather than a curse, and with that in mind let’s allow our minds to explore the sonic wonderland provided by Air on their second album 10 000 Hz Legend.

Electronic Performer is a perfect song to commence the album with. The overall styling can be heard throughout the entire album, so it sets the listener up perfectly for what they’re about to experience. Yes, there are shifting segments in the song that may seem out-of-place once you have settled into a groove, but it isn’t disjointed enough that it feels like another, completely unique, song. 

How Does It Make You Feel? is a fantastic song. I adore that musicality as it is deep and moody. The spoken vocal overlay can be a little distracting, but Pink Floyd fans will appreciate the linkage between How Does It Make You Feel? and Keep Talking. While Pink Floyd acknowledged using samples of Stephen Hawking’s electronic voice, there is no detail in the digital liner notes relating to this aspect of the song. If anyone knows if they used samples or computer-generated sampling, I’d love to know as even a Google search yielded no specific information and the lack of knowledge has subsequently left me intrigued. 

Radio Number 1 gets the body moving to a beat that is welcome after the mellower tone of How Does It Make You Feel?. It’s a great song and while I may be critical of the vocal repetition, I find it thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, even the dramatic vocal shift throughout the second half of the song. Radio Number 1 is a little left-of-the-centre but perfectly suited to the type of music Air creates. 

The Vagabond is exceptional, and Beck truly takes this song to another level, not only with his written and sung vocals but with that harmonica that is amongst the greatest I’ve ever heard that little instrument played. If you enjoy this song, you should check out Beck’s 2002 Sea Change, as it’s almost an evolution from The Vagabond, albeit it with a more sombre tone. 

Radian reaches you internally. It’s a weird sensation when you feel the music infiltrating your body, rather than your ears and consciousness. Yes, it is the low tone that vibrates at a frequency that gives the body this response, one that is akin to goose bumps, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable. Seriously, sometimes words can’t describe the feeling, but I suggest turning the volume up because the first half of the song will affect you in a way that is near indescribable before morphing into a song that will encapsulate you in the soundstage and allow you to unwind following that internal body sensation. No, I’m not nuts, dear reader, this music is just that good!

Lucky And Unhappy isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t great either. A solid B-side and one which I feel could have been better with more focus on the vocal as the backing musicality becomes too repetitive. That said, there are some atmospheric elements in the soundstage, around the middle of the song, that builds throughout the second half and makes me wonder if this song shouldn’t have been an instrumental track. I guess I feel that I’m listening to two different songs here, both wonderful in their own right, but maybe not perfectly suited together. 

Sex Born Poison is exceptional! The musicality and vocal are initially presented so low, in a muted state, that it is spectacular. The shift in styling builds the soundstage dramatically and fills the room with sound whereby the speakers disappear, and you are taken on a sonic journey that paints an audible picture before returning you to the muted state. It is astonishingly good. 

People In The City is another fantastic song. I hope you’ve turned up the volume, it will help you enjoy this track thoroughly. When listening to this song I can’t help but wonder what Grace Jones could do with this song; obviously with a more vigorous rhythm. Nevertheless, People In The City is perfect just the way it is and is one of the best songs on the album. 

Wonder Milky Bitch has a killer twang and eerie soundstage that makes you sit up and take notice. Like all music, we too often listen to it in the background. May I suggest you buck the trend with Wonder Milky Bitch and the entire 10 000 Hz Legend album. You won’t regret it as this is one album that demands the listener’s attention as too much will be lost if you fail to focus.  

Don’t Be Light is a song that has elements I love and loathe. The introduction isn’t to my liking, but it then morphs into a style that I appreciate, followed again by a style that just doesn’t work. It is most certainly on the experimental side and while I’ve listened to the song numerous times, I still find that I’m not connecting with it in a manner that I would like. It’s far from a bad recording, but subjectively isn’t suited to me. How about you, dear reader, have you found a connection with Don’t Be Light?

Caramel Prisoner is the perfect song to close the album on as it’s reflective while also being inspirational. It certainly encourages me to listen to 10 000 Hz Legend again and stay within Air’s catalogue of music. 

Overall, 10 000 Hz Legend is a magical record that draws you in from the moment it commences. The soundstage, mix, and mastering are extraordinary and in my subjective opinion, Air is the modern-day equivalent of a Pink Floyd, a David Bowie, or a Brian Eno; experimenting with sound and making sometimes nonsensical elements meld together beautifully. Yes, there are other modern peers, specifically Beck, but he appears on 10 000 Hz Legend lyrically and vocally on The Vagabond and in a vocal capacity on Don’t Be Light, hence that comparison is rather evident. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the aforementioned artists or are interested in the genres of Space Rock, Experimental Music, Progressive Rock, or Electronic Music, you’re going to love 10 000 Hz Legend

For this review, I listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) and Apple Music streams. Both present the album superbly with TIDAL having a slightly greater depth and separation between elements. That said, if you’re not comparing the streams side-by-side, you’d be thoroughly happy with either offering. Although, I do feel the vinyl release would trump all others as the analogue nature of the format would further enhance the sonic prowess of 10 000 Hz Legend. Plus, that stunning artwork really demands a larger canvas. 

10 000 Hz Legend is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 000 Hz Legend is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.  

Click here to read other Air reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

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Alice Cooper – Pretties For You (Album Review)

I doubt anyone would proclaim the Alice Cooper band’s debut release, Pretties For You, as their favourite album, yet it is strangely compelling. The psychedelic styling mixed with a high level of experimentation results in Pretties For You being located somewhere sonically between a garage band jam session and a demo recording. Yes, by conventional standards and that of the later Alice Cooper band records, Pretties For You is just bad, but as an album on its own, it showcases the era and origins of a band that would go on to have a successful career until, of course, Alice Cooper went solo and created an even larger monster, similar to Rob Zombie's move away from White Zombie. While Cooper was no doubt the pioneer, Zombie’s path a couple of decades later was not all that different to his idol’s as the early White Zombie recordings are also very raw and experimental.

Raw is perhaps the best way to describe Pretties For You and the vinyl re-issue I have is so badly mastered and pressed that it sounds like a beaten-up second-hand edition from 1969. That isn't necessarily a bad thing and the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music streams aren't much better, they just lack the noisy vinyl pressing, one that is also pressed off centre and has audible drift in the first song where one channel of audio is heard in a ghostly manner for the first few rotations of the record. There is even a broken groove on Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio, causing the album to play like a broken record, akin to a repetitive run-out groove. Nevertheless, I have contemplated replacing the 2009 Warner Bros. pressing with the newer 2017 re-issue, but as strange as it may sound, I kind of like the problems this pressing has as it has a character of its own. When the inoperative run-out groove presents itself, the softest of taps on my Pro-jet Debut Carbon’s plinth gets the needle tracking into the correct groove. Yes, it is a ritual, that's one reason why I love vinyl. Needless to say, it’s an imperfect format. Each and every play of an album will yield a different result, not unlike attending a concert where the performance, for any multitude of reasons, cannot be the same as the night before. No doubt some of you by now are questioning my sanity and wondering why I don’t simply get rid of this album considering it isn’t a favourite. Well, I can’t argue with that thought process, but as a life-long Alice Cooper fan, I find that I do enjoy the album, when in the mood, but I also acknowledge its flaws. Yet, I have been known to play the album on repeat for hours on end as it grows on you. 

SIDE ONE

Titanic Overture is a garbled mess but is an interesting start to the album that really goes nowhere until the piano element comes into the mix. That's a shame as I’ve always wondered what would have been if the piano track didn’t fade out. Seems like we’ll never know unless there are unheard recordings floating around that I'm unaware of.

10 Minutes Before The Worm is just weird. Still, it’s interesting but you wouldn't play it outside of the album format. It also is the first time we hear Cooper's vocal and as you may notice he has remained true to that styling throughout the years.

Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio is a great tune with a divine introduction. However, that high pitch vocal, in places, really takes a solid song and turns it into an experience that isn't quite as memorable as one would have hoped for. Nevertheless, it is one of the best songs on the album and one that I would love to see Cooper rerecord. Interestingly, and as a side note, when listening via Apple Music, the high pitch of Cooper's vocal, that I mentioned earlier, is much more reserved and subsequently less ear piercing. It’s interesting because digital music is normally fatiguing, in that regard, not vinyl. It just goes to show that lossy music alternatives do have their place in a music-first audiophile setup. Plus, for those who don’t appreciate the risk of possibly receiving a broken record pressing, the digital counterpart, of course, plays seamlessly.

Today Mueller is similar to Ten Minutes Before The Worm. Weird, yet strangely compelling. I like it!

Living is a solid rock tune from the era and a valued addition to the album.

Fields Of Regret is a song I thoroughly enjoy. However, I’d love to see Cooper rerecord Fields Of Regret with Bob Ezrin, in the production, chair as there is a solid song hidden here, begging to be brought out into the open.  

SIDE TWO

No Longer Umpire is short but enjoyable.

Levity Ball (Live At The Cheetah) is a great song but it's even more sonically compromised, than the rest of the album, as it's a live recording. Yes, dear reader, this is another song I would love to see Cooper rerecord.

B.B. On Mars is pure filler but works well within the album format.

Reflected is brilliant! Yes, the Alice Cooper band would rewrite and rerecord Reflected and release it as Elected on Billion Dollar Babies. However, I must say as much as I enjoy Elected, I prefer Reflected. Yes, there is a fanbase ready to Lynch me for that comment, but Reflected is, in my opinion, the one song that makes Pretties For You worth owning. Seriously, give it a listen.

Apple Bush is a quirky, but enjoyable, song.

Earwigs To Eternity is rather left of the centre but remains compelling and fits the experimental style of the album perfectly.

Changing Arranging is the final song on the album and is good enough to encourage me to listen to the album again and stay within the Alice Cooper catalogue.

Overall, Pretties For You is a solid debut by a band that had yet to find their sound and synergy. But, is it worth owning? For Alice Cooper fans I would say yes, but it isn't a landmark album and therefore will likely only appeal to the most dedicated fans and collectors. Hence, this is one album that you should consider streaming prior to outlaying the cash to buy Pretties For You on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), or iTunes.

You can stream Pretties For You on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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