Thursday, December 24, 2015

2L Recordings' Fingergull on CD/SACD Hybrid

It's Christmas Eve here in Western Colorado, and I'm doing what I'm usually doing this time of year--getting ready for the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas. It seems like every year the show is held earlier and earlier in January. I think most years we have to leave for the show the day after New Years' Day, and this year is no exception. So while everyone else is gathering around the mistletoe and getting some high-quality holiday lovin', I'm going through boxes in the garage, fretting about last minute shipments and spending an ordinate amount of time selecting music for the show.

I do have one advantage this year--I have a boatload of CD/SACD/Blu-ray audio discs from 2L Recordings in the review pile right now, and most of it sounds like wonderful demo music to share with the Vegas crowds. But after several years of attempting to choose appropriate music for my exhibit rooms, I've learned a few things. First, you have to choose music that will show off your system. Since all of the loudspeakers I'm using at the show are two-way stand-mounted monitors, I probably shouldn't bring Tool, System of a Down and the 1812 Overture to The Venetian.

Second, you have to pick music that keeps people in your room. That part is tricky. Because no matter what type of music you choose to play in your room, somebody's not going to like it. And they're going to tell you they don't like it. Then they're going to tell you to play one of their favorite pieces of music in the world, and they will throw a fit if you didn't bring it along to the show. If you don't even know who the artist/band/performer is, you might have to take a shot in the chops.

I'm thinking about this as I listen to Fingergull, a new album of sacred choral music that's based upon the arrival of a holy blood relic--in this case, a drop of Christ's blood--in 12th century Norway. (Fingergull is subtitled In festo susceptionis sanguinis Domini, which translates to "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ came to Nidaros.") Anne Kleivset and her Schola Sanctae Sunnivae chorale have joined together to produce the first full recording of what is now known as The Holy Blood office, and even a heathen like me can feel the reverential awe in every single voice. The commitment to such a deep and thorough exploration of this music cycle is far more passionate than in most recordings you'll hear this year, and there's a point where all that emotion comes to the forefront and makes your heart skip a beat.

But will that play in Peoria or, better yet, the noisy and crowded halls during CES? That's certainly a gamble. Morten Lindberg of 2L has sent me numerous chorale recordings over the last few years, and they were all superb and, dare I say it, inspirational. These various recordings convey why I like sacred music so much--it isn't about the message, but the heart and soul of the messenger that matters to me. For the record, I can't think of a single recording that will let you absorb both the individual vocal contributions and the whole so easily. I think much of it has to do with the Ringsaker Church where it was recorded. By now you know that most 2L Recordings are captured in beautiful Norwegian churches, but I think this is the first one I've heard from this specific church. There's a balance to the warmth of the inner walls and Morten's skill at capturing all the detail within that warmth that is absolutely stunning.

I want my fellow CES attendees to get that. In reality, I expect wisecracks like "What, is this is a church?" That's not the point. Every time I review one of these recordings of sacred music, which of course is very different than sacred recordings of music, I tell myself that I probably won't be that into it. I mention the chasm between the purpose of the music and what I will ultimately extract from it. When it comes to these 2L recordings, however, I always leave the experience knowing that I felt something deep, something that's probably better left under the surface.

But if you're at CES and you want to hear massed vocals in an old church that will sound exactly like the real thing, come up to me and say the magic word: Fingergull.

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