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SPES – Cantus /Tove Ramlo-Ystad, cond./ Frode Fjellheim, joik and synthesizers / Snorre Bjerck, percussion – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray + SACD

SPES – Cantus /Tove Ramlo-Ystad, cond./ Frode Fjellheim, joik and synthesizers / Snorre Bjerck, percussion – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray 2L-110-SABD + multichannel SACD, 56:15 – DTS-HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1, Auro-3D 96kHz/24 bit 9.1, PCM 192kHz/24 bit stereo, mShuttle: stereo FLAC 96kHz + MP3 – 4/28/15 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Under the direction of its conductor Tove Ramlo-Ystad, and in collaboration with composer and musician Frode Fjellheim, Cantus explores contemporary spiritual music with its roots in Sami music. Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia.  The unique sounds on this disc are ethereal, profound and inspiring, and it’s a completely unique musical form. These contemporary compositions, based on ancient melodies, are a compelling listen.

The Cantus group is becoming more and more well known. In 2013 Cantus was asked to sing Fjellheim’s Vuelie as the musical opening to Disney’s animated film Frozen. A re-worked version of the composition appears on this collection. The group toured the U.S. during the spring of this year. The performances here are superb. There is nothing in this collection I had heard before, but this is a highly listenable and repeatable program.

2L recordings are always spectacular, and this one is no exception. Beautifully recorded at the Uranienborg Church, in Norway, 2L gives us multiple ways to enjoy this disc. I auditioned the DTS HD MA 5.1 channel mix, as well as the 2-channel stereo. Both sounded wonderful, but the surround mix captured the beauty of the surroundings. The disc also includes a 9.1 Auro-3D mix, which includes overhead speakers [or additional speakers on top of your main ones that bounce off a flat ceiling…Ed.] That requires an audio system a bit above my pay grade, but I’m sure it is thrilling to hear.

If you have a Blu-ray player in your computer, or an external drive, you can also get the 96kHz FLAC files, or MP3 files, but the MP3s would simply not do justice to the lovely sound recorded in the high resolution versions. There is also an option to get the files off a network-connected Blu-ray player if you have the right hardware.

From a musical standpoint, this collection is richly rewarding. The audio is reference quality, and a sonic showpiece. I applaud 2L for offering the music in so many formats that will suit a variety of playback options.

This is a 2-disc set. One disc is a Blu-ray audio disc, that also contains the downloadable content. The second disc is a multichannel SACD. Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin

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