The Stockfisch DMM-CD/SACD Sampler Vol. 1 – Stockfisch Records stereo-only SACD SFR 357.5900.2, 50:01 ****:

(Featuring Chris Jones; Steve Strauss; Brooke Miller; The Greater Good; Ewen Carruthers; Sara K. and Chris Jones; Paul O’ Brien; Carl Cleves and Parissa Bouas; David Munyon; David Roth; McKinley Black; Allan Taylor; Mary Macmaster and Donald Hay)

There are a variety of international musicians that have gravitated to the hi-tech German Stockfisch label. With advanced recording technology (hi-res vinyl and SACD), folk and blues singers benefit from upgraded recording technology. Now the two formats have been combined to produce The Direct Master Mastering CD/SACD.  This process transfers the analog or digital master to a copper-coated, stainless steel disk which is cut at 45 rpm. Only a specific narrow area of the outer grooves of the analog disc are cut—where there is the least distortion caused by the cutter/tonearm combination.  These analog grooves are then transferred using the highest-end analog and digital gear to master an SACD with a standard stereo DSD layer as well as the usual 16-bit/44.1kHz CD layer. The listener hears the “direct” sound of the DMM copper-cut master, but without a pressed vinyl record. The idea is to retain the unique analog/vinyl sound without its concomitant side effects of surface noise, loss of highs toward the center label, rumble, time length restrictions, etc. [Leave it to the Germans to go to this much almost unbelievable trouble for audiophiles…Ed.]

Stockfisch Records has released a collection (The Stockfisch DMMCD/SACD Vol.1) that features singers. The first cut: “No Sanctuary Here”, is representative of Stockfisch aural engineering. Chris Jones adopts a gospel blues dynamic, with vocals surrounded by acoustic guitar and deep vocalese background. The sound is full and multi-layered. Another interesting voice (Brooke Miller) receives guitar and deft backup vocal support on “What You Know”. Both of these songs have an innate rhythmic structure. The Greater Good (Eugene Ruffalo, Dennis Kolen and Shane Alexander) adopts a ballad structure on the romantic, piano-infused “If I Could”. As the arrangements expand instrumentation, it settles comfortably in the background, never overwhelming the song or the singer. There are evocative, nostalgic contexts on tunes like Ewen Carruthers’ “That Train” and Paul O’Brien’s “Sonny’s Dream” that maintain their simple elegance.

Some voices are meant to be prominent. That would be an apt description of Sara K. Her live performance (accompanied by Jones on slide guitar) of “Stop Those Bells” is emotional and gritty. This duet is simple but potent. Carl Cleves and Parissa Bouas are more delicate on “Tough”, as the harmony vocals combine with Bouas’ ethereal voice. David Munyon brings a weathered Americana vibe to “Wild Horses”. All of these artists never surrender their core style to production. On a jazzy note, McKinley Black strikes up a cool vamp on “My Diamond Mine”. Folk veteran Allan Taylor lends his weathered vocals to the ruminative “Like A Cloud”. Each contribution is unique. Mary MacMaster (another great voice) and Donald Hay explore a Scottish language song with electric harp leads.

Stockfisch Records (under the innovative direction of Gunter Pauler) continues to operate on the cutting edge of technology. Their technological advances enhance the acoustic sensitivity of the performers without altering their essence. The DMM-CD/SACD format captures the pure tonal quality of vinyl without the various “noise” distractions. The digital transfer expands the vibrancy of the voices and instruments. I heard no pops, ticks or surface noise and the fidelity was truly excellent. Hopefully there will be other recordings that utilize this process.  More information on individual artists can be found at www.stockfish-records.de

TrackList: No Sanctuary Here; Closer; What You Know; If I Could; That Train; Stop Those Bells (Live); Sonny’s Dream; Tough; Four Wild Horses; The Greater Good Of All; My Diamond Mine; Like A Cloud; No Sleep

—Robbie Gerson