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Reviews: Goldfrapp: Supernature

Reviews: 7

Review by MichaelCPE August 30, 2005 (4 of 7 found this review helpful)
Sonics:    
I have just got this SACD and thought my initial comments may be useful.

I have just updated this review to include my comments from listening to the Stereo track in detail.

From the cover it is very difficult to tell that it is a SACD, and even less easy to tell that there is a multi-channel mix. But there is.

The multi-channel mix is the worst I have ever heard.

Most of the time the left and right surround speakers are just doing the same as the front left and right. Most of the time the centre is doing almost nothing. So instead of being surrounded by music, most of it is positioned at the listening point.

My first impression is that the subwoofer is just repeating the lowest bass, so the multi-channel mix sounds bass heavy. I suspect that all the main bass is also placed in the surround speakers too.
At first playing I found the recording very hard to listen to. Turning down the bass helped.

A good surround mix seperates the different instruments and makes it easier to hear what is happening. This mix just confuses things.

Changing to the SACD stereo was a major improvement. Greater clarity and I started to enjoy the music.

Listening carefully to the SACD stereo track has clarified the problem with this recording. It has been mixed primarily with the dance floor in mind. Whilst some on the dance floor are in the middle, most people are much nearer to one speaker than the others. A good dance mix will sound complete even if the dancer is next to one speaker. How is this done? Simple, do not mix a stereo (or surround) recording, make it mono instead!

This recording is 80% mono! So even if you are next to a speaker you will hear a good mix of the music (abeit mainly mono).

All of the main vocals, instruments, and percussion are in the centre. The 20% which is not centre is the filling part, and almost all of this has the left and right channel basically doing the same thing, but with a different voice. So if there is a main note played once it is in the centre, and if there is a chord or repeated vocal in the left, then there will be another similar bit of music in the right. Thus a listener standing next to any speaker will hear 90%.

Thus the surround mix is not much different from listening to a mono recording with every speaker playing the same thing! Yes it does surround you with sound. But I want to hear different leading vocals and instuments coming from different positions.

Once I get to know the music better I will do a comparsion of the SACD surround mix with playing the CD layer with All Channel Stereo.

A brief comparision between the CD layer and the Stereo SACD layer showed that SACD was noticably better quality. So I can recommend the SACD for better stereo quality.

I have not yet viewed the DVD, so no comment yet on the DVD extras.

I was very much looking forward to some new electronica in surround, so the surround mix was a major disappointment.

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Review by vonwegen August 30, 2005 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I hate to differ with the previous review, but the 5.1 surround mix works fine, in my opinion. The rears are used a bit too heavy at times, especially on the first two tunes, but otherwise, the sound distribution is quite good and reinforces my first impression--this is one of the first examples of totally electronic music being something other than cold and clinical robotic dance pulses for the 'e' crowd. It pulses and buzzes in just the right way, somehow. You might just find yourself humming along without realising it at first.

The melodies on offer here are sublime, as is the layering of both (many) vintage synths and vocals. This might be modern music, but it relies on old-fashioned pop music hooks. Plus the overdubs of real strings plus electric guitars really adds something to an already impressive sonic palette. Add some gorgeous backwards vocal trax, and you have something that will keep you coming back to listen again.

I should also mention that Alison Goldfrapp is a really great vocalist. At first listen, she sounds like a cross between Deborah Harry and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, but she is a lot more than the sum of those influences.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents' worth...

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Review by jasonfist August 31, 2005 (5 of 9 found this review helpful)
Sonics:  
I have to agree with the first review; this surround mix is a wasted opportunity, and not a very exciting listening experience.

A friend of mine bought the ordinary CD album before I received my SACD, and I kept thinking "ah, there are lots of little sounds that will really come to life in the 5.1 mix".

When I did finally listen to the SACD, it's true that the sound quality is better (clearer treble, really crisp), but - as previously stated - the back speakers just seem to carry what the front speakers are doing. Apart from a couple of bleeps in a couple of tracks, there's nothing really going on; it's just a mainly-mono sludge, and you're sitting in it.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a subtle surround mix, I don't always want ping-pong balls whizzing around my living room (yes, I'm talking to YOU Monsieur Jarre), but this surround mix is a gimmick with little point.

What a shame. I really was expecting better.

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Review by monotone September 3, 2005 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
A very unexpected SACD pop release at this point of time! A very nice one too.

The release reaffirm's Goldfrapp's music direction after a pretty significant change from their debut to Black Cheery. Like their previous releases, Supernature, grows on you after a number of listenings. Supernature also attempts to 'link' some of their musical style back to their debut, Felt Mountain.

I bought the SACD+DVD copy believing its only on SACD Stereo (as stated on the back of the CD), so being a multichannel SACD after loading into the player is a really nice surprise.

Unlike some of the reviewers, I really enjoyed the surround mix of this recording.

The recording stayed away from being overly gimmicky with surround 'options' by throwing sound elements to the rear channels unnecessarily (you'll still get that if you like it, on track 7, Slide In). Instead, on most tracks, the rears act as an extension from the fronts to create a more 'enclosed' sounding recording for the listener. I think the recording is a coming of age for pop mastering that might convince die-hard 2 channel listeners to try MC, without busy rear channels gimmicks, that they constantly stereotyped MC music is all about. I have no issues with the center channel on my set up too.

Highly enjoyable. Give Moloko, Bjork & Beck's SACD a go if you enjoy this one.

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Review by oldster April 2, 2008 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is one of the best surround mixes I have heard, it is subtle, the mix between L. front and L. back then R front and R. back seem to have been treated as if they were stereo pairs, so as well as the front stereo mix there is the front to rear stereo mix on each side, this gives a great effect of being immersed in the sound, with sound panning in all directions on some sections where it is appropriate.

In my opinion this works much better than mixes where individual instuments are mixed to come from individual speakers, sometimes the rear ones, giving an entirely false, gimmicky, sound stage.

For me it certainly brings the music to life, adding a pleasant extra dimension.

The music is full of energy, instruments well recorded, puts me in mind of Bjork on some tracks, perhaps a bit more accessible.

You'll probably love it or hate it :-)


as an aside, also in this package is a disc with DTS 5.1 mixes of the tracks, which gives a fascinating direct comparison with SACD .... imho the SACD tracks are crisper and better defined with extended top end and improved surround mix, but they don't seem to include any LFE track, whereas the DTS does. The DTS surround mix and added LFE track would probably suit a party envireonment better ...

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Review by fredblue May 19, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:  
If it gives any sense of perspective to anyone reading this, I have played Goldfrapp's "Felt Mountain" and "Black Cherry" albums to absolute death over the years. They are quite simply essential albums to me. Having had this disc for years now, I can honestly say I've only played it twice, maybe three times now - skipping through the tracks the first time and playing it once through the second and more recently giving it another chance on my (then) new SACD player about a year ago.

For starters, I'll be blunt, the album itself just doesn't do anything for me. Back in 2005, I was so excited! As a massive fan of Goldfrapp, I could not wait to get this home and give it a spin - the opportunities for Alison's vocals and for all the wonderful ambient sounds that her and Will conjur up to be panned and steered in a 5.1 setup were just too colossal to be true! Or so I thought... When I did race home and put it on, I was so massively disappointed, you really have no idea! I hate to be nasty about such a talented duo who I have such respect and admiration for, but "Supernature" is a feeble collection by any standards. When you compare it to their previous work, however, it is abysmal.

To add insult to injury, the M/C mix is a complete disaster!

At the time, I hadn't discovered the wonders of M/C SACD, so I evaluated the 5.1 mix on the strength (?) of the dvd in the special edition. I thought there must be something wrong with my surround setup, as little or nothing seemed to be going on with the mix!?

Now I've had the joy of hearing and owning over 50 mostly incredible M/C SACD's, ultimately, having finally heard the SACD that I bought years and years ago, this was a woefully wasted opportunity.

Presenting a discrete, engaging, exciting 5.1 mix here could have been another boost for SACD and M/C music outside the Classical music repertoire. Granted, it would have been an uphill struggle, as the music itself is so mediocre but it could have helped lift it out of the doldrums and made me (for one!) more inclined to repeated listens, if the surround mix had been rivetting, if not the music!

Instead, Goldfrapp entirely missed the point and the 5.1 mix is, for me, like the album itself, among the most underwhelming experiences in my music listening.

I love Goldfrapp and I love Multi-channel music and I HATE this. Need I say more..

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Review by onenairb October 5, 2013
Performance:   Sonics:    
Ok this review is 4 years after the last but I think it is worth defending this release. I recently purchased the excellent 'Tales Of Us' 24bit studio master. My first proper introduction to Goldfrapp. I agree with oldsters review. There is no real subtlety in the surround mix, that's true, but it still is very engaging IMHO and immerses you in the music.

The only disappointment for me is that it also comes with a DVD that boasts a DTS 24/96 soundtrack on the disc and box which doesn't actually exist. Just standard DTS.

Recommended.

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