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High Fidelity Disc Project - Master CD-R Made in Polish, Dreams Made by Me

06-07-2018 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 98

Do you know Polish music? No? It is a time capsule to read something more about it. And about my dreams too.

Now and then I have such a thought: if we have so much in common with Japan, especially when it comes to love of music, why aren't we releasing Compact Discs in Poland in a way that makes music sound better than ever before and which look so great, that we need to get our hands on them? In a word—why don't release Platinum SHM-CD, SHM-CD, Ultimate Hi-QualityCD, BSCD2 in Poland? And why they do not appear in the 7" format, which is an excellent compromise between the LP and CD's appearance? Do you remember the article about King Crimson's boxes with Platinum SHM-CDs? If not, I encourage you to read it, maybe then my dream—and that's what I wanted to tell you about—will be embodied in a specific shape (see HERE).

High Fidelity Disc Project

There are several answers to these questions, and all of them together indicate brutally that it will probably never happen. But that is why, in spite of "signs in the sky and on the Earth", objective obstacles and mental shallowness, laziness and opportunism, I would like to offer an escape into the imaginary world and description of a non-existent, unlikely, but possible scenario in which four boxes are released, each with five maybe six albums, with Polish music, published under the patronage and in consultation with High Fidelity. Boxes issued with equal care, as those released by Japanese labels, with the sound of the highest possible quality on the carrier, which guarantees that we will be as close to the analogue master tape as possible with this format.

Step one, or how would such a release look like.

Although you are reading a publication devoted to the pursuit of the best possible sound, let me start the journey with the form. I think, however, that it is clear why—a product known as "release" in the physical world is something more than just music itself. It is a combination of polygraphy, ie a cover, an essay describing music and musicians, as well as the sound. That's why the Japanese releases have such an increadibly powerful influence on our imagination.

The High Fidelity Disc Project is a 7" mini LP type release. 7" is the size of a vinyl single, and the term "mini LP" refers to the fact that the disc is released not in a plastic box and not as a digipak, and is a faithful reproduction of the original edition, almost always a vinyl one. We would therefore have an exact replica of the cover, with the basis weight and texture of the cardboard from which it was made. It is difficult to execute but not impossible. Let me remind you that the English The Electric Company Co., which publishes perfect re-editions of vinyl records, is able to find a paper mill from which the original cover came and prepare it in almost the same way.

High Fidelity Disc Project

Which could be funny, because most covers of the albums—if not all of them—that I would see as part of this collection were issued on paper of a very poor quality. But this, together with bad paints, gives them a unique look. How to make a reproduction of such a cover? I have no idea... but it is important not to give up this assumption, otherwise the whole idea loses sense. Since they are supposed to be reproductions that are as identical as possible, bar codes or other information present on contemporary releases could not be included. Therefore, the whole must be packed in foil and commercial information should be applied on it.

But not all of them. I would introduce OBI, a characteristic element of Japanese releases. It has an informative role and would also play this role in our project. There would be a band's logo, the title of the album, information about the remaster and logotypes of the new publisher and High Fidelity. I can almost see it, I can feel the texture of this belt—let me remind you that 'obi' in Japan means a belt, as in kimono belt. The large format of the release would allow for thoughtful, minimalist printing, which would complement the album itself.

The High Fidelity Disc Project box would also have to include material regarding the contemporary reception of the albums, as well as the technical aspects of this partcular release. The latter would have to be created in close cooperation with the label, because only then will it be possible to get to the details of the recording sessions. The part concerning a description of the new master would be equally important. Only these three things would be an added value that was not included in the original. The discs would receive a common box similar to those offered by Disk Union.

Step two, or how would such a release have to sound like.

This is a step into the unknown. It is not a coincidence that almost all, if not just ALL, techniques used to improve the quality of the Compact Discs themselves originate from Japan. I named them at the beginning of this text, now I would only add XRCD. Nobody releases such formats outside Japan. The only way to produce a better quality disc in Europe than a standard aluminum one with a plastic base is to use a gold one. I know from experience that it is usually a step in the right direction. The gold underlay, however, gives a very characteristic sound, quite far from the perfect XRCD or Platinum SHM-CD resolution.

You can of course try to get some Japanese label interested in such a project. But it is extremely difficult. As far as I know, the only release of this type, i.e. on SHM-CDs, is a box with four SBB albums released by the Japanese label Belle Antique. Mr. Kazunori Ohara did the remaster, probably using a digital "flat transfer" file. The album was prepared by the Japanese Almedio label. As far as I know, this unique cooperation was achieved thanks to Mr. Michał Wilczyński, the head of GAD Records. But that's a unique case, an exception.

The solution would be to release our material on a gold Master CD-R. I conducted this type of comparison myself, as part of the Krakow Sonic Society Meeting in Krakow and during open KTS meetings in Warsaw (see HERE and HERE). There was not a single person who would not be surprised by how well CD-R discs sounded and how—in comparison—bad CDs did, even the best releases. It's best if you can record them while maintaining the procedures developed by the First Impression Music.

Step three, or which albums should be selected for such a release.

The third phase of the High Fidelity Disc Project is completely subjective. Because both the form and the way the discs are pressed are objectively best and it would be difficult to find something clearly better under the Compact Disc standard. Perhaps the Super Audio CDs would sound even better. For them, however, you would need to do an analog remaster or digital DSD - the point is that the signal should not be converted from PCM to DSD.

The choice of titles for the first box would be completely subjective and these would be the albums I listened to while my musical awareness was still developing. Because at the time I listened mostly to Polish music—the exception was the Depeche Mode—so I chose five titles with one supplementary one. The latter is different from the five and is to be a kind of link between this box and the next one. Titles differ from each other stylistically, and yet together they create a picture of Polish rock music.

BUDKA SUFLERA, Cień wielkiej góry. Polskie Nagrania "Muza" SX 1264 (1975)

Recorded in 1974 and 1975 in the PWSM studio in Warsaw, the first full-length album of this group contains such hits as Cień wielkiej góry and Jest taki samotny dom. In addition to band's members in some recordings you can also hear Alibabki and Czesław Niemen playing on the Moog synthesizer; the musician will appear on this list again. The album was surprisingly well recorded, which was recalled by the fantastic box prepared in 2011 with the help of the Audio Cave company (Live 2011 + Studio 1975, BSP 05-2011; review HERE).

There were two CDs in it—the original from 1975 and the live performance from 2011, with the same material. Mr. Piotr Nykiel from Nykiel Audio was responsible for the digital remaster. The original tapes were played on a modified Studer A80 recorder, and the analogue signal was converted to digital using an 18-bit A/D converter operating at a sampling rate of 705.6kHz (!). The result is the best version of this material, ready to be released in the High Fidelity Disc Project series.

KOMBI, Nowy rozdział. Polskie Nagrania "Muza" SX2164 (1984)

Nowy rozdział is Kombi third studio album. It was recorded in the Polskie Nagrania Studio in 1983 and released in 1984. The director of the recording was Mr. Witold Trenkler, and the sound operator was Ms. Halina Jastrzębska-Marciszewska, whom we know from most of the best releases of the Polish Recordings. In contrast to the Budka Suflera debut, which was rock, soul, and even progressive—it was included in the Michał Wilczyński monograph Polish progressive rock: guide (2008)—this time we are dealing with music based mainly on the sound of electronic instruments.

The album for the most part is the work of keyboardist and band's leader Sławomir Łosowski. It was in the New Chapter that he first used Commodore 64 with MIDI sequencer software, new Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Multimoog and Roland TR-808 drum machine. A great album was created with hits that we often hear on the radio, like Słodkiego, miłego życia and Kochać Cię – za późno. The album was re-released in digital form on the Compact Disc in 2005, and the remaster was prepared by Mrs. Karolina Gleinert, who at the time was also remastering some of the Polish Jazz titles. An interesting fact... in addition to the standard edition, a "mini LP" edition (PNCD 985) was also released.

2 plus 1, Video. Savitor SVT-018 (1985)

The album, recorded in the Tonpress KAW Studio in 1984/1985, is often referred to as the continuation of Bez limitu, the previous release of this band. In my opinion it is not so, it was the first one on which the synthesizers and rock sound were combined in a perfect way, resulting in a melancholic, immersed in its own time album. Now, after many years, many still enjoy listening to it, especially if they understand the 1980s, and like such dense music.

Plus, the lyrics of the song are great too. Same as for the Bez limitu, also for the Video the main songwriter was Andrzej Mogielnicki, the same who wrote texts for Budka Suflera and Lady Pank. He was also a co-founder of the latter. An interesting fact—since 2009 he lives in the Dominican Republic. However, this album also brings songs with the lyrics written by John Porter and Maciej Zembaty. Porter sang along with Elżbieta Dmoch in a beautiful song Chińskie latawce. The album has never been re-released, either on vinyl or on a CD.

The director of the recording, also responsible for the mix, was Mr. Sławomir Wesołowski. This is a very interesting character. As he said in an interview for "Magazyn muzyczny" in 1985, the task of the producer is not only to capture the sound, but also to influence the performance (No. 2 (318), p. 6-7, the entire interview is available on the top80.pl).

He worked with such artists as Krystyna Prońko and Ewa Bem, he is also responsible for the final shape of the Republika's Nieustanne tango album. He made the musicians play 100% material in the studio, from the beginning to the end, and only then he added the path with the vocals and effects. Spontaneity was more important to him than absolute purity and "perfectionism". In turn, on the Lady Pank debut album he did the opposite, he prepared it track by track, which initially did not really appeal to the musicians.

BAJM, Martwa woda. Pronit PLP 0024 (1984)

Martwa woda, the second Bajm album, occupies a special place in my heart. I bought it in a small bookstore in Bobowa, along with a single that promoted it Ściany mają uszy because of tracks that had clearly an anti-communist context, Jozek nie daruję Ci tej nocy and Nie ma wody na pustyni. As it turned out, these songs are completely different from the rest of the album. On of the tracks is—in my opinion—one of the best Polish rock songs ever created, and yet it is almost unknown. I'm thinking about the Małpa i ja. It starts like a melancholic ballad, and then goes into energetic, rock with the beautiful guitar solo by Henryk Mazurek. Recorded again for the Ballady compilation (EMI Music Poland, 1997)  no longer has this aggressiveness and dark beauty.

The material included in the Martwa woda is extremely rich, multidimensional. The singer's, Beata Kozidrak, voice is sometimes very soft, sometimes it really rocks, with squeaks, screams, experiments with "breathing", there are also long vocals parts too. It is assumed that Kozidrak was inspired by the Nina Hagen vocal.

The album owes its remarkable sound to Mr. Józef B. Nowakowski from the System Studio. A musician, producer, recording engineer, and acoustics specialist, he began his music adventure with bass guitar together with Zbigniew Hołdys and Wojciech Waglewski. He was responsible for sound production on albums of Czesław Niemen, Budka Suflera and Czerwone Gitary. As a record producer and sound engineer, he worked, among others, with Stanisław Sojka, Republika, John Porter, Brygada Kryzys and Michał Urbaniak. For many years he has also been involved in acoustics, he's been designing acoustic treatments for recording studios, auditoriums as well as for audiophile listening rooms.

In 2003 the Martwa woda was released on a CD with a different cover. This re-issue better remain forgotten.

LOMBARD, Szara maść. Savitor SVT-012 (1984)

Although we say "Lombard", we think Przeżyj to sam, this album Szara maść, the fourth in their biography, is THE special one. It was created as the so-called "concept album", with songs connected with effects, which makes it a compact story with a beginning and an end. The author of the lyrics was Jacek Skubikowski. The sound is characterized by a combination of synthesizers, sequencers and guitars, for which the vocal of Małgorzata Ostrowska is a counterpoint. Listen to the hypnotic Stan gotowości, or very much Vangelis-like-instrumental EKG, and you will know what this album is.

This is a "Poznań" album (Budka Suflera and Bajm are "Lublin" ones). The material was recorded in the Polish Radio Studio "Giełda" in Poznań in March 12-29, April 9-14 and June 9-17 1984 by Ryszard Gloger and Andrzej Bąk. The graphic design by Jacek Gulczyński is equally important. Interestingly, despite the naked breasts on the cover, it was not stopped by the censorship, which was almost certain at the time. The album was re-issued on the Compact Disc twice. Unfortunately, the songs were split, breaking the consistency of the composition, and bonus recordings were added, interesting but also deepening the disintegration of the original idea.

HELMUT NADOLSKI, Meditation. Veriton SXV-786 (1974)

The five titles I have so far named are albums with rock and pop rock music. Four of them were created at almost the same time in 1984-1985 period. The exception is the Cień wielkiej góry by Budka Suflera from 1974, but I wanted to anchor this box in an earlier period. It's a coincidence, or maybe there are no coincidents—in the same year Veriton released an amazing album: Meditation. This is a live recording, from the St. George church in Sopot, with the bassist Nadolski accompanied by Czesław Niemen playing the Moog synthesiser and Olgierd Łukaszewicz reciting texts written by Nadolski.

Church of St. George is a neo-Gothic building, quite large it's the one next to the Sopot's "monciak"; once a Protestant temple, since 1945 serves as a garrison church. Everyone can go there and listen to the silence under which Sopot's life pulsates. Perhaps one can still hear the end of the long reverberation of Moog, the decay of the double bass ...

The recording, directed by Mieczysław Serafin, belongs to a group of experimental works. While the Budka Suflera's album was a link with a potential box dedicated to Polish progressive music, in which music of such bands as SBB, Omni, Abraxas, Collage, Riverside would be included, the Meditation is an exit towards the box with music that can't be easily classified, in which I would see, for example, The New Shape (1993), the second album by Varius Manx, on which the vocalist was Robert Amirian, and in the backing vocals on Memphis one can hear Edyta Bartosiewicz; also one of the albums of the group Osjan, certainly an incredible album Skalary, mieczyki, neonki (2004) by Myslovitz, composed of long improvisations recorded during recording session for the Korova Milky Bar album (2002).

Step four, or it's time to wake up.

The selection of these albums is, as I said, absolutely subjective. I was guided by my musical preferences, nostalgia and sound quality. I think it is a very interesting choice, showing different sides of some well-known bands, including a lot of great music. I know that creating such a box is rather impossible. The so-called "cleaning" of copyright in such different cases could be very difficult. One would also have to convince artists and labels to such project. And finally find a man or a few people who would remaster this material with my help. So it's rather unrealistic, unfortunately. Because it would be a tangible proof that Polish music is interesting. It would beprobably one of the last—physical evidence that there was once such a thing as an "album" with all its richness—graphic and sound one.

Text: Wojciech Pacuła

Images: Wojciech Pacuła | Electric Company Co. (2)

Graphic design: Bartosz Łuczak/Piksel Studio

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