How good can your speakers sound? Play a MA Recordings CD and find out
The Audiophiliac checks out MA Recordings, one of the very best, and musically adventurous indie record labels on the planet.
MA Recordings is a one-man show. Todd Garfinkle is MA Recordings' sole producer, recording and editing engineer. He also handles the label's art direction, which is spectacular. MA is a trans-cultural jazz and classical label, and Garfinkle has been crisscrossing the globe recording music since 1988.
Garfinkle always tries to record in large, acoustically interesting classical concert halls, churches and galleries. "MA" is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character which means "space" or "interval," and Garfinkle believes these acoustic spaces are an intrinsic part of the not only the sound, but also the music. Capturing that sense of being there, in the same acoustic space as the musicians, is what makes MA Recordings so special (most conventional recordings add digital reverberation to simulate acoustic space). To achieve that goal Garfinkle's uses a pair very high quality omnidirectional microphones and customized recording equipment, some of which was designed specifically for MA.
Vlatko Stefanovski & Miroslav Tadic's "Krushevo" is one of my favorite MA CDs. These two guitarists' speed and virtuosity has been compared to John McLaughlin/Paco De Lucia's duets, and the MA's exquisite recording techniques put you inside the Macedonium Monument, in Krushevo, Macedonia (that's an interior view of the Monument on the CD cover). The sound is utterly natural with a terrific sense of presence.
"Ghatam," by the Antenna Repairmen is a rather unique percussion record. The trio uses handmade ceramic percussion instruments designed by sculptor Stephen Freedman. The range of styles runs from frenetic to atmospheric. A Ghatam is literally a clay water jug used as a hand drum in South Indian music, and the tactile quality of the ceramic instruments, their varied textures and resonances makes for a unique and thoroughly mesmerizing sound experience.
Garfinkle discovered Formatia Valea Mare playing in the Paris subway, and immediately made plans to record what would become "Departe De Casa." The band members all come from the same town in Moldava, which is called, of course, Valea Mare. While in Romania, they played weddings, births and funerals. The Formatia Valea Mare project was recorded in one of France's oldest and most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals, built in the 15th century. To me the large band's music lives somewhere between gypsy and oddly enough, klezmer; most of the tunes are played at breakneck speed. It's truly awesome music.