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Songlines Label - Surround Sound's Best Kept Secret?

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#1
Earlier this year, I started a thread (link below) about an amazing 5.0 SACD that I somewhat randomly picked up, courtesy of the Canadian label Songlines:

https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/fo.../patrick-zimmerli-phoenix-5-0-sacd-wow.24398/

Well, since then, I have quickly built up quite a collection of Songlines SACDs, and I have to say that, almost uniformly, they have blown me away with their immersive surround mixes and incredible fidelity. The amazing thing is that most of their surround discs can be found on-line for $10 or under...and the payback in terms of surround experience is worth many times that price.

Now, a word of "warning" for those who might want to explore their catalog: you do need to be a fairly adventurous listener, as most of their releases focus on contemporary jazz that skews on the more avant-garde side of the spectrum. Still, the discs I own rarely, if ever, degenerate into straight out noise fests. Just the opposite in fact, as several of their discs are quite minimalist and moody. That said, if you like your jazz to be swinging and bouncy, this is not the label for you.

Even though there already is that prior thread about the Patrick Zimmerli disc (which also includes some further recommendations), I figured it would be nice to start this new dedicated thread for people to share opinions about the label and specific releases and, hopefully, to expose more listeners to these spectacular surround mixes.
 

humprof

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#2
I think I testified about the following discs on the other thread, but thanks for reviving the topic, @ogrequad. I'm with you: Songlines deserves more attention.

I love tenor saxophonist's Michael Blake's music, and Amor de Cosmos is one of his better albums (and his only one recorded for surround, as far as I know). The record is ambitious and "conceptual," but Blake--who is perhaps best known for an early stint with John Lurie's Lounge Lizards back in the day--can also swing like crazy.

Vocalist Theo Bleckmann and guitarist Ben Monder's At Night is on the "minimalist and moody" end of the spectrum. But like all their duet albums, I find it compelling.

Pianist James Carney, who curates a great live series at Korzo in South Slope, Brooklyn, assembled an ensemble of Brooklyn heavy-hitters for two albums of smart contemporary post-postbop, Green-Wood and Ways and Means.

Wayne Horvitz's "Gravitas" Quartet (Way Out East, One Dance Alone) does brainy chamber-jazz featuring jazz cello and bassoon! (Plus cornetist Ron Miles--a brilliant addition to any band.)

And I love guitarist Brad Shepik (Places You Go, Human Activity Suite), who's not as well known as, say, Pat Metheny or Bill Frisell, but should be. He's nowhere near as prolific, but he has a distinct a sound as a player and composer, and he's just as worthy of your attention.

Those are my faves!

(By the way: Songlines doesn't do surround any more, but most, maybe all, of the above titles are still available from the label at reasonable prices.)
 
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#3
Agreed about James Carney and Brad Shepik - their Songlines releases are some of my absolute favorites. As a guitarist myself, I liked Shepik's playing so much that I even bought one of his (gasp!) stereo CDs!

The only title that you mentioned that I don't have is Bleckmann/Monder's At Night. I listened to some samples and the vocals were not to my taste, but I'm sure I'll grab it at some point. I initially felt the same way about Mikkel Ploug/Sissel Vera Pettersen/Joachim Badenhorst's Equilibrium CD (also on Songlines), but that one quickly became another favorite. There are moments on that disc that are just breathtaking.

Another excellent Songlines disc that I recently acquired was Sean Noonan's Stories to Tell. This is a crazy one with a varied cast of multi-cultural musicians and musical styles, veering wildly from Afro-pop to Irish music to near metal, sometimes within one song! It's really a "kitchen sink" album but somehow it all works. I played this for a bunch of friends, none of whom are particularly well-versed in this sort of music, and they all loved it. Definitely recommended.
 
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#4
Perhaps it would be good to recommend a title or two that 1) are fairly accessible and 2) have awesome sonics and a killer mix.

I'm all for checking out and supporting the underdog (I am one too). Speaking of small labels, I have Ogre - Plague of the Planet quad DVD and really like it.

On a less cheery note, I traded a QQer for The Last Neanderthal in quad, but he sent me a plain old CD, instead of the DVD. Not sure if that was by accident or not. It took me quite a while to realize it and I didn't feel like calling him out.
 
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#5
Perhaps it would be good to recommend a title or two that 1) are fairly accessible and 2) have awesome sonics and a killer mix.

I'm all for checking out and supporting the underdog (I am one too). Speaking of small labels, I have Ogre - Plague of the Planet quad DVD and really like it.

On a less cheery note, I traded a QQer for The Last Neanderthal in quad, but he sent me a plain old CD, instead of the DVD. Not sure if that was by accident or not. It took me quite a while to realize it and I didn't feel like calling him out.
Here are three good ones to start with:

Patrick Zimmerli Phoenix - saxophone as lead instrument, supported by violin quartet + piano, bass, drums, and electronics. Mix gets very adventurous and discrete on several songs.

Aros Train Song - more traditional jazz sextet with a few avant tendencies. Sonics on this one are impressive.

Sean Noonan Stories to Tell - see my prior post on this one, but it's a really fun album. This is likely the album that would get a non-jazz fan to explore the label further, as several of the songs have vocals. Opening song has a distinct Santana vibe. Mix and sonics are great here as well.

Thanks for the OGRE shout out! Too bad about Last Neanderthal, though, which I think is the better mix of the two quad discs we put out through Quadro-Surround. I'd hook you up with a copy, but last I checked, we didn't have any extras left!
 
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#6
I'd hook you up with a copy, but last I checked, we didn't have any extras left!
Well, if you find any, let me know! I'm starting a YouTube surround album review channel and I intend to feature small labels as often as possible. I'll do Plague of the Planet for sure and hopefully Neanderthal too. :dance
 
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#7
Well, if you find any, let me know! I'm starting a YouTube surround album review channel and I intend to feature small labels as often as possible. I'll to Plague of the Planet for sure and hopefully Neanderthal too. :dance
Nice - will do! Looking forward to checking out your YouTube channel once you start it. Keep me posted!

And just to keep the thread on-topic, here are some YouTube clips of songs from the Sean Noonan album:


 

fizzywiggs41

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#8
Well said gents .

Songlines is so very reasonable when it comes to surround SACD'S .

And I agree , too bad they don't continue with surround anymore .

I have a small number of titles and will need to purchase more .

One title I highly recommend is "Jerry Granelli -Sandhills Reunion " . I don't think there are any other types of this music surround genre out there , and it's became a regular play for me .
 
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#9
One title I highly recommend is "Jerry Granelli -Sandhills Reunion " . I don't think there are any other types of this music surround genre out there , and it's became a regular play for me .
Agreed! Sandhills Reunion was another unexpected surprise for me! I wasn't sure how I would feel about the spoken word w/soundtrack approach, but it is a fascinating album start to finish. The surround mix is also quite immersive, which is another thing I didn't expect!
 
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#10
Thanks so much for starting this thread. So far I only have Poolplayers' "Way Below the Surface" which is an absolutely beautiful record. Slow, dark, sparse, nocturnal (as the hype text calls it). Mostly saxophone, piano, bass, drums and some light electronic effects. In the surrounds there's mostly some of the drums/percussion and atmosphere – not a stunning mix but totally fitting for this music.

I remember previewing lots of their stuff and I even cleaned up their Discogs page at some point to get a better overview for myself but I still couldn't decide which ones to get.
 
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#12
Thanks so much for starting this thread. So far I only have Poolplayers' "Way Below the Surface" which is an absolutely beautiful record. Slow, dark, sparse, nocturnal (as the hype text calls it). Mostly saxophone, piano, bass, drums and some light electronic effects. In the surrounds there's mostly some of the drums/percussion and atmosphere – not a stunning mix but totally fitting for this music.

I remember previewing lots of their stuff and I even cleaned up their Discogs page at some point to get a better overview for myself but I still couldn't decide which ones to get.
I recently picked up the Poolplayers' release as well...Good stuff, though I agree that the surround mix is not quite as strong as some of the other Songlines releases. If you like the Poolplayers, then definitely check out the Equilibrium album that I referenced in an earlier post as well as Chris Gestrin's albums, which have that same "slow, dark, sparse" sound.
 
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#13
Well, if you find any, let me know! I'm starting a YouTube surround album review channel and I intend to feature small labels as often as possible. I'll do Plague of the Planet for sure and hopefully Neanderthal too. :dance
Very interested to learn about your YouTube surround album review channel - do keep us posted where we can find it!
 
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#14
Very interested to learn about your YouTube surround album review channel - do keep us posted where we can find it!
It's in the very beginning stages right now. I'm overseas away from my collection, using travel gear and found locations. There are a couple of teaser videos, so far. Channel introduction video posts this weekend.
Reviews begin in November. If you search YouTube for Life in Surround and see the yellow logo that's the one.
Thanks for your interest!
 
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GOS

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#15
Here are three good ones to start with:

Patrick Zimmerli Phoenix - saxophone as lead instrument, supported by violin quartet + piano, bass, drums, and electronics. Mix gets very adventurous and discrete on several songs.

Aros Train Song - more traditional jazz sextet with a few avant tendencies. Sonics on this one are impressive.

Sean Noonan Stories to Tell - see my prior post on this one, but it's a really fun album. This is likely the album that would get a non-jazz fan to explore the label further, as several of the songs have vocals. Opening song has a distinct Santana vibe. Mix and sonics are great here as well.

Thanks for the OGRE shout out! Too bad about Last Neanderthal, though, which I think is the better mix of the two quad discs we put out through Quadro-Surround. I'd hook you up with a copy, but last I checked, we didn't have any extras left!

I have both, and still enjoy them both....
 

4-earredwonder

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#16
Courtesy of HRAudio.net here are nearly four pages of SONGLINE stereo/multichannel Titles with Ordering Links and some reviews:

https://www.hraudio.net/search.php?format=0&keywords=songlines&page=1

As previously mentioned, I have nearly ALL of the listed titles and many are still available.

One of MY personal favorites but now fetching big bucks:

Jean-Jacques Avenel: Waraba


Songlines SGL SA1549-2
Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid
Traditional
"Waraba"

Jean-Jacques Avenel (contrabass, kora)
Yakhouba Sissokho (kora)
Lansine Kouyaté (bala)
Moriba Koïta (ngoni)
Michel Edelin (flutes)

And another:



Songlines SGL SA1546-2
Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid
Jazz
"Train Song"

Aros:
Rob Armus (tenor sax)
Marion von Tilzer (piano)
John Korsrud (trumpet)
Anne Wood (violin)
Sven Schuster (contrabass)
Alan Purves (percussion)
 
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humprof

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#18
Waraba is the only one I’ve got, guess I chose wisely when it comes to future value. Would have liked to have the Bill Frisell one too but the SACD is sold out. Maybe I’ll sample a few tunes and try others
The Frisell disc is pretty long-haired--not what people usually think of when they think of Frisell--and while it's hi-res, it's 2-channel only.
 

4-earredwonder

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#19
Waraba is the only one I’ve got, guess I chose wisely when it comes to future value. Would have liked to have the Bill Frisell one too but the SACD is sold out. Maybe I’ll sample a few tunes and try others
The Frisell is available from Songlines website but is only available as an HDCD encoded RBCD for $14 https://songlines.com/release/richter-858/

AmazonUS is listing the Frisell SACD as available used but I would check with the seller to ensure it's an SACD https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00077CYL4/?tag=hraudio-20
 
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#20
Waraba is the only one I’ve got, guess I chose wisely when it comes to future value. Would have liked to have the Bill Frisell one too but the SACD is sold out. Maybe I’ll sample a few tunes and try others
Waraba is one of the few that I DON'T have and, as pointed out, it goes for big bucks. I wonder why??
 
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