In the last hour on the final day of Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2015, I stopped into the MoFi Distribution room to talk with Jon Derda. Jon was formerly the “ambassador of awesome” at Peachtree Audio and was all about streaming good music, no matter the resolution. Jon was known to stream lossy audio for an entire HiFi trade show via MOG, without batting an eye. He knew good music and could make it sound good and run great demos for the audience. Now Jon is all about analog with MoFi, but his taste in music hasn’t diminished. Jon put on an album and handed the vinyl record’s jacket to me as he began to drop the needle. He said something like, this is a guy name Fink with an orchestra and it’s a great album. As I paged through the beautiful images and liner notes, something clicked with me. It’s not often that I hear a new song and immediately fall in love, but there was something different about this one. A few minutes into the first track I was hooked. Given that the show was closing in a short time and I wanted to talk to Jon, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit there and really listen to the entire album. Thus, I took out my iPhone and snapped a photo of the album cover that said Fink and RCO. I figured I could use the photo of the album to remind me to look it up on TIDAL HIFI later the evening. Later that evening turned into later the following week because I was too busy with other engagements on the final night of RMAF. The following week I searched for Fink on TIDAL HIFI and found the album Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. I instantly “offlined” the album to my iPhone and played it in my car nonstop for a few days. Later I added it to my library within Roon and started streaming it through my main audio system. Once I heard Fink’s voice and guitar and the entire orchestra on a really good audio system I was blown away. I thought to myself, where was I in 2013 when this album was released? How could I miss an album with great music and great sound quality? How can I stop this from happening again? I know musical tastes vary from person to person and even within the same person based on one’s mood, but I believe this is an album for the ages, for everyone.
Last night I had the lights in my listening room off, the Pass Labs amps warmed up and front panel lights glowing blue, and the volume on my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC
RS cranked up. As soon as the first note of the first track of this album came through my TAD CR1 loudspeakers, it was suddenly April 29, 2012 and I was transported to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I ended up listening to the album three times in a row, on repeat. When I went to bed, I queued it up on my iPhone in TIDAL HIFI, got my headphones ready, then thought, I better not burn this one out as I’ve been known to do in the past. I set my headphones down and went to sleep with the lyrics to the track Berlin Sunrise and the accompanying string section flowing through my head. When I woke up, I went back to my listening room and fired up the entire album once again. It was at this point, I stopped writing a component review, due for publication this week, and started writing this article. I felt like I had good news and I just had to deliver it to the Computer Audiophile Community.
A little about the recording - I could rewrite / wordsmith everything, but in this case I think it’s better to simply use the exact wording and cite the resource.
“In October 2011 Fink were approached by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of the Netherlands, and Dutch classical music charity Entree, to perform with the orchestra on the traditional Queen's night concert the following year. The concert took place on 29 April 2012 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and featured classical pieces chosen by the band, along with exclusive arrangements of 6 songs from across Fink's catalogue, scored by Jules Buckley of the Heritage Orchestra. Also performed was Buckley's arrangement of Henry Purcell's "What Power Art Thou", sung by Greenall. Claudia Cuypers of OOR stated that "the orchestra gives [Fink's] songs a new, unexpected power and lightness... in this hall his songs become complete, even though you'd thought they already were."
The orchestra commissioned a special iPad application for the event, on which worldwide viewers could stream audio and video footage of the concert live, in real time: the first time such an application has been used for this purpose in the Netherlands.
The following year, it was decided to release the highlight of the concert as a live album. The recordings, made by Dutch producer Joost Dellebarre, were finessed by Fink and the band's live sound engineer, Rob Kamer.”
- Wikipedia page for Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
“Last year, Fink performed a concert with one of the world’s best symphony orchestras – the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Fink’s music was rearranged for the orchestra by composer and orchestrator Jules Buckley, one of the most in-demand arrangers in Europe. He is Music Director of the Heritage Orchestra and has worked with The Cinematic Orchestra, Basement Jaxx and Arctic Monkeys, amongst others. His instinctive understanding of how to harness the huge power of an orchestra to play songs by contemporary musicians verges on the genius.
Now, Ninja Tune is releasing the staggering results.
Fink’s drummer Tim Thornton puts the feeling you get hearing opener ‘Berlin Sunrise’ better than anyone. ‘Nothing will ever beat the first time the RCO kicked-in behind me, on that first rehearsal day. The best analogy I can come up with is this: imagine sitting in your car, pressing down the accelerator, and instead of the whirr and buzz of your ten-year-old Toyota Corolla, you get the sound and rumble of a Boeing 747 jet engine. That’s what it felt like for me.'
And that’s what we hear as listeners to this remarkable album. Fink’s raw, emotive, percussive songs have had a vast, ocean-deep power added to them. The music swells, rises, drives us forward, Fink’s vocal swirling within it, guitar, bass and drums becoming elements of a giant, perfect mechanism. This is no naff fusion of disparate artforms, but rather an astonishingly effective, entirely new piece of art.
Thornton continues: ‘Jules Buckley's epic arrangements find intense passion in the songs, they tweak out melodies you never knew existed, they tug at heart-strings you didn’t know you had.’ There’s a truly awesome emotional power at play in this music, with songs such as ‘Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us’ and the classic ‘Sort Of Revolution’ becoming things of vast beauty.
The album includes Fink songs performed with the unaccompanied band on the night, such as ‘This Is The Thing,’ and the orchestra gets its own chance to shine, performing Rouse's ‘The Infernal Machine’ and Ives' ‘The Unanswered Question.’”
- Fink’s record label Ninja Tunes page for the album
I analyzed all the tracks on the album for dynamic range and a host of other properties. The good news for audiophiles is that the album has really good dynamic range. It scores a DR12 on the DR Meter with tracks ranging from DR10 to DR15. Here are the specifics per track (the detailed screenshots are featured at the bottom of the article).
. Berlin Sunrise - DR10
. Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us - DR11
. What Power Art Thou? - DR13
. The Infernal Machine - DR15
. Wheels - DR13
. This Is The Thing - DR12
. The Unanswered Question - DR15
. Perfect Darkness - DR11
. Sort Of Revolution - DR10
Oh, but the story doesn’t stop here. While researching the album I discovered there is an iOS app made specifically for this concert (the app only works on iPads). This is the kind of thing that i wish all bands would do for concerts or albums. The Fink RCO app is really cool. It enables the user to watch the entire concert, featuring tracks not included on the Fink album. That by itself is pretty cool, but the app goes much further. It has several layers to it that enable the user to watch the concert and bring in additional information via small screens (that can be enlarged while minimizing the main screen). For example, while watching the concert it’s possible to activate a layer for band commentary. Things brings in a small window where the band talks about the experience while it’s playing. the band is watching the concert at the same point the viewer is, and their voices are raised sightly above the music so you can hear both at the same time. Another great feature is the ability to watch the rehearsal in a small screen or full screen. the entire thing is optimized for use with Apple TV, using the iPad as a second screen. This is done by mirroring the iPad to an Apple TV. Because the app was designed with this as its goal, the whole experience works well. I must say, it’s apps like this that will get people to spend money on music without question. The whole experience is immersive.
I was going to go through track by track, highlighting the greatness of each song, but I’m electing not to spoil it for you. Sure, I could say that the build-up and crescendo of a certain track are wonderful or that the strings and percussion of another track are astounding, but I really think everyone should experience it for themselves and get lost in the reproduction of this great concert. This is far better than any albums I’ve heard where an orchestra or symphony accompanies a popular artist or band. Fortunately this album is available for lossless download in several countries through Fink’s record label Ninja Tunes. Simply select the correct currency at the top of the page and download the album in all its glory. TIDAL HIFI subscribers can also find the album under the artist Fink. I look forward to reading about everyone’s experience with Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in whatever format of consumption is selected (music or app or both).
TIDAL HIFI Streaming Link
Ninja Tunes Download Purchase Link
iTunes App Store Link