The debut solo album “Ends” by Giancarlo Erra embarks on a myriad of contemporary classical ambient styled pieces that clearly demonstrate his masterful gift for producing timelessly intimate and profound music. It may seem odd to start one’s solo career with an album named “Ends,” yet he decided to name it as such because each end is in actuality the possible start for something new. He says, “This isn't always easy to accept, and it’s something I often struggle with. “
The album comprises of a suite of eight thematically linked instrumentals, employing sparse piano patterns, synth textures, an eerily beautiful string quartet, underpinned by subtle electronic pulses, all blended to create a sensitive and compelling singular purpose. Fans of Nosound will find this music freed from the constraints of writing songs that fit the framework for his long-running post-rock collective. In abandoning his voice, Giancarlo Erra has discovered a new one.
For surround sound enthusiasts, a download 5.1 FLAC version of the album accompanies all purchases of the Compact Disc exclusively through Burning Shed. It is not sold separately, which is a distinct disadvantage for fans outside of the United Kingdom, as shipping costs can become expensive. I recommend previewing it on your favorite streaming site and determine the value of obtaining the surround sound download for your multi-channel collection.
Thus, it took me several months to pick up this release, since I wanted to couple my import purchase with a few more items from Burning Shed. While I do prefer physical media over downloads for my surround sound collection, I had to take what I could get by ordering the CD with the exclusive download from burning shed. I guess the benefit is that I didn’t have to wait for the surround version to arrive on physical media, the download link was immediately sent to my inbox, and it even contains a stereo mix. The lossless FLAC includes a 96kHz / 24-bit 5.1 surround mix and surprisingly only a 44.1kHz / 24-bit stereo version.
I guess I should have expected that Ends would be an all-encompassing mix knowing his Nosound 5.1 discs have been excellent. As the album started, I was immediately immersed in the soundscape of this ambient modern contemporary classical music. For those who enjoy somewhat repetitive trance inducing and extremely call Ming music, Ends is absolutely the perfect choice for you. Think of Phillip Glass without the steroids and you will get Ends.
Through the use of acoustic based piano and strings, Erra has created pieces that send listeners into a meditative state. From the onset listeners are placed into the surround scape with arpeggiated piano patterns cycling in the back channels while slow strings swell in the front speakers. Ends III builds with pulsating rhythms beating from the left channel and strings becoming more strident from the right front channel. Just close your eyes and let the mix fall all around you, Ends is simply absorbing.
I found the sound quality to be very good as one would expect from a 96kHz file. Of course, the original studio recording quality is the basis for the creation of such excellent sounding mixes that high resolution audio enthusiast have come to expect. A small caveat, some fans may feel too close to the strings or possibly sense the hollowness of some piano parts. These acoustical anomalies and others that were chosen by the engineer, producer and musician distinctly define the characteristics of these pieces. Keeping in mind that these are acoustically driven songs, I appreciate the fantastic interplay between the acoustic world and modern effects that expand the instruments into the digital spatial realm along with synthesize effects which embellish these well-crafted pieces. Take for example the third track “Ends I” with the mesmerizing synth parts that rise and fall seemingly moving from the front to the back within the mix.
While the surround mix does a fabulous job at immersing the listener, it also stays within the bounds of the speakers without extending the soundstage beyond that point. The lows are extremely rich as evidenced on the fourth track “Ends VII.” The deep elongated tones fill my room providing complete musical warmth around the sweet spot.
Before you get wigged out while listening to the album, for those of us who are sequentially minded, the tracks are actually not titled in sequential order. Although they are simply named Ends with numbers from 1 to 7, do not expect them to be in that order. I just want to provide some fare warning before you start wondering if the album is playing in the intended order that Erra planned for. Yes, it is! Naturally I wager they were written in the order of their titles, and heck why not give it a shot sometime and play them in that order by renaming the files!
Overall this is a really good album that modern classical fans are recommended to check out. Ambient and surround sound enthusiasts should also find this very enjoyable, and certainly a perfect choice for listeners seeking to chill out. I sincerely wish the download FLAC was available separately or on similar services. Still better yet, make a physical media version available on DVD-A or Blu-ray!
FLAC 5.1 96k & 2.0 44.1k 24-bit hi-res download through Burning Shed when purchasing either a CD or Limited Edition Vinyl.