Gazpacho - Fireworking at St. Croix

After cancelling their 2020 “Fireworker” album tour, Gazpacho was in the predicament of having a well-honed show rehearsed, yet no clear time when they could get back to being on the road. Thus, they took this energy and created a live stream concert, which reached fans far and wide from their home turf of Fredrikstad.

In Thomas Andersen’s own words “Gazpacho has always been an ‘anti band’, in the sense that we strive to do things differently. For this reason, we wanted an ‘honest’ live stream where we decided not to play the gig on an empty stage with a light show. Instead, we decided to perform it exactly how we play when we record or rehearse in the actual room we use.”

The original ‘Fireworking at St. Croix’ livestream has now been completely re-edited and expanded with an additional 30 minutes of material that was not included in the original broadcast. Additionally, it has been remixed in 5.1 surround sound in both 48kHz / 24-bit DTS HD Master Audio and 48kHz / 24-bit LPCM 5.1, along with the 48kHz / 24-bit 2.0 high resolution stereo mix. The set is effectively a concert film that is a moody trip into the world of The Fireworker, as captured on October 25, 2020. For purists, there are no fixes, no embellishments, and no light show, just the music performed that evening, along with a surprise or two. While this review focuses on the standalone Blu-ray edition, it is also available on Compact Disc, on vinyl, or even as a lossless download. There is also a deluxe edition that contains 2xCD’s, a DVD, and Blu-ray, along with a 48 page coffee table book featuring alternative album artwork and never before seen photos, plus extensive liner notes about the Fireworker concept and the history of Gazpacho. The Blu-Ray edition also contains 2.5 hours of bonus material including promo videos, interviews and a bonus concert filmed at the last night of the Soyuz Tour in 2019.

As the ‘concert’ starts over the opening credits, there are some gurgling water sound effects that drip from the center channel while crackling of some sort pops up in the rears. This already should give one a sense that an immersive listening experience is forthcoming. Jan Henrik Ohme’s impressive rich lead vocals spread widely with distinct clarity across the surroundscape that have been deeply drenched in reverberation. From the soft thud of Robert R Johansen’s kick drum placed up front to Mikael Krømer’s gentle violin emanating from the rear channels “Space Cowboy” encompasses the sweet spot. I find both the Sound and video quality to be excellent, making for a first class in home replay of this livestreaming event.

Gazpacho is well known for their wide musical dynamics, which is extremely evident right from the start and throughout all 9 tracks. Kristian Olav Torp’s grumbling bass richly holds down the bottom while the moderate striking of the drums elevate the music across the front channels. Quiet sections temper the mood showing off the transparency and illuminating the depth of the mix, which is especially notable with the drum kit that falls so nicely behind the front speakers.

The selected songs for this performance have been extremely well rehearsed and it is hard to imagine finding a better live version. While the absence of a live audience gives this release a bit of a sterile feel, it is the solid performances that make the show so worth it. The somber and somewhat eerie sound of Gazpacho is best appreciated by fans seeking minor key and augmented chord structures in the tone of the music. The dark melodies are intricate and paint a detailed story as they stretch across the octaves. Additionally, I am touched by the choir that stands behind the sweet spot chanting in a very open space on “Hourglass” while Thomas Alexander Andersen’s keyboard emulating an organ spiritually soars from the centered channel.

Since this was livestreamed, there are no extraneous noises from an audience, which in turn allowed for an extremely clean recording. “Antique” generally follows the same mixing pattern as the first three tracks, with the acoustic piano delicately floating in a reverberant space hanging in the rear channels while the vocals, drums, and bass all settle in across the front channels. As the song develops, synthesizer pads stretch widely between the front speakers, creating an expansive surrounds mix that emanates from all corners.

“Sapien” introduces some new sounds to the keyboard pallet which have been accentuated by Jon-Arne Vilbo’s chunky guitar work that pours across the soundscape. I noticed the video often leans toward a blue tint that evokes a murky feel, matching the dark writing of the bands’ music. The cuts are slow and allow for fans to watch each performer for a comfortable amount of time, all without a dazzling light show. As the song creeps along there are some cool subtle movements in the location of the audio elements including spoken words perking up in different places around the room.

I checked out the differences between the DTS Master Audio 5.1 and the LPCM 5.1 surround mixes, which yielded no appreciable differences to my ears. However, there are significant differences between the stereo LPCM mix, which I sense was used for the livestream, and the updated 5.1 surround mixes created for this package. I can definitively say that my preference strongly favors the surround mix, primarily due to the heightened upper mid-range heard on the stereo mix. Additionally, I noted that the drums were mixed more upfront, yielding a snappier sound to the snare, while the bass has been dropped back in the mix providing a thinner low end. This is not to say the stereo mix is bad, in fact it sounds very good, rather it simply is not what I prefer to hear. Of course, naturally it also lacks the depth afforded to the surround scape. For me, the stereo mix is more of a wall of sound rather than a delicate enhancement of the room as heard on the surround mix.

The album closes with “Chequered Light Buildings” which starts beautifully with light guitar work as the balance of the band opens up and eventually explodes into a revelatory beat that excels dynamically. I remain comfortably immersed with fabulous sound quality as I listen to this fitting closing song on the Fireworking at St. Croix quarantine concert with segues into a gentle ambient tone that falls under the closing credits.

I must also mention again that the Blu-ray contains several songs featuring concert video with 48kHz / 24-bit stereo audio of their show At De Boerderij during their 2019 Soyuz Tour. This energized performance is one not to miss, and a welcome addition to the set. The promos and acoustic versions, along with the interview are also worthy of one’s time, especially for long time fans of the band.

Gazpacho - Fireworking at St. Croix (Deluxe Edition)Strongly recommended for fans of Gazpacho, collectors of neo-prog and dark music. A good addition to one’s surround sound collection too!

Final note: Early versions of the Deluxe Edition (pictured at the right) included a defective DVD that didn’t advance between chapters, among other minor mastering issues. Replacement discs were sent or included later in the box sets by your seller.

Released March 24, 2022.

 

 Format Info

2xCD, 1xDVD, and 1xBlu-ray as part of a Deluxe Edition box set featuring 48kHz / 24-bit DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM 5.1, plus 48kHz / 24-bit stereo LPCM audio, all with video footage.  Also available as a standalone Blu-ray edition, on CD, and Vinyl.  Lossless download, and streaming also available based on region.

 

 

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