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Hiroshima: the Bridge.

Telarc Heads Up SACD HUSA 9076.

Hiroshima's album The Bridge is one of the latest releases in Telarc's new line of Heads Up multichannel SACD hybrid discs that has concentrated largely on modern pop jazz. Given the slump the recording industry is in, one can understand Telarc's interest in pursuing alternative recording methods in the hope of attracting an ever-dwindling audience of music buyers. But it does appear that they are putting all of their eggs in one basket.

SACD probably represents the company's best shot in the multichannel field, given that it currently has a lead over DVD-Audio and other competitors, yet SACD still serves but a small niche following, and the reliance of SACD to win the day is problematical at best. For one thing there's price. Hybrid SACDs such as Telarc's--discs that utilize a layer of up to five discrete channels and a layer of regular two-chamlel stereo, thus enabling them to be played back on regular CD players as well multichannel SACD players--cost more to produce and sell. With many listeners pirating their material from the Internet and considering anything more costly than free an imposition, I wonder whether Telarc isn't pricing itself out of the ordinary marketplace. Second, there's the matter of where a retailer is expected to position these things in a store where the public will find them. Put them into a special bin of multichannel titles, and the discs may get little attention. Double placements in a store are often frowned upon by management. Can't win. Then, there's the minor annoyance of the irregularly shaped jewel box that is not easily replaceable if broken.

Anyway, Telarc keeps sending me these things to review even though I don't have an SACD player and don't know anyone locally who does. I suppose all one can do is extrapolate from the two-channel stereo sound what the expanded multichannel audio would be like and hope for the best. In this case, the sound is pretty good, played by Hiroshima, a small jazz group who utilize delicately Asian-inflected tunes on traditional and nontraditional jazz instruments from bass, piano, keyboards, sax, guitars, and drums to koto, taiko, tabla, and fue (the latter being flutes; I had to look it up).

The group itself is made up of seven players led by vocal-instrumentalist Dan Kuramoto. The music they play is mainly of the mainstream variety, generally beginning with something fresh and Japanese-inspired and then rather quickly turning into an ordinary pop-jazz piece, with loud, pounding bass and razor-sharp highs. I would imagine the sound makes quite an impression in the surround mode because even in stereo it's quite imposing in terms of frequency response and dynamic impact. Where it is perhaps least effective sonically is in terms of depth and transparency, which are fairly average. Nevertheless, if the music suits you, if the price isn't too high, and especially if you have the equipment to play it back it multichannel, Hiroshima's The Bridge may prove an appealing purchase decision.
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Title Annotation:The Bridge
Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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