Earth & Wood


“One of the few audiophile labels still recording all-analogue classical and jazz music the old fashioned way. 

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Earth & Wood

Smoke & Mirrors Percussion Ensemble

Earth & Wood

Stereophile’s Michael Fremer rarely rates a vinyl album with an “11 out of 10,” but he generously did so for Yarlung’s earlier Smoke & Mirrors Percussion Ensemble release.

We hope to make you (and Mr. Fremer) just as happy with Earth & Wood, offering more tracks from these now legendary recording sessions in Zipper Hall at The Colburn School.

Michael Fremer wrote “The sonics here are spectacular.

These performances were recorded live to tape with no editing by the seven members of Smoke & Mirrors.

The recording is superbly transparent and well-captures the hall’s natural reverb. I can’t imagine you won’t thoroughly enjoy listening repeatedly to this record.”

The Absolute Sound’s Jim Hannon reflects that this ensemble created “a wide tapestry of rhythms and harmonics skillfully arrayed across a broad and deep soundstage.

There’s an immediacy, clarity, and transparency to this modern classical percussion recording that seemingly brings the performers to your living room.

The enemble’s first percussion LP earned a coveted spot on the TAS Super LP List.

Writing for Mono & Stereo, Carlos Guzman writes “the sound of this production is exquisite.

A great ambiance is captured in this tape and the effortless flow of music is graciously submitted with precision and focus.

The instrument timbres are accurate and the performance is second to none.

The quality achieved by Yarlung’s team is excellent, clearly expressed in their recordings.

The use and combination of new and classic technology is a delicious proposal for those who demand only the best. Bob is not playing games, folks, he’s very serious about his musicians, performance and sonic quality. Who can ask for more?”

One side includes Lou Harrison’s magical Canticle No. 3, a concerto for ocarina and percussion, written in 1940 and 1941. Canticle No. 3 uses the haunting primitive sound of the ocarina (a Mexican terra-cotta flute which looks a little like a knobby sweet potato or cuddly sea creature) and a steel string guitar, both a strong contrast with Harrison’s creative assortment of percussion instruments.

Joe Beribak plays ocarina and Derek Tywoniuk plays guitar.

The ocarina comes from many musical cultures, some ancient, but in our recording the Joe’s ocarina is a version of the earthen Maya and Aztec flute that Cortés encountered in the New World.

They experimented with their musicians in many different locations for this recording, since they used one stereo AKG C-24 microphone and no mixer for all of their takes on this album.

As Joe reminisced, “some instruments (like tom toms and snare drums) were designed for use with a modern orchestra, while other instruments (like the ocarina and teponaztli [a slit drum made from a hollow log]) are ethnic instruments designed to be played in intimate settings.

So they adjusted their setup to create the balance and tone quality they wanted.

They brought the ocarina closer to center, and actually rotated the toms 90 degrees counter-clockwise in order to balance these two voices properly on the recording.

As a result they needed to modify the way they cued each other, since their relative positions were radically different from the way they stood when they perform this piece live.

As with everything they did in this Yarlung recording, each challenge gave us a new perspective that enriched the musical experience and made it even more fun.”

The other side of our album contains three pieces for marimba, two tracks from Argentine composer Alejandro Viñao’s Book of Grooves, which Smoke & Mirrors Ensemble co-commissioned, and presents here in their world premiere recording.

Yarlung captured these performances with a single AKG C-24 stereo microphone in the glorious acoustics of Zipper Hall at The Colburn School.

They recorded each piece in its entirety, live to tape with no editing, to create the most lifelike performance possible.

Rather than worry about how the ensemble would perform without the benefit of edits to camouflage mistakes, the members of Smoke & Mirrors loved the idea, embracing their concept that this recording represent a live concert experience.

To amplify the signal from the C-24, they used microphone amplification by Elliot Midwood.

Music aficionados today sometimes lament the current trend in digital recording that allows or even encourages tens or hundreds of edits per movement, such that the resulting albums sound “perfect” but a little sterile.

You can take heart in Smoke & Mirrors, who actually play this way (and this well) in real life.

This album proudly bears the seal and endorsement of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society.

President Mike Wechsberg, Chairman Robert Levi and the society’s multi-year collaboration with Yarlung have enabled joint concerts and recordings to reach larger audiences; indeed many on Yarlung’s technical team and board of directors are members of the Audio Society.

Yarlung musicians join us in expressing our appreciation.




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