from the Absolute Sound

 March/April 1997
 by Harry Pearson 

  .... it would be hard, I think, to better the sound on Paleo Music's compact disc of Conrad Praetzel's En-Trance  [PAL 4003].  Puristically speaking, I wouldn't call it "trance" music, nor would I dub it New Age.  (How I hate the term.  It makes all sorts of diverse musicks a sitting covey for narrow-gauged stereotyping by lightly looney rock critics.  Remember there phobic reaction to dance music?) In a way, it reminds me of some of Les Baxter's work for Capitol in the 50's, although Praetzel works at a more consistent level, without Baxter's highs (Tamboo, Sacre du Savage ) or many, many lows (remember Space Escapade ?), and without Baxter's ability to create a consistent motif underlying, underlining, and uniting widely varying compositions on a single disc.

The liner notes irritate me, as do so many others these days, in their vacuousness.  The more I can read about music and artists I like, the better.  What we learn here is that a concatenation of coloristic instruments were used--and Praetzel's work is  about color--to wit, acoustic Hawaiian guitars, Ebo guitars, the Ney flute, the Dumbek, shakers, the Oud, mandolin, electric sitar, dobro, flamenco guitar, pedal steel guitars. Praetzel himself plays keyboards and sampled percussion throughout.  I suppose it's no surprise to learn nothing here about how the extraordinary sonics were achieved. We learn it was recorded in a studio in Menlo Park (California) over a two year period and we learn who mastered it, but not a word about its engineer(s), or the mikes, or the digital technology. 

 Well, make no mistake.  This is a masterful job.  The sonics  throughout are superb.  There's not one trace of digital brightness or hardness on a recording filled with transients.  The opening cut ("Waking the Shadows") is a veritable symphony of what sounds like clocks ticking, and the last ("Corpus Delicti") has some wonderful low-down fundamentals in the bass that will test you, your house, and your sub-woofer.  With a speaker colored in the midbass, much of the musical line in this cut will be lost.  It was particularly revealing to use "Corpus" during the testing of the Thiel CS-7's to see if the amp could control the midbass sufficiently to let the music's rhythmic structure come through and sound alive.