Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth on MoFi LP

Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth has always been one of my desert island discs, so I was excited to hear about the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's version that was released earlier this year. Despite the fact that the only copy I've ever owned was a promo CD that was basically contained in an empty jewel case--I didn't even know what the cover looked like until I had owned it for a couple of years--it is easily one of the finest-sounding CDs I own and was always one of the reference discs I've used to evaluate new equipment.

After hearing Michael Fremer rave about the MFSL release in a recent copy of Stereophile, I knew I had to have it. I had a chance to listen to a 180 gram pressing of Into the Labyrinth a few years ago and came away thinking that it sounded no better than my promo CD. In most cases, that means the CD and the LP were both sourced from the same digital masters, so I resisted getting the vinyl version. I'm glad I waited for this.

First of all, it's a little disconcerting to hear a record I've heard at least one hundred times sound so different. The MoFi remaster is anything but a subtle improvement. Everything sounds bigger and deeper. Percussion, in particular, sounds more fleshed out and textured. The big, soft gong that is struck periodically through "Yulunga," the opening cut, had enormous bloom and decay--more than any other time I've ever heard this cut (and that includes some expensive gear featuring BIG speakers). And when the vocals--which were recorded in a large church--kick in, you can clearly hear the echoes bouncing off the walls.

Needless to say, I won't have a need to listen to my well-worn CD ever again. It won't be the same. I noticed a bit of surface noise throughout the record when I first played it, but one treatment of the Walker Audio Prelude record cleaning system fixed this problem. So if you do splurge and spend the $35.99 on this 2-LP set, make sure you give the discs a good cleaning before you sit down and listen.

Highly, highly recommended.

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