Nosound returns with their 2018 studio release “Allow Yourself” which finds the group in new territory once again, embracing alternative and electronic genres balanced by stripped-down production techniques.
This album takes the band's minimalist vision even further than their 2016 release Scintilla. incorporating elements from The National, Notwist, and Portishead, alongside an approach to mixing inspired by Bowie's Blackstar and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.
Founder/ and writer Giancarlo Erra comments on the new direction of the material, saying “The title Allow Yourself reflects this need for change, freeing myself from past stories and influences. The lyrics have also changed, becoming more about hope, the present, and how to influence it.” He continues, “The writing and sounds are now more focused and minimal, guitars were left behind in favor of analogue electronics. Acoustic drums work with drum machines, vocals are more central and upfront and feature a different approach to singing.”
K-Scope once again is trying a new marketing approach, which I don’t believe is the best for Hi-Res Audio and Surround Sound enthusiasts. For surround enthusiasts, the first run of the digipack reverse-board packaged CD or Limited crystal clear 180g vinyl edition sold through Burning Shed include the full album as a downloadable FLAC 5.1 surround sound mix and an uncompressed binaural mix, albeit in 24bit / 44.1kHz, not exactly hi-res! While this certainly reduced production costs, personally, I would have preferred a Blu-ray or DVD of the surround and binaural mixes, yet I am also delighted that at least a 5.1 version is available. Giancarlo the leader of Nosound writes, “As you know the surround market is not huge in terms of numbers but is the one I truly love because it’s made of people actually liking the sound and production and music (something that doesn't happen very often), so I tried balancing everything to spend money in the most excellent production we ever had, while still offering our beloved 5.1 mixes.”
Naturally, here on Hi-Res Edition I want to share about the surround mix and evaluate the overall sound quality. I always appreciate immersive surround mixes, especially well-balanced ones that provide plenty of aural action to the back channels. Throughout the entire album of Allow Yourself, you will find yourself completely surrounded, and the music of Nosound will bathe you in a wash of slow-moving synth parts, elongated vocal passages, all in a dreamy soundscape.
The center channel has been used sparingly with some light ambience added. There is an astonishing effect when the center channel blossoms with the rapid fire guitar sizzling near the end of the third track “Don't You Dare,” going on to spread across the remainder of the room with exuberant brilliance. It is sections like this and others, such as the drums and vocals blended into the center on the fifth track “Miracle,” that clearly demonstrate the nuanced genius of the surround mix on Allow Yourself.
I found the overall sound quality to be very good with wonderful transparency and a real strong balance between all of the channels. The lows are great and the top end clear with an openness that simply emits pure musical bliss. This is a very polished recording with only a few marks of a live session, which include the closing of the pedal on the piano at the end of “My Drug.” Of course, I stil would have preferred a 96kHz / 24-bit file, which I believe would have offered a smoother top end, but it is possible the source multi-tracks weren’t even recorded at that higher sampling rate.
I did check out the binaural mix, and found the stereo spread to be very spacious. Any 3D effects that may be part of this mix were completely lost on me, and since I don’t listen via headphones, this version is not something I will go back to. I also played this via loudspeakers, and the depth is much clearer with elements moving forward and behind the speakers. However, compared to the actual stereo CD, it is slightly thin sounding, generally somewhat lacking in the low end. Your results may be very different, but the binaural mix is a pass for me, and I will gladly play the surround mix instead.
I find Nosound to be best for a relaxing listen with dynamics that give real depth to the music. This is the kind of album one listens to when they want to be introspective, and certainly a 5.1 mix allows for an elevated enjoyment of such material. For fans of Nosound, the new direction is a nice evolution, and for progressive rock listeners, the album strays far from that path with only a bit of the neo-prog genre remaining. For surround enthusiasts, this is a must have since I find this mix to be a contender to some of Steven Wilson’s solo works with excellent use of the full 5.1 soundstage. Please remember the download is only available through Burning Shed and is part of a CD or LP purchase.