EDM headphone dancers, it is time to pull out those buds and immerse oneself in the Dolby Atmos mix of Feather & Bones by the multi-award-winning French music producer and electrifying live performer Rodriguez Jr. Known in the real world as Olivier Mateu, Rodriguez Jr. has released his latest masterpiece on his own label, aptly named after the artist himself. Simply put, for those in the know, audio engineer Eric Horstmann is giving Steven Wilson a run for his mixing guru status with his impactful 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos mix found on the Limited Edition Pure Audio Blu-ray edition. I kid you not this is an aural gem that is served up on a Pure Audio Blu-ray that also features a 48kHz / 24-bit 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio surround mix and 48kHz / 24-bit 2.0 LPCM stereo mix.
Crafted over a meticulous two-year span, the 11 tracks weave together various musical facets that define Rodriguez Jr.'s artistic persona. Conceived in the heart of Paris and brought to life in the vibrant, sun-soaked city of Miami during the tumultuous pandemic era, "Feathers & Bones" mirrors the creative forces that shaped Rodriguez Jr., drawing heavily from the '90s music era. The album, imbued with the vibrant colors of the Miami skyline, beautifully captures the influence of his newfound surroundings on his creative journey.
Stretching his wings, the album boasts a stellar lineup of featured guests, including the iconic English hip-hop/electronica ensemble Stereo MCs, the Cuban-American songbird and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Liset Alea (known for her Nouvelle Vague contributions), and the Italian electronic wizard and vocalist, Giorgia Angiuli, whose enchanting voice takes the album to new heights.
For me both singles "Amplify" and "Visions," are stand out tracks that feature Rodriguez Jr.'s longtime partner and frequent collaborator, vocalist Liset Alea (of Nouvelle Vague fame). The Dolby Atmos mix of Amplify imbues ambient rhythmic reverberation in the heights, while celestial synths swell fade in and out with exuberance, slowly elevating the mix up top. This rise and fall is a great effect that interplays seamlessly with raw bass and immersive pulsating grooves from all corners of the floor, all while featuring the graceful vocal work of Alea from the center channel. A train-like sound zigzags across the height channels at various points throughout the piece, creating a magnetic sonic experience.
While the core album is 10 tracks, collectors get a bonus track on the Blu-ray, track 11, which is an extended remix of “Visions” by Tim Engelhardt. Naturally the extended version is vastly different than the album version which features Alea’s vocals spreading out from the center channel across the floor. The throbbing bass is accompanied by a steady round kick with a plethora of synth parts moving around the space that play an integral part in the presentation of the music. The heights shimmer with arpeggiated keyboard parts, along with light percussion and beat driven synth elements, plus lovely angelic sonic swells.
In contrast, the extended mix focuses on the music, placing the vocals further into the ethereal realm in the front heights. Some homage may even be paid to the classic “On the Run” Pink Floyd song with distinct movement of fast paced synth patterns that crisscross above the listener. These fade into fiery pulsating grooves and a slapping beat that elevates up front. Alea’s dynamic vocals fall from all corners and the overall use between the floor and ceiling speakers is simply outstanding.
As a long-time fan of Tangerine Dream, the song “Lithium” pays homage to this classic electronic music group’s style, of course with a techno twist which finds the kick drum driving the piece forward. Synth elements sway from left to right bubbling up from the front channels leading to wide movement from the front right to the rears and back over to the front left. Above the sweet spot a train-like sound travels around the height channels as it dashes from one place to the next. The level of detail paid to each mix is phenomenal, exuding excellent balance and full immersion throughout. Dynamics are very good, becoming exaggerated as songs break down and rebuild. The movement is smooth, and the location feels direct with exceptional transparency.
The first pre-release single, "Tuning the Moon," is a sonic revelation and an electrifying collaboration between Rodriguez Jr. and the Italian electronic prodigy Giorgia Angiuli. This track oozes an enigmatic and brooding atmosphere as the two maestros craft a mystic sonic tapestry with melancholic chords, alluring synthesizers, and captivating percussions.
The title track immediately makes excellent use of the height channels with synth swells up top and a circling clanging sound. The kick drum is centered up front alongside percussion that spreads across the main channels, all while keyboards are spread widely around the room, boasting a lot of energy from the back channels that head into the heights.
Rhythm falls straight up the center on “Synthwave” while a submarine like beep tone signals between the left and right back channels. A raspy synthesizer part percolates from the front speakers while additional keyboard parts hold down the rears. An organ soars from the back heights, and rhythmic synth beats crisscross between the left and right heights along with an occasional industrial percussion crash.
While it is the shortest song on the album, “Tape #2” has fast become my personal favorite with its incredible mix that is pure aural ecstasy to my ears. Parts sweep all around taking the listener into the cosmos, way out there in the far reaches of space. A beautiful synthesizer melody deeply reverberates from the high channels, taking listeners further out with its cavernous sound.
Beyond the Dolby Atmos mix, the Blu-ray contains both a 5.1 surround mix that is very compelling. The sound quality is effectively identical to the Atmos mix, and channel separation continues to be wide with a nice soundstage. Without a section-by-section assessment, the mix generally maintains the same placement of instruments when comparing the surround and Atmos mixes. Basically, the heights have been brought down to the floor and this works extremely well. Surround listeners will find themselves fully immersed, and while I prefer the spatial nature of the Atmos mix, I still give high praises to the 5.1 version.
On the other hand, there are several differences between the stereo mix and the immersive versions. Several times throughout the album parts move left to right and go on back, which try to approximate the circular movement around the room heard on both the Atmos and 5.1 mixes. There are numerous other modifications, too many to note here, making the stereo mix truly unique on this release. Often I find that the stereo mix becomes congested with so many layers piled across the front channels, yet I didn’t sense that on these mixes. For audiophiles in the stereo realm, the mix extends forward from the speakers while spreading widely across the soundscape. Its depth is often less noticeable, but as with the immersive versions the transparency is excellent, and balance is spot on. I guess if one really needs to get back to a silent rave, the stereo mixes are the perfect companion.
"Feathers & Bones" marks a pivotal chapter in Rodriguez Jr.'s musical journey and encapsulates the personal alchemy he seeks in his electrifying live performances. It's a captivating rollercoaster ride that weaves dreamy melodies, ethereal textures, and kinetic beats. Spatial Audio listeners will definitively want this disc, fans of Techno and EDM will find this is a must-have release, and for all music enthusiasts seeking to transcend into another realm of sonic bliss, Feathers & Bones is your ticket!
Released October 27, 2023.
Limited Edition Pure Audio Blu-ray with Dolby Atmos, DTS HD MA 48kHz / 24-bit, and 2.0 Stereo LPCM 48kHz / 24-bit mixses. Also available on vinyl, download, and via streaming platforms.
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.