Back In 2006 Magenta's keyboardist, Robert Reed, created a side project under the name Chimpan A, a trio he formed with singer Steve Balsamo and guitarist Rob Thompson. The group ventured to mix trip hop, techno, and lounge music. Now 14 years later Reed and Balsamo has teamed up again as a duo under the same project name on the group’s new album “The Empathy Machine.” Similar to Reed’s Sanctuary series he has overdubbed multiple parts using a variety of instruments, including keyboards, programmable drums, guitars, and bass. Like the project’s debut release several different guests appear on the album featuring, Tony Dallas on spoken word; vocalists Christina Booth of Magenta, Rosalie Deighton, and Kirstie Roberts; plus, Shan Cothi on soprano voice; Rachel Mari Kimba on cello; and Steve Roberts on live drums.
Fans of Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, and Bjork will find the project comfortably blending those artists recognizable musical traits within Chimpan A’s own style. Sitting between progressive rock and artistic pop, the project leans closer to pop with their modern rhythmic beats and feel good melodies. Mixed within the tracks are soulful guitars that seemingly pay homage to a melding of David Gilmour and Mike Oldfield. Speaking of Oldfield, characteristics of his later records are easily identifiable here, as Reed has combined many similar musical elements.
The Empathy Machine is a gem worthy of picking up and for high resolution enthusiasts Reed has once again made it available in both hi-res surround and stereo on the DVD that is included with the cardboard gatefold CD edition. Both stereo and surround mixes are available as AC3 48kHz / 24-bit, and a DTS codec at 96kHz / 24-bit is also available on the DVD too. A friendly note to prog rock aficionados the album is cut from a different cloth and is simply good music defying any specific label. There is a classiness, flow, and ease of engagement that draws one in for repeated listens.
When kicking back for the immersion experience, one will find a high level of audio clarity surrounding the sweet spot. Those who are familiar with Reed's exceptionally high standard of audio engineering, will surely find the 5.1 version on this album to be right up there with the top output from the likes of Steven Wilson and Bob Clearmountian, among others. Additionally, what truly sets this apart is the blended styles of Chimpan A that just works so well in surround sound too.
The mixing is discrete, dynamic, and is imbued with Reed’s magical touch that makes it difficult to identify the compressed versions, which is a true testament to his technical prowess. The orchestral and choral parts are enveloping, while the electronics are precise, detailed, and placed perfectly across the surroundscape. The bass is strong and digs deeply into the subwoofer, ever so nicely filling out the bottom.
Overall, I highly recommend the Empathy Machine for anyone looking for exceptional surround sound mixes and collectors of pop leaning progressive music.
Released April 10, 2020
CD + DVD with 96kHz / 24-bit DTS surround and AC3 surround and stereo mixes.
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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 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.