Are you feeling tired of all those audiophile test CDs?
Can you stand an ancient strings trio for no longer than 5 minutes, despite the incredible recording?
Are you searching for a CD that, at the same time, can seriously put your HiFi system on a test and break-in your loudspeakers?
Search no longer: here it is, brought to you by this "prodigious" non-profit HiFi magazine.
No, it isn't a rare and expen$ive audiophile recording, it is a CD you can buy at your nearest records store, it is The Fat of The Land, the latest album from The Prodigy.
Since I believe it should come "First Music, then HiFi" let's take a closer look at this album, musically.
There's no doubt that The Prodigy are one of the most famous band of these last two or three years, worldwide, and a look at the charts in the UK or in the US of A should easily confirm this statement.
It is rather diffucult to explain their Music, it is much better to put one of their CDs into your seedee player and press the play switch.
I'll try to give you an idea: The Prodigy are a spicy mix of techno, trip-hop, punk, electronic music and still something else.
Some reviews on certain musical mags (even audio) classify them as "The Novelty of the '90s" while, if you know a bit of modern pop-rock history, you should be able to find pieces of Young Gods' "TV sky" '90 album, to me a landmark for rock-influenced electronic Music.
You can hear echoes of the Young Gods here and there during the "Fat of the Land", cleverly mixed with a taste of Sex Pistols and Damned.
Going more specific you can tell the Damned influence (those of the early days) especially from the last track of the album, Fuel my fire, while some echoes and atmospheres from the Ozric Tentacles can be heard in the wonderful Climbatize.
Samples from the Art of Noise and Skunk Anansie can be heard here and there, with also a strong taste of Scremadelica, one of the best albums from the Primal Scream.
But The Fat of the Land is something more: a spicy salad with these mentioned ingredients and with the energy of the best heavy-metal bands around, matched to a techno-progressive rhythm that can shake your listening room walls and raise your heartbeats by an impressive 50% :-)
It is a CD that you should listen many times before understanding and unveiling its inner secrets, it would be a big mistake to classify it as "stuff for charts" only.
Also, you should know all the albums and bands cited above (at least) to be able to properly appreciate the work of Liam Howlett, clearly inspired by many other influences but still original enough to conquer a well-deserved place in the Gotha of modern Music.
Then it isn't true that the best songs of the album are the well-known hit singles ("Firestarter" and "Smack my bitch up"), for example Climbatize, Narayan and Diesel Power are shiny pearls that make The Fat of the Land a work which is very complete and variegated too.
Obviously enough, if you listen to classical Music you'll find the Prodigy to be very irritating and completely out-of-place into an HiFi mag BUT! please open your ears and your mind for a different view (and nothing else matters... :-) ) and try to listen to this album without prejudice, I'm sure you'll love it. Probably this won't happen soon but...there's hope.
Just let me remind you that even Hector Berlioz was considered unable to compose Music and nowadays, instead, its wonderful Sinfonia Fantastica is into every audiophile's records collection and is considered a classical masterpiece. Or should I remind you of the notorious audiophiles' test, the 1812???
Hey, I'm not saying The Prodigy are today's Berlioz (go figure!) only, they're a landmark for the years to come, together with Tricky and Primal Scream.
Well, just put it into your seedee player, press PLAY and turn the volume knob clockwise.
The Fat of the Land is ENERGY, pure ENERGY. If your HiFi system sleeps every day while playing ancient string trios concertos, this disc will awake it, putting it under a severe survival test.
Since it is a mainly synthetic Music it should be a nonsenase to search for soundstage and musicality.
What characterizes this album is: explosive dynamics, transient response and bass range articulation, speed and extension.
It is one of the best things around to test your HiFi components, from amplifiers to loudspeakers: your amplification system will be busy trying to deliver sufficient current to keep track of the explosive dynamics while your 'speakers will do the best they can to give you an idea of a thunderous bass range is.
Sometimes you'll be praying for your woofers to stay were they are, inside the cabinet :-)
Warning: especially if you have a low-powered amp and tiny loudspeakers (and woofers) pay attention to the volume level: amp clipping and broken woofers are a possibility. You've been warned :-)
But, from what's been said, this album should be played extremely loud, as loud as possible, so that you can experience the "wall of sound" The Prodigy have recorded into this CD.
Try raising the volume at successive steps.
The recording is indeed quite strange, artificial (what else?) and sometimes dirty, but it is indeed a very good technical work, otherwise the explosive dynamics and bass range will be "tamed" as it happens in other techno recordings.
I said it is a test CD: good tests for the transient response of the bass range are the tracks "Smack my bitch up" (the first of the album) and "Firestarter", particularly the last minutes.
"Diesel Power" is a good test for the extension of the bass range while "Funky Shit" is a severe test for the mid-to-high range, a test to see how your system can manage and reproduce complex and rapidly changing signals.
Also it is a good CD for breaking-in of loudspeakers. A few hours of "The Fat of the Land" work as well as a week of normal Music listening: your woofers and tweeters will be ready to give their best after "The Prodigy's" cure.
It works well even for a faster warm-up of your HiFi system, especially if played sufficiently loud.
The Fat of the Land is available everywhere and costs exactly like any other audio CD.
It works well as an "audiophile" accessoire but it is mainly a piece of modern Art.
Try to listen to it at least ten times, then decide: you could consider it a piece of junk or a pearl.
In any case you'll have a "prodigious" test CD for your HiFi system...
© Copyright 1998 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com