Artist: KODO (official site)
Album details: CD "Best of Kodo" - 1994 - COL 4758732 by Colombia - Sony Music Entertainment
Sample under test: Made in Austria
Genre: World music
Approx. price: 15 € (YMMV)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: January, 2006
This is not the first time we review KODO records. Back in 2001 Scott Faller reviewed their second "Best of" release, more precisely Tataku - Best of Kodo Vol.2. Perhaps it is better to suggest you to read Scott's piece to learn more about Kodo.
Summarizing, Kodo is an ensamble of Japanese drummers playing traditional Japanese drums (taiko's) of various sizes plus a pletora of different musical and percussive instruments such as cymbals, flutes etc. Their pieces are a mix of originally written ones and traditional Japanese ones, rearranged by Kodo themselves.
Formed in 1981 they have become famous worldwide for their incredibly energetic and involving live shows. Their sound is so unique and "muscular" that the listening experience is a truly physical one.
Even an audiophile label decided to pick up Kodo's full energy releasing a World renowned test disc (Sheffield Labs "Heatbeat drummers of Japan" catalogue number #12222). It was, and still is!!!, a simply excellent recording, and a very demanding one, too. Anyway, since we prefer to tell you about non-audiophile discs that are still recorded following very high quality standards, let's focus our attention on this "Best of Kodo", a collection of KODO recordings ranging from 1988 to 1992.
Sony Music engineers and producers made every effort to be able to catch Kodo's devastating energy. They used their proprietary Super Bit Mapping (TM) 20 bit mastering technique and the final result is rather interesting, indeed. It is not exactly comparable with Sheffield Labs superb audiophile quality but this is a recording that can cause more than a problem to your HiFi system.
The tracks are an explosive mixture of Earth-shaking dynamics, deep and powerful bass and wide 3D image. The opening track, perhaps the most popular Kodo's composition ("Lion") is a 3:54 tour de force for amplifiers and woofers. You may find it familiar since this piece has been used on various TV spots, recently even by McDonald, at least here in Europe.
Play it as loud as you can is the only thing I can suggest.
You will be able to reach you real system's limit (be it in woofers or amps power). The mixture of huge and small drums is extremely demanding in terms of bass control, articulation and correct timing. Attacks should be lightining fast while the extreme bass frequencies should remain clean and well defined, without puzzling and masking the midrange.
Even the wide 3D soundstage should remain stable and well focused, even at extremely high levels. Kodo is a big ensamble and you should be able to locate all the drummers in front of you, eventually moving on different horizontal planes, from left to right and viceversa.
This CD will certainly prove to be useful in unveiling the weak spots of your system and/or your listening room. Stationary waves, narrow-band cancellations and midrange colourations may occour while playing this record at realistic "live" levels. Consider the live experience of a Kodo show is something extremely energetic and...loud! Don't be afraid to crank the volume up!
For a thrilling and highly demanding test of midrange and tweeter dynamics (micro & macro) and low level resolution, look no further than track N. 6 ("Monochrome"), nearly 15 minutes (a bit lenghty, indeed) of highly pitched percussive sounds paired with a Chinese Gong from time to time. It may result a bit annoying for the first time but the more you listen to it the more you become addicted.
On certain tracks the ensamble starts playing very quietly: don't let this fool you! Do not set the volume too high or you will be forced to turn it abruptly down at the first seriously demanding dynamic "swing".
Total playing time is slightly above 1 hour, divided into 8 tracks. If you're not familar with traditional Japanese drums take it with a pince of salt: short sessions, eventually on "repeat" for two or three tracks. Certain pieces are "easy" and extremely entertaining, others may sound boring at the first time. Take all the time you need to understand the general mood.
You'll become addicted :-)
If you want to impress your relevant second-other with "strange" Music or if you just wish to annoy the neibourhoods, this CD might do the trick. An excellent recording, often available at "mid-price", that can be useful and entertaining at the same time: useful to put your system to a serious test, entertaining because these are the "heartbeat drummers of Japan", guys, a pretty unique musical experience every serious Music lover can't miss.
© Copyright 2006 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com