Death Cab for Cuties Transatlanticism Arrives on Stereo SACD

November 24, in DVD-Audio News

The Seattle based rock group Death Cab for Cutie is the latest independent group to issue an album on Super Audio CD. Their new Hybrid Stereo SACD edition of Transatlanticism follows an earlier Stereo CD version of the album. The group is well known on college campuses through airplay on many college radio stations across the country. In fact, Transatlanticism is currently the # 2 album on CMJ.Com’s college radio airplay chart.

The group’s name, Death Cab for Cutie, came from a Beatles song on the album “Magical Mystery Tour” that talks about an evil taxi. On their new album, the group elected to not perform the 11 songs until they went in to the studio to record the album. They feel this allowed them to experiment and “open up” the sound of each song. The group is made up of four members: Benjamin Gibbard (Vocals, Guitar & Keyboards), Nicholas Harmer (Bass), Jason McGerr (Drums & Percussion) and Christopher Walla (Keyboards & Guitar).

Barsuk Records says “The first thing one notices about Transatlanticism is the distinctive character of each of its eleven songs, from the glacial guitars of the sweeping opener “The New Year” to the poppy bah-bah-bahs of “The Sound of Settling.” Piano forms the basis of more than one moment during the melancholy midsection of the disc. Bizarre sound effects flutter down like the first snowfall behind the folky, fleeting dissonant closer, “A Lack of Color.” No two songs are alike, some are dense and others are spacious. Yet taken as a whole, they constitute the group’s most thought out album yet.”

Album Tracks
1. The New Year
2. Lightness
3. Title and Registration
4. Expo ’86
5. The Sound of Settling
6. Tiny Vessels
7. Transatlanticism
8. Passenger Seat
9. Death of an Interior Decorator
10. We Looked Like Giants
11. A Lack of Color

Album Production Credits & A Listen to the SACD
Transatlanticism was produced and recorded by group member Christopher Walla. For the SACD Stereo tracks, the original analog master recordings were mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI (who also mastered the CD Stereo tracks) along with Lon Neumann from the Sony SACD Project’s Hollywood Studio.

I had a chance to listen to the Hybrid Stereo SACD recently. The disc does an excellent job of capturing the vocals, guitar, drums, bass and percussion as well as the sound effects employed on some of the tracks. Rock fans will definitely want to give this SACD a listen, it’s very well done.

Some Comments from Christopher Walla
I also had a chance to chat with Death Cab’s producer/guitarist Christopher Walla about the SACD release of Transatlanticism.

It turns out that Chris is an audiophile and has a Sony SCD-777ES SACD player. So he’s a bit more up on high resolution audio than the average rock guitarist these days. Here’s Chris talking about how the SACD edition of Transatlanticism came to be:

“I’m the resident audiophile, producer & engineer in the band. The SACD thing came about primarily as a cheaper hi-fi alternative to nice (2 X 180 gram, mastered from the 1/2″ tapes) vinyl, which was going to eat us out of house and home (but which we’re now doing anyway, thanks to a third-party label, and which will be mastered from the DSD files rather than the analog master tapes – a good thing, any way you slice it). Since this whole record was tracked on and mixed to analog tape, I couldn’t bear to not have a high resolution format available. DVD-A just hasn’t done it for me yet and PCM, even at 24 bit / 96 kHz, can’t hold a candle to DSD. SACD sounds stellar, and there are quite a few players out there. I’ve got the Sony SCD-777ES SACD player, which is more than adequate for the rest of my setup.”

Some Notes on Packaging and the SACD
The SACD edition of Transatlanticism comes in a standard CD Audio Jewel Box. You’ll be able to separate from the CD edition of the same album by the large grey Hybrid Stereo SACD sticker on the front cover as well as the SACD and DSD logos on the back cover of the SACD edition. The SACD also carries a slightly different catalog number than the CD Audio edition (bark32sa for the SACD vs. bark32 for the CD version).

Also worth noting is some new artwork on the SACD disc that was made at Crest National. Unlike previous SACDs I’ve seen from Crest, this one includes the Crest National and SACD logos in the inner ring of the disc that are visible to the unaided eye. This are also includes the words “Mfg. at Crest National, CA” which are now engraved at a larger font size than in the past. I presume this new approach to SACD credits made by Crest will be appearing on other SACDs made by the firm in the near future.

Availability and Pricing
Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism SACD is now in stock and available for purchase from the Barsuk Records and Music Direct web sites as well as a special order selection on the Red Trumpet web site. I should also note that the price for this very enjoyable rock SACD is only $15, a real bargain in today’s High Resolution market.

If you’re interested in the SACD edition, you may want to pick up a copy soon. I say that after reading this humorous comment on the group’s web site: “We didn’t press very many of these, because we know that not many people (many of whom are neurotic audiophile freaks) have SACD players, and we didn’t expect that many people would want them. But damn, if you have the player, we have to say that the SACD layer sounds really really good.”

A vinyl edition of the album, made from the DSD master tape of the disc is slated for release later this month. The vinyl edition will be released by Sonic Boom Recordings.

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