Editor's note: Here's a submission from a usual suspect of Surroundablog who is a fan of more varied styles than just Weird Al. Incidentally; my copy should be arriving any day now...
Thanks for keeping up with the latest (and greatest!) that surround sound music offers via your blog. You rock, and you've helped me find some titles I'm sure I'd have missed otherwise.
As you've been a friend of Porcupine Tree in the past, I just thought I'd mention that today I received via mail the latest PT 5.1 DVD-Audio disc, Stupid Dream. As far as I know, it's only available via the band's website as a bonus disc to the CD (no DualDisc- yay!), as I think they're going to release just the two channel CD to stores. Note that the 5.1 mix is DVD-Audio and also DTS, although I've not heard the DTS mix yet. I understand that there are some technical problems with the first pressing relating to the DTS mixes and the bonus tracks, so check the news on the website for further information.
Stupid Dream was released around 1999 and was followed by their first proper set of US tour dates so it's not new music, but the 5.1 mix is new (dated September 2005.) The original disc has been out of print for some time and going for prime dollars on eBay. Unlike In Absentia and Deadwing, Elliot Scheiner was not involved with the multi-channel mix, although Darcy Proper did the 5.1 mastering. The 5.1 mix was done by Steven Wilson himself. All the artwork has been completely redesigned as none of the original is present. There are also two surround-only bonus tracks, Ambulance Chasing (previously available on the B-side to Piano Lessons) and the long version of Even Less (from Recordings, a long out of print disc of rare tracks.)
Initial thoughts after the first listen is that the center channel gets much more of a workout this time than on the previous two PT 5.1 mixes, primarily for vocals and the odd guitar solo. Having owned the original CD since it was released about seven years ago, this new surround mix really opens up the instrumentation featured on the record. The first few seconds of track one, Even Less, begin pretty much just like the original CD, but the ride cymbal kicks in from behind and acts as a harbinger of things to come. The track Pure Narcotic uses the surround field to place different acoustic guitars and assorted shaker percussion around the sweet spot. One neat effect is having the feeling like being surrounded by drums during This Is No Rehersal, specifically having a floor tom from the right surround channel. It's almost like listening from the drum throne. I should mention that the kick drum really stands out on this release, so the subwoofer gets a workout.
Overall, Stupid Dream's 5.1 mix is just a peg below the other two PT 5.1 mixes. Now, that's not meant to be a bad thing at all. I can say that because the bar has been raised pretty high (especially with Deadwing) but compared to many other 5.1 mixes I've heard, it's still up there. Sort of analogous to comparing The Nightfly to Kamakiriad. It's just that I prefer the recording and higher resolution of the other two, especially the drums on Sound of Muzak and the entire Deadwing disc. I think Deadwing was even written with surround sound in mind, so perhaps it is unfair to to base a review comparing the two. SD is still worth a close listen and of course a must-have for psycho-PT fans like me. Now, I hope that Steven gets around to a 5.1 mix of Lightbulb Sun next- I'd love to be surrounded by Russia on Ice...