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Pink Floyd – Zurich 1972 Matrix (Sigma 212)

Zurich 1972 Matrix (Sigma 212)

Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland – December 9, 1972

Disc 1 (49:12) Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse

Disc 2 (59:17) One Of These Days, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes, Childhood’s End

Here is an interesting release by Sigma, a matrix of the two very good to excellent recordings from the Pink Floyd’s concert in Zurich late in 1972. First off the credit really goes to a member of the Yeeshkul community known as Jimfisheye, it was his excellent work in aligning these two concerts using his ear and knowledge of software combined with excellent mastering techniques to bring this project to life. Take this excellent work, free to those who follow the community I might add, and add a bit of embellishment by the folks at the S and you have this new title. There are many in the collecting community who prefer the sources to be separate, to be maintained in an archival manner, for me the use of tapes to provide complete sources and improve upon a particular concert to provide the best, and most complete experience is essential, when done right. The key phrase, when done right. Software tools in the hands of mere mortals can be a dangerous thing.

The December 9, 1972 show in Zurich, Switzerland is an excellent concert, the band had honed the Dark Side Of The Moon to perfection and their confident performances during this period are a joy to listen to. Throw in the rarely played Obscured By Clouds track Childood’s End and you have a winner. The two sources for the concert are very good to excellent, the first was the source for a couple of old vinyl releases, Live In Zurich (Frog Records PF 1-2 A/B) and Live In Zurich (Wind Records BP0013), it times in at 98 minutes and is more distant and a bit flat sounding recording a bit farther back in the venue. The second recording is much more complete, clocking in at 110 minutes with much better fidelity as it was recorded much closer to the action. This has been the source of Zurich 1972 (Sirene 170) and most recently Sigma collected both sources for their Zurich 1972 (Sigma 179) set.

To get an idea of the excellent work done by Jimfisheye, one must get out a previous version of this concert, for me I dug out the old Sirene title. Great recording, you get the feeling of the size of the venue as well and by the time the band was heading into Us And Them I stopped it and threw in this new version. First off the recording is in the excellent range, the use of the best low generation tapes certainly helps. Both recordings have always been a bit lacking in the bass frequencies yet are clear and extremely detailed with just a very small amount of distortion at times.

Here are a few notes from Jimfisheye on his remaster:

Both recordings are stereo and capture some of the live surround panning motion as mixed that night. Both recordings sound centralized (left/right) in the venue and thus far away from any of the surround speaker stacks. You hear some remains of the left/right very discrete surround fx (eg. the cash register fx for Money) as well as front/back (eg. the laugh in the back speaker for “The lunatic is in my head”). The scream in CWTAE is mixed live to sound out of every speaker in the room and you hear that in this master. So while you do not get a perfect studio experience with fully discrete directed sounds as if we could have recorded the direct speaker feeds from the wires, you get a lot of the remains in addition to the two recordings simply reenforcing each other.

Any azimuth error offsets in the stereo sources were identified and corrected. Both recorders synchronized together to the correct speed. Recorder 2 in the front speakers and recorder 1 in the rear. The stereo perspective of R2 seemed correct with guitar on the left. I reversed the channels of R1 to match.

Of uncommon note: R1 appears to be a mid-side recording as opposed to left-right. Perhaps a MS configured microphone (a mic with 2 elements wired for MS) was used? There is direct reverse polarity content between the channels and the recording seems to sit in the left speaker (like you might expect from a system with the right speaker wired reverse polarity, for example). A polarity flip of the R channel however, makes it worse sounding, clearly cancelling out content. So there must also be in-polarity content at the same time as the reverse polarity content between channels. This would be the case with a MS recording. Treating this as MS and decoding to stereo centers the image and produces a fuller sounding recording.

I removed many mic bumping sounds from R2. There are probably still a few left. I corrected for levels as well as possible. The originals seemed to have their levels ridden throughout (and/or possibly altered in later gen copies) in addition to the recording devices compressing on the loud parts. I retained all between song audience sounds. Sometimes one recorder would capture more or different between song time than the other. I let the alternate recorders drop out between songs where they do to show the perspective of the tapers running their decks (rather than disguising it with production). I did however fold one into the other channels for balance for the opening notes of Eugene where R2 comes in late and the other direction for Money where R1 cuts out. CE only exists on R2 so this is an upmix with some of the pre high boost eq source folded into the rear.

I placed the rear source slightly delayed vs the front. Just enough to anchor the stage firmly in front of the room and retain the proper perspective of main vs reflected sound front to back but not enough to create annoying slap echos with the drum transients. In actuality the sound delay between the recorders would have been greater. This comes up because with Pink Floyd we ALSO have speakers firing from the back of the room to the front. This would give you the same delay between recorders but in the other direction. This means that if I decide to shorten that delay from front to back for listening convenience, the delay from any sounds coming out of the back to the front recorder would be increased by that amount. This is the slap echo you hear in front on the laugh sample sounding out of the back of the room during the line “The lunatic is in my head”.

As one could tell from these notes is that this work was also torrented as a Quad remaster as well. For those who still have the old Sirene title, sit back and prepare to hear this concert in an all new light. The sound is a huge improvement over the old title, it is really hard to even compare them. The audience is quiet and respectful yet totally engaged in the performance, save for the lack of soaring female vocals in Great Gig In The Sky, I actually have grown to prefer these mid to late 1972 versions of Dark Side. The matrix of the two recordings add to the dynamics, Money is very powerful as is Us And Them, the mix of the two recordings gives a better balance of instruments and while not perfect is an improvement over the old Sirene title. The 1972-73 dates are the last gasps of Nick Mason’s interpretive style of drumming, the more evolved the group got, the more he forced to turn into time keeper. His drumming for me was always a bit unconventional and that’s what I have always loved about his early playing, quite inventive really.

The second set is a treat to hear, One Of These Days is superb, the sounds gives the feeling of being enveloped in the soundscape, Richard Wright employs some sound effects not heard in some time and coupled with the echo of Roger’s bass as it builds to the Mason vocal is really nice. Absolutely brilliant version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, has the pictish rant from Roger and some interesting soundscapes from Richard just before the violent screams, the fall and winter 72 versions of the song found the band continuing to evolve and do interesting work with the older material still remaining in the set. Recorder 2 was the only one to capture the encore of Childhood’s End, due to the close proximity to the stage, it is an excellent capture but after the expansiveness of the rest of the concert, sounds a bit flat, although its one of the better audience recordings of the song. Gilmour owns this song, his playing is fierce and emotive and as with the other few live versions of this song, a treat to hear.

The packaging is typical for Sigma, they use the same artwork from their previous Zurich There are several pictures from the actual concert on the interior as well as picture CD’s, numbered stickers, yes it’s all here and packaged in a slim lined jewel case. Once again Sigma capitalizes on others work, and we are the winners as this is a great upgrade of this excellent concert.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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One comment

  1. Careful Axeman Eugene

    Thanks very much for this excellent review…very interesting. I got it a few weeks ago, and I pretty much agree with what you wrote…I certainly don’t regret adding Sigma 212 to my CD collection.

    However, when you say that the same artwork as Sigma’s previous Zurich 1972-12-09 release (Sigma 179 4CD), didn’t you mean the same but except for the coloration, as Sigma 179 was in pink, whereas this recent Sigma 212 is in a warmouth sort of color?

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