February 1999

Daboa - From the Gekko
Triple Earth trecd 115
Released: 1998

by Doug Blackburn

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Quite a few years ago, a good friend from LA gave me a copy of a 12" 45rpm record by Frank Harris and Maria Marquez called in a minor chord. It was a pleasant, breezy brand of pop that was much better than most pop that doesn’t deserve a first listen let alone many more. I still listen to that record occasionally and wonder whatever happened to Frank and Maria. Enter Mike VansEvers. I laid a couple of CDs on Mike and in return From the Gekko appeared at my front door. I gave it an optical surface treatment, a good buffing and put it in the California Audio Labs CL-25 CD/DVD player for a listen. Whoa! Cool! Who the heck is this anyway? No clue on the back of the jewel case. Let’s have a look at the booklet. Frank Harris and Maria Marquez again after all these years!

On completing my first listen, I was in awe of this CD. The sound is, well, what I got into this annoying hobby for in the first place. It’s wonderful, it’s fun, it’s ethereal, it’s huge, it’s subtle, it’s overblown, it’s completely manufactured, but it’s so well done you don’t care that it’s studio trickery. I can only wish for a collection of CDs with as much attention paid to the soundfield as this one has.

OK, so the sound is wonderful. What about the music? It probably sucks, right? Well, it may or may not suck -- depends on your definition of what sucks is. If you only listen to Metallica from 1975 to 1985 or to music written by dead people, this recording isn’t going to change your life. But if you are an exploratory listener with interests in a variety of music, From the Gekko could be a great addition to your library. Take some Mexican and Venezuelan traditions; mix in Maria’s modern Latin touch and Spanish lyrics; combine with Frank’s synthesizer, production, pop/rock sensibilities and English lyrics; add some acoustic instruments, some samples of the Dali Lama’s laughter, samples of rain-forest Indians some gamelan samples, a few hints of Indian (the country India) music and instruments. You end up with inventive can’t-be-categorized music.

Deep bass lovers will find some in From the Gekko. Systems will be tortured by the steadily rising sound level on the first track. Set the volume high enough for the opening ping-ponging bass to shake the room and you’ll be screaming for mercy before the end of the track. There are places where the synthesizer puts energy behind some sounds that no acoustic instrument can duplicate. Some of those sounds uncover problems in loudspeakers or electronic components that you may not notice with typical recordings. There are loads of detail to sift though on repeat listenings. But for me the most fun in this recording is the veritable wall of sound it throws up in the room. No, that’s not right. It’s not a wall, it’s huge space filled with stationary and moving sounds -- all transported right into your listening room. It reminds me of how the Star Trek holodeck can make convincingly large spaces within a smaller space.

Besides the detail, dynamics, and space, From the Gekko is full of subtleties too. At the opening of one song you hear not wind, but gently moving air. You hear a mass of moving sonic sparkles. You hear the forest. You hear the world. CDs like this are one of the reasons you bought all that expensive gear, unless you are one of those purists who can only deal with live acoustic instruments in real space. From the Gekko is something different, something unique to make your system sound like you may never have heard before. It isn’t an audiophile recording on an audiophile label. The technical sound quality isn’t perfect, but for a commercial studio recording it is very impressive. There is absolutely nothing obtrusive in the sound to distract you from the listening experience. Great clarity and dynamics, wonderful detail, very well balanced and mixed, the whole presentation comes off as having been done by people who knew what they wanted and how to get it.

Recorded in 1997 in Oakland, CA and available on the Triple Earth (UK) label, From the Gekko is not widely available in the US, but it can be ordered from 75-MUSIC (1-800-75-MUSIC in the US), the National Public Radio music sales service. A portion of sales supports NPR. You’ll be charged $17.97 plus $4.95 shipping, which covers any number of CDs you order. You can have a look at 75-MUSIC’s in-need-of-work-and-updating website at www.75music.org. You won’t find From the Gekko there, so keep the info from this review handy -- it’s in stock in spite of not appearing on the website.