When you hear a system that is truly musical it should draw you in and move you. It really must be as expressive as the musicians and if it’s worthwhile it should be able to take you on an emotional ride. Sitting and listening to a collection of sounds, however explicit, doesn’t get anywhere near it for me. But, as always, the front end just has to be right.
This one is a success from the off. My rips of John McLaughlin’s Remember Shakti: Saturday Night In Bombay [Decca] with all its full-on intensity pace and explosive beauty is a stern test. The atmosphere and rolling textures of the drone from the tambura that opens each track floats across the room and warns of the fire to come; but it is more than just a sound. It’s a colour, a calming constant, and a backwashed, coloured landscape against which the musicians are going to write their message. ‘Bell’Alla’ illustrates this perfectly, and the Melco/Comet is super quiet and allows the drone to softly wallow before heralding McLaughlin’s guitar. McLaughlin can be so lyrical and melodic, but you sense that the percussion train is entering the tunnel somewhere in the distance – when it emerges, it is already doing over 100 mph. The resolution here counts for nothing without some sense of order, and you get a lot more than the leading edges too. This track alone shows that the Melco/Exogal set‑up has the space and the rhythmic integrity to allow these enormous dynamic shifts full impact. As the percussion blasts through patterns of great intricacy and colour, the system is in its element. Never brittle or rushed, the lack of obvious compression is completely invaluable. The Vitus and the Estelons gobble this stuff up as the driving percussion fires across the room at you and never trip over themselves, drop a stitch, or sound disjointed; the whole system is an exercise in energy control and management.
That sense of ease and natural, unbleached tonality is a hallmark of this system and is always present. It lifts the musicality up to the resolution level, instead of towards pure information retrieval. The intimacy this effect can have is evident on the simple but rounded recording sound of Richard Hawley’s Truelove’s Gutter [Mute]. The track ‘Remorse Code’ is a gentle, close ballad with rather more subdued dynamics and pace, but is infinitely denser and tonally nuanced than it may at first appear. The system spreads such musical qualities wide and deep across the room, almost inviting you to step into its casual acoustic. Clever use of mixed reverbs and the instrumental shimmer break against the room’s boundaries as the gentle rhythms and textural contrasts play right into the enormous qualities of the Vitus and the sparse clarity of the Estelon XCs. It is a relaxed but far from straightforward production and highlights the superb ‘out of the box’ presence and accessibility of the system.
Once thoroughly warmed through and dialled into the room, I found this to be a very musical system indeed. I reckon you will love the way that you can hear the musicianship of individual performances and the fact that there is so little unpleasant tension in the sound. The creative aspect of music making that all musicians crave is beautifully realised by this Kog system and its performance arc is broad.