Ben Goldberg's Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues

Ben Goldberg's Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (on his self-owned BAG Production label), is an album as seriously playful as its title. There's a deceptive looseness in the music's rhythm, veering toward New Orleans bar stomp, but braced by modern harmonies (Steve Lacy, Monk, and Andrew Hill are heavy influences), and swung from an early Ornette-ish sense of blues (one of Goldberg's 9 originals on the album, "Study of the Blues," is a Cubist riff on the opening bars of "Lonely Woman"), though rooted more in Coleman's deep melody than his Free velocity.

The band is topnotch: Goldberg on clarinet, Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Ron Miles on trumpet, Devin Hoff on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. (I recently raved about Miles' album, Quiver, with Bill Frisell and Brian Blade; I'm less familiar with Hoff and Smith, though intend to rectify that.)

There's a clairvoyance in their playing, an ensemble flair for stretching the tempo and snapping it back in a way that lets the music float without drifting. Even when the polyphony gets ripe, each line is crisp and propulsive.

The streams flow so clearly, thanks in part to the CD's sonic purity and dynamics. Along with Dave Douglas' Be Still (engineered by Joe Ferla), Subatomic Particle... is one of the best-sounding new jazz CDs I've heard in a long time. The horns are right there, arrayed in a row; you can practically see the air pushing through their shapes and out into the room. The bass snaps and sings; the drumkit slaps and sizzles.

Jeff Cressman, the Bay area engineer who laid down the tracks, tells me he recorded the session on 88.2kHz/24-bit digital with Apogee converters in a now-defunct studio renown for its well-balanced acoustics. He used two Coles 4038 ribbon mikes for the Bb clarinet (switching to an RCA77 when Goldberg played contra-alto), an omni Schoeps MK2 capsule for the trumpet, a Neumann TLM170 for the bass, and a mix on the trapset, including AKG 452s overhead, Beyer M380s on the tom-toms, Schoeps hyper-cardoid on the hi-hat, and a large tube condenser on the kick drum. Mark Orton, a Portland mixing engineer, sent it through an analog outboard, with little tampering, before converting it back to digital.

It sounds great.

One sad fact: The session was recorded in 2008. After failing to find a buyer, Goldberg started his own label (BAG Production Records) and put it out there, along with a growing line of products, which I also intend to check out.

dalethorn's picture

Pack a lunch for this one - it's not a quick listen. I went to iTunes for the 90-second samples though, since Amazon cuts off after 30 seconds.

deckeda's picture

Hey Dale, since there's a Bandcamp connection you can listen to the whole thing in its entirely, here: and buy a lossless copy for less than the CD from Amazon, if ye be file-based playback.

(I have no affiliaton with either the artist nor Bandcamp.)

I do however wish Bandcamp would let you know exactly what formats and resolutions were available for a given title (for example, hi res??) before you pulled the trigger, but I get the feeling from their "your choice of high-quality MP3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire" text that they already offer enough choices.

dalethorn's picture

Yes, great suggestion. In those cases where I don't buy the CD, picking up a lossless track here and there would be fantastic. I was getting the .M4a from iTunes and converting that to .WAV, but original lossless would be better, even 16 bit. And Ben Goldberg's sound quality seems really good on the different albums, not just the one featured here.

Edit: Come to think of it, 7 dollars for the whole album download - can't go wrong with that.

deckeda's picture

I bought this title and the other one released, Unfold Ordinary Mind. I'm really digging maybe 2/3 of it and "working on a greater acceptance" of the rest.

Stylistically it's more adventurous, more "fusionistic", sometimes more ambient, features skronking sax and occaisional distorted electric guitar --- none of which always appeals to me (especially all on the same song ...) 

But for whatever reason I'm really digging about 2/3 of it and "working on a greater acceptance" of the rest.

torturegarden's picture

Having download many albums from Bandcamp in the past, they always have MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC, ALAC, and FLAC - all 16 bit. At least they have lossless but I've never seen 24 bit files from them.

deckeda's picture

And with artist's comments like this, here's why (italics are mine):


Ben Goldberg ‏@goldberg_ben

subatomic particle homesick blues featuring @Joshua_Redman out now, including as hi-res download on bandcamp


So yes, he thinks the regular lossless options = hi res. I still don't give Bandcamp a free pass on this issue. Goldberg could actually have provided them the 24/88.2 and no one would know such a thing is available until after they paid. 


To be fair, Goldberg also tweeted the same day (2/19) that what Bandcamp had was "higher res" than iTunes. "Mastered for Bandcamp?" (I kid.)

sauerball's picture

I have purchased a few downloads in 24 bit through bandcamp.  It is up to the artist to provide them.

FWIW, this recording sounds excellent.  Loving it.

deckeda's picture

Their faq for artist uploads states a limit of 600MB for artists who've sold at least $20 on Bandcamp previously. Presumably that's per file, because they also say that uploading uncompressed 24/192 is acceptable. Then again, a long 24/192 song could bust even that limit but I'm too lazy to do the math today. (They state they discourage "jam bands" but want to be amenable to ambient artists ...)