Album title: Musica Nuda
Performers: Petra Magoni (vocals), Ferrucio Spinetti (straight bass)
Label: Bonsai Records - MP3 available for download from most major sites. Non-lossy 16/44 quality available for download from
Playing time: 50:34
Recorded: 2004

Qobuz is a wonderful site to peruse if you speak French. If you don’t you must wait until a similar concept appears in an English-speaking country. I can’t imagine it will be too long now. Qobuz is a download portal—nothing new there—but they make most of the music available in MP3 and non-lossy CD quality plus for some recordings in 24/88 studio master. That in itself is not completely unique either as Linn Records offers this convenience too. The uniqueness as far as I know is that they offer massive and rapidly increasing amounts of music from all the major labels across as many styles and periods as your musical heart could desire.

It’s an 'Amazon' for quality music downloads with some good insights and advice to boot. What really got me is that Qobuz offers two distinct business models. You either buy downloads for a published price; or stream them on demand for a flat monthly €13 or annual €129 for almost unlimited music access. The latter's downside is that you don’t own a copy. Therefore you can’t put the music permanently on your iPod or other favorite portable device. Instead you stream it at home or on the go with the Qobuz App for Apple. What Qobuz says is that the younger generation streams to discover and on occasion buys MP3s for their iPods when they hear something they really want to carry around. Smart.

Audiophiles who worry about lossy compression will probably stick to the traditional model but I have to say that for the price of an album a month, unlimited access to new music sounds quite appealing. I can always buy what I really like later. I might give it a try just for fun. Why such a long introduction to Qobuz? If it weren't for that site and its enormous diversity and context/search-driven suggestions, I would never have found Musica Nuda in the first place. The unexpected Italian duo has been collaborating since 2003 and has released four recordings over that period, with Petra Magoni providing the threadbare vocals and Ferrucio Spinetti the minimalist accompaniments on his upright bass (although as Renaud Garcia Fons has aptly demonstrated, minimalist on a straight bass can mean a tremendously diverse palette of sounds).

Musica Nuda (naked music or more accurately undressed in this context) means that the duo take more or less famous songs and compositions and strip them to their very core, the bare essence. Petra’s voice—fragile and at times simply whispered—supports this approach particularly well but as she on occasion demonstrates, her voice can come out of hiding when desired. Ferrucio’s bass accompaniment is always clever and discreet, never intrusive.

Whether it's with Lennon’s "Imagine", Police’s "Roxanne" or some obscure Italian pop songs from the 80s, the result is always unexpected and often revelatory, in all cases far away from the standard re-re-re-recordings we are overwhelmed by. Barb Jungr in her homage to Dylan plays with contrasts and injects her own soul and emotions in the songs to create something radically different from the originals. Musica Nuda chooses to bare down on the rhythmic and poetic fabric of the originals and strip away anything extraneous. These are two distinctive approaches for equally thrilling results in an exercise where many stumble and fall. This too is a Blue Moon award if I ever heard one. And remember to check out Qobuz. Music awaits you en masse...