ALBUM REVIEW: 12-02 The Journey by Gulliverb

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Gulliverb is the artistic moniker of Spanish electronica composer/producer Chimo Ausin. He has a fascinating back story; he is a trained pilot and works for a well known Spanish company flying Boeing 747’s. When not flying planes around the world, he’s also the executive producer of Russia Today TV. However, it’s the former passion for aviation that is the inspiration for this album 12-02 The Journey.

This concept album has been years in the making, and the concept is based around space travel, specifically the first time we sent men to the Moon in 1969. He intends to release the album to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Musically, it could be described as future house or deep house, but the epic proportions of the tracks and use of atmospheric noises means it could be classified in the psytrance genre.

Another notable aspect of the music is that Gulliverb combines electronic sounds with real musical instruments including guitars, cellos, sax and harmonica. So far, he has made six tracks available before its full release in July, 2019. The opening track, Part 1, is the perfect introduction to his musical style. From its opening bars, it creates a sense of tension and excitement as vocal samples (presumably from the Apollo 11 mission) are heard over pulsing synths.

A memorable melody then emerges which forms the bedrock for the whole track. The arrangement is cleverly constructed, with effective use of cymbals and kick drum ‘booms’ that help create a sense of drama and crescendo. This builds up to the entry of a full house beat, with punchy kick and snare giving it a muscular and vibrant sound. Indeed, the intricate drum programming is one of the great strengths of the album, which is never just a repeated loop that a less talented, less inspired composer/producer might use.

Halfway through, the track breaks down to a female voice describing the musical concept behind Gulliverb and then for the first time we hear lead vocals, albeit briefly. It builds up once again when a new, very catchy low-end saw wave riff enters along with a classic ‘four to the floor’ beat. It then returns to a full beat augmented by samples, then follows a short half-time section leading to the final section coloured by rich saxophone. And that’s just the first track!

This complex, symphonic compositional style continues through the six album tracks released so far. Part 2 begins with dramatic strings creating a sense of intrigue then a section featuring a complex, syncopated beat leads to a hard hitting Oliver Heldens-style future house beat. The music continually morphs and progresses, featuring Enigma-esque Gregorian lead vocals and vocal samples, along with some imaginative atmospheric touches. It’s another epic at eight minutes but reveals a wealth of detail upon repeated listens, including more bursts of wailing sax and guitar towards the end.

Re-Entre is much shorter at three minutes but continues the future house style, with a raw sounding low end synth driving the momentum. This is one of the more aggressive sounding tracks, with the powerful drums bringing to mind The Prodigy. The ascending high-end synth melody that emerges in the final section is inventive and effective.

The fourth part, Landing, is the longest track here at over nine and a half minutes but, once again, there is not a dull moment. Constantly shifting rhythmic patterns and interweaving melodies keep your attention gripped, contrasted by tender strings and filmic percussion. Indeed, there is a strong cinematic quality to the music, given added depth through the album’s stylistic concept. The middle section is essentially dubstep, featuring Skrillex-esque warped, swooping saw-wave synths.

There is a real sense of drama where we hear vocal samples of the moon landing set to a poignant orchestral passage, clearly a major moment. It then takes off again with quirky NRG-style riffs and a restless, punchy beat before breaking down to a spine chilling section of piano, guitar and the beatific female vocals of Nicole Dobrovolski. At the very end we hear the classic famous moon-landing line, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“. Truly an epic journey and perhaps the centrepiece of the album.

Nicole Dobrovolski features heavily on the uplifting pop house track I’ll Be Watching You, which is the most easily accessible and instant track amongst the six available so far. The title hook is memorable and deployed in myriad ways, augmented by lush harmonies, over a bedrock of swirling synths and an irresistibly danceable house beat. A genuine potential radio hit.

On the sixth track A Little Step For A Man, she gives another fine vocal performance on this contemplative, sensitive song. The title refers once again to the famous Neil Armstrong quote yet from the halfway point, the vocals make way for an evocative, dreamlike instrumental section with just sparse percussion adding subtle drama. The revolving melodic patterns have a mesmeric quality, then the vocals returning for the final seconds creating a haunting effect.

Overall, these six tracks already constitute a wonderful listening experience which bodes well for the full release of this concept album. Gulliverb has found a way to breathe new life into an over-saturated genre through a natural gift for melody and structure, an innate musicality and close attention to detail. Although some of these tracks are of lengthy duration, they never meander or drag on. With its many musical intricacies, it is electronic music that will work both on the dancefloor and just for listening pleasure. It would only be apt and justified if this album about space travel sends Gulliverb’s success soaring into the stratosphere.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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