E.P. REVIEW: The Legend Of Love by Miky Anton

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Miky Anton is a professional violinist and composer hailing from Berlin, Germany. His style of music is what is known as neoclassical, combining traditional classical music with more modern genres such as electronica/EDM, pop, crossover and cinematic. He aims to tell a story through each piece of music he creates and invites the listener to work out what he’s trying to express artistically.

This EP, The Legend Of Love, consists of four compositions, each with a unique theme. Don’t Give Up starts the EP and grabs your attention straight away with some strident double stops on the violin over an urgent dance beat before performing some exhilarating runs that brought to mind the stormier parts of Vivaldi’s classic Four Seasons. These exciting sections are contrasted by gentle, haunting ones based on the same descending chord progression. A thrilling start to the EP.

Next comes the title track and once again it blends a beautiful melody backed by an electronic beat, this one more of a breakbeat, before exploding into a frenzy of virtuoso violin playing. As a composition, there is a dark, mysterious quality to the music that brought to mind the peerless composer Beethoven.

The following U & Me is quite a contrast with a much more tranquil sound set at a languid tempo. It is based on lovely pizzicato strings which forms the bedrock for Miky’s expressive and lyrical violin melody that again made me think of Beethoven, but something like the Pastoral Symphony.

Final track Beyond The Borders is perhaps the most modern sounding track, with a futuristic sounding electronic backing underneath more wonderful violin work. The second melody has a rustic, carefree quality that made me think of the folk-influenced composers like Dvorak and Haydn. A fine way to finish the EP.

Overall, this is a highly impressive EP by a first rate violinist and neoclassical composer. He has successfully combined virtuosity with melodic content as well as an accessible classical style with more modern, established genres. This is not an easy feat to accomplish and hopefully Miky Anton will reap the rewards by bring the wonders of classical music and the enchanting sound of the violin to an appreciative modern audience.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Tango Silhouette by Tony Marino

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Tony Marino is a composer and pianist based in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in the United States. His music is rooted in Latin and jazz and he has previously released ten albums, his first being The Latin Jazz Project in 1997. His 2001 album Samba de Say Party combined Brazilian jazz with bolero, swing, tango and funk and this eclectic approach has continued.

2004’s album 5 dealt with varying types of jazz and then after the 2006 album, It’s Not That Complicated, he took a ten year hiatus returning with 101 in 2016.  This year has already seen the release of Family and Friends which amalgamates Caribbean and Brazilian styles with jazz.

This album, Tango Silhouette, consists of twelve tracks. As the title implies, it involves a strong element of tango and other Latin styles crossed with jazz. The album was inspired by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla and is an exploration of Tony’s family history.

It starts with Day Break, which gives a good representation of the album as a whole. The sound is largely electronic and synth driven, but with a wide range of instrumental and percussive colour within that framework.

Day Break bursts with energy from the outset, driven by an insistent rhythm and a memorable melody that is first heard on (a synthesized rendition of) guitar, followed by accordion and violin. This is augmented by string synths and colourful bursts of tango-infused piano. The lively percussion and intricate fills are also a feature of the album and add to the infectious energy of the music as a whole.

Second track, Sylvana Gene and Stella Tango Medley is a slightly more mellow track that gives more scope for Tony’s considerable skills as a jazz pianist. His piano part on this piece features large use of expansive arpeggios, which gives the music a strongly melodic feel.

This is counterpointed by a simple but effective melody which alternates between guitar and accordion and various instrumental doublings. The chord changes are somewhat unpredictable but rooted in tango and, as the track progresses, Tony gets to truly display his pianistic skills with some complex runs in the upper register.

Third track Lucia again straddles the midpoint between Latin music and jazz, with this track being notable for its rhythmic complexity. There is a highly effective use of triplets on the snare drum which creates a ‘push and pull’ feeling of tension in the music and it has a strong impact despite its relative brevity at only ninety seconds long.

In The Shadows has a swinging waltz-like rhythm and a brooding, almost ominous sounding melody which leads to some harmonically complex piano and interweaving accordion lines. This is one of the more musically complicated pieces on the album and showcases Tony’s unique skills as a composer and arranger. The intricate contrapuntal lines combined with the exotic harmonic structure and chord changes brought to mind the jazzier moments of Frank Zappa.

The Chancery Place Tango opens with a beautifully haunting melody on accordion in tandem with guitar, which then takes over on piano. Although the music is in standard 4/4 time, the accents are placed on the off beat (known as syncopation) which gives the music a rhythmic fluidity and a restless energy.

Sixth track Astor and Dizzy Tango Medley is one of the most melodically inventive and original pieces, featuring some versatile piano playing wildly exotic melodies that make large leaps in terms of register. The music has a powerful sense of drama and excitement that maintains to the end.  The following Circles in much lighter in tone and alternates between 3/4  and 4/4 time, which creates an exhilarating rollercoaster style effect that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.

A Different Time is also rhythmically angular with diverse rhythmic patterns juxtaposed against each other in a way that creates a pleasing musical tension. The drums on this track are spectacular, with some superb tom tom and snare fills that drive the music forward. Lilting strings and dramatic piano contrast nicely with the violin sections.

The Layback Tango is another fine composition that features some delicious piano playing in octaves, the drums alternating between jazz and the seductive rhythms of Latin American music. The Death of A Romance is one of the darker, more melancholy tracks with a poignant and heart rending descending melody that becomes a recurring motif. This is alternated with dramatic piano and accordion sections, bolstered by a rolling baseline that maintains the saturnine mood.

By contrast, The Philly Tango Astronomical Medley is much more light hearted in tone, rhythmically very crisp and played staccato with some effective use of percussion. You can imagine a couple strutting across the dancefloor to this piece and it also features a beautiful guitar and accordion passage in the middle.

The album ends with That’s It, a wonderful composition that lies halfway between classical and jazz. It starts off with a superbly composed (and performed) piano introduction before taking off into a restless tango rhythm, which provides the bedrock for a series of exotic instrumentation and rich harmony. The music flourishes with an irresistible momentum here and makes it the perfect way to bring the album’s journey to a satisfying close.

Overall, this is a very fine collection of instrumentals that are based in Latin American music and jazz but are fused together in a way so as to become wholly original. The difficulty of forging your own unique musical style is something most artists never achieve, but Tony Marino can lay claim to an exotic style of his own that will appeal to discerning music fans in general.

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Lullaby by Edward St. Martin

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Edward St. Martin is a songwriter, composer and lead artist producer based in San Diego. His background is actually in classical music and film composition, and he applies this knowledge to his foray into writing songs in the pop genre. This combination of styles is something I would describe as ‘epic pop’ or ‘orchestral pop’. Recent releases have included In The Ocean Of My Love, Fast Car and Don’t Leave Me.

This track, Lullaby, is a fine example of his classical-influenced epic pop. It features a female vocalist with a fantastic voice similar to Sia and there is a dramatic grandeur to the music that brought to mind Evanescence. Whereas Evanescence leans more towards rock music, there is a definite influence of EDM in the production style. It begins with a powerful orchestral introduction featuring a classical-style chord progression, before crystalline female vocals enter with troubled lyrics: “Four o’ clock and I’ve barely even slept yet…..”.

She is backed effectively by flowing piano melodies and epic orchestral percussion. The bridge builds like a dance track, leading to a colossal chorus where a four-to-the-floor beat emerges. The dynamics of the music are cleverly arranged so that there’s constant variety in the sparse and epic parts of the song. The strings that feature throughout add a great deal to the feeling of drama and gives it a musicality that is lacking from most EDM music.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished fusion of pop, classical and EDM by a gifted composer in collaboration with a fine female singer. Edward St. Martin has impressively developed his own sonic niche by drawing on his experience in film and classical composition. He has developed an orchestral form of pop/EDM that has enormous creative and commercial potential, the best of both worlds. Lullaby should help bring a much greater awareness of his music to the listening public and deservedly so.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Fool’s Gold by Stephen Dusenberry

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Stephen Dusenberry is a composer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He was somewhat of a child prodigy, starting the drums at three years old and being offered his first gig at four. At six, he started playing keyboards and writing his own songs then taught himself guitar, clarinet and trumpet. He then spent his adolescence in a diverse range of bands, with his progressive rock band Twilight Machine signed to AFM records while he was only sixteen.

After attending Berklee College of Music he ended up spending two weeks at no.1 on the Billboard charts with a remix of Audio Playground’s Hands Up In The Air. Unfortunately, he was then struck down with skin cancer, with the tumor eventually removed. Upon his recovery, he began work on his most ambitious solo project to date, Steal City. This involved him writing, performing and producing everything purely by himself which led to comparisons with the great Quincy Jones.

This complete artistic and musical autonomy applies to his latest track, Fool’s Gold. In case anyone mistakes it for a cover of the classic track of the same name by The Stone Roses, this is very much an original composition in every sense of the word. It’s an irresistibly funky instrumental that allows Dusenberry to showcase his considerable musical versatility and virtuosity. Starting with a brisk rap of the snare drum, it launches into an instantly infectious groove consisting of brass, organ, piano and synths over a bedrock of water-tight bass and drums.

Aside from the impressive degree of musical skill in performing the track, the intricacy and detail of the arrangement is where Dusenberry truly excels. Like an artist using sparing amounts of colour, many of the instruments make brief cameos then allow another sound to take center stage. The instrumental colour and variety made me think of another autonomous composer/musician Frank Zappa and his classic Hot Rats instrumental Peaches En Regalia. The overall style and sound is comparable to another musical genius, Stevie Wonder.

The main hook of the track is the catchy horn lines that enter straight away, augmented by contrapuntal melodies or supporting chords on either organ, piano or synth. Special mention should go to the crisp, precise drumming and the rhythmic and melodic invention of the bassline. Halfway through, it enters a more sparse section that allows him to build things back up for the second half, which features a brief but brilliant organ solo.

Overall, this is a fantastic instrumental that lies between soul, funk and jazz. Stephen Dusenberry is simply one of those immensely gifted musicians and composers that occur only rarely, and Fool’s Gold captures him at the height of his powers. With a complete mastery of everything he plays and a deep understanding of how to compose and arrange, the result is a hugely enjoyable piece of music that deserves to be appreciated by both connoisseurs and casual music fans alike.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Dark Journey’ by Ying-Ting Luo

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Ying-Ting Luo is an award winning film and video game composer from Taiwan. She was musically precocious from a very early age, starting piano at four and then the flute at eight. This led to studying at the prestigious Taipei National University of the Arts which led to many awards.

She then went to the even more prestigious Berklee College of Music where she studied film and video game scoring. She graduated with honours and has since composed scores for documentaries, feature films and video games as well as working with Grammy award winner Susana Baca, Wang Leehom and Joyce Moreno.

This album, ‘Dark Journey’, is a suite of orchestral compositions with an underlying concept: imagine your lover is a criminal and you’re stuck on a long journey with them. This intriguing theme sets the tone and opening piece The Suitcase contains this sense of the mysterious and slightly ominous. From its first bars, it becomes apparent that Ying-Ting has a real gift for composition.

Swirling strings combine with arpeggiated harp to create a magical soundscape which is then augmented by glockenspiel, giving the music a Danny Elfman-vibe (Edward Scissorhands, Spiderman). Indeed, her music combines the dreamlike quality of Elfman with the more dramatic, rhythmic style of Hans Zimmer and the pieces tend to alternate between these two styles with consummate skill.

‘Let’s Dance’ begins with pizzicato strings, then jazzy piano and woodwinds weave an enchanting melodic web that keeps the listener gripped. The woodwinds are beautifully orchestrated, which shows both her talent and years of training. There’s a continuity between the tracks, as well as recurrence of key themes, and the ominous ending of this piece explodes into the tense drama of ‘The Train to Death’.

This piece shows her compositional range, with strident low strings and brooding brass combining with epic Hans Zimmer-style percussion. The low strings are doubled with piano in the same register giving the music a real power and the way she maintains the tension shows her gift for musical storytelling.

‘The Painful Abyss’ is a distinct contrast, a plaintive, mournful melody first heard on oboe then counter pointed by flute. Towards the end it returns to the pulse-quickening excitement of the previous piece. ‘The Killer In The Desert’ has a really exotic flavour both in its eastern melody and percussion which brought to mind the Arabian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s classic work The Nutcracker. It perfectly evokes the title of the piece and ratchets upon the musical drama toward the end.

‘Peaceful Date’ showcases her gifts as a pianist as well as a melodist. The beautiful melody is doubled by violin and conjures quite a mood in its brief duration. ‘Casino in 1928’ is again a perfect musical portrait of what the title suggests, based on the dance rhythms of that era. It features a playful, jazzy melody on bass clarinet and my only complaint is that this didn’t last longer.

The gorgeous, haunting main theme returns on ‘The Dangerous Sex’, used in a Wagnerian way (Richard Wagner formulated the idea of the leitmotif, a melodic theme associated with a character or emotion that recurs across a large scale work). This piece acts as the calm before the storm of the following ‘The Bloody Truth Behind The Sweetness’. It starts out by lulling you into a false sense of security, with a happy flute melody in 3/4 waltz time. Then a minute in, it explodes into a fiendishly dramatic section that has you on the edge of your seat.

‘The Lonely Body In The Ocean’ consists of just glockenspiel, like a haunting and sinister version of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The closing composition ‘The End of the Wrong Love’ returns to the theme of ‘Let’s Dance’ and it feels like a piece of musical irony; the lightness of the melody is interweaved with dark, moody strings and we know things have not ended well for the story’s protagonist.

Overall, this is a remarkable concept album by an immensely talented composer and musician. With a complete grasp of orchestration, she has learnt to blend her many compositional influences into a nuanced style of her own. ‘Dark Journey’ takes the listener to some magical and dramatic places, and like all the best albums leaves the listener wanting more. Ying-Ting Luo could well become one of the most prominent composers of our era.

 

VERDICT: 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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