ALBUM REVIEW: Transition by Eddie Arjun

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http://www.eddiearjun.com/

Eddie Arjun (formerly Arjun) is the collective name of New York-based instrumental trio, consisting of lead guitarist (and producer of this album) Eddie Arjun Peters, backed up by Andre Lyles on bass and Mike Vetter on drums.

Essentially they combine the raw expression and energy of rock and blues with the sophistication and intricacy of jazz and progressive rock, resulting in a musical fusion that is unique and original. All three members are musicians of the highest calibre and manage to balance free expression on their respective individual instruments whilst managing to interlock musically in an airtight, completely synergistic way.

Founded back in 2003, the band developed their craft over time and they eventually began releasing a trilogy of studio albums which started with Space (2013), followed by Core (2014, reviewed very favourably by yours truly) and culminating in 2016’s Gravity. These albums also featured contributions by highly regarded musicians such as E.J. Rodriguez (The Jazz Passengers, Sean Lennon), John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy) and Jeff Coffin (Dave Mathews Band, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones).

This album, Transition, consists of eight tracks and is due for release February 1st, 2019. Opening track There It Is gets the album off to a strong start. It begins with a Jimmy Page-style rock/blues riff which for many rock bands would become enough to base a whole track around, but it forms just one of a number of melodic themes and motifs which are deployed throughout the track. It leads straight into a high-end blues/funk riff, with the simple rhythm soon displaced with syncopations. This is alternated with the low-end riff, played in tandem on the bass with a short chromatic section adding further variety.

Drummer Mike Vetter and bassist Andre Lyles soon manifest as a formidable rhythm section, both rock solid and incredibly fluid. They lay the platform for Eddie Arjun Peters’ versatile, almost otherworldly guitar skills. Halfway through the track it breaks down to an extended section where Eddie gets to show the more psychedelic Hendrix/Gilmour side to his playing, with some incredibly mellifluous runs across the neck. This is underpinned by some stunning playing from Vetter and Lyles, culminating in a jaw dropping section of virtuosity before returning to the original groove.

Second track Core opens in a blaze of Keith Moon-esque drum fills and raw guitar chords before launching into a mellow blues in 6/8 time. From this simple template, the band progress through an intricate arrangement full of nuanced dynamics where almost every bar has some clever accent placement or rhythmic motif that adds musical interest.

It then builds up to a gorgeous ascending section that Hendrix would have been proud of, the music exuding sensuality. Eddie gets to break out his wah-wah which he uses tastefully and effectively, bringing to mind the Jimi of his latter day Voodoo Chile-period.

Next comes the title track and it’s a very different beast. Opening with a taut guitar riff that keeps you hanging in suspense it then locks into a pulsing, intense groove with a continually unpredictable rhythm that shifts under your feet. This is the track where the whole band really showcase their mastery of rhythmic dynamics and their remarkable unity that almost seems telepathic but is no doubt the result of tireless rehearsing.

Here the music is more modal than pentatonic giving it a more exotic feel, though still with a strong bluesy vibe. It feels like every single note has been worked out to precision, with some astonishing moments where all three players reach a frenzy yet remain in complete control, such as the superb solo section and the frenetic climax.

The following Longass has an irresistible groove and a real strut, with the guitar and bass once again playing a funky blues riff in tandem. And again, what starts out as a seemingly simple rock/blues jam becomes a cleverly arranged epic. After the initial sections have been repeated a further section midway through takes the music into the stratosphere, with Eddie Arjun Peters breaking out the delay pedal for another skyscraping solo. Another album highlight.

Iana is more like an interlude track consisting of just a moody solo bass, acting as a lull in the storm. The next two tracks both made me think of Hendrix, but in different parts of his short career. Sixth track Ascent is a mellow jazzy blues number that recalls the Axis: Bold as Love era, specifically songs like Little Wing and Castles Made of Sand. The arrangement is very clever in how it reflects the title perfectly, gradually building up to the thrilling development section where Andre Lyles shines with some remarkably fluid bass playing, locked in perfectly with Mike Vetter’s whirlwind fills around the kit.

The following, aptly-titled Lavalust is more akin to the wild epic psychedelic rock of Electric Ladyland and is my personal favourite on the album. Kicking off with a killer slap bassline put through a phaser, this is joined by a torrent of flamboyant fills reminiscent of Mitch Mitchell. It then launches into a rock/blues masterpiece that takes all their combined compositional and arrangement skills to another level.

The breakdown section in the middle is where this track really aims for the stars though; delay-drenched lead guitar playing some mind bending runs over gradually intensifying bass and drums, as trippy as something like 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) from Hendrix’s last magnum opus. It then returns back to Earth for another fantastic section where the guitar does indeed drip like liquid lava, and the whole band is captured at their euphoric, boundary-pushing best.

Closing track Gone is a real slow burner. It starts with a languid groove that really allows the music to breathe, Vetter and Lyles play with exquisite restraint while Eddie Arjun Peters slowly weaves a spell with some deliciously dreamy guitar work. The main theme is plaintive and haunting, the arrangement gradually growing in grandeur towards one final blaze of wah-soaked guitar pyrotechnics. It continues through several sections on this subtly complex seven-minute sonic odyssey. It’s a majestic way to end the journey overall, finishing on an unexpected major chord which gives an air of completion.

Overall, this is the best album so far from this terrifically talented trio. The three members of Eddie Arjun have honed their respective skills to a very fine pitch, have developed a musical unity and synergy that few musicians ever achieve and most importantly write and perform consistently stunning music. The nuanced details and craft in the arrangement of every track means it will richly reward repeated listening and should appeal to an enormous range of rock, blues and jazz aficionados.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Prophecy (from the White Light Collection) by Tony Newton

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http://tonynewtonmusic.com/album/wlc-preview-2/

Tony Newton is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with a fascinating history anda career in the music industry that spans over thirty years. After being somewhat of a child prodigy playing in orchestras, it was as a virtuosic bass player that he played on many classic Motown recordings and can lay claim to playing on hits by Michael Jackson, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

If that isn’t impressive enough, he also acted as musical director to Smokey Robinson and in his youth was the prize student of his bass tutor, the legendary James Jamerson (himself a Motown recording staple). He can also lay claim to being one of the creators of the Jazz-Rock-Fusion genre with Miles Davis’ drummer in the Tony Williams Lifetime. Since then he has developed his talents as a composer and even formulated his own acclaimed harmonic language which he calls ‘novaphonic sound’, which is based on quartal and quintal harmonics.

This piece for solo piano, Prophecy, is taken from his album White Light Collection. The piece announces itself with some stentorian chords, then a swirling, saturnine melodic pattern emerges in a low octave, reminiscent of the last movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata. Over this repeating figure, Newton then brings Bill Evans-style jazz into the mix with some exotic quartal harmonies in the right hand. The low octave melody is then doubled creating a fierce sense of momentum before it modulates to a different key.

The piece then develops with some incredible runs and ornaments in the upper octaves, which truly show the virtuosic level of Newton’s musicianship. Around halfway through the tempest dies down and a suspenseful section emerges, featuring some lush chordal voicings and arpeggios. This is what you would term a developmental section, which reaches a climax before recapitulating to the main theme to complete a compelling six minutes.

Overall, this solo piano piece is a tour de force by an artist who made his name as a Motown musician and has developed into a composer of real genius. He has found the perfect midway point between classical and jazz, combining the focused structure of the former with the adventurous harmonies of the latter. Prophecy is not just a compositional feat but also one of considerable virtuosity as a performance. Highly recommended.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Miracle by Evolution of The Groove

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https://www.facebook.com/ETGband/

Evolution of The Groove are a nine-piece fusion band founded in 2010 by Steven Cunningham and Chris Sclafani. The concept was to combine musicians from various musical backgrounds to create a unique sound. Their music is truly an original hybrid of funk, rock, R&B, hip hop, soul, gospel and jazz and their influences are eclectic as you would expect, from Jill Scott to The Beatles, from Erykah Badu to Hendrix and Miles Davis.

This song, Miracle, is the perfect apotheosis of their inimitable sound. Starting with a funky beat that sets the groove and a dirty, low end guitar riff that any hard rock/metal band would be proud to call their own, Jaylin Brown’s soulful vocals act as an effective contrast. The music explodes with full brass in the second section, full of punchy syncopations, and Jaylin gets to show her excellent vocal range.

The main hook of the track is on the verse: “Waiting every day for a miracle to come and sweep me away..”. Just when you think the sound can’t get any more varied, Chris Sclafani takes over on lead vocals, his understated tone acting as a nice counterpoint to Jaylin’s more expressive style. The song is about struggling with life’s troubles yet manages to be incredibly uplifting.

After the third verse the music really goes to another level, with the brass becoming more dominant, and in the space of a minute the music flips between jazz, funk and progressive rock, with fantastic guitar and keyboard solos from Andrew Rohlk and Nelson Valentine. It ends with one last blow out chorus and verse that leaves the listener on a high.

Overall, this band have achieved what many attempt but few achieve; they’ve fused all their eclectic styles into one giant melting pot and the result is a potent and original sound. Not only are the musicians and singers first rate, but Miracle shows their gift for writing inspirational and catchy music with depth to the lyrics. Everyone should get to experience Evolution of The Groove.

 

VERDICT =  9.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Tom Rawling’s Old Ladies Peep Show by Brad Geiger

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http://www.bradgeigermusic.com

Brad Geiger is a composer and musician from Los Angeles. Growing up, he lived in seven different towns and this itinerant life continue into adulthood. He spent years travelling across Europe and Australia, living three years overseas. He sees himself as a product of the L.A. indie/DIY scene and is also an author. In fact, this concept album is based on the fictional ancestors of characters featured in his fourth book, An Encyclopedia Of Time Traveling Criminals.

While this may sound like an unusual genesis for an album, the music contained in these eleven tracks is also rather unusual. It’s an extremely unique hybrid of rock, jazz, classical , hip hop and electronica, which has several similarities with progressive rock. But whereas prog-rock is well known for its musically epic proportions and lengthy instrumental solos, Geiger’s music is constructed and performed with the tight discipline and structure of classical music.

This is immediately manifest in the album’s opening track, Tom Rawling’s Old Ladies Peep Show Intro. Based around a jazzy, unpredictable chord progression, the track is built around swirling patterns of a clean sounding, almost jazz guitar-like synth, performed with metronomic accuracy.

It brings to mind the rock/jazz fusion of Frank Zappa who also incorporated classical elements into his music, but Geiger’s style is more symphonic and there is not a note wasted or out of place. It serves as a good introduction to both his inimitable idiosyncrasies as a composer, and to this album.

From then on, the track titles refer to the ancestors of character’s in his book, with the second track entitled Eleanor O’ Grady Rawling. This one shows the more electronic influence in his music, and how his gift for melody is juxtaposed against unexpected left turns in the music. This track develops a brooding intensity as it progresses, as swirling synths compete for attention, interacting in intricate ways.

Third track Alicia Poole O’Reilly takes the electronica style even further with a heavily dubstep-influenced sound of pounding kicks and snares, skittish, complex hi hat rhythms and edgy synths. It’s perhaps the most cutting edge, modern sounding composition here and the drum programming towards the end is superb. It’s brief at around ninety seconds but packs quite a punch.

The fourth track Alicia Poole O’ Reilly is rather more sparse and sombre in tone. A simple but plaintive piano and string melody is contrasted by a very intricate, hip hop influenced rhythm full of syncopations and triplets which gives the music a sophistication that will stand up to repeated listens. A lot of electronica fans will find much to enjoy here with this track, in particular.

Monica Duff Gallagher is another contrast, with a much more upbeat tone and ascending melody with a relatively simpler beat. The insistent way the melody is repeated brought to mind minimalist classical composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass (something akin to Koyaanisqatsi), incorporated into the electronic realm, of course.

Sixth track Rebecca Holt Smith feels like the closest to what you might call mainstream EDM, with a pounding beat that would work on the dancefloor. The synth melodies have an anthemic quality that the leading DJ/producers would be proud to call their own, though the music builds in a more intelligent way than you would find on a standard EDM record.

Angela Meaney O’ Brien is my personal favourite on the album, an intense rollercoaster ride of electronica, thrust along by dizzying synth melodies and an insistent, addictive beat. The way the music progressed reminded me of artists like Jean-Michel Jarre and the wondrous keyboard playing of Rick Wakeman.

Prog-rock fans will particularly love this. Eighth track Kelsey Cohen Powell is a distinct contrast, with a slinky laid back beat and a languid, reflective main melody. The drumming on this is excellent, with a nice groove. You could imagine future hip hop artists wanting to sample it.

Peggy Gallagher is the epic on the album at over five minutes. It starts out in a dubstep style, with a blistering beat featuring rapid-fire kick drum patterns. As it progresses, it wanders into somewhat more ambient, expansive and exploratory territory. The synth sounds start to become more distant and dreamy sounding, and there’s something about the main melody that made me think of Kraftwerk. A fascinating fusion of styles.

Molly Powell O’ Brien sounds almost like a continuation of the previous track, which is fairly common for a concept album, adding to the cohesiveness of the whole. The synth sounds on this one are rather more ‘choral’ in parts, for want of a better word. Another fine track that maintains the compositional high standard of the rest of the album.

Final track Margaret Ann O’Brien Gallagher has a certain emotional poignancy in its main melody, aided by a serene tempo. It has a kind of cinematic effect, akin to a final scene fade out, and I’d imagine probably correlates to an emotional aspect or scene in the book. There’s a nice handling of the music here, with multiple melodies interweaving, and it ends the album with a sense of understated drama.

Overall, this is an enjoyably innovative, quirky and imaginative album, all the more praiseworthy for being released in an era where the album format is a dying art. Fortunately, real artists always find a way and are prepared to go against the grain. It certainly requires a high degree of compositional skill to create an instrumental album that sustains the listeners interest throughout, as Geiger achieves here. While it’s a fine album in its own right, it intrigues the listener to know more about this multimedia project, and I look forward to further work in whatever form.

 

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Dreamland by Jennifer Maidman

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Official website: www.jennifermaidman.com

Jennifer Maidman is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer originally from Upminster, England. Jennifer has had a remarkable and extensive musical career casting back to 1976, with her first release being L-L-Lazy Days as a writer member of the group Red Hot. While working at Decibel Studios in London  she recorded and mixed Marc Bolan’s I Love To Boogie.

She then went to become a founder member of Penguin Cafe Orchestra (1984-2007), several members of which contributing on this album. As a musician, producer or writer has worked with an array of famous artists including Joan Armatrading, Ian Dury, Boy George, Shakespeare’s Sister and Linda McCartney, to name but a few. Amongst numerous commercial successes, the album Hormonally Yours by Shakespeare’s Sister stands out. It went double platinum, spawning the hit single Stay which reached number one in several countries.

This album, Dreamland consists of seventeen tracks and it’s an epic musical odyssey that encompasses an eclectic range of genres including rock, funk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, spoken word and musique concrete, Irish folk and world music…. sometimes within the same song!

It was recorded largely in 2016 at Dreamland studios in Woodstock, in Upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains. Jennifer has recruited a team of musicians of the highest quality (Jerry Marotta on drums , David Torn plays guitars  & Annie Whitehead plays trombone, Paul Brady, Robert Wyatt, Sam Brown, Mitt Gamon) that have helped her realize her creative vision, and the flawless production matches the musical ambition of the project. Jennifer produced the album herself, another string to her bow.

Opening track Conspiracy of Dreamers is an odyssey in itself, a smoky, seven minute rock/funk track with soul and gospel thrown into the mix. Lyrically, it’s very apposite for the era, and could be perceived about wanting to escape and transcend the endless political and social turmoil. It also relates to the whole album’s theme of achieving your dreams and achieving freedom to be truly yourself as an individual.

While the album does deal with universal themes and issues, it is essentially about the emotional and spiritual journey Jennifer has gone through as a transgender person. The documentary that accompanies the album gives insight into its genesis and subject matter, with second track Hinterland containing a spoken word excerpt that depicts the sense of emotional isolation she felt growing up. This documentary was made by Dakota Lane and has been selected by the NYC Indie film festival to be screened in May.

This sense of isolation and turmoil is explored in Outside, which is a complete contrast to the musical fireworks of the first track. Just piano and Jennifer’s vocal comprise the soundscape, the sparseness suiting to the vulnerability and emotional rawness of the lyrics. It brought to mind the fragile beauty of Antony and The Johnsons, with Antony also a transgender artist.

The following Red Heart reverts back to the style of the opening song, a driving piece of rock/funk about expressing a passionate and sensual temperament. The music captures perfectly the primal energy that the song is depicting and hits upon a killer groove. The musical modulations cleverly reflect the subject matter and creates a fierce musical tension.

This Man Is Dangerous is one of the most emotive songs on the album, about how Jennifer felt almost like a malevolent presence in the world as a man: “Caught in the shadow of a man you’ll never be, running from a face without a name….”. The Letting Go is another epic eight minute song, and this one brought to mind the more reflective songs on David Bowie’s last two albums. There is a similar worldly wisdom to the lyrics, borne from authentic lived experience.

O Caroline is a nice change of pace, an acoustic ballad that brought to mind the songwriting of Ray Davies of The Kinks and is one of the most conventional love songs on the album, musically, with a very catchy hook. No Man’s Land is another well arranged and detailed song with an orchestral feel.

In parts, it sounds like E.L.O. and early Pink Floyd, when Syd Barrett was the main creative force, and at times has the jazz-tinged symphonic grandeur of Brian Wilson’s legendary Smile album. Lyrically, it depicts the healing ability of both music and love as well as a feeling of finding home after a long period of estrangement.

Bird Dreams is an evocative spoken word instrumental that somehow seems to have delved into the collective unconscious and captured the wisdom that comes in dreams: “To be a bird, one must first learn the art of perfect waiting….a sea of agitation drowns the precious moment…the demon of logic consumes your precious bird dreams….”.

Open The Door is a welcome return to the funky and uplifting soul-infused rock of the earlier songs. About halfway through, it modulates and drifts off to some wonderfully unexpected places. The jazz influence is more manifest in the haunting Land of Dreams, with rich, Bacharach-esque chordal voicings. Lyrically, it brings us back to the album’s title and underlying theme, and achieves a remarkably dislocated, dreamlike sense of floating outside time and space.

Here, another short audio excerpt from the documentary (featuring the voice of its maker, Dakota Lane) depicts the imagery of a crow, and the parallel between the freedom of bird flight and Jennifer’s journey of self is obvious. The brief but lovely Home takes us back to the delicate piano balladry of Outside (this one with a beautiful string arrangement) and lyrically seems pivotal to the album’s theme: “Born such a long way from our home….”.

The Magic Voice is one of the finest songs on the album, an ode to the redemptive and spiritual power of music itself (“A mystical phone, a shaman in my head…”) and the kind of quirky and inventive pop at which the British have always excelled. It brings to mind the restless inventiveness of Todd Rundgren’s similarly mystical and epic album A Wizard, A True Star along with The Beatles at their most avant garde.

The way the music drifts off into another sonic universe from around the three minute mark is very cleverly executed, flowing seamlessly into the transcendental last two tracks, both instrumentals. Higher Than Life? has a tribal feel that made me think of the wild freeform jazz of Miles Davis’s classic Bitches Brew.

The closing Crow’s Dance brings us back to earth, as if the crow has finally reached its destination. It’s a joyous mélange of Irish folk and world music featuring accordion, brass, strings, mandolin and more. It’s superbly arranged with a subtle intricacy and somehow seems the perfect way to complete this epic emotional and musical story.

Overall, in an era where art and culture is increasingly adapted to the short attention span of the modern generation, to make such a sprawling and musically ambitious album cannot be commended highly enough. It shows artistic integrity and bravery, and the result is a unique musical document of her own emotional journey, saying plenty of truthful wisdom about life and the world along the way. A wonderful album by a very individual artist which richly deserves all the plaudits it receives.

VERDICT: 9.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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Watch a short documentary on the making of the album:

Buy the album from CD Baby HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: 120 Onetwenty by Daniel Biro

 

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A signed, limited edition of this album is available from Daniel Biro’s official website, click HERE.

Daniel Biro is a musician, composer and producer based in London. He was originally trained in jazz but his creative output has expanded into an eclectic array of genres including ambient, prog rock, psychedelia and fusion, to name just a few. These diverse sonic explorations have been fuelled by his love of analog synthesizers and other electronic sounds.

He has numerous film and TV credits to his name including work for the BBC, numerous award winning short films and the score for the film Things of the Aimless Wanderer, which was featured in several film festivals. Aside from his solo work, he plays live in two bands, an electric psychedelic jazz band called Mysteries Of The Revolution and an ambient improv band Echo Engine.

His influences are wide ranging as you expect; jazz greats like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, progressive rock like King Crimson and Tangerine Dream, ambient and instrumental artists like Brian Eno, Vangelis and Mike Oldfield. The influence of minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass should not be underestimated.

An understanding of these various artists is important in fully appreciating Daniel Biro’s nuanced music. This album, 120 Onetwenty, is an hour long musical odyssey that has taken six years to complete. It consists of ten tracks of varying duration, mostly under the category of ‘epic’ and has been produced entirely with Biro’s collection of vintage analog keyboards. This shows in the overall sound which is rich and full, as opposed to the digital sonic thinness of much mainstream electronic music.

Opening track Door is one of the shortest and serves as an introduction to Biro’s sonic universe. It sets a mood instantly, a soundscape that disorientates the listener by somehow standing outside space and time. Once this dislocation has been accepted, the music feels meditative and psychedelic in the most profound sense. Pitch shifting synths that sound like futuristic war sirens create a mesmerizing mood, mingling with delicate splashes of Rhodes piano, one of Biro’s favourite sounds.

Second track Ancient is the one of the ‘epics’. It’s a masterpiece in slow musical development, building in complexity naturally and gradually like Mike Oldfield’s finest work, though more minimalistic in style. The way the music grows and expands organically, almost symphonically, shows the influence of classical composers like Reich and Philip Glass. It also brought to mind the other worldliness of The Orb’s ambient classic double album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld.

The main melody doesn’t begin for 6 minutes and then really starts cooking, continuing seamlessly into Nimbus. It begins with an arpeggio-based chord sequence on Rhodes before being joined by an airy high-end synth melody that makes the listener feel they are orbiting roughly around Betelgeuse. Flashes of organ act as a nice textural counterpoint to the more spacey synth tones.

The pulsating 6/8 rhythm continues and progresses in fourth track Itinerarium. Musically, it’s the exact halfway point between jazz and electronica, with a complex bass drum pattern gradually emerging as several themes and textures combine in a polyphonic spree (good name for a band?). It then breaks down into a fantastic Rhodes section, with some superb xylophone-esque melodies floating across the sonic spectrum. It slowly dies away like the embers of a fire, bringing this overall section to a close.

Fifth track Embark grips from the outset, with a catchy chugging synth riff combining with an excellent high-end melody that morphs through several sounds. This time the rhythm is an insistent groove in 4/4 that really explodes around the two minute mark. This piece is a good example of Biro’s unique fusion of genres; if pushed I’d classify it as ambient psychedelic jazz/electronica, but really it defies categorization!

Seventh track Levitator starts out hauntingly with a sparse use of sound and space  then unfolds with a superbly controlled natural sense of musical development. It eventually reaches an astonishing crescendo and climax that actually makes you feel you’re levitating. The synth sounds at this point are mind blowing, the music having an emphatic grandeur all the more effective for the understated style that precedes it. This one is my personal favourite.

Seventh track Barren is a wonderful piece of musical impressionism that conjures up the image of being marooned on an alien planet that’s, well, barren. Its mysterious atmosphere brought to mind some of the more abstract moments of Holst’s classic suite The Planets. The following Immortal is equally dreamlike and gives the impression of gently floating through space forever. Once again, it slowly develops into a spinning web of intricate themes and melodies.

Ninth track Returning is a continuation once again with the nicely overdriven electric piano having an almost guitar-like edginess to the tone, which adds a little grit to the overall sound. Spatial, reverb-drenched synth strings give this track an almost orchestral feel which certainly adds to the epic vibe. The music catches fire around the six minute mark, some fabulous speaker-panning swirling sounds creating an intoxicating effect.

The closing piece Outside strips things right down to a sparse, enigmatic soundscape….the sound of gentle rolling waves and the most subtle of melodic themes, while a plethora of sounds from outer space float around as if suspended in mid air. It feels like a suitably mysterious finale for what has been an epic musical voyage.

Overall, this is a highly ambitious but perfectly executed electronica/ambient album. It highlights the importance of the album as an art form, as this work takes the listener on a sonic adventure where the sequence and arrangement of the tracks form a symphonic whole. It’s an album that rewards the listeners investment of attention, and gives the magical feeling of being transported to another place. To fans of this kind of music it will be adored, but it deserves to be appreciated on a much wider scale. If you’re looking for a unique musical experience, look no further than Daniel Biro’s 120 Onetwenty.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: No More Reprise by Norine Braun

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Norine Braun is a singer/songwriter hailing from Vancouver who is already very established and has won several awards in a long and successful career. Her music is an eclectic blend of blues, rock, soul and jazz which she has performed worldwide at festivals and elsewhere to both critical and public acclaim. With a lengthy back catalogue behind her she is now releasing her eleventh album Kind of Blues, with No More Reprise as the lead-off track.

The song grabs the listener’s attention from the very start with a warm, rootsy sound based around a funky drum groove, catchy bassline, slick wah-wah drenched guitar and wailing, bluesy harmonica. Norine soon enters the fray with a distinctive and authentic vocal style, mildly reminiscent of Arethra Franklin albeit with a lighter tone.

The lyrics depict a relationship that has hit the rocks owing to her partner being a good-for-nothing, the protagonist having reached her wit’s end with them: “No more sleeping in this bed, no more tears about you shed…”. The acerbic lyrical style fits perfectly with the strident mood of the music, which follows the traditional pattern of twelve bar blues. There is no obvious chorus as you’d find in standard pop, but the song is so catchy throughout that you soon find yourself singing along. After the second verse, there is a concise, effective guitar solo performed with a Hendrix-esque tone and some nice harmonica licks in the last verse to keep the listener gripped to the end.

Overall, this is a fresh, funky and highly enjoyable piece of modern blues written and performed by a versatile and mercurial talent. For those who appreciate music with heart and soul and who are looking for undiscovered gems outside the banal mainstream, look no further than the music of Norine Braun.

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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