Gilbert Engle continues to display his music versatility and technical proficiency, the latest example to come across my desk being his 2016 “Piano Sonatas” release. These tunes maintain a feverish pace throughout and convey a lively, bright and upbeat mood. One can envision a scenario where crowds of people they are moving briskly through the sidewalks of a bustling metropolis, set to this music. “Piano Sonata 8,” one of the best tracks on the album, is an excellent example of this. All of the songs are simply numbered this way rather than given esoteric abstract titles. It gives a certain businesslike and perhaps modernist quality to the overall aesthetic. Engle delivers pure substance and never seems to rely on catchy titles or sloganeering in his work. His focus is entirely on creating the best piece of music possible. This is extremely refreshing when one considers that a good portion of contemporary music is almost entirely based around the marketing and image, with little attention paid to actual songwriting or even the music itself.
Engle’s piano handiwork is meticulously performed with an articulated precision. My favorite track is “Piano Sonata 4″ I listened to several times in a row. It gave off the vibe of a hypnotic roller coaster ride with it’s teeter-totter of highs and lows and ups and downs. Even though the piano is the only instrument being used, this is by no means a somber or light album. The fast forward pacing gives these songs all the heightened energy of a downtown afternoon. It’s a terrific collection of tunes which are yet another representation of both the prolific level of output and quality that Gilbert somehow manages to maintain.
Sunterra is a well known Austrian independent metal band that is making a comeback after a 10 year hiatus. On the surface their appearance resembles that of a standard metal band, but appearances can be deceiving. Their new album, “Reborn,” while retaining the ambiance and aesthetic of old school metal is actually an eclectic mix which incorporates gothic, industrial, electro, and even dubstep elements. These various elements are subtly and meticulously merged together, creating a distinct and cohesive sound (essentially metalstep) while not coming across as a stew of mush by combining all these different ingredients. A lot of metal bands look only to the purity and heroes of the past, so Sunterra’s creative approach and commitment to the future is refreshing.
Charles Luck and Tino Red team up here to create the musical number, “One Love.” It’s one of those light and refreshing summertime pop songs, the kind with a little bit of hip hop flavor thrown in. This actually reminds me of the kind of jam you would hear in the fun romantic scenes of a late 90s or early 2000s teen movie. Or it would work well as music in a commercial for just about anything love oriented. It doesn’t come across as cheesy though, just straightforward and solid quality.
A lot of rappers can’t sing at all and simply rely on style, lyrical ability and flow, but Tino Red sings incredibly well. He shows his range and artistic versatility throughout. He could probably excel as a professional vocalist in almost any musical genre.
The audio quality once again is top notch. It actually sounds better than most of what you’d hear on the radio (from an artistic standpoint as well as content and production wise.) I don’t know how these guys can put out so much material. It’s really coming together for them.
Earthquakes is another new track from Charles Luck and his collective. They continue to crank out an impressive volume of work without sacrificing any quality. This particular jam is a mix of pop, light hip hop and EDM which is carried by the sparkling vocals of Addie, a female vocalist. Wisely, producer Ian Hanks and the rest of the crew kept effects to a minimum and didn’t ruin her vocals with a lot of unnecessary processing. The result is that Addie’s voice shines throughout the song with near crystal clarity, while Tino Red chimes in midway through the song with a well timed rap interlude.
The catchiest parts both musically and lyrically for me are the “starting earthquakes, moving mountains…” phrases which are repeated several times throughout the song as part of a lovely musical progression. It builds and rebuilds each time to an epic EDM chorus which delivers the payoff excitable types will be waiting for. As with the other songs associated with this collective, “Earthquakes” exudes a positive, energetic and upbeat tone throughout.
UK band “Magazine Gap” has produced a video for their new single “In Two Minds” (which they describe as a song about mixed feelings.) My first impression of their music is how incredibly well polished it is. This is a high quality professional production. More importantly, the great production values in this instance effectively reveal the band’s talents through clarity, rather than mask deficiencies with a lot of smoke and mirrors. All of the music fits together nicely to form a solid adult contemporary styled pop song. The vocals of James Keen in particular stand out as being quite remarkable. A lot of indie bands and artists have passable vocals, but I mean this guy can really sing. The video itself is clean and keeps it relatively light, adopting a somewhat minimalist aesthetic. The view alternates between the band performing in a studio and scenes of friends spending time together at what appear to be cafes, bowling alleys etc.
This is an up and coming band and with a few good breaks I could see some of their music charting given that it is already as good or better than 90% of what you’d hear on the radio. This song is available for pre-order on iTunes and is expected to be released officially on Jan 27.
Accomplished singer, composer, and lyricist, Pauline Frechette has released a magnificent new piece title “A Quiet Walk in the Snow.” It is an incredibly poignant song that maintains a consistently gentle pacing throughout. It seems to me that it evokes a range of emotions as a reflection of one’s current mindset. When one takes a quiet walk in the winter, it can be one of somber reflection or it can be a majestic experience of joy. Is this a walk of joy or one of sadness? Perhaps both. The context is open to interpretation.
Pauline seems to have roots in French Quebec. Though renowned composer David Campbell is credited with the arrangements, I can’t help but notice how distinctly European this composition comes across. It actually reminds me very much of the film scores of classic French and Italian films of the 1970′s. This would fit right in with the best of them.
“A Quiet Walk in the Snow” is a fine example of what gifted artists can achieve if they dedicate enough time and passion to mastering their craft. Pauline manages to combine meticulous instrumental precision with elevated abstract emotion. It all comes together quite impressively.
“Grieve the Astronaut” is exactly the kind of musical project I love to feature on here. Not too much is known about the band. As their name suggests, they seem focused artistically on a “re-birth of shattered dreams.” Their self-titled album is epic. It very much has the feel of a soundtrack to a space opera. While their style has been compared to groups like Pink Floyd, I must say the tracks on “Grieve The Astronaut” would have fit right in on the soundtrack of films like “Dune.” Everything about this release just oozes with talent, class and imagination. It’s crafted with professionalism and musiciansmanship. It’s like if you fused classical music with futuristic synthwave. This is a terrific release.
One noticeable pattern in much of Charles Luck and his associates’ work is the positivity and uplifting nature of the content. This isn’t just limited to the lyrics but also is evident in the music itself. The beats, the tonality, the melody and even the choice of sounds lends itself creating a positive atmosphere. “Lift Off” (Featuring Tino Red) is no exception to this. Even the title hints at optimism about the future, or at least a possible future.
Where “Lift Off” succeeds is in allowing hip hop to explore new dreamlike themes while managing to avoid a lot of the tired cliches that have stifled meaningful creativity in the genre. One of the great things about the internet, is that it has made collaboration with far away artists more feasible than ever before. Such collaboration results in interesting collectives and ambitious projects such as “Lift Off.”
The song is smooth and mellow, without trying to be slick or clever. Tino Red delivers his rhymes with a relaxed and methodical musicality. One doesn’t hear the stirrings of any misplaced angst in his voice or get the sense that he has a chip on his shoulder. I’m confident these guys will continue to put out good quality work because they’re talented and appear to be in this for the right reasons.
Based in Paris, France, Han Sino has released a new album called, “The Blue Shapes Core.” He describes his style as “groovy instrumental” and “NuJazz.” After listening to his latest release I think that’s a very accurate description of his sound. It is kind of a “psychedelic Jazz.” His songs typically open with some quiet and minimal bass lines, soon introducing other instruments until the music builds into a colorful and dreamlike kaleidoscope of sound. The tracks all have single word titles like “Azure,” “Turquoise,” “Persian,” and so on. According to Han, these are intended to represent “the imaginary soundtrack of erotic and fairy-like variations of the color blue.” The titles help to create a certain ambiance for each song, thus enhacing the listening experience by giving your mind something to visualize with the experience.
The songs frequently change within themselves, with some parts being very different from the next, giving them a bit of unpredictability throughout. This works very well because it makes you want to listen to the entire song see where it could go, but also sometimes takes the song in odd directions. “Azure” has one of the best intros on the album and incorporates a kind of “chime” sound which gives it a uniqueness to an otherwise psychedelic sound. “Indigo” is another song which makes use of the chimes. My favorite track on “The Blue Shapes Score” is probably “Pastel.” The melody of the strings and echo give the song a kind of fantasy world quality. Listening to it, I pictured elves playing in the forest. “Methylene” is another example of this quality. It’s also one of the few tracks that doesn’t begin with a bass intro. Rather it introduces the full dream sequence immediately which makes it stand out from all the others.
Hans has a lot to be proud of with this release. It’s very pleasant and creative. Some of this music would be ideal for a film soundtrack, but otherwise it would be good to listen to on a long drive, or even if you’re trying to relax and want to put on your headphones and escape the sounds of a loud city.
Journey Room is the debut album from “Pixelfox,” an artist based in Los Angeles whose real name is Eddie Ozarie. He describes it is being “inspired by daily experiences, travels, new places, new experiences” and that it contains “uplifting themes.” The word “uplifting” is actually a great way to describe Journey Room. The track “Life,” for example is energetic and brims with a cheerful and bright ambiance. The song starts out light and bouncy and then builds into a more epic and emotive chorus.
A similar pattern emerges with other tracks like “Maybe the Next Time,” which utilizes empty, almost spoken word styled verses to set up lush and vibrant choruses. After listening to a couple of these songs you start to anticipate these full and colorful choruses like a dopamine rush.
Journey Room has a peppy kind of early 90′s pop feel to it. The recording quality is great. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was “fully produced and recorded in his Los Angeles apartment,” though I realize home recording has come a long way in the last 10 years. This is an excellent release, and hopefully this artist will continue to put out more great stuff.