“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.
You can find more information about Hans below:
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.
For more info:
Makoto Holmberg’s appropriately titled EP, “Slow Night,” is exactly the kind of thing I like to get the chance to review here, since its synthwavy nature puts it under the umbrella of genres I actually enjoy. You get the idea right away with “Crouched Clouds,” the opening number. It’s very chill and almost hypnotic. The songs evoke the ambiance of a dark rainy night in a futuristic city. The pacing of the songs is mellow and methodical, with the exception of the “Riccardo Noè 4th Dimension Remix” version of “Dust and Mirrors,” which has a slightly more upbeat and peppy tempo. That’s probably my favorite track on this EP, and I found myself listening to it multiple times. I’d recommend this EP to anyone going for a drive in the middle of the night.
An accomplished musician and producer, Jason Achilles Mezilis has just put out a video for his song, “Panhandle,” which is one of the standout tracks on his recently recorded vinyl record, “Comedown.” The video production quality for “Panhandle” is extremely professional and well put together, indicating that Jason has made the most of his time and connections in Los Angeles. It’s directed by David Urbanic and features actor Micah Fizgerald waking up in a rather desolate desert and wandering around. The black and white is a nice touch, and the whole thing sort of has a Chris Isaak / David Lynch kind of vibe. The song is entirely instrumental, a sort of brooding and contemplative rock. It seems very much open to interpretation by design, and all in all this is just a very well done and polished release. Clearly a lot of thought and effort went into this project, and it paid off.
For more info:
Not many people can create a large body of work that consistently retains the same high quality. That is what makes Gilbert Engle so impressive. Most veteran musicians will have released all kinds of recordings, but much of it would consist of mediocre or terrible stuff they’d rather didn’t exist. In the case of Engle though, he remarkably puts out a high volume of quality material, which even manages to span across genres.
So with that in mind, it’s no surprise that there’s nothing shabby about his “2015 Jazz Fusion One” release. Right off the bat I was prepared to say that the 4th track was my personal favorite. While this isn’t exactly music designed for teenagers, its energetic and laser beam like synth backing would put it right up there with the best video game boss battle music. It’s totally “danceable” as well and would work in an upscale club atmosphere or hotel bar. Upon continued listening though I realized track is the one that really blows me away. While all of the tracks are predominantly carried by the synth and the horn, the 9th track just has a certain articulate clarity about it. It’s just the most cohesive in terms of the different musical elements working well together, and the melody is the most detailed and precise on the album.
That’s what I like about a lot of Engle’s songs. They have crossover appeal and would fit with a wide variety of environments and audiences, even ones that normally wouldn’t be that receptive to jazz. This is another top tier release from Engle. He shows dedication to his craft.
Well traveled Swiss artist and self described “citizen of the world” Lars Rüetschi has released a new solo piano track titled “Merry Go Round.” For a minimalist piano song to work, the piano playing must be able to stand on its own. Fortunately, “Merry Go Round” does just that. The melody is emotive and complex enough to entangle the listener’s attention and win them over. Piano recording technique is a kind of art in and of itself, and Lars manages to capture a clear and warm natural tone without any of the abrasive clanky sounds typically associated with “indie” piano music.
Even without lyrics, one can sense that “Merry Go Round” is an appropriate title for this release. The song creates an atmosphere of calm and innocence not unlike the sort of actual Merry-Go-Round sequence that would be depicted in an art film. There’s certainly nothing epic about this song, but it is a measured and capable addition to Lars’ growing collection of conveyed musical experiences.
This 11 track debut album by Charles Luck is a team effort and contains a lot of variety as far as sound, as a features a number of musical contributors that vary in style and tone. Luck wrote the songs, and his fellow comrades performed them.
Some background info on Black Astronaut:
Black Astronaut Is A Hip Hop Collective Comprised of Lead Songwriter Charles Luck, Rapper/Singer Tino Red, Rappers Gyro, InZane, Sticky Bud, Vedo, and B Daz. Ex Members Include Pastor C and FlipLeaf. The group has 4 singers: Muze, Jonathan BT, Zack David, and Addie
Conceptually, the whole release seems meticulously put together as an ambitious and visionary project. One thing this album doesn’t do is disappoint. It is very high quality throughout and Luck and crew leave something for everyone. The songs range from hip hop to adult contemporary rock to spoken word poetry, and yet none of it really seems out of place.
Track 2, “Life on Mars,” featuring the terrific singing of Jonathan BT, is the most impressive song in my opinion, and its placement near the beginning is a wise choice, as it sets the tone for this being a polished and professional endeavor. The main single, “Is the Galaxy Just Pimping Me” is catchy and contains a bright and colorful musicality not normally found in most modern hip hop songs. The sparkly and curiosity driven delivery by rapper Tino Red fits perfectly with the question posed as the title of the song. Tino features on several tracks on the album. He maintains a thoughtful, unassuming style consistently, without ever coming across as preachy or lowbrow.
All of the performers are solid, and nobody weighs down the ship. Another memorable song is “Stardust,” a minimalist piano number with Ft. Muze providing a stellar vocal performance.
Black Astronaut hip hop collective claims they want to “reintroduce lyric focused rap music to the new generation.” This album certainly succeeds there, but what it also manages to do is reintroduce artistic minded songwriting to hip hop, something that the genre (which is mostly bogged down in mindless materialism) sorely needs.
Admittedly, there is a lot of competition in the universe of alternative or “indie” hip hop, but if these tracks were as aggressively marketed as they were produced, I could see the potential for some real hits here.
Gilbert Engle continues to demonstrate his musical versatility with this Jazz Reggae release, which has a mellow and sometimes loungy vibe. The light guitar work blends nicely with a Farfisa-like organ tone to give the tracks their reggae flavor. The more organ heavy songs almost have a 70′s psychedelic quality to them. The bass component definitely adds to this. With his detail attentive performance on the saxophone front and center, co-writer Peter Fraise helps deliver on the jazz end. Melody wise, the 9th track is probably my favorite. It’s just the most colorful tune. I’m also very fond of the first song, which at a 1:51 run time left me wanted more. Once I heard the organ, I was hooked.
The production quality is flawless, basically what I’ve come to expect from Engle, given the level of professionalism in his other recordings. What’s impressive about this release though, is that in the process of creating great jazz reggae jams, he manages to obtain some authentic vintage tones, without having to artificially sacrifice any of the recording quality to get them.