Friday, April 13, 2012

Jang: Jungle Duets

Electronic/experimental/abstract artist Jang presents his second collaboration album as Jungle Duets, a collection of brief, chaotic, jittery and sometime melodic pieces that are centered around organic instrumentation, obtuse lyrics and layers of noise. I am a fan of this type of electronic music so I was excited to explore what Jang had created and for the most part I was not disappointed. Although I am not entirely sure what portion of collaboration the guests on this LP offered within some tracks, clearly everyone’s efforts came together very nicely. Polished production on top of varied rhythms, forceful guitar chords and random synth made me stand up and notice this LP and plug in my headphones. At times unsettling, Jang has a way of pacing the tracks to create a mood across the entire album. It was ambitious and powerful in its structure. Some of the tracks reminded me a bit of early Brian Eno or modern Electro’s such Xiu Xiu with the passion of the explosive sound. Certainly brief on lyrics, usually just a couple verses or a single chorus and typically under 2:00, I felt these tracks could have been fleshed out more , however I understand this music as "Sketches of the jungle" thus the brevity is fitting. I feel greater strength would have come with fuller compositions with more capacity to gel rather than a collection of sounds but following the agenda of Jungle Duets is still pretty satisfying in itself. Lead off track "Rest" w/ Cheer accident had a joyful beginning and some vivid instrumentation. "Something holds my heart" w/ Favors had a polished pace, with its moody but upbeat tone. I thought I recognized some finger piano in the track. Neat vocal effects and excellent synth work helped to keep the energy high. "Psirens of Sinharaja" w/Kavus Torabi was more conventional in its structure with bass/guitar and came across as a fine progressive track. "Lioness" w/ Brent Gutierrez had some spooky lyrics and heavy distorted guitar and a solid break before an acoustic trail off. "Little Birds" w/ Musical Charis had some cool cello and violin in the beginning and upbeat percussion. Electric piano felt mellow but uplifting. "Pet" w/ UH had scorching guitar throughout and a solid rhythm. "Epiphyte" w/Blake Hartshorn blazed with its guitar work and driving percussion while "Emperor Tamarin" w/image over being began with a noisy intro but gave way to avante’ gard synth and acoustic strumming. "Lara’s melody" w/ Lady Lazarus contained a pretty melody and superb ethereal vocals by Lady Lazarus. I also appreciated the synth in this track. "Brachiators" w/Forest feeling was one of the fasted tracks in regards to tempo on the LP and felt like straight ahead techo at times. Hand claps were effective and I dug the Xylophone and electric piano. "Tikbalang" w/NYKDLN was a strange piece with slowed down vocals, bird sounds and jangly percussion which all came together on a positive way. "Nightfall through the trees" W/ Kevin Lan of the Common Men was the most conventional track in terms of song structure. Heavy reverberated vocals were incomprehensible but gave the track a lot of depth along with the scorching guitars and strong melody. Overall, I felt this second collaboration from Jang was a success in terms of choosing interesting artists to work with and strong ideas to fulfill his objective. I would like to see how the style of Jang’s work could be drawn out a bit more with greater composition in regards to both melody and lyrical content. Perhaps the third installment will fulfill my wish.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

World5: Global Experience

World5 is an Internet collaboration effort with members as wide spread as New Zealand and Germany as well Sweden and the US). Clearly skilled musicians, they present their new LP Global Experience as a culmination of each members  greatest strengths with producer Randy Miller (Destiny’s Child ,Burt Bacarach) at the helm to bring it all together. World5 has produced a solid, relaxed, earnest and enjoyable work of adult contemporary pop that has a shiny gloss and some feel good moments. This LP had some quality touches. Sax, percussion and joyful harmonies were present on this collection of mostly love songs. Opening track “The morning light” contained some effective harmonies and a bold saxophone solo along with some intriguing percussion.  Standout first single “You and I” was an earnest love song and had an Island getaway feel that set the mood. A pretty melody and some fine acoustic strumming really stood out for me. “All my heart”, with its accapello opening and catchy chorus captured my interest as well. I really felt that the lead singer had a good grasp on the style of music being presented and his core audience and helps to promote that in his vocal style. “So sincere” was a bouncy track with a winning melody, one of my favorite tracks on the LP. “Bring your heart home” was a slow tempo love song that set the mood but I felt that the chorus was lacking a solid hook however, I felt the harmonies were decent. “The line”, a rocker morphing into a moody piece about infidelity, felt a little Cliché in terms of lyrics, but ultimately was effective in its message. “Jump and shout”, containing smooth sax and straight forward lyrics worked well in this writer’s opinion. Fine guitar work and a simple message brought it home for me. “Walk away” had a  pop sheen and some alluring keyboard work while the bouncy “Dream House” , with its soulful intro and shout along chorus was worth repeated listens especially for its fine guitar work. “A day for lovers”, clearly written for weddings with the pretty piano opening, was an earnest ballad and I would imagine could become a hit with brides and grooms this year. “Living” with its pretty acoustic guitar strumming and an acoustic version of “You and I” closed the LP in fine form. Overall I thought the LP was well paced, demonstrated some fine musicianship and production. The LP felt like it was recorded by all members in one studio which is a good indication of the quality production and mastering.  It was a cohesive work of adult contemporary pop that I feel could do well with the genre’s core audience as well as new listeners.

Friday, April 6, 2012

ZProject: Theory

Hailing from California, electronic musician ZProject unveils the EP Theory, a collection of mostly chilled out loops and electronic beats. The premise of ZProject’s music, similar to many other artists in this genre, is stacking layer upon layer of electronic instruments to build a composition which should flow smoothly and effortlessly. Theory has some nice moments of inspiration and sets a mood but tends to lack passion, dynamics and originality in order to set it apart within its genre. To this critic it felt a little too predictable in its form, pattern and instrumentation but was not without its charms. "Beat-89" contained a snappy horn loop and a solid rhythm but tended to be a little too predictable, i.e. cut ,paste, repeat. The flute added a nice touch and I thought the production really helped the track however I felt that some proper mastering might be in order to get the levels standard. "Fashion Gargantuan" had a solid bass line and great breaks. Impressive synth and theremin rounded out the track nicely . "Ibiza" had a laid back chill which caught my interest. There were some issues with volume level and fadeouts which I thought could be smoother and the beat was a bit repetitive and unimaginative. To me the track felt promising but unfinished. "Jeckel", with its heavy synth work and moody vibe, felt like the most complex track on the EP. I found some really interesting sounds in this track, especially toward the 2nd half. "Super" had a funky bass line and solid keyboard work with tight breaks and a smooth flow. "70’s scene", with its groovy electric piano intro and interesting wah-wah guitar effects and organ really impressed me. Solid beats and breaks throughout. Rounding out the EP with "Skank Theory" was a smart move considering its mellow opening, solid pacing and overall chilled out vibe. Good way to finish the EP. Overall, I felt that this EP was a good dabble into the genre of chilled out electronic music but felt it was a little too clean and predictable to leave me with any lasting impression.