Album Review: Brad Couture – Lower Tones

Brad Couture Lower Tones
Standard

Lower Tones is the first full length album from New Hampshire-based composer Brad Couture (his sixth release if you count his earlier works under the name Sleevenotes).

Couture’s serene cinematic tunes are perfect for relaxing to. I’ve played it often in the evenings lately, and find Lower Tones helps me to unwind brilliantly at the end of a busy day. It’s the soundtrack to sitting curled up in a warm blanket with a steaming mug clasped between your hands.

Well, it could be the soundtrack to whatever you choose really. Herein lies the appeal of instrumental music – the interpretation sits with the listener. Couture has licensed music to clients including The History Channel, ESPN, and Monster Energy, so his abilities clearly transcend mere playing around for a hobby.

Like all the solo instrumentalists who submit their work to me, Couture possesses an unfair amount of talent. Mastering one instrument is hard enough. Being able to play a variety of instruments, arrange them in a compelling way, and record them in a home studio is just showing off.

The music is predominantly soft and subtle, as one would expect from an ambient cinematic project. Couture relies heavily on piano and synths to weave an aural tapestry, before employing other instruments to enhance the music.

Cello offers a rich bass sound that synth or bass guitar cannot replicate the same way. Acoustic and electric guitars also help to colour the music, with the distant scorching guitar solo featuring in “Driving Through The Golden Hour” taking the cake for one of the finer moments of the album.

“Restland” is my album highlight, purely due to how evocative I find it. A deep warm hum sounds replicates a conch shell. Violin sets a solemn scene, with light pads and percussion adding gravitas before making space for sparse piano notes. I can picture viking warships setting out on a voyage to distant lands far across the ocean.

If well crafted ambient music for relaxation sounds like you then look no further than Brad Couture. He has done a stellar job with this release and you owe it to yourself to unwind to his music.


Brad Couture links:

Bandcamp: https://bradcouture.bandcamp.com/

Website: http://www.bcouturemusic.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/bcouturemusic

Twitter: twitter.com/bcouturemusic

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Defend The Rhino – Static Breeze

Defend The Rhino Static Breeze Album Art
Standard

Despite the very pop-punk sounding name, Edmonton’s Defend The Rhino is a solo cinematic instrumental project from singer-songwriter / composer / audio engineer Nathaniel Sutton. With a CV like that, Sutton sounds more than qualified to release an album.

Said album, entitled Static Breeze, is actually the second Defend The Rhino release, featuring ten short tracks that would all fit comfortably within the context of a film.

The album has a somber start ,with soothing waves of soft pads and heartfelt violins, broken up with lingering single piano notes. The second track progresses to using chords on the piano instead of singular notes, and drums add a welcome element.

There are some great elements in said track, “Sound The Alarm”, that are hard to pick up on unless you pay close attention. For example, the bass line at the start is adds awesome feel, but is hidden deep in the mix. Towards the end we hear some brilliant tinkling xylophone that should really stand out, but is again lost and ends up as a minor detail. This is among my favourites on the album because the drum beat and piano ostinato add such energy and liveliness to this song .

The bass notes on “Fade To Dusk” are well captured. I can visualise the thick, dense strings vibrating each time we hear it played. It is here that we are introduced to a ghostly coo that Sutton employs in a few songs – an odd mournful wailing effect that makes the song sound ominous.

Most of these tracks a short and direct, unlike a lot of instrumental music I listen to. They tend to keep the same theme throughout without delineating far from the key melody or beat. The drums especially make the songs appear straightforward, with the same simple beat dominating many tracks. I can tell that they aren’t programmed – there are little giveaways like rapping on the rims in “Dim Lights” and the snare drags in “Fallen Leaf” – but they feel rigid enough that I can tell that the person behind the kit would feel more at home playing another instrument.

“Fallen Leaf” features a funky electric organ tune reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and “Running In The Dark” just screams David Bowie’s “Heroes”. The latter is the only track on the album with vocals. Hoarse and almost whispered, the singing mirrors Bowie’s delivery of holding back until the chorus, creating suspense as we wait for the crescendo.

This is first and foremost a cinematic piano record. Beautiful evocative, it provokes my imagination into conjuring up all kinds of scenes to fit the music. Sutton includes a variety of instruments and effects to colour in the sounds, making for a varied listen. Static Breeze would be the perfect study album, with pleasant sounds in the background that could help you focus and lift your mood. And of course, it would work brilliantly soundtracking a film, seeing as it is so cinematic in nature.


Static Breeze is due out April 7th through Mint 400 Records,

Defend The Rhino links:

Website: www.nathanielsutton.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/defendtherhino
Twitter: www.twitter.com/defendtherhino
Instagram: www.instagram.com/defendtherhino

 

Album Review: George Will – Dawn

George Will Dawn Album Cover
Standard
George Will almost quit music after his band Audrey Fall released their album Mitau in 2014. He sold off most of his gear and the guitars gathered dust for almost two years. But in recent times the film scores he was listening to inspired him to revisit the piano. One thing led to another, and he start playing again. Thank goodness he did.

Fittingly, the titular opening track from Will’s new solo album, Dawn, reflects that story. It begins with Will playing softly on the piano, and evolving into something bigger by encompassing more instruments as Will regains his confidence.

 

Will sought out to create music that sounded different to his post-rock work of the past. Initially he used minimalist piano and cello, and his repertoire expanded as he experimented.

The very Lights & Motion sounding “Mist” takes us into cinematic territory with violins and hopeful guitars. “Rhea” also sounds suitably cinematic, with delicate piano setting the mood for a solemn affair that turns triumphant.

By comparison, tracks like “Rust” and “Iris” venture into more metal territory, even bordering on djent. Because as great as it is to try new things, there’s nothing as fun as letting loose and rocking out.

In all seriousness though, the tasteful symphonic album closer “Arda” is a testament to Will’s talent. The song is expertly crafted, growing gently and gaining momentum until it takes on a life of its own.

My highlight of the album is the last section of “Veil”. This is interesting considering that Will told me that he regarded as “Veil” one of his least favourite songs on the album. I cannot agree with him, because the second half of that song is so stand out to me.There is something irresistible about how the drum and guitar accents compound in such an epic way. Give it a listen when the album drops and please feel free to weigh in on that discussion.

 George Will Dawn Promo pic

Some albums are perfect for driving. Many are great for blasting at parties. Others are earthy and warm and suit being played on a turntable. Dawn is an album for headphones. Plugging it into my stereo or playing it through my speaker just doesn’t compare to listening to the album through headphones so that the all the elements jump out at me.

Will shared with me that he was undecided about whether he prefers being part of a band or going solo. Playing on your own can offer creative freedom, but is perhaps too open-ended without having others to critique your work as you write.

I’m pleased that George Will did decide to try his hand at some solo writing because Dawn is an inspired work. It is a wonderful album ranging from lush cinematic piano compositions to post-metal, stopping off at various instrumental sub-genres on the way through.


George Will Links:

Album Review: Floating In Space – The Edge Of The Light

Floating In Space The Edge Of Light
Standard

 

There is little wonder that Ruben Caballero approached niche record label Deep Elm when he was looking for someone to release his début album, The Edge of Light. Deep Elm have switched their core focus from emo to cinematic post-rock in recent years, and Caballero’s project, Floating In Space, fits within this new vision beautifully.

Deep Elm have always been staunchly independent. In recent years they have adopted a brave strategy and made the move to Bandcamp, offering their entire catalogue up for pay-what-you-want. Obviously this does not make great business sense to offer your product up for potentially no return. The label still managed to make money however, by licensing their music for film soundtracks and advertisements.

Similar to other Deep Elm poster boys like Lights & Motion/Christoffer Franzen, Moonlit Sailor and Dorena, Floating In Space offers an inviting musical soundscape to whisk you away into places far away. The songs stand alone as strong releases, but also offer the potential to soundtrack a big screen blockbuster.

Caballero explores dichotomies with his music, stating “Through my songs, I try to show my vision of a world where light and shadows, calm and fears, solitude and togetherness meet in the vastness of space.” Hence the chosen title for this musical outlet: Floating In Space.

He also comments on the cinematic nature of the music: “There are two things that never cease to inspire me when I look through my window: the sea and the sky. I see all vital experiences, dreams and fears more clearly when taking a night walk along the coastline. Those walks inspire me to describe my feelings through music. So I’ve created an album that I would want to listen to, as if my experiences and feelings were sequences of a movie with my music as the soundtrack””

Floating In Space Ruben.jpg

One setback is that The Edge of Light sounds more like a collection of cinematic snippets than a cohesive album. Unlike most post-rock/ambient projects, the tracks found here never extend far past standard single duration, with longest song ‘Redshift’ clocking in at just shy of four minutes long. This is not to say that brevity is a bad thing, but more a suggestion that some of the tracks could have been pushed further and extended upon.

Sure enough, The Edge of Light spans the emotional spectrum, visiting moods and feelings with lush instrumentation. It really is a ride, ranging from intimate delicacy to intense urgency. One can hear the time and passion Caballero has invested into this project when we unfold the layers and notice each subtle component.

If cinematic music takes your fancy, then let Floating In Space take you on an expansive journey through time, space and emotion.


Floating In Space Links

Bandcamp: http://deepelmdigital.com/album/the-edge-of-the-light

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/floatinginspacemusic/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/floating_music

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/floatinginspace_official/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/floatinginspacemusic

 

Joseph James

EP Review: Gregory Tan – Far And Away

Novacrow Far And Away
Standard

Gregory Tan is a Singaporean composer living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as working as an in-demand sessions player, he composes for a music licensing site that supplies music for many commercial ventures, from HBO television shows to fast food ads to Disney films. So I guess that it’s fair to say that Tan knows a fair bit about instrumental music.

And so he should. He’s completed the ABRSM Violin Syllabus, and recently obtained a certificate of Specialisation from Berklee College in Blues, Classic Rock and Jazz guitar.

Tan is no slob, having studied music at high levels, and writing music for his profession. His recent EP, Far And Away, features four beautifully crafted instrumental tracks.

Far and Away sounds more deliberate than many other post-rock releases, with every song capped around the four minute mark. Often post-rock suffers from being too drawn out, with long slow build ups being broken by clichéd crescendos. The four songs, each starting with “A”, are meant to evoke a sense of wandering and escapism without resorting to the same old stale trends we associated with post-rock.

_MG_6461 as Smart Object-1

“Afterthought” commences with deliberate drumming that lay the path for some wondrously uplifting sleepmakeswaves-esque  guitar riffs. The layers build up joyous harmonies that add life to the rigid drums. The mood lifts and wanes dynamically, never quite staying still long enough to be predictable.

The reverberating chords in “Avalon” set a light ephemeral feel, with the percussive bright cymbals, snare rolls and tom toms providing the skeleton. The song races and explodes with energy at times.

“Atlas of Dreams” sounds somewhat unsettling, with frantic shrill strings chiming in, although lovely tone. Tan shared with me that “Far And Away was created with the intention of combining dissonant melodies with progressive arrangements to evoke a sort of atmospheric tension”, and you can hear that combination of beauty and danger evident here.

The most cinematic sounding track is “Autumn Crossing”, with swelling pads and a galloping tribal beat. As it picks up there is a definite Dorena feel, and I can picture sprites leaping about in the wilderness, although there is an underlying ominous presence as well, with dark simmering china cymbals and a forlorn violin being played in the background.

At first listen, Tan’s previous release, Ostinato, was about as literal as the term modern-classical could denote. The compositions were clearly written as a form of homage to the classical greats, but with in-your-face tones played on electric instruments. By comparison, Far and Away is more subtle, and less rooted in classical style, with more modern post-rock leanings.

By using his diverse compositional knowledge and combining old and new instrumental styles, Tan has created an EP that takes the listener on an exciting journey that seems familiar, but takes constant unexpected turns.


Far And Away can be found on here

Links

 Joseph James

 

ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTOFFER FRANZEN – WIDE AWAKE

Christoffer Franzen Lights Motion Wide Awake
Standard

I’ve always thought the act of sleeping to be somewhat of a strange occurrence.  While essential to one’s health and wellbeing it still strikes an awkward chord in me, especially in the company of new acquaintances.  Having toured and spent numerous nights positioning myself on a stranger’s floor, I’ve never quite become comfortable with the bizarre concept of turning one’s self off for a few hours.  I think I’ve sort of just accepted the process as strange and have never really taken the time to think about why.  We all do it.  Most of us wish we could do more of it.

And then there are people who don’t sleep.  I’ve really only been acquainted with one insomniac in my life and I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of frustration they must experience.  As weird as I find sleeping to be, I’m very grateful that it comes easy for me.  However, with two young kids, I’ve had more than my fair share of sleepless nights.  I love my girls to death but these nights have been an incredible challenge for my sanity and never once have I felt the creative itch at the tired hours of 3 AM.  However, Christoffer Franzen (most notably of Lights & Motion) has been able to channel his sleepless nights in the most remarkable way.

photo_567

Franzen is no newcomer to the art of writing incredibly moving music.  His initial endeavor, Lights & Motion, quickly spread across the globe and captured the attention of Deep Elm Records.  Situated within the genre of cinematic post-rock, Franzen’s music is perfectly suited for TV and film.  He has great writing discipline that allows the music to breathe and grow but not become too drawn out and tired.  Self-taught on every instrument, Franzen orchestrates his music by himself locked away in a small Swedish studio during the early hours of a sleepless night.

Having garnered remarkable success in getting his music placed on major Hollywood film trailers (Concussion, Transcendence, Lone Survivor, to name a few), high profile ad campaigns and Super Bowl commercials, Franzen is a proven musician and, more importantly, a brilliant composer.  With three Lights & Motion albums under his belt, he is set to release his third composer release titled Wide Awake on March 18th, 2016.  Following in the footsteps of Music For Film & Television, Volumes 1 and 2Wide Awake is a twelve song exploration in brevity and mastery.  Unlike Franzen’s work with Lights & Motion, his composer releases are made up of short, straight to the point, orchestrations specifically built for licensing.  And while these pieces may leave the listener yearning for a few more minutes of musical bliss, they still work wonderfully as a whole.

Franzen took a different approach to writing Wide Awake as compared to Music For Film & Television, Volumes 1 and 2.  As the album title hints, he wrote these songs during the day.  This change in writing approach created a beautiful musical result that still remained true to his writing ability but revealed a more inspiring, uplifting side to his talent.  I have a deep appreciation for writer’s who allow their surroundings to drive their work and find Christoffer Franzen’s willingness to use his insomnia to musically articulate himself both rewarding and inspiring.

photo_567_3.png

While Wide Awake was written during the day, it still maintains a dreamy vibe that positions itself nicely next to Franzen’s previous work.  Understanding his background as a composer and his battle with insomnia, immediately moves me to look at each piece on Wide Awake as a short dream.  I’m not an avid dreamer, but when I do dream I find them to be short and fluid, moving in and out of semi-connected storylines.  The brief nature of all of Franzen’s compositions work wonderfully as a soundtrack to a dreamscape that moves from one idea to the next, sometimes working together and other times playing with sporadicity.  I’d like to think that while each of us are sleeping, Christoffer Franzen is hard at work writing the perfect soundtrack to our dreams.

C.J. Blessum

 

This review is about Franzen’s cinematic work. Click here for a review of Franzen’s other project, Lights & Motion.