Reviews by ReviewYou
Abe’s Logic “Wars Ragin”
This is not an album to be handled lightly. Wars Ragin is an appropriate title, as the first time listener is assaulted with a myriad of different music styles, from a sort of surfer grunge alternative to beautiful sax swing jazz and everything one could imagine in between. Indeed, this is not an album to be judged by the first listening. The album requires your attention like a great series of abstract art, that piece by piece may seem outrageous, yet put all together. They blend into an original understanding of new creative frontiers, through mish-mashing multiple styles into pastiche. Amidst all of this stunning music at some point one realizes, this is mostly just Abe’s style. Not an ensemble, as it often sounds like, its Abraham Vandenberg armed with an uncanny sense of different genres, blending what seems impossible into catchy tunes.
What’s utterly bizarre is, if patient, we’re taken on an adventure starting in a sort of ska feel with “Chippin Away,” and then taken back through time to a cooler John Coltrane like style in the song “Rusty’s Game.” Then, by the title track and the near middle of the album, the guitar gets progressively fuzzier and has a sort of pop-rock feel. This is a clever device for Wars Ragin; cutting lyrics, a reminder of responsibility to social awareness. “ All of the killing, I put out of my mind, Even though everything here now is fine, it’s only a matter of time until…” Until what, well you’ll just have to hear for yourself; the lyrics are worth listening for in context, under the grinding guitar and crashing drums. Then there is a sort of fun intermezzo in the veracity of tone, one moment the world is on Abe’s shoulders, the next he’s relaxing enjoying’ it all in “Easy Life”. Despite its sort of ironic understanding of those who take advantage of him, ultimately the realization is positive, and one reflects on their own participation in helping to make the world a better place. Enter “It’s Not Just Me” and we’re back to the progression where Wars Ragins’ lyrics left us, with Kurt Cobain like guitar riffs yet vocals similar to John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants. Vandenberg’s voice is truly unique, having an ability to be melodramatic and descriptive, as well as harmonious and fun to sing with, as in “I Stepped into the Shade” or “What we Crave.” The feel of this musical odyssey is really good indeed, that only leaves me wanting more power from Abe’s vocals and already anticipating his growth as an artist into braver new subjects, and bolder vocal cadences. If he is already tackling such difficult political matters and making them sound innocent, what greater activism will we see from him in the future?
Aside from the music, there is the message; however few artists exemplify their work. Abraham Vandenberg is different, dedicating much of his work to clean-up and conservation work in his home of Maui, Hawaii. Two years ago Vandenberg teamed up with Christopher Candito to form Nomadic Profusion for the BBC documentary “Message in the Waves,” reaching out to an international audience with a message about the help our oceans are in need of fighting off a globally interconnected plague of plastic. The same spirit is carried through into Wars Ragin, only with a more immediate urgency in the words, yet a lighthearted musical delivery. Abe’s Logic is definitely full of intelligent, wise advice for a cleaner, healthier planet, with years of vitality to spare for the future. With solid core inspiration and such incredible passion for life, Abe’s Logic should be around for a long time to come. They are just what this planet and this culture needs in such wasteful times; cheerful reminders that encourage happiness and responsibility in all our lifestyles, instead of hammering us with guilt and hopelessness. Wars Ragin is a poignant, conscious, realistic understanding of the times that bravely speaks out despite seemingly impossible odds even if, as Abe says, we must continue “chippin’ away just a piece at a time, little by little, change becoming visible.” It is faith in humanity like this that produces real change, and persistence like this that creates the path for legendary artists to build their fame. With hard work, commitment to his values, and confidence, Abe’s Logic could very well be on such a path.
Reviewed By Julian Gorman
Zel’s music has been echoing through my home for just over a week now. Repeating over and over again, the songs mix in and out at first in order, then random, but somehow I can bring myself to write, just everything else. After the initial time I listened to Truth all the way through, I immediately went to my own musical instruments and played for hours until I collapsed into sleep literally, on top of my synthesizer headphones and all. The next time I listened to the album for a few hours in a row, this time meditating, only to go on to do some artwork. On the third run through, I attempted to write while we had company, hoping that comments about the music would be influential to the process. Instead, the music stirred an epic philosophical conversation that spanned hours. All the while, people enjoying the music of Truth, yet no one ever noticing a mere 10 songs were on repeat (actually 9 as Libertas is good enough to revisit at the end of the album up-tempo style) the entire time! But to the end, toes tap, and tongues loosen with the intricate melodies, core to the music that drove the conversation. It was by this time I was realizing just why this review is so difficult to write: Zel’s Truth is empathetic to the listener’s real emotion, giving us honest inspiration, from his genuine love of melody, not only as a musical construct, but as a core theme for his music that extends to life. The songs are liable to send you into a creative frenzy just as much as they can sooth the mind or ease the soul. All of this without a single word spoken, but there’s no need! Zelimir Vukasin’s poetry is in his fingers, the meaning of the lyric is in the way each string is plucked. The rhyme of the unvoiced word is in how the flamenco balances elegantly to the pseudo-acoustic electronica, drums, and strings. Every bit sounds real, like Zel has amassed a world-class percussion section and chamber of strings for your private audience. Letting the music drift out to my deck, laying in the sun, or working in the garden, one can almost feel the Mediterranean breeze in the airy synths. One can hear the ocean waves crash just under where the strum of the guitar meets the rattle-click of the castanets. This record sends one to a happy place that is energetic, yet calm.
On Truth you will find a sort of musical historian’s reverence for the past from a place renown for its multicultural and adventurous heritage, The Pearl of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik, Croatia, brought in honest candor to New York with a scientist’s sense of what is modern, what is still pertinent now, no matter the age or place. The song “First” is a good example. Here we find Zel updating a classic Croatian folk song to a modern sense of musicality with splendid results. It is amazing to think that here in the U.S., I may have simply never even heard it otherwise, and that would be a real shame. The problem with modernity and the race to new advances in any culture is what gets tossed to the wayside in the struggle. Thank goodness for musicians like Zel, keeping these auditory treasures, salvaging their riches for the likes of us! Another song that reaches back in time is “Light”, performed in what is known as an Alegrías, or a strict flamenco structure designed for traditional Spanish dancing. It is a difficult pattern to play (to say the least). The tremolo strum timing is a work of master technical instrumental skill and yet the sound is natural, the timing flawless. Even though it seems at first a stretch that Croatian folk music should translate well into Spanish flamenco, we must remember that long before the Age of Discovery, the great port cities of Cadiz in Spain and Dubrovnik in Croatia, they were close via sailing vessel. Cadiz is on the very southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, native origin of land Alegrías, and Dubrovnik is on the southern most tip of Croatia; each an ancient trade Mecca in their own rights, were at the time closer then many land based trade or travel routes to other great cities. Now with advanced travel and the internet, we all get to experience the synthesis of Zel’s lush musical history; much the same way the Mediterranean cultures met when sailing became prominent, only on a massive scale. We all now surf the world web searching for great music to mesh our own styles. Zel does not resist the future or the past, does not abide by cultural stereotypes, but embraces all, to write music in the moment. One of the arts somewhat lost on our postmodern culture is the actual meaning and power of song as a part of daily life. Most people enjoy music, but few seem to perceive the ways it moves us all physically and metaphorically. Billions of people rely on music to help them in every imaginable occasion each moment. There are some songwriters whom hear clearly the timeless harmonies of life as they resonate through all of us. Zel is a musician firmly imbedded in a rich past, giving us looks into what the future fusion of what “music as we know it” could become. Similar to how artists like David Gray have fused together classical folk guitar with electronic rock rhythm drum machines, on the Truth album, Zel is taking two completely different styles (at least), and producing a fresh new sound that appeals to an older and younger generation simultaneously. Few artists have the style and grace to mend seemingly opposing elements of music into true beauty. Perhaps, Zel is healing a part of music we didn’t know was broken. He reminds us how reliable and essential these old styles are, and how amazing new technology can make what once seemed old, outdated, or even irrelevant –not so!- new. This music is important to art, and how we see it. Zel makes great music for not just many occasions, but for the many phases of life and how we live them. Truth is music for the soul.
Reviewed By Julian Gorman
Shyama “Nine Moons Walking”
With globalization, music has followed suit in its evolution. Fusion has entered a sort of fractal renaissance with artists forming music with the old and new, creating a niche out of no specific style at all, through pastiche. Now-a-days it seems ethnocentric to associate music regionally, as we can skip across the globe in seconds with our ears and a good connection. So how do you fashion music made for the sake of deconstructionism, not a particular genre or style, but a philosophical statement? Alfred Lawrence calls it Shyama: not alternative, not electronica, not rock, not classical, rather a hodge-podge of everything, a musical archive, extending far into the past, reaching beyond to the future, attempting to forge new calcinatory genre transmuted out of sound alchemy. 9 Moons Walking is an album not to be listened to carelessly, not to be understood on the first few plays. Just when the music feels comfortable and familiar, the safe place is purposely taken, exposing the listener to vulnerable states of mind. The music has the power to encourage one to the point of ecstasy, and then the humility to strip it all away, leaving the listener naked in the elements of the strange, the unfamiliar and challenging.
Every time an institution of music is mimicked, Shyama is certain to dismantle it, turn it inside out, and expose the raw structure. It is fierce, informed, unafraid, and on a mission. I may not have made it clear how this is a work of deconstructionist philosophy. It is difficult to put one’s finger on a philosophical genre that doesn’t translate well into English; I compare it to French theory as that is my comfort zone. However, the idea also resides in the hearts and minds of Hindu philosophy. This ability to understand interconnection, yet to identify singularities without submitting to nielism or pessimism is indeed a rare perspective. So much so, that more often then not the loudest practitioners thereof are the most confused. Alfred is real. His intention, his artistic growth, his journey and struggle to survive is eminent in the music. I have much respect for the darker warnings, but my preference is with the positive. The song Sonic Aura sings in my soul. This sort of theme is the kind of thing I like to wake up to, or get psyched up with for intense days. And this isn’t sappy happiness; this is charismatic energy that had to be fought for. Like many of the modern genius this era, Shyama shared the pain of his creativity being feared by institutional professional opinions. There is a real danger in modern society all over the world of silencing our artists with medication, therapy, and even extrication from culture itself. When you listen to this music, know that it almost didn’t happen. It may seem strange to you at first, but remember that no matter where in the world you are, speech is an inalienable right, a gift, a true birthright. Shyama could have just as easily been shut-up in some padded room somewhere, a so-called doctor deeming his expression not fit for the rest of us, as he was unwillingly institutionalized. I dare anyone out there to listen to 9 Moons Walking and tell me that this sort of creative adventure isn’t vital to the evolution of music as we know it. It amazes me that the best treatment for the mentally unbalanced is a small room with lots of doctors watching you, feeding you full of medications the professionals wouldn’t dare to even try. Why aren’t any of these people given instruments, creative supplies, and ways to express and vent the swirling storm inside? Weren’t the best geniuses always one foot on the ground, one in the stars? As a fellow artist who was poisoned by so-called doctors, I too had to free myself with poverty and ascetic living. However, I wish I would have been half as cool about it as Alfred, whom burned all his possessions, was institutionalized, walked with the homeless and Hare Krishna, and used his sorrow to rebuild his life. I mention all this out of shear respect. It is important talk about rehabilitation, not as a place one goes to, but as a way one changes their life. It is because of his struggle that Alfred is now some sort of mystical musical sage. Shyama walks the forefront lines with his hyper creativity, so much so that it was considered dangerous. The real message is for fellow artists: it could happen to you! If one doesn’t disguise the message correctly so that those whom are meant to hear get it, and those who would only abuse the wisdom, do not hear. This album is finally a balanced synthesis to a chaotic upcoming in the underground. Shyama juggles political messages with social stigma, love songs with analytical observations, there is little left unreferenced in hazy Roger Waters-esque vocals that wave in and out of existence. The average pop fan will be thrown for a loop by the ADD like changes and remixing, both a compliment and a complication. My attention span enjoys the insanity. However, tranquil minds might be left reeling. But that’s a good thing, this is tough love music. Occasionally the sliding vocals do not resolute as perfectly as they could, however, at other times it is the kick-ass Aussy diphthongs that appeal. The strain of pain can be heard in the higher register, as the inflection is forced from the throat; Lawrence would be wise to back off the grainy tenor intensity, and fall back to his fuller baritone sound, which seems more natural for sustaining his voice for years to come. Pain has been “done” so much, that now quality of communication should be valued over self-destructive artists and I worry about his voice somewhat. The depth and tone of the vocals on Ugly Place and the raw bass on Master Undertaker are darkly seductive, only leaving me wishing more time was spent holding out bellowing low notes, listening over and over. The lyrics of the latter especially make good use of deep color to convey the intensity of the message. “And if you’re looking for a job with Satan, you’ll find all the good jobs are taken.” It’s this sort of insight, an ability to see the good and bad, head to toe the social ills and irks, that makes 9 Moons Walking an incredible trip through sociological microcosms, each song a world unto its own. Abandon what made you feel safe in music and it may just help save your life one day. Consider every side of life equally and it would sound like Shyama.
Reviewed By Julian Gorman
Forever Forward “All Is Well”
The healing power of music is vastly underrated, far less understood. Positive mindset these days is a rare quality in the entertainment industry. More unique is a collective of powerful musicians. In the days of super-divas and robotic choruses, many find it easier to simply produce music, rather then take the time to gather together a group of artists and focus their energy. Forever Forward’s new album, All is Well, brings together solo artist caliber performances into joyous choral harmony with jazzy gospel power, blending beautiful music with an irresistible message of hope. This is music that can help restore the body, refresh the soul, all one must do is listen or better yet sing a long. Believing truly is half the spiritual (quantum physical, if you prefer) battle for health and happiness.
Every good choir takes planning, discipline, and unyielding joy. If someone isn’t happy, everyone feels it, everyone knows it. The hidden secret in Forever Forward is that every vocal member can sing any part with passion. Sitting surrounded by the sound of All is Well, one experiences a vicarious slice of the feeling, which is akin to goose-bumps on the skin, butterflies in the stomach, a sense of stillness in the mind, a sense of peace for the heart. These are not mere metaphors; this sort of music helps the body in indescribable ways. The feeling of singing in the midst of Forever Forward would feel akin to flying, the power of their harmony would be uplifting and a thousand fold the feeling of just listening. To create these sorts of spine-tingling sounds requires brilliant talent under charismatic inspiration. It is oft the directors, conductors and composers who are needed for the conception, the reason to bring such a group of talented people together in the first place. The coordination of Kevin Brightman and Derek Gibbs is the spiritual glue that bonds this group with a driving sense of faith. Gibbs spoken word at the beginning of Peace be Still is one of the most hopeful outpourings in recent memory and well surmises the lyrical sense of the album “…from some of life’s greatest challenges comes our greatest opportunities for growth. That is when we should be still, and remember.” This is a difficult lesson to grasp in our fast-paced society, yet all the more important. It is this sort of philosophy that no doubt drives the optimism of Forever Forward; positive relentless faith. Much needed hope in times when many are quick to despair instead of taking on the challenge as inspiration.
The simple yet powerful message of All is Well speaks to the soul. A subtle phrase is treated to every imaginable variation, single verses blooming into menagerie of cadenced harmony. It is difficult to grasp the technical aspect of the soloists, much of it simply un-writable, created in the moment. The combined gifts of the solo artists intermingling as background vocalists create a grand effect, giving the choir a full robust sound that is strong and surprising. Quick technical accuracy blends well with wild soul-felt expressions of sheer joy. The only critique I can muster is that one wishes some of the beautiful chords were given a little more time, because they are so well done, such pretty harmonies. The range and capability of the vocalists is incredible, but somewhat overwhelming. The huge cadences are very impressive, yet I find myself going back for the bold harmonies where everyone is singing and playing at once, all perfectly in tune and together. Forever Faith’s inspiration is truly in their potential and how empowering they are for the listener. “What do you wish to experience?” Ask yourself that in all honestly and listen to All is Well. We must have the faith to believe in possibility; otherwise we predetermine our fate with doubt, which is preposterous because no one knows the future. The lessons are universal, positive, and profoundly applicable to life. “So let love be all that you experience.” And indeed, it was!
Reviewed By Julian Gorman
Mar Beziat “Consolation”
As I read the back of a newly received album, I started muttering to myself, “Please let this be a classical record.” Delirious from the flu, I had been guilt ridden for two weeks waiting for my symptoms to clear up, pushing this album review aside. What I didn’t expect was the medicine I needed in musical form. Most reviews are challenging in that one never wants to criticize too much, and yet one can never be too easy going, it only hurts the artist. Having a severe cold for the first week and adding a fever the next, I write this review from another place entirely, a mental space where time is abstract and all I desire is rest, solitude and healing. These circumstances are why Marc Béziat’s music on Consolation was truly a sort of god send. In a haze of helpful medications, I first put on this album expecting that my patience would not be able to handle it. I had every intention of drifting off to sleep if possible, having been racked by night after night of illness induced insomnia. But, Oh! Contraire, for the album became the theme of my road to recovery. That week was already a classical music odyssey by some twist of fate. When I’m this under the weather, I don’t listen to my normal repertoire of loud crashing rock alternative, but instead listen to books on tape and classical music collections. The likes of Mozart, Pachelbel, Bach and even a little Massenet had already been filling the house for days, even into night to ease troubled tossing and turning. Then one afternoon I put on Marc Béziat unbeknownst to my girlfriend who was just in the next room relaxing in the bath. After a pretty lil’ prelude and the second song, Edge of the Lake of Melody, I hear a resounding “What is this song?!” coming from the other room. “That’s so beautiful!” She exclaimed. “Turn up the volume so I can hear, too.” I did, and went to her and asked “Do you know who this is?” She is far more schooled in classical style then myself, having been a trumpet player and vocal musician with some music history under her belt, so I wanted to see what she thought. “Is this… Handel?” I laughed and told her to guess again. Then she realized that it wasn’t a true orchestra, and guessed “Kōji Kondō?” Kōji is a famous Japanese composer most noted for his work on the Legend of Zelda series. “Nope!” I exclaimed, “Believe it or not, this is my latest review, Marc Béziat.” She was shocked. We decided that neither of us had heard any classical music on this level in recent years, save for this new resurgence in digital media for the sake of epic storylines in role playing games. Unlike movie scores (which are mostly tasteless due to timing music to action sequences and the whatnot) video game scores of this caliber can last over the course of a 100+ hour game. Pioneers like Kondō and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) have brought classical music to millions by combining their love of the old with new technology. Marc Béziat’s music could easily fit in with such epic composers. It is easy to sit back and imagine a vagabond hero, traveling on their way. Consolation has a great feel that blends square edge of ominous synthesized orchestral sound with acoustic piano. The unique sound gives a taste of the 16-bit age, pleasantly filling my mind with virtual memories past. Yet, it is very difficult to discern by the untrained ear. This is such fantastic composition and recording that it is very easy to get lost in the overwhelming neo-baroque beauty. So, what is there to criticize? Just this: Béziat deserves a full orchestra and choir! The album sounds spectacular already; it would be well received on any soundtrack in its current form. Even so, it is the difference between greatness and excellence. I cannot name a single artist working in classical music to date who deserves this chance more. A symphony would bring a new depth to the work, expressing beyond what a keyboard sound card is capable of. A mixed madrigal choir could take the robotic oohs and aahs and turn them into a powerful vocal arrangement that may not even require real words, it’s that enthralling. So, I sequester you, the reader; pick up Consolation and mix it into the middle of your classical play list during your next sophisticated cocktail party and see who notices. The guessing game might just surprise you as it did me. Marc Béziat’s record has found a permanent home in my collection with some of the greatest composers of all time. Simply put, it is serene and pleasant music for any occasion be it focused work or relaxation and rest. My only regret is procrastinating and not listening to Consolation sooner.
Reviewed By Julian Gorman