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Yui Tsuchida, “Time Of Flow”

18 Nov, 2013 Matthew Forss

Yui Tsuchida’s upbringing and education at Osaka Music Junior College in Japan and Berklee college of Music in the US showcases an intelligent and creative side of Brazilian-inspired jazz music.  Yui incorporates jazzy strings, guitar, drums, flutes, and piano for an interesting journey through the Brazilian, Latin American, and North American jazz jungles of sound.  “Time Of Flow” is an instrumental song with passionate sounds and diverse instruments all packed in to a jazz medium.

“Time Of Flow” begins with a few scintillating strokes on a guitar with a few taps on cymbals with a jazzy drum beat and airy clarinet or flute sound.  There is also some woodblock percussion that adds a bit of edgy, bossa nova-style of music.  The flute pierces the ears with such intensity at points that make it stand out more so than other instruments.  However, there is style a strong guitar, percussion, and string element that continues throughout.  Mid-song, the song quiets down to let the strings, percussion, and flutes take over.  Still, the instruments combine during the latter half of the song in a more majestic and frenetic manner that makes listeners turn around and listen.  The fluttering flute sounds and jazzy piano interludes during the latter half of the song creates a nostalgic, jazz presence steeped in the saucy sounds of Brazil by way of Japan and America.

Yui Tsuchida’s “Time Of Flow” is a rousing instrumental achievement that is six-and-a-half-minutes long, but it seems to go on forever.  This realization is not a qualm; but a definite positive.  The lack of vocals does not hinder the song either.  Anyone with a passion for instrumental Latin jazz and classical music will find happiness and meaning in Yui’s music.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

 

Seong-Min Brian Baek, “The Suite Affection”

12 Nov, 2013 Matthew Forss

Korean-born, Vancouver-educated, and New York-based, Seong-Min Brian Baek is a classically-trained fusion guitarist with a background in jazz and improvisation.  On “The Suite Affection,” Seong-Min Brian Baek employs the help of Thomas Cepeda on nylon guitar, Ricardo Curto on grand piano, Jongbin Francis Song on electric bass, and Carlo Ribaux on drums.  “The Suite Affection” is a nearly nine-minute long song with instrumental arrangements and an absence of vocals.

The song begins with a few cascading solo guitar notes that are joined with bass and flowing, but gentle, piano notes.  The guitar notes are quite fluid, too. The interplay between guitar strings and piano are amazing.  There is a light, militaristic drum beat at two-minutes with guitar strings that ring out in a manner akin to traditional East Asian plucked strings, right before a heady jazz medley of piano, bass, and guitar.  There are times when there is complete silence after each instrumental segment, which indicates each slightly different melodic, rhythmic, and improvisational set-up.  Mid-song, the bass, guitars, piano, and drums signify a more up-beat, contemporary jazz concoction with Latin-esque piano stylings and classical fusion.  The jazzy and Latin elements survive throughout the last few minutes of the song.

Whether Seong-Min Brian Baek carefully straddles the world of fusion, classical, Latin, jazz, or experimental music, the song is a very fitting match for Seong-Min Brian Baek’s style.  The music is a mix of various styles, but the music is held together with a fine display of jazzy piano and guitar.  The lack of vocals help the song showcase the instrumental prowess throughout. There are no weak spots or incongruous elements that listeners need to worry about.  Overall, fans of the abovementioned genres will be very fond of “The Suite Affection.”

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

 

James Hampshire, James Hampshire

07 Nov, 2013 Matthew Forss

Raised in Vanuatu and born in Canada, James Hampshire has a truly world-wide upbringing with music production skills that contain hip-hop, reggae, and pop-infused creations.  There are sixteen songs on the new self-titled album.  The soothing and fluid vocals take the songs to higher heights and magical moments that are unforgettable.  As a singer, songwriter, and producer, James knows how to bring life to the music with each verse.

“Love From Above” opens with a few drum beats and reggae-infused keyboards with James’ light and fluid vocals.  The beat is rather memorable, playful, and catchy throughout.  The atmospheric keyboard accompaniment is punchy and heavenly.  The vocals are akin to Cas Haley’s reggae renderings with a hint of Jason Mraz’ vocal wordplay.  The sub-three-minute song is great from beginning to end without any missteps.

“Smile On My Face” opens with a few keyboard notes that are rather fluid and crystalline.  The vocals kick in with a swishy percussive beat.  There are interjections of punchy keyboard sounds that resemble brass instruments, but it is not very overt or loud.  The soulful vocals are more R&B focused than a reggae beat.  The latter half of the song contains a short scratchy—almost radio-like broadcast of spoken word dialogue with some tapping noises and echoing noises.  The song is upbeat and happy throughout without any issues.

“Spanish Eyes” opens with a flamenco-type guitar sound that opens up into a few atmospheric washes.  The swishy percussive beat moves into a dark and brooding percussive beat that contains some tapping sounds, fluid bass, and atmospheric swishes.  The vocals are mostly in English with some Spanish vocals.  The track is amped up with electronic elements and a slight Latin feel.  The mix of hip-hop and Latin-beat sounds are rather exploratory and refreshing without any deleterious results.

“Here Comes The Lie Light” opens with a genuine reggae beat with scintillating drums, fluid bass, punchy keys, and soaring vocals that echo a reggae foundation.  There are atmospheric keys that provide a cinematic and classical edge to the otherwise wholesome reggae concoction. The final seconds reveal a symphonic and angelic choral sound that is rather triumphant, but completely necessary.  Moreover, the head-bobbing beat is something akin to anything by Fat Freddy’s Drop or The Black Seeds.

“So You Say” begins with a broken piano melody that moves into an Enigma-esque melody with booming bass, worldly voices, loud percussion, and sparkling keyboards.  The break-beat vocal calisthenics of James’ delivery is rather fast and it is an excellent accompaniment to some of the female vocals from Misdivine throughout the track.  Mid-song, the music takes on a slightly industrial feel with jazzy piano and experimental reggae sounds in the mix.  The end of the song features a mish-mash of sounds reduced in clarity and tempo, but it is a fitting outro that ends right before one more reggae/hip-hop verse commences.

James Hampshire creates a reggae album with other elements that are sure to get your attention. The sixteen tunes represent a huge cross-section of musical talent and sounds representing a few different genres, but the results are anything but boring.  The hip-hop, reggae, pop, urban, soul, and cinematic influences are part of the charms of this album.  With a wealth of knowledge and experience working in music production and songwriting, James does not slip up at all.  If you are seeking a quintessential reggae-inspired album, then this might be for you.  Fans of Cas Haley, The Black Seeds, Jason Mraz, and Fat Freddy’s Drop should check it out for sure.  When one thinks of reggae, Canada probably does not come to mind first (or at all), but James will change that preconceived notion and spread his musical ingeniousness throughout the world one track at a time.

 

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

 

Meir Shitrit, Way

08 Oct, 2013 Matthew Forss

Israel’s Meir Shitrit is a very talented, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and musician with a knack for developing diverse musical compositions influenced by world jazz, world music, new age, Middle Eastern, and experimental genres.  On Way, Meir plays guitars and is in charge of programming, while also lending a few vocals.  Meir is accompanied by a slew of musicians on drums, piano, sax, bass, violin, flute, Jew’s harp, percussion, Bansuri flute, and harmonica.  The twelve-track release incorporates a wide-range of pleasant song nuances that are innovative and relaxing.

“Blue” is a scintillating tune with a folksy guitar vein and minor instrumental accompaniment that is rather distant and contemplative.  The guitar gives way to happy, nondescript vocalizations, and percussive taps.  The piano kicks in with the harmonica and the guitar is a little more pronounced without a raw or organic sound, as in the beginning of the song.  The latter half of the song brings all the sounds together in one unifying medley that sparkles with flutes, drums, bass, piano, guitars, and light, scat vocals.  Throughout the song, the sound builds to a very pleasant and satisfying climax.

“Shepherd’s Melody” begins with some drum tapping and sounds of distant sitars.  The metallic drone is punctuated with an improvisational guitar tone that accompanies percussive drums, tapping, and flutes.  The heady guitar work is in-line with the late-Shawn Lane’s work, but not as fast.  The music is rather jazzy with a good degree of fusion, experimentation, and improvisation that would make any listener jump for joy.  Mid-song, there is an electric guitar display that mirrors anything by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  There are some fast vocals interspersed with the melody over the latter minute-and-a-half of the song.  This is a world where jazz, fusion, and Middle Eastern/South Asian music comes together in harmony.

“Down Town” opens with a funky, jazzy, and rippling guitar intro with all the typical jazzy drums.  The punchy melody is broken up with an electric guitar medley one-minute from the start of the song.  The electric guitar display is more pronounced throughout the remainder of the song.  There is a sax sound with groovy down-tempo elements amidst a jazz and rock-infused backbone that definitely awaken the spirit.

“Taqsim Square” opens with a jaunty Middle Eastern tune that is rather Turkish, Egyptian, and Central Asian in tone.  The heady sounds are hooked around a swirling guitar set-up that is experimental and alive with energetic qualities.  The symphonic violin additions represent a more Egyptian resonance overall.  However, the addition of the contemporary arrangements on guitar, flute, and programming, creates a diverse listening experience that borders on funk, psych, jazz, classical, and cinematic.  At any rate, the music is steeped in creativity with a dose of world fusion.

“Playin’ Around” opens with a few piano notes, bass, and percussive tapping that delves right into a rich, electric guitar sound that is akin to smooth jazz that contains a little more acid jazz than usual.  The drums set the tone for a great jazz track with effervescent rumblings and funky stylings that bring everything together.  The experimental guitar sounds provide perfect interplay between the piano and sweeping percussion.

Meir Shitrit’s latest release, Way, is marked with several likable characteristics.  For instance, the diversity of sounds and influences provides a satisfying listening experience for fans of world jazz and world music.  The music does not sound manufactured or fake.  All of the influences seem to find perfect harmony.  The vocals are sporadic and mostly used for musical accompaniment.  Every track is unique and worth repeated listens.  Nothing is amiss here.  Find your ‘way’ to Meir Shitrit with Way.

 

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

 

Ceran, Verity

27 Sep, 2013 Matthew Forss

VerityMissouri-based Ceran is the product of a rich ethnic heritage stemming from African-American, Creole, Cherokee, German, and French lineages.  Verity is the follow-up to The Art Of Ceran, which continues in the same vein of introspective songs that traverse the worlds of soul, pop, jazz, and ballads with a strong dance presence and R&B elements from the 1950s and 60s.  The twelve-track release showcases Ceran’s latest musical creations with a powerful voice, danceable beats, and a soulful, almost nostalgic swagger.

“A Veritable Prelude” opens with Ceran’s solo spoken word.  The delivery is somewhat radio-like with a good degree of echoing.  The effect is very powerful and memorable.  This is not a musical track or a track accompanied by instruments.

“Change For Me” begins with a good dance beat, atmospheric pads, and swishy percussion that sets the mood in an upbeat manner.  The keyboard embellishments are punchy and static-driven, which are characteristic of early dance tunes from Eastern Africa and pop music from the 1980s. At any rate, Ceran’s vocals are rather mature and varied on this track with a good degree of soul, R&B, and electronica.  Some of the vocals are a little forced over the latter half of the song, but nothing is too intrusive to mention.

“Heart On The Line” opens with a few pensive piano ballad notes and Ceran’s cascading vocals. The piano is joined by atmospheric washes and a simple drum beat.  The melody is rather beautiful and enthralling with a great combination of keys, piano, drums, and vocals.  This is a memorable ballad with Ceran’s signature vocal set-up.  The vocals are layered and soar near the latter half of the song. The effect is dreamy, melodic, and highly-textured.

“Open Road” begins with a piano melody, piercing keyboard washes, and Ceran’s soulful vocals leading the charge.  The symphonic keyboards add a touch of classicism to the already classic track that is steeped in jazzy soul, R&B, and contemporary piano pop.  The vocals vacillate with an inner beauty that is professional and unforgettable at the same time.  This is not one of the dance tracks, as the symphonic keyboards and soulful vocals add a touch of romanticism and introspection.

“The Wrong Of Right” opens with a punchy reggae beat with a slight dance presence and Ceran’s Caribbean-esque vocal intonations.  The soft bass tones and organic drum sounds add a slightly island sound to the song, which reflects a tropical feel to the track.  The vocals are not particularly loud or overshadowing.  The instrumentation kicks in a little bit more near the end of the song with keyboard embellishments.  There are a few non-lexical vocals—otherwise known as scat—which occur throughout the track.

Ceran adds a more diverse repertoire of instruments, beats, and vocals on his latest release, Verity.  The album contains twelve new tracks mostly written, composed, arranged, orchestrated, sung, and produced by Ceran.  The music contains elements of jazz, soul, gospel, rock, pop, new age, classical, R&B, and electronica.  The songs are rather contemplative, diverse, and multi-layered with infusions of many genres.  The entire project seems to work flawlessly.  There are only a few minor quips with the recording quality, but it is much improved over the previous release.  Furthermore, the vocals are relatively strong throughout, but sometimes the vocals are difficult to hear or they are a little off-key.  There seems to be more world fusion on this album, too.  For example, there are elements of French, Latin, and Spanish lyrics and percussive influences.  Overall, Ceran steps it up with a more cohesive and solid recording that spans countries, generations, and genres with little in the way of improvements needed.

Review by Matthew Forss

Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)