Review: Rory McMillan, Sutherland Ave. Hymns

Rory McMillan, Sutherland Ave. Hymns

05 Aug, 2014 Matthew Forss





Rory McMillan is a songwriter and musician on the digital piano, microKORG synth, acoustic guitar, ukulele, electric bass guitar, and a specialist in electronic drum sequencing.  A Knoxville, Tennessee-native, Rory creates an album that originates from a place that is accessible to all who listen to it. Sutherland Ave. Hymns is not an album of vocal hymns or praise music.  Instead, the album is an instrumental delight that focuses on progressive rhythms, moods, and melodies that are contemporary and innovative.

“The Existing State Of Affairs” begins with a few cascading swooshes and a horn-like accompaniment that is solemn, reflective, and meditative, due to its slow tempo.  The melody is relatively consistent throughout half of the song, while some additional electronic accompaniment enters the mix, along with a little percussive swishing.  There are no drums used in the track.  Overall, the track is a delicate mix of pleasant melodies and sounds that do nothing to instill dance steps, which is perfectly fine.

“Ghost-Riding The Whip” begins with some acoustic guitar work that is joined by electronic drips and pings that are quite buoyant.  The quirky electronic sounds are not followed by any drums.  The song is less than two-and-a-half minutes in length, which does not allow for much musical development, but luckily, the song is great the way it is.  The electronic whines, swishes, and blips are edgy and contemporary, but not overly-flashy or predictable.

“Spinning Blue Marble” opens with a piano type sound with majestic electronic washes and a few bell-like clangs and wooden mallet-type sounds on a xylophone or vibraphone.  The ambulating sounds are light, airy and modern.  A muffled flute sound adds an element of new age to the song.  The spacey elements, new age-isms, and contemporary instrumental arrangements set the stage for a relatively exciting result.

“The Last Burning Embers” opens with a muted ukulele sound that is punctuated with atmospheric washes and spacey pings and watery electronics.  The electronic blips reflect a modern edge to the gurgling ukulele sounds and swishy background noises.  The song is only two minutes long, so it is more of an interlude compared to other songs on the album.

“Mexican Soda” is another short track, but the music is more upbeat and laser-like with electronics, hand-claps, and squeaky pings that are lush and contemporary.  There are elements of Tangerine Dream here.  The swishy sounds and upbeat melody is a great showcase of Rory’s musical talent.

Rory McMillan’s new release, Sutherland Ave. Hymns, is a rollicking new age and electronic project with heavenly melodies, reflective moments, and upbeat tunes.  The lack of vocals does not affect the album in a negative way.  There are ten tracks on the album which range from a minute to over four minutes long.  The rather lackadaisical result combines elements and emotions inherent in instrumental, new age, electronic, and progressive music.  The best part about the album is found in the melody nuances and ear-friendly tones.  Never trying to be too showy, Rory simply plays music with feeling and emotion that is unforgettable and worthy of repeated listens.  The only drawback may be found in the length of some of the tracks, which are only a minute or two long.  However, these tracks can be viewed as separate morsels of fun and they do not detract in any way from the rest of the album’s content.  Fans of electronic, instrumental and new age music will love it.  Moreover, anyone familiar with Tangerine Dream and Enya will definitely be pleased here.

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