S28 – We Sail With the Tide

Sail away on oceans of synthesized sound with this lovely ambient release. The opening track drifts along (on the tide) for a good 9 minutes before a beat pushes its way to the surface and propels things into new levels of intensity and focus – still mellow, but definitely a little more purposeful. The rest of the album takes a similar approach. 

The beats, where and when they appear, are bucolic and minimal. The sounds are universally pleasant, focused on waves of soft, gauzy synths cascading gently into one another. The mood is always positive and uplifting. An inviting take on the classic ambient formula, perfect for relaxing your mind and spirit. As a bonus for fellow musicians and music nerds, there are detailed production notes included covering the software and hardware used to create the album.

(Listened to the entire album)

Little Miss Dynamite – Grow Up

Folky Americana from America’s heartland – Kansas City, Missouri, specifically. Heartfelt songs about life, love and all the usual topics, with a pleasantly modern twist (references to drones and drugs, for example) to keep things from wallowing in nostalgia. Standout elements include the charming vocals of singer Beth Watts Nelson (not that co-lead vocalist Caleb Gardner is any slouch!) and the engaging fiddle work of Betse Ellis. 

Beyond that, the supporting cast does a fine job of getting the hoedown going with solid harmonies, tight playing and a solid rhythmic base. The strongest track for me is “Circle the Drain,” a classic tale of addiction, broken hearts and heading for rock bottom. I can imagine this band, as good as they are on record, are an absolute hoot performing live.

(Listened to the first 4 songs.)

Nigel Harpur – Carnival for Little Creatures

I posted about having covered just about everything but jazz in this OPM series thus far and a jazz musician heard me! Thus I was turned on to the charming chill jazz tunes of this release. Utilizing a wide-open approach to his compositions, Harpur pulls in elements of pop, rock, Latin sounds and more on these tracks, to good effect. The results are one of those albums that make it clear why “jazz fests” are full of jam bands these days – this stuff is absolutely begging to be blown open with 15-minute solos at an outdoor venue. 

Not to say it is jam band material – it has a sense of discipline and restraint that most of those bands lack. But it’s eclectic, clever and well-constructed, with an underlying tension that’s eager to be exploited by those aforementioned jams, when the time is right. And here on record, it’s all beautifully put together, with gorgeous arrangements, tight playing and wonderful production. The piano/electric piano sounds and guitars are particularly well presented, but this is a solid package that should please anyone who isn’t afraid of the fusion (or simply afraid of jazz itself).

(Listened to tracks 2, 5, 9)

Desolation Park – Walk Alone

Dark instrumental synth pop with a reverence for the classics but a modern approach. I hear nods to acts like the Cure, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode but also little bits from videogame music and film scores. 

That’s repurposed and rebuilt with a laidback synthwave/darkwave production approach that suits the influences nicely and makes them a little more palatable to younger (than 40) listeners. It all works rather well and goes down easy despite the somewhat melancholy atmosphere throughout. 

(Listened to entire album)

Heliotrope & jayrope – Swearing at the Sun

A blistering journey thru noise, musique concrete, krautrock/kosmische and general musical insanity. The sound of three adventurous musicians going absolutely buckwild on a motley collection of instruments that include everything from jaw harps and dulcimers to KAOSS pads and GAKKEN synths. Eerie, full of drama, always surprising and frequently out of this world. 

Oscillates between moments of beauty and abrasiveness, sometimes hitting both at once. Recorded in an afternoon, live, like some of the best Can releases reportedly were – and yes, that is a deliberate reference because this reminds more than anything of a lost krautrock release that’s been rescued. Absolutely delightful if you like your music deeply weird, full of surprises and not for the faint of heart. And I definitely do.

(Listened to entire album)

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