Recommended to me by the similar artists tab on Amazon (oh you have a lot to answer for cries my bank balance) comes the dreamy Rachel Zeffira. “The Deserters” is primarily an album about atmosphere and emotion over direct hooks. The hooks and melodies are there but its like the album takes place under a morning haze. Everything feels blurred and milky, like it’s slowly sloshing into itself.
Opener “The Deserters” showcases this well with rolling piano, pulsing tub beatings and sublime woodwind all in a mixing pool. It sounds ethereal but like it wants to break out into something more edgy – like it’s the swoop before the attack. “Here On In” then reveals a rockier side to Rachel as drums and electric guitar hide behind the mask of an intricate string arrangement. The interplay is gorgeous when the marimba’s give added warmth. It feels like a laid back psychedelia trance. “Letters From Tokyo (Sayonara)” they flits back to the more organic keyboard/piano/synth side with Rachel’s soft airy vocals really shining. It reminds me of a more haunting version of Emmy Rossum. I love how there’s a real driving force to the track but it’s never pushed to the fore as it makes the track feel more dramatic than it ever lets on it is. “Front Door” is a sweet piano/vocal ballad with some warming subtle strings. It really is time to pause in the album and is also the most conventional track so far.
“Break The Spell” then gives us orchestral rock with a rocking drum beat, some background synths and a speedy string arrangement to push the track forward. I would describe the track as if you were taking flight in the lightest plane alive. “Silver City Days” then goes virtually classical with the clever used of arpeggios on the piano that sound like they are going at a maddening speed whilst the vocals are slowly delivered. It sounds like time was paused for three minutes. “Star” is a sumptuously warm track that is five minutes of slowly evolving melodies and lyrics. It’s spacious and milky with just the right amount of reverb and echo to make things feel otherworldly. “To Here Who Knows” is more synth-string based with a cute flute providing some great touches. The second half of the track repeats the same phrase over and over as it goes up the chords and expands – it’s a really touching moment in the album that certainly feels like an emotional peak.
“Waiting for Sylvia” turns to the harp and bells for breathy delivery before the organ heavy “Goodbye Devine” closes out the album with a complete lack of bass throughout most of the song. I’ve said it before but a lack of bass in a song always makes for a more emotive delivery if pulled off well and it is here.
Rachel Zeffira’s album is a strange beast. She’s so multi-instrumental that her rock side and her classical side go at odds with each other. She has managed to manage them both so well and created an album that’s like a space microcosm. I think you’ll need to hear samples to decide if its your thing or not but it’s frankly a beautiful work of art and I hope people “get” it.
Heima return with a new album next month – and a new name too! Renamed to “Bellstop” the duo’s new album will be called Karma. Bellstop have such a great indie folk rock sound and the Icelandic duo look set to rock out in June. Here’s the lead single “Trouble”. Watch out for the scary Ronald McDonald-esque mask!
Bioshock has always had a grandiose soundscape and with the third iteration “Bioshock Infinite” things become even more taut and creepy as the string arrangements are maxed to eleven. Garry Schyman has help throughout the soundtrack but he is generally the mainstay and considering he made the music for the first two, you can hear where all his influences lie.
After the short scene setting conversation of “Introduction” a singular taut string quiver opens “Welcome to Columbia” before honky-tonk piano lightly breezes through. The fact that the honky-tonk is always a bit detuned adds to the atmosphere. We then break to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” as a choral arrangement. Built by Ada Ruth Habershon & Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, we will get several versions of the track but this is the warmest and most beautiful. It has a rich gospel warmth to it.
“Lighter Than Air” then sets us off in the string tracks and you can hear the previous tracks motif broken down throughout the track. “Lutece” initially reminds me of Monkey Island with its French piratey accordion and clumsy bass string booms. It’s mischievous, slinky and purposeful as it evolves into something you’d expect from the Medieval game. Genuinely fun and b-movie creepy too.
There are five “Battle For Columbia” tracks and although they spread themselves out over the album I’ll review them collectively. The initial section is very percussive and metallic which gives way to a more heartbeat war drum for the second section. It pulses away before the strings go absolutely wild for the second half. It’s like a thousand mice are let loose on a violin at the same time! The third iteration is slightly more melodic but no less dramatic as the strings turn into stabs as the march out the beat which has quickened from its deep pulse. The fourth revels in the reverse reverb treating one set of instruments to spear off one way whilst and panting string section murder one chord to death the other. The results are surprisingly fantastic. The fifth and final of these turns the echo up on the drums and lets everyone play screech the high note on the strings. Its fraught and frightening.
Outside of that quintet the Bioshock score goes for eerie elegance often. “The Girl in the Tower” and “Elizabeth” work perfectly together as the unmasking of a sinister beauty in such a sad context. “Unintended Consequences” too leaves the bass behind for a short but emotive segment. “Family Reunion” and “Let Go” have such a large-scale feel to it despite only being waves of notes – but it carries a weight that the soundtrack is burdened with throughout. It’s a beautiful burden to listen to. “The Songbird” however goes for percussive shrill to create atmosphere. ”Lions Walk With Lions”, “Back in the Boat”, “Smothered” and “The Girls For The Debt” goes for Gollum undertones for dark chords and pizzicato string arrangements. “Doors” and “AD” are wonderfully complex with the voice section of the strings refusing to sit still for long. The result is something that feels like an unfurling of long hair – beautiful – especially the latter. “Baptism” draws the strings to a close still with a real heavy heart. The actual soundtrack closes with a beautiful acoustic guitar and vocal rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. The guitar version appears earlier in the soundtrack but here its the perfect downbeat and sober end to the musical parade.
Now I’ve missed some tracks out and that’s because they are tracks that break up the drama. Samuel Lover gives a fantastic celtic pub rendition of “Rosy O’More/Saddle The Horse” which sounds utterly like a breath of life in a soundtrack so claustrophobic. Jim Bonney, who helps out Garry in many of the string tracks, also has “The Readiness Is All” which is given a grammar-phone effect which transfers this chirpy 1950′s sounding delight into something slightly unnerving. The same can be said for “Solace” by Scott Joplin with its warped piano.
Overall this is my favourite Bioshock soundtrack to date. It has all the hallmarks of the previous two but with more time to get your blood flowing and more recurring motifs to invest in. Garry has done the trio proud.
The cute and over too quickly “Jottobots” soundtrack from Josh Whelchel is a delightful affair as the four tracks loops beautifully in their haze. Opener “Jottobots” has a plucky Eastern popcorn sounding synth that leads the main melody in a Reggae Ska swing before “jotto Blastr” brings out all the retro chip-sets out for crisp and clean chip-tune There’s little dub-step filler sections but the majority it full of never-ending arpeggios which all 16 bit boss battles have been made of.
“Those Neon Feels” calms us down with a soft chiming glassy plink before the drum toms kick in and the track becomes far more spacious and dramatic. From big chord stabs to heroic synth leads, the track has you covered – which is an achievement to cram it all in under four minutes! “Something Slower” ends the short soundtrack with a tick tocking beat and what is almost a freeform jazz bass playing over slightly discordant keyboard shimmers.
Short, sweet but crafted to high quality my only nitpick is that the tracks artists details are blank and cannot be altered for my Last.Fm to pick it up and spread the love! So yeah… musics fine!
Sumthing Else have long been publishing some amazing game soundtracks however they are usually the huge symphonic top dollar explosive soundtracks. You could almost call them film soundtracks something in the way they are put together. However Sumthing Else has taken a great step to partner with Wadjet Eye Games to publish some indie game soundtracks. Names included are Resonance, Proteus, The Shivah & various Blackwell games. I’m so pleased as usually these kinds of soundtracks would appear on Bandcamp if at all. One step forward for VGM!
Marla Mase is a rock crossover artist whom has piqued my interest with her latest release entitled “Speak”. “Speak” has since gone on the road to become a multimedia live show incorporating spoken word, visual cues, dance and imagery along with of course a live rock band. The whole thing is designed to help portray women and their world. She will be appearing at SummerStage 2013. Take a look at the video for “Piece of Peace” below.
On a complete side note, she looks a spitting image of one of my bosses at work!