Vocal angels Anonymous 4 have their 18th album on the way. Entitled “The Cherry Tree”, it contains a collection of medieval English carols and Anglo-American songs that are inspired by the Cherry Tree Carol. The album is the first in four years to contain all new material and so its a must have for all vocal ensemble enthusiasts. Also as a side note, on the notes I was given regarding the release, there appears to be another release entitled “Secret Voices” already in the pipleline for 2011! Watch this space!
Garry Shyman has been a busy bee of late and so this will be the first of two soundtrack reviews of the composer. Dante’s Inferno, a game which has came out to general critical acclaim has a very distinctive sound to it.
Opening with the dramatic and powerful “Donasdogama Micma”, you are immediately thrown into the deeply archaic and twilight religiousness of spoken Latin and the sordid manical discordant instruments and rousing chorus. A real throw you in the deep in. “Storms of Lst” continues to weave an underworld waltz to oblivion with striking strikes and operatic laments. The smashing timpani’s and gargling brass layer on thick atmospheric pressure to the music making it feel quite oppressive. “Excessum Alighiero” is a mesmerising albeit short piece that bashes and shouts its way through, marching out a beat and distressing every vocalist in a five mile radius! It’s deliciously dark and there is no let up at all.
“Dante, Casarma Treloch” thrives on the deep male vocalists pushing the brass forward to pounding beats while the tense strings round off everything else in a tight bundle of horror. It’s really rare to have such power and electricity stinging in every single note. You will definately know by track four if this soundtracks for you. “Abyssus Incendia” is quite abstract with its twisted string arrangement and hollaring rallies of war – it’s like listening to Phantom of the Opera sung by Korn! “Redemption” is really the first track to offer a softer lamenting side the soundtrack and stands out for that.
“Tower at the River Styx” reminds me of the old b-movie music with the shrill string stabs, before it breaks out into a percussive frenzy – its a perfect example of unreigned maniacs in the orchestra being let loose – it’s fantastic. “Beatrice Taken” is a sinister track, very underplayed and wriggly as the undertones for each instrument all fit together in an unsettling tone – even when the beautiful choir are solo, because of the music you hear either side is still fresh in your mind, you just know all of a sudden a freak out is coming! “Arphe (The Descent)” is just an eerie with worbling vocals and slimey tense strings sloping their way around the speakers.
“Jas Davos Cha Dante Va” returns to the full on assault with its full choir and orchestra pounding out perfectly scultured passages that you don’t even get in all out blockbuster action sequences from a sci-fi or fantasy film. In many ways, Dante’s Inferno’s score is one of the most unabashedly biggest scaled soundtracks I’ve ever heard. “Whores of Babylon” even has witch cackles and screams! It’s these little nuances that just up the ante over other scores.
“Cereberus” is epic (as is all the soundtrack to be honest) as it really sets up to be a stonking battle track, from the six beats percussion, two beats manic strings and brass time stamp it has at the beginning which then revels in deep and growing percussion and brass. “Dies Irae” is a short brooding piece before “Greed Minions” use a hoarding chant and march that is heavily vocal based, almost like a Maori chant crossed with the demonic sounding olds Latin choirs you used to have. There is a great mini bell/triangle section at one point that reminds me of the Lost soundtracks.
“Adgt Vpaah Zong” is full on again, there’s even a middle section which is so dramatic it reminds me of a carry on film! However the pace just doesn’t let up at all and continues to flow into the militant “Barma Beigla Te Carma” although this one is more rousing than the previous, which was just more pacey. “Hall of Abraham” is more ghostly and otherworldly than the rest of the soundtrack with its ominous lost vocal layers.
“Bella’s Secret Revealed” sounds arabic and completely different in tone to what we’ve heard so far. It’s a very haunting yet simplicitic piece with wraparound chords on an organ/sitar hybrid instrument with glassy overtones.
“Minos” returns to the usual antics of throwing every instrument at you at once, while “Babylon Ors” gives a more miltant feel with its marching drums but the way the whole orchestra ramps and ramps itself up until you can almost not stand it really gets you motivated to start going a bit mental yourself! There’s a male vocal particularly in this track which really stands out in that “I’m purposely a key higher to sound extra emotive” way and it works a charm.
“Phlegyas Marches to Dia” is a brooding step up and down track before “The Second Circle” takes you on a slight breather with an eerie and unsettling vocal/string track. “The Queen of Hell” is another well constructed track going through different movements in a single track and is one of a few to have several different shifts in tone and pace and makes a good track to see if you’ll enjoy the album.
“Battle with Abraham” is more dramatic the previous few tracks and the vocals continue to sound like they are spewing through another relm. Add to that a fully flowing orchestra and a vey busy percussionist, you have the reciepe for another classic track. “Phlegyas Ravages Dis” ups the ante further in pace and drama with stomping timpanis, all kinds of horror vocal flurries and stabs in with percussive number. “The Defeat of Lucifer” is a grande track although it slows down the pace a little almost like a rolling goodbye before “Donasdogama Mica Decepto” closes the soundtrack with a downplayed choir and a bubbling adversity.
Garry Shyman’s “Dante’s Inferno” really deserves to be heard in stereo. That sounds a strange thing to say, but turn up the volume of your speakers and sit in the middle of them.There is just so much sound going on, it gives you a completely different take on the score. “Dante’s Inferno” is not easy listening, not even for orchestral fans. It contains some of the boldest and darkest orchestral music I’ve heard this side of game music and the world is a richer place for having it. Technically stunning and flawless, the way how it captures the essence of the otherworld that’s been created is mesmorising and is already vying for Higher Plain Music’s 2010 soundtrack of the year award.
Tori Amos latest album Midwinter Graces is a bold step into the Christmas genre, one that is unforgiving and cliched. However, this collection of winter inspired tracks are not quite the norm you’d expect.
Opening with “What Child, Nowell” you are treated to the hark back to early Tori times with pianos, harpsichords and a lot of brass. The use of sleigh bells in the chorus and the lyrics are the only real hints of the festive season. This is because the album deals more with the Winter Solstice and is more concerned with going way back in time to where the original carols came from than celebrating Jesus The result is a warm but complex mirage of different instruments and almost different faiths combining.
“Star of Wonder” has a beautiful arabic feel to it with some excellent string works and making this is an uptempo piano-rock track is inspired and while the verses are funky and quirky its the when it all comes together ala Scarlet’s Walk for the chorus’ it really hits home. “A Silent Night With You” is turn is a warm and fuzzy ballad which Tori does so well and is the first of several original songs. What I like about this track is that is feels very traditional in its songwriting and the waltzing pace of it is quite sweet.
“Candle: Coventry Carol” feels archaic! It’s the brass that does it – and the opening minute really feel quite sinisiter to me, almost like a siren of warning. From there the track completely changes dynamic into a lute led track – almost like a baroque track. It’s quite unlike anything Tori has done before and I’d happily listen to a whole album of this style – almost Loreena McKennitt-esque, especially with Amos using a high register for her voice this track.
“Holly, Ivy and Rose” is beautiful. Marking her vocal debut, daughter Tash appears here with some cute call and responses with her mum. Again, the pianos, strings and percussion really pull the song forward into a new territory of music for Tori to play with and the production throughout is fantastic. “Harps of Gold” is the rocking song of the album and while I find it uplifting and joyous – almost Christian rock (shock-horror), if fans struggled with previous albums efforts 500 Miles, Ireland or Cars and Guitars then you may struggle here.
“Snow Angel” is another original track and is hauntingly delicate. It’s realitively simple in its composition and that makes it no less effective. Tori’s always been able to make stand out beautifully haunting tracks and this is no exception. A personal favourite.
“Jeanette, Isabella” is beautiful in a different type of way. Reminding me of “Jamaica Inn”, its got so much fluidity to it, its like taking a ride down the calmest lake in heaven whilst being given a relaxing massage! The marriage of piano, harpsichord, brass, guitar and soft percussion is sublime.
“Pink and Glitter” really divided me for a while. It’s a massive big bang number, a type of music that I really struggle with. However, this song is really fun to listen to and again has such a fuzzy warm flow to it you can’t help but like it. While its my least favourite of the album, its purely down to the big band and each listen lets me like it more. “Emmanuel” is a slow and delibrate track but one that conveys a lot of emotion and goes with the less-is-more approach.
The next two tracks are simply stunning. “Winters Carol” is taken from Tori’s upcoming musical and is very dramatic and dynamic, switching from rolling pianos to massive bridges and soaring vocals. I particularly love the church bells and the catchy chorus’. It’s five minutes of emotive twists and turns that doesn’t let up until the end – if winter had a rollercoaster, this would be it. “Our New Year” starts off like a ‘usual’ Tori ballad and then ends up giving us some massive climactic codas that leave you feeling actually, like your not listening to a Christmas record at all! The screams of “you’re not here” to dramatic string stabs is not like anything I’ve heard for a while from Amos.
For the bonus edition you have two traditional renditions of “Comfort and Joy” and “Silent Night, Holy Night” (albeit the title in German) with just piano and vocal and they are lovely. There’s also a 30 minute interview on DVD which goes right into what Tori was looking for with this album which is really insightful.
Rarely putting a foot wrong, Tori Amos has put together my favourite Christmas/winter album of all time. Each song is unique and there’s a lot of styles that I’d like to see Tori continue with and expand on. Not really for Christmas music fans celebrating with presents but one for when your on your own with a candle, some cinnamon wine and lights down low so the record can seep in and come to life. Fantastic.
Tori Amos’ much discussed Christmas album “Midwinter Graces” now has 30 second samples available and someone has kindly popped them into one clip. Take a listen here – what do you all think? I’m excited – come on snow!!!
Has the world gone mad? It seems so. Sony’s big trump card for the PS3 has been the excellent LittleBigPlanet which threatens to take any most of my spare time for the next god knows how long with its superb game play aspects. However the release has been delayed due to a couple of people raising questions over one of the songs included on its soundtrack for background music whilst playing.
Toumani Diabate’s song “Tapha Niang” quotes some references from Islamic book the Qur’an. Apparently placing any text of the book to music is a big no no and so therefore Sony have received a couple of complaints. Sadly in the nannied world that has become a corporate baby and a melting pot of minority religions that have the everyday lives of the average human completely bent over backwards, Sony have actually had to recall the product, remove the song and then redistribute it for a week later. Pardon?!?
Now I am not usually one to get upset over such things but surely the extremely small group of protesters have not seen the big picture here. I have no interest in religion in a personal day to day life yet I would have thought that by letting the song stay in, surely the words of Qur’an would reach people who are infact closed minded to their religion. Even if it was just to say the song was a good song, its still spreading the word and giving pleasure. Now all this has done has brought intrigue into just what exactly is so bad about singing a religious song. Would someone singing a passage from the Bible be asked to have it removed? In fact would a Biblical song be “allowed” to be included anyway as it would be considered politically incorrect in the first place and may enforce our ways on another. Maybe that’s just the English way but its a sorry state all the same.
You can listen to the song here and make up your own mind and then answer my poll below.