Saturday, April 30, 2016

CD Review: Laraaji's 'Ambient 3: Day of Radiance'

Ambient 3: Day of Radiance

Ambient 3: Day of Radiance was originally released in 1980. Producer, Brian Eno resurrected the album conceived by Laraaji, a masterful zither player, dulcimer connoisseur, pianist, and keyboardist. This recording displays the timelessness of Laraaji's electronic and ambient styles. The melodies are atmospheric, spacious, and scintillating. The zither and autoharp sounds are very magical and entrancing. The album is divided up into two sections: The Dance and Meditation. The three tracks of The Dance contains more upbeat, dreamy, and melodic ambient tones, while the last two songs of Meditation contain a more spacious, atmospheric tone. As a whole, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance possesses a great selection of instrumental gems that are relatively repetitive, which is not a negative here. The nature of ambient, electronic, and atmospheric music is varied, but ever-changing. Whether the true quality of music is indeed ambient, Laraaji knows no bounds when creating beautiful works. Oh yeah, and the production credits of Brian Eno don't hurt either. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: M.A.K.U. Soundsystem's 'Mezcla'

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem

The New York-based, Colombian-infused musical adventures of M.A.K.U. Soundsystem are eloquently showcased on their latest album, Mezcla. The steady, Latin-beat is full of funky percussive sounds, Spanish vocals, and an Afro-beat-meets-Klezmer influence likely absorbed from their New York home and Colombian heritage. The result is a frenzied, funkified, and psychedelic romp through the Central American jungles and the subways of New York City. The music brings in a certain amount of jazzy elements, electronic undertones, and a vibrant rhythm section to electrify the music for an unforgettable forty-three-minutes. The tracks and vocals represent a high-energy product that is danceable, thought-provoking, and lyrically-strong. All in all, nine tracks round out the album. The positives are marked with indelible beats, catchy rhythms and melodies, and a hint of nostalgic elements encompassing Afro-beat, psychedelic rock, funk, jazz, dance, and electronica. Fans of Latin-beat, Afro-beat, cumbia, and related genres will not want to miss Mezcla. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CD Review: Silva's 'Jupiter'

Six Degrees

Brazil's Silva brings us pop-infused tunes with R&B, electronica, tropical, Latin, and urban qualities on a new album that celebrates his love of Jupiter. As a child, the planet Jupiter has been a fascination. Hence, the album artwork illustrates this point from the beginning. The music is not spacey or atmospheric, as one would expect from an otherworldly image or album title. Instead, Silva's ethnic-infused concoctions showcase the lounge side of pop, jazz, and dance. The punchy rhythms and bubbling bass accompany traditional percussion and electronically-tinged arrangements with such ease and grace the album is sure to be a favorite of all who listen. Silva's vocals are soft and mellow, but very compelling. Fans of contemporary Brazilian music will love it. Everyone should get on-board with Silva's latest release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Estonia's Maarja Nuut's 'Une Meeles' (In The Hold Of A Dream)

Maarja Nuut
Une Meeles

Estonia's fiddler and singer, Maarja Nuut, releases her latest musical venture full of minimalist delicacies, mysterious electronic soundscapes, and light melodies with an experimental vibe. The vocals are akin to Vaartina in parts. However, the musical structures are similar to other artists from Scandinavia. The atmospheric sounds and somewhat industrial or metallic sounds on a few tracks showcases Maarja's creativity. For instance, the sound of a cell tower is the focus of "Kiik Tahab Kindaid." Maarja's classical Indian music studies shine through on some of the fiddle compositions, such as "Siidisulis Linnukene." Interestingly, some of the plucked string compositions reflect a North African sound not normally observed in Estonian music. Fans of Scandinavian folk and experimental music should find it very satisfying. Also, the vocal arrangements are not too far from Icelandic or Greenlandic influences. This is a very engaging and solid release. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Single Review: Rene Lopez' "Restless"

Rene Lopez
Song: Restless

New York-based, Nuyorican musician, Rene Lopez, turns heads and gets feet movin' with the smooth, electro-latin-soul song, "Restless". Rene is a talented songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer that has explored an intimate palette of aural magnificence originating from his passionate vocals, tropically-tinged songs, and an ever-present, contemporary or urban presence. The song begins with a steady, synth melody, clap-like percussion, soaring strings, and background vocals with a gospel edge. There is an uplifting element of the song near the end of the song with louder vocals and more background accompaniment. In fact, Rene's vocals at the end of the song resemble Bruce Springsteen. However, the song is not a rock anthem, nor a hip hop party track. Instead, the song is a trip hop, lounge standard with classy vocals and a steady, yet creative beat. Fans of Craig Armstrong's earlier works will find similarities here. At any rate, everyone should check out "Restless" by Rene Lopez. 5 Stars (out of 5) ~ Matthew Forss    

Thursday, February 4, 2016

CD Review: Folkbeat RF's 'In Mixt'

Folkbeat RF
In Mixt
Sketis Music

The vocal quartet, Folkbeat RF, features the music of four Russian women, Svetlana Ivanova, Maria Zibrova, Svetlana Shestopalova, and Alyona Minulina on an incredible, contemporary release, In Mixt. The vocal harmonies are a bit like Finland's Varttina in parts, while some of the more popular arrangements are evocative of urban beatbox. However, the beatbox stylings are very appropriate and intriguing. There is a historic quality to the vocals, which stems from the ancient Russian influences. Sacred and choral music of Europe can be heard as a strong influence here. There are various electronic programming touches that bring about a new age and alternative presence. The songs are based on folkloric foundations, but the contemporary appeal reaches across genres and geographic boundaries with tunes that everyone can relate to. Fans of Russian vocal music, rap, dance, folktronica, and world fusion will find In Mixt to be a 'mixt' bag of wholly likable hits! No complaints here. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Opycham's ''

Sketis Music

Opycham's latest release,, was recorded in Tuva, which is spearheaded by drummer and percussionist, Rasputin (of Yat-Kha-fame). The meditative and monastic eight-track release celebrates various religions including Russian faiths, Buddhism, and Shamanism. The album contains a backdrop of various rain sounds, fire, birds, insects, and water-flows for a very earthy element. The pensive instrumentation is rather light and alternative and comprises the cello, djumbush (like a Turkish tanbur), guitar, and hand-percussion. The music is vocal, but very entrancing overall. The subtle inflections of earthy elements and hypnotic vocals make Opycham's latest release well-worth a listen. Fans of shamanic, alternative, new age, Russian folk, and European music will love it. It's a great way to unwind! ~ Matthew Forss