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Surface of Eceon – Dragyyn

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Strange Attractors Audio House, 2003

I have been known to read literature that deals with elfs, swords, and epic battles, so it’s not much of a stretch to understand why this record appealed to me when I saw it.  With its flame-riddled digipak and jagged writing, Surface of Eceon (or Surface of Eceyon) looked to be worth a listen.  Plus, they put two y’s in place of the “o” in “Dragon”.  It’s possible that these guys were either trying to get seriously mystical with their printing or they were absolutely fed up with the way “dragon” is spelled.  I mean c’mon, we never say “drag – on” now do we?  It’s always “drag – in”.  And i’s suck.  So two y’s are cooler, at least according to these guys.  I’m with yya, Surface of Eceyon.

One of the more notable aspects of the record is that, upon opening the digipak, one sees a lengthy story entitled “Myths From the Surface of Eceyon”.  Written as a spinoff of something Tolkien might have inspired, it tells of the journey of the five band members (with fantasy warrior monikers, of course) in their quest to slay a Tussyan beast.  Whether the tale or the music came first is unknown, but the simultaneous experience of the two might make the album easier to understand as a soundtrack to the subject’s quest.  I like the idea, though I don’t think I would have been chosen ‘Eceyonic Man’ as my warrior name, Phil Jenkins.  Sounds like you’d get defeated by Batman with that schtick.

A six track album consisting of all instrumentals, “Dragyyn” is a journey of contemplation.  You would think that with such a cover that the band would be tearing into combustible rock n roll, or even metal, to lay waste to the towns of listening citizens.  However, the record really plays out quietly as  “Council is Called” is nine minutes of calm, concerned music.  You can actually picture a group of grizzled warriors talking about their impending adventure around a battered, long oak table in a dark room.  “Over Land, Over Ice” picks up a little more activity with echoing guitars and increased overall volume, probably because the warriors are now, ah, moving.  Still, this isn’t a bouncy “Lord of the Rings” movie soundtrack, folks.  These warriors sound as if they’re walking a long, peaceful distance with only their thoughts to motivate them.  Sounds like an independent movie, actually.

After “Victory of Ice and Magyk”, which has the most pep and is probably something akin to a battle tune, “By a Curious Vessyl” is a lengthy space out of a tune.  Maybe the adventurers discovered opium on their trip, I dunno.  It’s eleven minutes of delicately sheer relaxation.  “Freeing the Winds”, which apparently matches up with the story as the point in time that the warriors slay the dragon only for it to turn into a whole lot of wind, picks up very nicely during its nearly twenty minute trek.  The composition combines everything that came before it; it has the serene beginning, the swirling guitars, and the rock out climax that succeeds in giving the impression that a real fight is going on.  After a build up of nearly forty minutes, the raucous that depicts the end of the journey is totally worth it.  The fact that the track concludes with the sound of wind, which is how the record began, is a nice touch.

They haven’t been doing much since 2003, but they still have their website and MySpace up if you’re interested in reading and hearing what you’ve missed.

I was pleasantly surprised by this record, as I found the whole idea of a story intertwined with music made for a really enjoyable experience.  Even if the story was crafted after the music was created, Surface of Eceon made an album that works well as a continuation of their music style while simultaneously appealing to another angle of their creativity.  As mentioned before, the group hasn’t released a record since 2003 and don’t appear to have toured recently.  Perhaps after this record they dropped their instruments and started walking towards an icy mountain in the distance rumored to hold a dragon.  Good luck, dudes.

Various Artists – Crydamoure Presents “Waves”

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Crydamoure Records, 2001

Featuring a picturesque cover of a location I would consider giving nearly anything to transport to right now, this compilation looked promising in a few ways.  The track list of the album made it apparent that this was going to be a dance CD of some sort.  With songs like “Intergalactik Disko”, “Boogie Shell” and … “Santa Claus”, well, it looked to be a rousing time.  There’s also a track called “T.I.T.T.S”.  If it was a song about The International Taste-testers of Taco Salads I couldn’t pass it up.  I love taco salad.

Cryadamoure are actually a duo from France who create house music to please the French masses.  Figuring that they might as well assist others who create similar music, they started the Crydamoure record label and put out this compilation of artists.  Since this is house music, many of the songs stick to one loop and repeat it with slight variations.  For many songs this style makes little impression, like on “Lovers” (sorry Raw-Man), “Intergalactik Disko”, and “Coral Twist”.  I could see these tunes being much more interesting if one was actually at a dance club and experiencing some other sensory influence (glug glug glug), but as is these aren’t anything spectacular.

“Hysteria” by Le Knight Club had some serious potential when it began with its hook, but it never brought it to the next level.  When a song gives a hint as to what is in store, one usually feels that it’s only a matter of time before more beats, drums, sound, etc get introduced to pour it on.  “Hysteria” never gets there, and the sad sound effects of artificial cheering from an audience makes it more apparent of its lack of success.

It takes nearly half of the compilation to pass on before the songs get more interesting.  Le Knight Club make up for their “Hysteria” let down by composing “Cherie D’Amoure”.  Even though it is considered a bonus track (inferior?), it is a strong tune for me due to its somber tone.  Not every dance track needs to be in your face and loud about it, which makes “Cherie D’Amoure” and its ability to quietly get the foot motivation going appealing.

It seems that once “Cherie” is finished, the compilation finally gets into gear.  “Wrath of Zeus” by the Eternals, “The Turkish Avenger” by Sedat, and even “Santa Claus” by Le Knight Club make up a couple of the dance songs that stood out to me.  Again, despite the repetitiveness the songs had a hook that could sound excellent if blasted into your ears while you’re surrounded by a swath of multi-colored lights and grinding people.  “Boogie Shell” reminds me of a traditional pulsing dance tune while the final track of “Holiday On Ice” has hints of Daft Punk in its inverted sound effects that seem to poke at the listener.

Listen to a few house tunes on the label’s MySpace page.

I was ready to write this compilation off for some of its earlier tracks, but the music that showed up in the second half convinced me that this isn’t so bad.  All songs have constant repetition, but there are certainly better tracks than others depending on how the hooks are constructed and varied over time.  Even though I don’t listen to much house music, I have to say that writing this review was easy given the motivational background music.  Picking up further house compilations, whether they are from Crydamoure or not, is likely a real gamble when it comes to discovering effectively enjoyable songs.  However, if one can find some affordable music to keep the body moving, no matter what the genre, then it is a success.

Nicolas Matar – Latitude 40 Degrees

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Journeys By DJ, 2001

I’ve mentioned it before, but despite all of the edgy tattoos and scars that I currently don’t have adorning my body (but in my mind, I do) I sometimes pose as a chic clubber (also in my mind).  I did used to go to a few clubs back in the day and shake it until 3 or 4 in the morning, which may seem laughable to the young tykes these days but hey, those were fond times remembered.  It has been some time since I’ve actually sat down and listened to some trance/house/electronica/whatever you call it, but I have been known to give such music a chance when presented because I have been pleasantly surprised in the past.  With its cool, simple design and songs like “Cafe Soul” and “Jazz Room”, I figured a compilation of songs mixed by Nicolas Matar might be decent enough.  Plus, if the disc ended up sounded great I could tell people that I first heard about the guy when I was clubbing in Ibiza by way of Goa.  I travel a lot (in my head) for dancing, by the way.

At nearly a decade old, this music still has the pulse to get a dormant listener up and active.  The first tune of Smurf & Perry’s “Lovin You” is a great start, though one could argue that it’s a pity that it’s too short even at just over five minutes.  However, that’s what DJs do; they can’t have you getting too comfortable with one song when there’s plenty of others to intertwine for a mix.  I don’t know whether it is Smurf or Perry, but the female vocalist sounds great on this one when she smoothly delivers the line “Lovin you/is all I do”.   “Starlite (Soul Vocal mix)” has a great background guitar intro before breaking into, indeed, another dance song with a female singer. She doesn’t have the same husky soul as the previous singer, but she does add even more pep to the already bouncing tune.

The aforementioned “Jazz Room” incorporates a rather erratic bass line before slipping in what sounds like cow bells and piano.  This track in particular sounds like it could be the background for a lounge scene that you might see on television somewhere.  The “Musica (Original mix)” is quite invigorating and amidst a long line of four-to-five minute similarly sounding tracks it stands out as something that could probably get a group of people dancing.

As the songs proceed, they all start to blend in together as one might expect from a mix by a DJ with a particular ear.  I will say that after awhile I do feel like I’m listening to a nineties dance mix, but I really can’t pinpoint why.  Perhaps the electric keyboard sounds remind me a little too much of something I might have heard from C & C Music Factory or Crystal Waters.  A few songs also give the impression that they could be used as backgrounds for a feisty Weather Channel presentation, which is probably not what Matar was aiming (and probably hates me) for.  Still, whatever hints of old sound that Matar develops is of little consequence because all of these songs, when played from beginning to end, provide a nice soundtrack to whatever gathering or work you have to accomplish.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find very much music to stream of Matar’s, but I did find his booking website that has a mix one can download:  DJ Nicolas Matar.

This release was part of a relatively large release of discs from Journeys By DJ records, so I really don’t know how this one compares to the rest of them.  It has a great vibe to it and it never got boring, so despite some sounds that might seem a little outdated, I thought it was a solid dance mix that would be quite good for any party or mood-setting occasion.  Sometimes indie pop or jazz just doesn’t cut it when it comes to inspiring an upbeat mood, so if you’re willing to experiment a little bit and take a chance on an established DJ, go pick up something by DJ Nicolas Matar.  I can’t say he’s better than everyone or anyone else, but at least it’s a starting point.  I, for one, think this was quite the bargain to pick up even if it only complements the rest of my guitar and drum music collection.

If you, like me, are seriously considering spending more money on house and electronica music and leaving the verse chorus verse stuff behind, you should be warned.  There’s so many DJs, mixes and compilations out there that want your attention in their claims of great party or mood music.  You really could choose any of them and probably get something that would be decent.  You could also spend too much money on something that looks great but sounds boring.  In my opinion, the best way to experience a DJ is at a live setting where you can let the music consume you while you’re dancing at a slick club.  This would at least give you a better feeling as to whether a DJ can truly inspire you to let loose.  Therefore, next time you’re in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or all of Europe, make sure you find yourself a great club or two and dress like you’re the center of attention.