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(41:48, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Spiritus Domini 4:35 2. Scaramuzzi 5:01 3. Sparkle 3:24 4. Sleighmaker 4:26 5. Welcome to Nancy 3:41 6. The Nolly 3:40 7. The Elf 3:19 8. The Mechanical Voices 4:54 9. The Second Last 4:09 10. Thye Big Noise 4:39 SOLO PILOT: Brian Malone – all instruments
Prolusion. US composer and instrumentalist Brian MALONE is based out of Dublin, Ireland, where he's been living for a number of years. "Mechanical Voices" is his solo debut, and dates back to 2008 when Malone self-released it. 2011 saw the album reissued by the French label Musea Records.
Analysis. Placing an artist within a musical context can be a complicated affair in some instances, and an easier one on other occasions. It is a task subject to criticism, especially by those with a dedicated interest in subdividing any nuanced difference in musical approach from a pre-existing one into a new subcategory, but it is a task those who write about music needs to take on, so that whoever reads a review about an artist or an album quickly can decide whether or not this might be of interest. But in the case of Brian Malone I suspect that a genre placement isn't all that helpful, as he comes across as an artist more concerned about approach and development than stylistic expression as such. His debut album is an interesting and frequently intriguing exercise, featuring ten creations, all constructed following a more or less defined formula. He constructs a basic motif or theme, with the acoustic guitar and glockenspiel as the most frequent starting points, and then subsequently expands the arrangements, typically with synths and keyboard motifs and effects, as well as non-verbal backing vocals, presumably sampled, and I'd guess at least a partial reason for the name of this disc. The compositional structure isn't terribly advanced, a set theme with variations in terms of instrument layers and intensity in the arrangements, on most occasions with a couple of inserts or interludes along the way. The rhythm department doesn't yield any sophisticated features either, bass and drums alike are rather straight forward in construction and execution. It is all about the arrangements on this CD, and the sounds, effects and instruments used in them. And while folk music may perhaps be at the core of the matter most often, this appears to be coincidental more than anything else. The accordion and guitar combinations used on Scaramuzzi and Welcome to Nancy flavor these escapades with distinctly Italian and French touches, an effect utilized more than a distinct style sought out, and much the same can be said for the medieval acoustic guitar motifs encountered elsewhere. They are starting points, used to create an association on which Malone can build and surprise, which he does, and often masterly at that. Grandiose arrangements with symphonic backdrops and haunting backing vocals appear to be something of a specialty, and when he utilizes ghostly sounds and effects, as on opening piece Spiritus Domini, associations to an artist like Antonius Rex appear. More due to mood and atmosphere than to a distinct musical similarity I might add. Malone's arrangements are more mysterious and ghostly in a romantic manner however, unlike the darker, occult oriented excursions of the aforementioned Italian master. In addition the compositions on "Mechanical Voices" share a quality of an altogether different nature. The majority of them have a cinematic quality. Most if not all of them would be suitable to use as a soundtrack for a movie of some kind. Cinematic art rock with symphonic orientation is perhaps the best description I can come up with for this production, and it is a very well made specimen of its kind too, more enticing and intriguing than challenging as such, easy to listen to and comprehend but with a number of finer details in the arrangements to be enjoyed by the attentive listener.
Conclusion. Instrumental art rock with elaborate, majestic arrangements are the concluding results of a steady, perhaps even formula development from a careful, dampened initial opening for the 10 compositions presented on Brian Malone's solo debut "Mechanical Voices". His taste for symphonic backdrops may well be most appealing to those who enjoy the symphonic parts of the art rock universe, but as his creations have distinct soundtrack qualities to them I'd suspect that those with a particular interest in symphonic oriented soundtrack music may be even more of a key audience for this fine US artist.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 2, 2012
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