From my musical perspective, i’ve been noticing artists coming back into their music stride after many years of being quiet, or some new artists putting their musical twist on old classics. The internet has got a lot to do with this, as well as the close interaction we have between artist and fan. Twinned with the resurgence of vinyl, some artists seem to be borrowing musical styles or bringing ‘album etiquette’ from the past back into their work. Below i’ve reviewed 4 different artists who either bring something new to the table, or have re-packaged old songs/albums in an interesting way.  

Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (Released 2015) Choose-Your-Weapon-Hiatus-Kaiyote-Large

As a fairly new band on the scene, Hiatus Kaiyote seem to have made an impact with their 2nd album ‘Choose Your Weapon’. Falling under such genres as Jazz, Funk & Neo-Soul, the 18 track album expresses the band’s creativity and excellent musicianship between members. Tracks such as ‘Shaolin Monk Mother funk’ and ‘Breathing Underwater’ are particularly enjoyable tracks, combining excellent vocal harmonies, precision drumming and deep synth keys. There are many strong tracks on the album however that incorporate some really unique sounds which startle you in a good way, as if to wake you up to the excellent music. A great sense of enjoyment comes across through the recordings, like the band were not bound by conventional rules when making this album. For jazz/funk fans this album is worth a good listen, you’re bound to find something you like within the great range of tracks.

I enjoyed my first listen, making connections to artists like ‘The Heritage Orchestra’ and ‘Chrome Hoof’ with regards to the melodies, vocal style and drum sections. The production style is generally clear and punchy, with many subtle vocal effects thrown in with the main lyrics that work really well. Each track sounds full and warm, but delicate enough to hear the nuances of the different instruments. I was impressed with the band’s intricate staccato-like playing, keeping really tight between melody, rhythm and vocals whist sounding loose and having a very ‘Live Jazz Lounge’ sound. I was also making comparisons to Bjork’s newest album ‘Vulnicura’ throughout. It’s almost as if Hiatus Kaiyote made a re-vamped version of Bjork’s album, with a breath of youthful life incorporated in. It’s a more accessable and pleasing album that’s sure to win some people over into that line of music. A strong 2nd album.

Giorgio Moroder – Deja Vu (Released 2015) giorgio-moroder-deja-vu

I started listening to Giorgio Moroder about 3 years ago when I realised how many movie scores he produced, such as for ‘Scarface’ and ‘The Midnight Express’. It was interesting for me to hear that he would be producing an album for 2015, mainly due to the collaborative success he had with Daft Punk in 2013. This would be his first solo album in over 20 years, so there was a sort  of ‘comeback hype’ going around on social media; it’s worth noting that Giorgio Moroder is in his 70’s now! Before hearing anything I was aware of the disco, funk, electro past he had. He was somewhat regarded as a disco/electronica genius in the 70’s with his collaborations with Donna Summer. I was interested where he was going to take his new album, and wondered if at 70+ years old he could still push the envelope for new music and production.

I have mixed feelings about the album ‘Deja Vu’. Taken at face value, the album delivers some great foot-stomping tracks and is certainly club friendly. Being aware of Giorgio Moroder’s experimental background however, I wanted to hear more of Giorgio’s style come through rather than the more generic club/pop sound we’re presented with. It’s clear that Giorgio Moroder had a lot of other young musical influences involved in the making of this album, most of the tracks are collaborations with other artists such as Sia, Brittany Spears, Kylie Minogue etc…

Some of these tracks pay off really well like the remake of ‘Tom’s Diner’ and the title track ‘Deja Vu’ with Sia, however I personally wanted to hear more tracks like ’74 is the new 24’ where Giorgio’s style comes through more, rather than being too generic. This is an enjoyable pop album but is probably best taken at face value rather than anything deeper.

London Orion Orchestra – Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Symphonic (Released 2016)  LSO

It’s worth stating before anything else that Pink Floyd’s album ‘Wish you were here’ is one of my favourite albums to date, so a symphonic version being released was music to my ears. The orchestral remake was performed by The London Orion Orchestra, which seems to be their first remake album. The track listing isn’t exactly the same as the original album, with two versions of ‘Wish you were here’ on the album and the addition of ‘Eclipse’ at the end from Dark Side of the Moon. Much of Pink Floyd’s longer tracks lend themselves well to orchestral interpretation, so this album was a great choice. The recording quality sounded vast and open, with enough headroom for some satisfying crescendos. This is without a doubt an album for good Hi-Fi systems, preferably with a fair amount of power, decent floor-standing speakers and a controlled low-end.

If I had to choose between this an the original album, i’d still pick Pink Floyd’s version. That said, this was a great listen which incorporated swelling strings, great guitar playing and deep rumbles you only get from a full orchestra. The first rendition of the track ‘Wish you were here’ on the album includes Alice Cooper on vocals, who does a great job capturing the melancholy feel. The guitar and piano also sound brilliant and accompany each other well. One thing that makes a Pink Floyd track is their choice of instrument sound, such as impacting drums and psychedelic synths, which you don’t get from the orchestral version. To me, this is where some of the magic is lost as the choice of instrumentation plays as much a part to the music as the arrangement. If you want to hear a different representation of the album however, I recommend checking this out.

Jacob Collier (Cover tracks, an honourable mention, 2013+) 

Although this artist has not released a full album yet, he stated on social media he is working on his first original album to released either 2016 or 2017. My first listen of Jacob Collier was actually through Quincy Jones’ Facebook page where he had shared a Youtube clip of Jacob Collier doing a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘PYT’. I was left with my jaw partially hanging from the sheer talent this one person has; he even included Quincey Jones in his cover!

Due to his pairing with such a musical legend, I decided to check out his other work. Turns out he had some more covers for sale on Bandcamp including some Stevie Wonder tunes. Jacob Collier is a one man band that can seemingly do everything, from having a huge vocal range to playing bass, guitar, drums, percussion, keys…and most likely more.

The most impressive thing about watching Jacob Collier’s covers on Youtube is how easy he makes it look, when in reality what he’s doing is musically and technically mesmerising. He seems to effortlessly shuffle with the structure of the (already well known) tracks and pump life back into it using some perfectly placed percussion, jazzy keys and real funky bass. This does not even cover how amazing his voice is, spanning octaves and layered up to create a sort of super barber shop quartet sound. His sound is comparable to artists like ‘Naturally 7’ who are a group that create tracks using only their voices, including filling in for instruments. However, due to his immense musical talent that seems to span multiple instruments, I would go further and compare him to artists like ‘Prince’ as a kind of young musical prodigy. There’s definitely a bright future for Jacob Collier.

Daniel Brown

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