Astroblue Express is a new indie band that fuses electronic music with experimental R&B and soprano vocals, dream pop, trip-hop, orchestral and soundtrack music. “Quarter to Somewhere” is their debut album. I consider this one of the best albums that I have come across in its genre, though I haven’t yet decided which genre! It represents the perfect marriage of avant-garde experimentalism, sugary dream pop and baroque electronica. The music is driving and propulsive at times and slow and hypnotic at others, but never oppressive, always maintaining a certain playfulness.
The instrumentation throughout the tracks is unique and while seemingly uncomplicated in some instances when listening to any isolated element, it is layered and mixed in such a manner that an unpredictable complexity ensues. The female voice is sweet, haunting, and searing in equal measures and the singer wields it with absolute mastery. It truly is as close to a perfect album, in its intent to both challenge and soothe the listener, as I have heard in years. Five stars with no hesitation.
Throughout “Quarter to Somewhere”, Astroblue Express have taken each new track as a stop alongside a winding path, finding a wrinkle to their sound (be it triphop, shoegaze, dream pop, lounge chill, or what-have-you) and following it a few steps further.
A straight 12 tracks of excellence, the first few listens through the album almost overwhelm the listener, there is so much to listen for and enjoy. The album opens the with the haunting, spacey string strikes. As the light percussion, bass, and textural chords come in playfully, this is when “Quarter to Somewhere” begins and never let’s go.
The tender and surreal vocals float airily over the subtly pulsating band behind it on “Catch Me”, while the tender melody is the primary focus. Lyrically, Astroblue Express sings rather poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics. “Type It” would probably one of the catchiest tracks on the album, if you could at all call this type of mood-inducing music, ‘catchy’.
The band has created a sound that is all their own. You won’t hear this mix of keyboards, swirling orchestral arrangements, and precise percussive interludes anywhere else – Especially adding their fractured spectral harmonies, as can be heard on the outstanding warm glow of “Midnight Drifter”. These vocals take you on a journey with its high soprano – pure glorious beauty.
Placed nearly in the middle of the album, “Origami Princess”, further pushes the boundaries of the band’s textural experiments and ambiguous sound. Despite the texture and ambiguity of their style, Astroblue Express has nothing to hide in their songs. The concrete bottom of the songs, their chord structure and rhythmic articulation, are just as fantastic as the overall product.
The tight-rope-walking band excels in the exotic art of experimental electronics and intoxicating dream pop, thriving on a diet of lush majesty. But here, on “Into The Beyond” the stripped-back informality – meticulously executed, of course – proves to be absolutely charming.
Something they repeat on the following track “Electronic Morning”. As much as “Type It” is catchy, “Boundless” has to be the most accessible track on the album. It has a well-defined beat and chorus which would endear it to radio programmers. The album closer, “Blues Fields”, is full of ethereal charm with its wonderful strings, and gorgeous instrumental flourishes.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I like this album. It provides some much needed change and fresh air in today’s music scene. This surely will end up on my shortlist of favorite albums of 2017. I just need to work out which genre I’ll file it under…
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Author: Rick Jamm
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