“ Artist: Uriel / Genre: Dance & Electronic / Label: AD Music / Release Date: 2006 „
I know this isn't a genre of music that I usually review, but I have a small vested interest in this album. You see, the artist Uriel is one of my son's best friends, and since I really like him, I thought I'd give this a listen and review it for you. (Of course, how could I not - after the kid thanked my son by name on the liner notes?) Uriel's debut album "Culture Shift" is an all instrumental jazz and fusion collection of songs that includes a good deal electronically produced sounds, combined with live instruments. The first thing you'll notice as you listen to this album is that the tracks seem to bleed into one another, and unless you're watching the listings change, you might not be able to tell where one song ends and the next begins. For this reason alone, it is absurd to try to analyse this collection on a track-by-track basis, which allows me the opportunity to review this as a whole, for the most part.
To begin with, I have to say that the title is extremely relevant here. Uriel uses western jazz elements and blends them with his own middle eastern sounds, adding things like a darbuka and nay flute to electronic orchestral strings, which he also spices up with some African beats and unconventional background noises. Only one track has any live vocals, and since there are no lyrics included, the voice here is used as yet another musical instrument, sounding much like an arabic dance which almost mimics a flute, and is beautifully done, at that. The album begins with a very heavy middle eastern bent, that slides quickly into an African sounding theme that immediately got me thinking "this would be a great soundtrack for a movie". In some places I was thinking along the lines of "Lawrence of Arabia" meets "Indian Jones", where for instance, in his track Mountain Secrets there's a real feel of an adventure building that comes to a climax with the drums and then, as if the camera has panned to the peak, when you hear flutes and can almost feel the wind in your face. This dissolves into the next track called Camel Convey where you can actually hear camel sounds. It was no surprise when I later read in the liner notes that producer David Wright said "Uriel loves soundtrack music and his influences include Code Indigo and Hans Zimmer...".
I have to admit that there's very little true jazz here, which didn't actually bother me as much as I expected. This means that the more lyrical sounding music here takes a back seat to the mixed cultural sounds. The first exception to this shows up in his track Oasis, which still has the strong drums underneath, but includes a much more melodic top line with piano, guitar, violins and some wind and water sounds that truly sounds lush and cool - exactly as one would expect an oasis to sound. Here, too, the rhythm is more upbeat and using higher, lighter tones makes the whole thing come together with a stunningly refreshing effect. I also noticed the Mike Oldfield/Jean Michel Jarre influence, especially in his tracks Crystal Fields and Morning Sunflowers that is a true tribute to the early electronic rock music from the 70s - but which still feels uniquely Uriel. The latter song also has this fantastic piano riff that reminded me of the jazz I used to listen to when I was Uriel's age, which especially got me thinking of Vince Guaraldi and the stuff he did behind Snoopy's dancing in the Charlie Brown soundtracks - just lovely, upbeat and fun!
I have to admit that I didn't believe I'd enjoy this album as much as I did. Having known Uriel for so many years, I have quite a maternal attitude towards him. And we mothers tend to hope that our offsprings' creative endeavours will be truly amazing, but know that in truth, we sometimes have to pretend it is better than we feel it really is - just to be encouraging (like putting that drawing you know is no Picasso up on the fridge). In this case, I don't have to pretend at all. This is one really lovely album. It is jam packed with exciting sounds, interesting melodies, emotional beats and an intricate blend of styles and instruments. In fact, while I can't be sure of it, I can't actually think of anyone who enjoys rock, electronic and/or jazz music wouldn't find something to like in this collection. And I'm pleased to say that a small search on Google informed me that this was "Nominated in the Best New Artist & Best New Album of 2008 categories in the German Schallwelle Music Awards". Well, I guess I and my son are not the only ones who noticed this kid's talent. I'll give it the full five stars it truly deserves, and recommend you give it a listen - you never know, this album might open your ears to something totally different than you regularly listen to, and I think you'll enjoy it.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © March 2009 for DooYoo and Associated Content
This album was released by AD Music and you can find the page for it at http://www.admusiconline.com/main/uriel.php and more information about Uriel himself at www.myspace.com\urielmusic and some of his older house/dance stuff at www.myspace.com\urielmm
You can also download the MP3 versions of this album from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Culture-Shift/dp/B0017IM4R6 which also offers you a preview of the tracks included.
I also found this review http://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/0901AU.htm that was very impressive, as it is one of the few that wasn't written and posted by the producer David Wright!