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The Enchanted Hill - Album Leaf, The

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Artist: Album Leaf, The / Genre: Electronic, Rock / Release Year: 2007.

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      13.12.2007 20:37
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      The Green Tour E.P. (2007).

      This latest self-produced E.P. from Jimmy LaValle's increasingly successful music project The Album Leaf continues in the wistfully melancholic, instrumental post-rock style of its full-length predecessor 'Into the Blue Again,' and is distributed exclusively at live shows, where LaValle replaces his multi-talented studio virtuosity with a full live band. 'The Green Tour E.P.,' or 'The Enchanted Hill' as it is alternately known, is a high quality collection of six similar instrumental pieces to accompany a mood or mental landscape of your choosing.

      The Album Leaf is now LaValle's main project, and due to its purported suitability to television and advertisement soundtracks, particularly stuff like 'The O.C.,' also the most profitable. LaValle began as the guitarist for Tristeza, balancing out his commitments on various instruments for various other San Diego bands, and his perseverance with this solo project has allowed him to increasingly adapt and improve his home studio to the benefit of his recordings. The Album Leaf is predominantly post-rock ambience in the style of many bands today, but with a lighter, less apocalyptic and bipolar style than genre pioneers Mogwai, making it both more accessible and disappointing. For this E.P., LaValle's most recent output, pleasant piano melodies are accompanied by sweeping keyboards above a restless, slightly manic bassline, the sound never becoming too domineering or atmospheric but lying somewhere in-between.

      1. We Need Help
      2. Fear of Flying
      3. Drawing Mountains
      4. Enchanted Hill
      5. Kevlar
      6. San Simeon

      The style of all six songs is fairly similar, but there are differences between most of them (excluding perhaps the final track) that demonstrate LaValle's skill and comparative variety. 'We Need Help' is the first and probably the best, beginning with a lonely piano before introducing the odd mix of clicking and whirring electronic percussion with eloquent synthesised orchestration and a melodic guitar. After this point the album becomes less enticing and more tedious with each offering until 'Enchanted Hill,' where an ominous keyboard blares out of the bland soundscape with its disturbing, unintelligible but doubtless vital message, more reminiscent of post-rock and post-metal as well as Vangelis' synthesised dystopia for the 'Blade Runner' soundtrack.

      'Fear of Flying' and 'Drawing Mountains' are both slow, plodding affairs even compared to the rest of this mini-album, the former based on a painfully slow piano melody that can only be accentuated by the other instruments coming in rather than improved, and the latter song opting to do something similar with an acoustic guitar, played satisfyingly raw without hiding any of the squeaks and scrapes of the strings but still based on the same style and background rhythm as the rest of the music. 'Kevlar' is something of a surprise at least, though not in a completely positive sense, as its core melody is an uncharacteristically light-hearted, even frivolous keyboard ditty reminiscent of Kraftwerk or Jean-Michel Jarre, over which a few too many instruments are layered (including what seems to be a particularly irritating synthesised accordion) to the point of cacophony. 'San Simeon' responds by returning to the more successful style of the first song, replicating it almost exactly but at a slightly faster tempo.

      The Album Leaf is an interesting project, but pales in comparison to the more creative and emotive post-rock bands out there in a consistently popular genre. While this is at least light and bland enough to remain accessible to the mainstream, its suitability as a form of contemporary lift music makes it less riveting or insightful to listen to, especially when failing to deviate much from a core template. I haven't heard the Album Leaf's earlier, longer works, but I'd assume that this short, hastily-produced E.P. isn't indicative of the highly proficient Jimmy LaValle at his peak.

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