Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review: Seastars 2007

A teacher and a librarian, Adrian and Ivan, came together with their Macs and their guitars. What could we get from this kind of combination? Together, they have launched the album Seastars 2007. My words of congratulations to both of them for successfully launching an album of their own.

I have been invited by Ivan to do a review of the album. I expect myself to be quite a biased reviewer. For one thing, I have a biased preference for chamber and orchestral music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic period. If for any reason you would still like to read about my review of the album, do bear in mind of my preferences in music.

On the positive note, this album offers soothing tracks for anyone who would like a break away from the noisy and clamouring sounds of city life. From this post by the musicians titled Why is the album called "Seastars"?, it appears that the inspirations behind this album probably came from a concept of mindfulness moment? When I was listening to the tracks in this album, the music made me feel as if I was strolling along a beach when it was night time, so quiet and calm.

If one has been exposed to noises and yet more noises from the day, Seastars 2007 will bring a refreshing and fairly welcoming break for the ears. I suddenly have a suggestion that the Beach Parties that will be counting down to the year 2008 should neither play pop nor rock music. Instead, it may wish to consider playing Seastars 2007 at a moderate volume. I think it would not only have a calming effect on the participants of the parties, it might also bring a certain feeling of nostalgia and reflection, which I think would be a special way to mark the end the year 2007.

If you would like to hear how this album would sound like, I would like to point you to listen to a Music Video, Dolphins Galaxia, of one of the tracks from this album. This video is put up by the musicians themselves.

However, if I were to be a critical critic, I would find this album lacking very much in an overall sense of contrast. While I could hear that each track sound different in some ways from the other, my ears perceived the general mood from each of the tracks to be similar.

For someone like myself who is used to listening to contrasts between the different movements of a symphony, and to the contrasts found within many Western art music works, Seastars 2007 is not an album that I would personally recommend to folks like myself who delights in listening to music that has a fair degree of contrast.

I won't mind listening to Seastars 2007 when I needed some soothing music for the sheer sake of getting away from loud music. However, it is certainly not an album that I would recommend if I would like to listen to music from the sheerly musical plane. The melodies of the tracks were perceived by my ears to be fairly similar to one another even though they were from different tracks. I was consciously listening out for interesting use of harmony, but my ears could not pick up any particular one. Admittedly, I had only listened to each tracks of this album at least twice.

While occassionally, there are some interesting moments in the music, e.g. the 'bubbling' sounds in Into the Deep, and the more oriental flavour and erhu-like sound in Seabreeze, my ears tell me that there is still a need for more musically interesting moments and contrasts within the music. Overall, the album felt soothing but too plain for my liking. Maybe I am really biased, I would prefer more contrasts to be present between the different tracks, so that each track has its own distinct "character" that is easily recognisable.

Nevertheless, I suppose perhaps the musicians had wanted a more reflective and calming mood to the entire album, a fair amount of musical contrast had to be inevitably sacrificed? I am not sure if I would be right to conclude this. Afterall, my preferences in music have led me to listen to more of certain genres of music than the genre of music that Seastars 2007 belongs to. Furthermore, I don't consider myself very versed in music yet.

I suppose whether or not one decides to listen to this album is dependent on one's intention at the point in time. If it was to listen to soothing and fairly calming music, this album could be one of the choices. If it was to listen more consciously to music at a sheer musical plane, then one would be quite disappointed with the overall plain quality of the entire album. Then again, the musicians themselves do deserve credits for all the efforts that they have put in to realise this album. If one is keen to support budding musicians or local production, it certainly won't kill to listen to this album for at least one time. Afterall, I can sense that this album is a production made with lots of sincerity.

If you have about 32 minutes to spare, and you would like to listen to ths album, I suggest that you visit this site. The creators behind Seastars 2007 is giving away free MP3 CDs of the album for the first 50 people who review this album, by 4 Jan 2008.


Ivan Chew said...

Thanks for taking time to review the songs, PY. Very much appreciated.

It's an honest and constructive review, which is really what we'd like to hear.

Adrian and myself don't pretend to be musicians. We're self-taught amateur players -- not that it's an excuse for the quality of the compositions :)

Will bear in mind about the "contrasts" and "musical planes" (we have to learn more about what's that). Certainly something for us to strive toward on our next project.

So thanks again. We'll give you a CD for helping review the album (if you still want it, hahaha).

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Ivan, on listening to music and the musical planes, I suggest that you can read Aaron Copland's What to Listen for in Music. I have a short post about this book here.

If it is not too much of the trouble to pass me the CD, I could in turn pass it to one of my friends who may like the kind of music that you have created.

eastcoastlife said...

It's not easy being a musician in Singapore.

Wishing you a new year.....
lit up with good times, bursting with fun and sparkling with a whole lot of joy!

Ivan Chew said...

Hi PY, sure I'd be happy to pass the CD to you! We promised a free CD for the first 50 reviewers. I'll get in touch with you once it's ready. Thanks again :)