29 Mar 2009 // A review by Daniel Boom
I'm not a huge listener to Electronica or Dance music. So when I was asked to review the album Where I Was Born
by Rare Shot Blue I said “of course I will. How hard can it be?” Well, I had another thing coming. Electronica fan, please pardon my ham-fisted, left-footed album review.
What about the name? "Rare Shot Blue". Sounds a bit like "Three Dog Night" doesn't it! What about it? Well, see, both artist names are made up of three, monosyllabic words. But actually the music doesn’t sound like Three Dog Night at all. So, Electronica fan, please pardon my pointless reference to the 60s pop rock act Three Dog Night.
This album doesn't sound dissimilar to other Electronica I've heard. It sounds maybe like a drop of Drum N Bass and a teaspoon of Trip Hop, among other things. There's a wide sonic palette. While the focus of Electronica is primarily production, a lot of the tracks on this album are actual vocal "songs". Kind of like what Everything But The Girl did with Electronica (when they finally
started getting hits!). I'm not sure if IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) applies to this music. If the term IDM translates to "boring", there's some IDM in here too, I have to say. There’s no high energy track to be found. A lot of the songs have a downtempo or downbeat feel to them.
A lot of the songs lack what I'd call immediacy. The singing sits nonchalantly over the rest of the tracks like it's winding itself down for the night. I guess part of the idea could be to create an open-ended, improvisational feel. I'd call it style over substance. That's nothing new; it's the old sonic wallpaper trick. Music that doesn't stop you in your tracks; it just plays in the background.
There are some ok vocals on the album. They sound R&B-affected. However, with the meandering of some songs, the "expressive" vocals can sound insincere. I think that if you're going to put drama into your singing, the songs need to be strong too. An example of a song I have in mind is "I'll Be Assuming". It tries to have conviction in its delivery but it just isn't an effective song, lyrically or musically.
Some of the better tracks:
'Satori'. An unusual choice for an opener but I like it more than most of the other tracks. It doesn’t sound like mainstream-influenced Electronica. Maybe this song could be described as "Ambient Breakbeat" but I don't know enough about Electronica to be sure. Along with some atmospheric sounds, the percussion is almost industrial. The song seems to have a soundtrack type of mood to it.
'Berry'. The keyboardy sound in it and the rhythm reminds of this Jazz-Funk guy I’ve heard from the 1960s called Grant Green (he was a guitar player - but there was a keyboardist with him that I don't know the name of!).
'One Day' - reminds me a little bit of Primal Scream (a couple of songs from the Screamadelica record). An anthemic, almost gospel-like song.
'Sword' - Funk and Jazz influenced with the keyboard and funky wah-wah guitar parts. This reminds me of early Massive Attack (and maybe to a lesser extent the Acid Jazz group called The James Taylor Quartet).
'Where I Was Born' is a good instrumental track. It has a blues-like feel to it. The overall rhythm is quite behind the beat, and there’s some great syncopated rhythm fills. Some of the parts change tempo against the other parts. There’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on timing-wise. Interesting listening.