Album artwork for Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar
First of all, I would like to extend my best holiday wishes to each and every one of my readers! Your support has been truly inspirational, and I thank you all for it. I hope that all of you had a very Merry Christmas! As a holiday treat, today I would like to present you with one of the most musically unique albums that I have encountered in the past year. Let no one say that Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace, does not have a distinctive sound. He is the mastermind behind Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, an album that combines the glitchy wonder of retro video game music with the musical complexity of progressive rock. Well, that’s certainly an interesting twist. If a band like Seventh Wonder or Dream Theater had decided to write electronic-based music for an 80s adventure game, this might have been the result. Let’s take a closer look!
This music represents a bit of an indulgence for me. Those of you that follow this blog regularly have probably realized by now that I am a big fan of progressive rock. It is the genre that I grew up with, and it will definitely always hold a special influence in my musical endeavors. I am also a passionate video game music enthusiast. The world of video games is the perfect theater for compositional experimentation. Different moods can be created for different scenarios in the game, characters can each be assigned their own musical themes, and dramatic interpretation is an omnipresent element. There is so much inspiration that can be drawn from various components of a game, and composers use this inspiration to create a sonic world that helps the game take on a whole new life.
In general, I try to write about fairly unknown artists in an effort to promote new and unique music to the masses. This policy does not exclude more famous bands from the realm of noteworthy music creation, however. On the contrary, the new album from Mumford & Sons, Babel, is a shining example of how reaching number one on the Billboard charts and being nominated for Grammy awards does not necessarily mean you’ve sold out. In the case of this particular British folk rock quartet, the media attention and critical acclaim is unquestionably deserved. They did an outstanding job of staying true to their roots and keeping intact the musical integrity that makes their songs so great. Many of you reading this have probably already heard this album, however I believe that its exceptional quality is deserving of a blog post nonetheless.
There’s something about this group that is definitively British. Maybe it’s their fashion sense, or their lyrics, or just a combination of the many eccentricities that make Mumford & Songs unique. They take advantage of their talent for beautiful songwriting and dress it up in a bluegrass outfit. Not only do are they keeping the folk tradition alive, but they are revamping it with modern production value and pop sensibilities. This is a band that can hold their own in any situation, whether it’s a hoedown in Nashville, a broadcast on pop radio, or a pub back in London.
As the music industry has moved into its newest era and embraced the digital revolution, a number of new styles have emerged as a result of classic genres incorporating electronica influences. Some such fusions have become fairly popular over time, such as industrial rock, space rock, and indie electronic (“indietronica”), but there’s a wealth of richly developed styles that have remained relatively unheard of. Electro swing, for example. Electro swing had been lurking just under the surface of discovery for many years, until Parov Stelar, generally credited as the founder of the genre, began releasing music on his newly created label, Etage Noir Recordings in 2004. After his breakthrough, a community of electro swing musicians quickly began to form and gain momentum, with groups like Caravan Palace building further popularity for the style. Today, I present you with a musical duo that presents a slightly different side of electro swing. Together, vocalist Nathalie Schäfer and producer Gyso Hilger form Nekta.
In 2009, Nekta released their second full-length album, Storybook. With this record, the duo presents a unique blend of old-time swing and deep house elements. Their music is generally more laid-back than that of other, more well-known electro swing groups, which helps to distinguish them from their contemporaries. In the words of Nekta themselves, “…it is hard to say whether the twelve new titles [off of Storybook] are retro, still modern, or already classically timeless. The successful attempt to put Jazz and Pop, acoustic and electronic sound generators, and a danceable club appeal on one hand with the qualities of songwriting on the other under one common denominator.” This sums up the main goal behind this kind of music rather concisely. When combining two very different styles of music into one, the final result (if done correctly) is getting the best of both worlds, and that is exactly what Nekta has done.