Dusty Rainbow From The Dark CD
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Wax Tailor established his reputation in just a few years as one of the leading voices of the post hip-hop and downtempo scenes. Returning with the concept album, Dusty Rainbow From The Dark, the French producer gives us a musical tale inspired in large part by the enchanted world of childhood. His fourth long player is also a charming allegory on the escapist power of music. Narrated by the legendary voice of Don McCorkindale (Radio BBC's The Avengers), featuring the likes of Aloe Blacc, Shana Halligan (Bitter:Sweet), Jennifer Charles (Dan The Automator's Lovage), as well as past collaborators Charlotte Savary, Sara Genn, Mattic, A.S.M, this multicolored fable with an international cast takes us on a wandering path through psychedelic downtempo and baroque hip-hop, to create an album that is at once modern and timeless.
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Let's forget about the narrative for a moment. Featuring solid pop jams like the sensuous, quasi-Flamenco "Only Once," the funky mambo-groove "Heart Stop," and the soul-meltingly retro "My Window," Dusty Rainbow excels in terms of pure musical aesthetics. Wielding his preferred compositional tools--frequent sampling, cascading orchestral textures, and intricate, cross-genre rhythmic underpinnings--Wax Tailor crafts an album whose 56-odd minutes pack a parsimonious punch.
In many ways, it's a synesthetic trip, with masterfully coordinated music and lyrics. The track entitled No paints the boy's stubborn sleeplessness with a lazy, down-tempo groove and haunting, muted vocals, while the orchestral backdrop comprises a grumpy cello, muted trumpets, trombone slides, and sparse, heavy bass. Sympathetic violins cry out in No Regret (I can't help but point out the similarity to the Dexter closing theme). In Phonovisions, the boy hears and tastes colors as he imagines a rainbow of music curling out of his turntable. It's fairy-tale music, a madrigalian canvas of glissandos and crescendos, reminiscent of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.
At first glance, the storyline may seem like a take-it-or-leave-it affair. Dusty Rainbow`s 12 "pop" tracks are duplicitously crafted to function both within the narrative and as stand-alone numbers. But if you find yourself itching for more meaning and you have the time, go ahead and listen closely to the lyrics. It'll be worth it.
That said, following the story helped me to recognize the album's biggest shortcoming. The emotional apex occurs following these lines:
He closed his eyes and felt his feelings rise,
A lifelong sadness enveloped him.
And in its wrapping, all his longing, all his heartache emerged,
and he was not alone...
If that's not an impressive setup to a song, I don't know what is. But that potential is what makes the next track, the virtually lifeless Down in Flames, so disappointing. The lyrics are cliché and overly sentimental, with groan-inducing lines like: "laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone/you'll never die of loneliness if loneliness is all you know." Musically, there is little to no trajectory to the song; skipping to random points in the track and noting the similarity is proof enough. Following a seemingly pointless development, the eye-rolling refrain makes its uninspired return, copy-pasted to the end. The track causes me far more heartache than catharsis.
Wax Tailor's narrative albums are destined to polarize critics. In some ways, I agree with the nay-sayers: I, too, don't always want to dote on a banal story of childlike wonder. But Dusty Rainbows is more than just a predictable picture book adventure; there's something here for everyone, regardless of disposition. I say, if the story is a necessary artistic springboard for such a diverse spectrum of quality tracks, then hey, I'm down to try a little banal.
Among Wax Tailor's albums it seems closer in style to Forgotten Melodies than In the Mood, which to me is a good thing. I love the atmospheric aura of the album, and the more frequent use of samples. The vocals are reasonable, bringing back many singers from previous Tailor albums. But the vocals not as interesting as the music itself, which I find to be the case in all Wax Tailor albums.
Once again, this is another great Wax Tailor production.