What’s to like?
A nicely put together little album, produced by a relatively unknown young writer and arranger, that is worth taking time out just to relax with, and perhaps encourages a fresh appreciation of what it takes to be able to create and perform music.
The low down
I’d never heard music of Psychic Equalizer until the project’s composer Hugo Selles contacted me through the Prog Magazine Facebook Group and invited me to have a listen to his latest recording The Lonely Traveller.
Psychic Equalizer appears to be a free-form endeavour, with Selles writing and producing the material, assisted by whichever musicians he needs to help embellish his piano pieces which form the core of the music.
Psychic Equalizer was founded by Selles in November 2011, with a motivation to approach music from alternative and organically developing perspectives, mixing different styles and creating new sound textures through collaboration and experimentation. It sounds from their mission statement that everything is up for grabs, as they adopt styles ranging from piano sonatas, to ambient electronica and moog solos, from gentle acoustic guitar moments to electric guitar solos that alternate between jazz improvisation and prog rock precision.
The Lonely Traveller is described as “an ambitious fusion of different musical genres, telling the story of the journey from adolescence to adulthood; a time of becoming more conscious about the surrounding world”, and after giving the album a spin, I certainly sensed the different sounds and arrangements fusing into something comfortingly familiar, but constantly avoiding becoming predictable.
Not an easy task when you’re a composer with a classical background where everything is very prescribed, but the mixture of moods, tempos and musical disciplines works really well on this album. It’s not going to rock you out, nor is it going to go all epic and symphonic, or even indulge in the kind of jazz noodling that can put some listeners off.
But you will find it relaxing to listen to, in a way that still encourages you to keep a keen ear open for the next unexpected shift in dynamics, gently prodding you to keep with it and rewarding you at the end with a feeling of being acoustically refreshed.
The music is completely instrumental, so I found it hard to get into the concept of the traveller’s journey, but I guess the moods conveyed by the music are a suitable metaphor for life’s ups and downs as we age and evolve as individuals.
Most of the twelve pieces are all relatively short, making for an easy and relaxing listen, but on occasion perhaps feeling a little disappointed as tracks like An Ocean Of Changes fade out just as the music takes on a more exciting direction. But then if you listen to the album as concept piece then the music does have an ebb and flow that works well over the 40 minute duration.
Here’s an official clip from the album track Adrift:
I have to say that I was very impressed with the quiet confidence the radiates from the music on this album, from the arrangements to the understated musicianship and the sound-mix. Everything feels like it has been clearly thought out and a lot of commitment has gone into making the music sound as interesting and as well mixed as it can be.
Perhaps the best thing about this album, for me at least, was the way it gently reminded me that it takes time, talent, and commitment to make any form of music, and the most gifted composers are those who can quickly catch your ear with their melodies and arrangements but keep you coming back for more.
You can hear and purchase The Lonely Traveller album on Bandcamp here.
Hopefully this review will encourage you to try out album and give this relatively young band more exposure and that vital encouragement to keep going.