The best part of doing a blog is being introduced to a new artist and being floored with their first release. Such is the case with Philippines based artist Bobby Legaspi and his debut album “…For Strange Times”. In an email to me he stated that the album is “a mix of synth pads with orchestral instruments. If you’ve watched the Movie “Mandy” and enjoyed to Johann Johannsson’s (RIP) score then you might enjoy this. In fact, the 3rd track off this album “Letters to Bloom” is a reference to his Mandy love theme.” Legaspi shows from the outset that he clearly has the skills to pull off a homage, if you will, to such a much loved and lost composer.

There is a purity in not knowing the background of an artist in the way that it releases any shackles that you may easily find yourself attaching to an album. That said, I would imagine Legaspi has had some time to hone his craft such is the considered approach to his music that is clearly evident while listening. The eight pieces that are contained on “…For Strange Times” have a balanced blend between Ambient, Modern Classical and Synth styles with fluid transitions occurring throughout. A Piece like “Stalagmites” takes you into a deep ambient territory, “Night Lights” an almost dark smoky Jazz bar and the aforementioned Jóhannsson inspired piece “Letters To Bloom” is a worthy tribute which also seems to ring in the soundscapes that Legaspi engages with ever so nicely.

With “…For Strange Times” you are given a consistent sounding album. There are no grand peaks or troughs with Legaspi instead focusing to make pieces come together as one great statement. As consistent as the sound of the pieces is, so is the quality of the material. Legaspi demonstrates deft touches with minimal effects resulting in a much more maximal pay-off. Take a piece like “Wisdom In Isolation” for example. This would be a piece that would easily be a highlight of any modern composer’s release, but on this album it is just an example of how thought out, considered and stunning the release is.

“For Strange Times” is available as a digital only release and comes highly recommended.

“I went through some painful physical challenges making this album, my health failed me for a period just after the release of ‘Within Thrall’. After months unable to play electric or acoustic guitar, I realised I was just about able to play a classical guitar. This changed the entire sound and direction of what I’d been writing so far.”

Rapt release number three is “None Of This Will Matter”, released by the Slovakian label Z Tapes. Following on from his direction changing “Within Thrall” (August, 2019) Jacob Ware further pushes the envelope open on his sonic explorations. The press quote for his last album is as apt as it is for “None…” “drifting somewhere in-between Folk and Shoegaze (think if Nick Drake, Grouper and Slowdive had a child). I still will be making Ambient/Electronic stuff with the the name, but this is the direction I felt like going in. I collaborated with Demi Haynes from a great band (Seashine) from the US on this. I heard her voice and had to message her asking to work with me.”. Album number three shows Ware collaborating once more with Haynes and Fernando Mendez on Guitars, Strings and Vocals. It’s these collaborations that really add to the project that is Rapt.

Traditionally I am not a vocal person, but voices like these have a way of making such a resistant person as I, a convert. The music suits the addition of vocals as both instruments and vocals draw the listener into a sound world that has an innocent, sun soaked and gentle feel. There is a strong Folk nature to the music, probably more so than on “Within Thrall” which had an acoustic shoegaze feel, although that quality still comes through on a track like the opener “Siren Bay”. It would appear that Ware may double his vocals which gives a depth to his sound that is consistent whether it is just him singing or duetting.

The beauty of the release lies in the fact that the music is not two dimensional. There is an ethereal quality to the music which is noted on the surface and deep down below. At times you can hear where this music could be remixed and developed further into other possibilities. “Siren Bay” is the perfect example where the almost not there beats could be emphasised and a driving bassline could propel an already angelic track into something gigantic. You also start hearing more elements being added to the Rapt template with the post rock like textures of “In Passing” which hint at the fact that there are more diversions for Ware and co to explore.

“None Of This Will Matter” will appeal to those draw in by “Within Thrall”. My hope for the future of this project is more collaborations between Ware and Haynes and a further exploration of the dream pop capabilities of these two fine singers/musicians. “None Of This Will Matter” is available on limited Cassette (70 copies) and Digital.

“Borealis, the debut collaborative LP by American midwestern musicians John Hayes & Maxy Dutcher is out wherever you listen to music! On this stunning first record they weave a lush tapestry of neo-classical sensibilities and driving electronic elements with influences from trance, dance, and abstract music.”

John Hayes, the Minnesota musician has had a busy 2020. So far he has released his album “The Last Best Place”, this collaboration with Maxy Dutcher and the forthcoming “Du Nord” album with Elskavon. One wonders how many quality full lengths can come out in one calendar year that involves one person. Hayes and Dutcher are no strangers with Dutcher remixing “Marin” on Hayes’ “By The Woods (Reworks)” album. You could make the comparison to Kiasmos with Hayes possibly inhabiting the Ólafur Arnalds role and Dutcher the Janus Rasmussen one and while there are similarities in their backgrounds and the sound of this album, Hayes and Dutcher plot their own course.

“Borealis” is a ten track album that navigates the Modern Classical / Electronica divide that while it has a semi dancefloor influenced feel, it is more in the IDM vein. With the music I have heard from each musician it feels like the pieces on “Borealis” are less of combining both Hayes and Dutcher’s styles, instead it is a case of creating their own joint style. Within this joint style there is an openness to explore more sounds like the cold retro minimalism of the title track, the rippling “Spell”, the melodically propulsive “Carousel” or the hazy piano ambience of “Stasis”. By having this openness to sound it makes the album more of a whole release rather than a compilation of similarly sounding pieces. I am a big fan of artists approaching albums this way as it removes the limitations of the music and the variety adds to the listening experience.

“Borealis” is the sort of album for fans of either artist or the aforementioned Icelandic duo. It hopefully is the first in a long line of collaborations. “Borealis” is available Digitally from Moderna.

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