Darryl Gregory, Indie-Music.com
"Ariel Storm puts a stamp on a category such as synth-pop and makes it their own
Oh no, another synth techno dance CD. WAIT! I listen further. There are lyrics. Good lyrics. There are well sung vocals. Wait, there’s form and thought and-and COMPOSITION! The eponymous CD from Ariel Storm: It’s not just drum machines and looped arpeggiated sine waves. Thank goodness ... I listen on.
Ariel Storm is the result of the longtime collaboration between singer/songwriter Ariana Storm and multi instrumentalist Kai Ariel. Ariana has a degree from UCLA in theory and composition and Kai is a multi-instrumentalist who creates multi-media performances and street theater. One gets a total sense of this duo’s background as the CD progresses.
The disc starts out with a very techno feel: ultra-bass ambient sounds, drum loops, flanged vocals and all that goes with that style of music. But the CD evolves. Track two, "Lucky," has a Tori Amos feel to it with the octave doubled vocals and meandering form. We’re getting into singer-songwriter territory. By the time we get to track five, "Crazy," we start to hear acoustic instruments thrown into the mix.
"Never Too Late" brings us to a more theatrical part of the stage with just an effects-processed piano as accompaniment. We’ve lost the drum machine, and the music starts to breathe a bit more. Ariana has a soft breathy alto voice that delivers her lyrics clearly, and I love how she pulls her voice down into the contra-alto range. "Love" is a whimsical, spinning-textured piece with fun writ large but could use a bigger rock-n-roll voice to punch it through.
My favorite track is “Walk Away," a very sexy song-story about a woman being checked out by a prowling male. Ariana sings like the lyrics are thoughts in her head as she eyes the wolf. At times the music put us in a jungle hunt with djembe rhythms and twangy micro-tonal strings and then we fly out into the smoother music of the woman’s thoughts. In the end she doesn’t reject the prowling male outright, but says she’ll be there when the love comes.
I’m not a big fan of synthesized sounds. I get tired of the Garage Band loop composers and their calling a combination of pre-packaged, pre-composed samples a piece of music. So it’s refreshing and encouraging to hear a CD that demonstrates that synthesis can be musical. Ariel Storm puts a stamp on a category such as synth-pop and makes it their own. The sounds are unique yet familiar and don’t try too hard to mimic acoustic sounds. Ariana’s voice blends in well with the soundscapes and the lyrics are smart and edgy. This is a great find and a CD that sits well on a shelf next to Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush (with nods to Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel). Looking forward to the next one.
By Darryl Gregory, Indie-Music.com
"The duo wedge themselves too deeply into your heart to be dismissed as pop."
“Someone out there has described the work of Seattle duo Kai Ariel and Ariana Storm as "Ambient Dreampop." Ambient? Certainly-- the CD is textured beautifully, with the extraordinarily rich voice of vocalist Ariana Storm at times embedded in lush arrangements, often of her own voice multi-tracked and punctuated by her own piano playing. Dreamy-- I can buy that. There is something more here than pop music, however.
The lyrics penned by the duo wedge themselves too deeply into your heart to be dismissed as pop.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of pop music I like. But this isn't anything like pop.
The songs have a strongly ambient feel to them; the melody is carried by Storm's vocals, accented by almost surgical percussion, guitars, and bass by the multi-instrumentalist Ariel. It is Storm's voice that is the lead instrument. But it is her lyrics that are deeply personal and self-revealing, and challenge the listener, such as in the tune 'Rich Man'.
“Who do you run from
I’m not so serene
I want to be somewhere
I’m not demeaned
I want to be something
Other than mad
Could I be here
With a little more heaven”
Storm is a woman prepared to ask us and herself difficult questions, to challenge assumptions, to advocate for herself. She is also a person who recognizes that value is not what sits in your bank account; value is found in human relationships, and that some qualify as transcendent. In her song 'Lucky', Storm expresses a vulnerability that is under-girded by her willingness to risk sharing herself, unconditionally; more than that, she is aware of it.
"So rare to find someone
Who’ll talk it out when you trespass
Or they do
I’m afraid sometimes
To let it in let it in
How good it can be
I’m so lucky
To know you"
In the world of Ariel Storm, and lyricist Ariana Storm, (an award-winning songwriter), you will not be lulled to sleep by an ambient confection; Storm is too forceful and passionate a songwriter to take the easy way out. Jump into the CD, and you are entering into a dialogue with two skilled musicians, who will assert themselves, challenge you; at times discomfort you. But there is nothing superficial about Ariel Storm; despite the sheer beauty of Storm's vocals, and the masterful multi-tracking of them that recurs throughout the CD, the songs possess their own depth. Each is confessional; sometimes those confessions emanate from the writer, but more often, they are the whisperings in the heart of the listener.
And yet, for all of the introspective and emotional content on the CD, it ends with an oddly festive, simple tune, 'They’re Not As Many,' with lyrics fitting this moment, 27 years tonight removed from the death of John Lennon.
"Come on come on
Come on now
Let it be
Those who refuse
Make it better
Together in Love"
One world. Together. In Love.
Lennon would have liked that.
This Compact Disc is well worth listening to. It is strong, very strong lyrically, with the ability to draw you in and make you think deep and hard. There is nothing about the transparency of Storm's lyrics that will let the listener off easy-- it's your life she is singing about, as well as her own. The musicianship is first rate, and the arrangements serve the lyrics, which in turn are delivered by a strong vocals”.
Bruce Menin - Sounds Right 12/08/2007 11:30:00 PM