Alex Jasperse - Muses Muse
This album is simply a masterpiece.
What is ‘peaceful’ music? Well, certainly not rainbows and lollipops if you talk to some. ‘Peaceful’ music is generally considered to evoke ease, a feeling of close friendship, safety and security – but why does it tend to border on cliché most of the time? Enter Norine Braun, who shows that peaceful music can be at once powerful and calming, introspective and compelling, rather than being susceptible to any immediate dismissal.
Typically when an artist jumps repeatedly from one genre to another, mixed opinions and harsh criticism are the result. The sense of predictability, constancy and security we associate with that artist is thrown out the window, and we’re left standing there in a dark room of new sounds – sounds we didn’t know we had opened the doors to. But every now and then, someone comes along and welcomes us in, guides us through, and energizes our new musical experience with a sense of peace and security. And that is exactly what makes Norine Braun’s latest, Evolution of the Blood Star, one of the most radiant and emotionally engaging works of the past few years.
Nowhere is the act of falsity; instead it is a reflection of Braun’s ease with her roles as both an artist and a musician. It’s hard not to describe her words as peaceful, reflective and intelligent. There is no weight being placed upon the listener’s shoulders, because she’s transformed the grind of the everyday into poetic statements that encourage a long, deep look at the bigger picture. She has used her voice as her own very human and authentic instrument – unlike others who hide behind a false pretense of honesty. As result, Braun’s comfort with herself as an artist, and her comfort with exploring other genres is what makes Evolution of the Blood Star shine ever so bright.
From the get-go, the sly and lush mystique of “Be Brave (Do It Right Blaxcot Remix)” soothes with mid-tempo groove that’ll no doubt sweep fans of chill-out and downtempo off their feet with its relaxed and graceful intimacy. It’s not only pure bliss to the ears when it’s trading steps between sax lines and soft-spoken harmonies, but the sounds of electronic meets organic instrumentation, combines into a soothing textural soundscape.
But if you thought that was the direction the album would trace, it may come as a surprise that Braun is an artist with a rebellious spirit all her own. Willing to let everyone come along for the ride, things suddenly shift gear and speed up in “Stoned and Feathered.” Rocking out Blondie-style, combined with the indescribable allure of Grace Jones, Braun’s powerful vocals are complemented by growly electric guitars and pounding drum lines. This new wave and post-punk spirit takes a short breather before coming back in “Conformity 451”, which combines the lyrical quirkiness of The Ramones, with upbeat funk guitar lines that dip in and out of classic power trio riffage. If the title of this song seems like an indication of its musical direction – fast, short and a fight against authority – past the midway mark it breaks down into delectable vocal layers of classic ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ that are complemented by a sweet hint of guitar.
What’s so fascinating and enjoyable about Evolution of a Blood Star is how it literally makes the listener forget that the songwriting, structurally, is nothing new. But after the first thirty seconds of deeply introspective tracks like, “Alberta,” it slaps the hands of all possible criticisms that could be made. The sheer attractive force of the energy that is breathing within is simply surreal, spiritual even. Is it a stretch to say that? I’d say no, and I’d even dare you to try and do anything else while Braun is singing. Take “In Space” for example: you’d either forget what you where doing, or drift towards the sounds with a magnetic force that is indescribable. Might not want to get behind the wheel with this one on…
It is apparent that Braun has an understanding of how to keep a listener’s attention in place for over an hour. Slowing the pace down for a few minutes is not only a chance for the listener to take a momentary breather, but it sets the stage for Braun to show off the strength of her vocals with several melancholic pieces. Tracks like “Crystallize” and “If I Could be the One” are infused with descending synths lines, flutes and acoustic guitars that are only there to accent her talent while she croons soft and reflective melodies.
This album is simply a masterpiece: it has detached elements from jazz, pop, trip-hop and soul without ever losing a sense of ‘cool’. Everything is rich and varied, daring but soothing and beautifully poetic. And most importantly, nowhere, simply nowhere, does it feel uneven. If you need something to reinspire your musical palette, or to convince you that it ‘hasn’t all been done before,’ then Evolution of the Blood Star exudes an energy that’s not only peaceful, but is the work of a genius that cannot be understated. There’s pretty much nothing else you could ask for (well, a private concert, perhaps… but that might be a stretch).
[Evolution of the Blood Star]
The Verdict: 9.7/10