Thursday, 29 March 2012

REVIEW: AM And Shawn Lee - Celestial Electric

'Celestial Electric' is the debut from Los Angeles musician AM and London based producer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee, and it certainly makes for an interesting and eclectic musical partnership. They enthusiastically dig through the crates to mine out diverse influences while stamping both their musical imprints across this cool-as-fuck release. 

Opening 'City Boy' eases you in to the record nicely via dreamy vocals and chilled funk guitar before 'Lonely Life' enters with a marching beat and watery synths that soon make way for a short, simple chorus packed with superb keyboard noises. The mysterious funk of 'Can't Figure It Out' displays the duo's carefully constructed percussive elements, as does the excellent trip hop of 'Dark Before Light' which at times recalls latter day Radiohead and delights with the chorus's sweet rippling guitars. 'Different Forces' is built on an attractive combination of acoustic guitars and dusty drum samples that glide into another fluid chorus, while 'Jackie Blue' resurrects a lost vintage classic and gives it a modern kick up the arse with the superb arrangement. The funk infused swagger of 'Somebody Like You' is ridiculously catchy, slightly reminiscent of The Black Keys, and if we existed in a world where people had taste, this would've be a massive hit. 

The slow-grooving slinky disco of 'Promises Are Never Far From Lies' is a bit like a very laid back LCD Soundsystem while 'Down The Line' carries strong hints of French soundtrack music. Another highlight arrives in the form of the exciting yet relaxed disco funk of 'The Signal', bursting with instant melodies and more excellent percussion. The album's most tender moment comes courtesy of 'Winter Sun''s blissful acoustic chords, dusty snares and underlying melancholy before 'Callahan' signals slightly darker elements and wraps up the album with an instrumental that could have been a from the soundtrack of a 70s blaxploitation film, but with synths that suggest sci-fi. 

'Celestial Electric' is probably one of the most diverse records you'll hear this year, while still carrying many great melodic hooks and accessible tunes. Casting its net wide, it takes in psychedelica, funk, soul, trip hop, disco, krautrock, electronica, shoegazing, french soundtrack music and lots more. Yet despite all these different styles inprinted into the record, it never once sounds messy, perhaps its consistently relaxed grooves give the songs a common thread that make the album more cohesive as a whole. A couple tracks could do with going further tune wise and in terms of structure, but mostly 'Celestial Electric' succeeds in its genre splicing ambitions, and serves up some great moments in the process. 7.5

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