Saturday, August 11, 2012

Shawn Lee - Synthesizers In Space

A digital library of virtually every instrumental sound can fit on a chip the size of a fingernail. Almost any sound can be synthesized, looped, balanced, warmed, excited, corrected, equalized, smoothed, and otherwise tweaked in a box the size of a paperback book.

Sound engineers and musicians will tell you that analog “warmth” is lost when you do all that signal processing. Thus, there are three options - live with the loss of warmth, don’t process the signal, or find a way to add warmth back to the recording.

Before the laptop computer, music and recording software and solid state memory cards  there were synthesizers. Some old ones were analog and tube-based.  Today they are digital.  Bounce one sound between the two types and you can reinsert warmth in the mix. You can also create new sounds.

All this sound synthesis must also be synthesized into music and that is exactly what Shawn Lee does on his new release Synthesizers In Space.  Almost all of the sound is synthesizer produced and warmed, although the drums and a few other instruments may be live. However, even those instruments are played by Lee. 

Lee has worked with musical elite - Jeff Buckley, Tommy Guerrero, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and a fistful of others - on cinematic instrumental music and Synthesizers In Space follows in the footsteps of that genre.  The eleven track album runs the gambit from “AJ’s Mood,” a bongo-based staccato rhythm with sparse jazz keyboard, to “Boogie Children (Saturn Day Night),”  a glam rock bit of funk that features special guest Earl Zinger on vocals.

This is mind-expanding headphone music.  Sound comes from and bounces all over the listening space - to the left, right, above, below, in front of you and behind.  Lee carefully manipulates the sound and its directional origin. Unexpected sounds wail and moan.  The bass can be heard in your chest and soul right down to your feet.

Shawn Lee’s label, ESL Music, calls it “Shawn Lee’s Psychedelic Opus.” It does have a tinge of classical musical structure and psychedelic overtones.  But it also has much more - jazz, funk, rock, latino. . .   It is mind music you can get lost in and listen to over and over again.  It is a marvel of one man’s manipulation of sound for musical and dramatic effect.

The album is scheduled for release on July 24, 2012, on vinyl, CD and in digital form.  Choose your media, find a comfortable chair, put on your closed headphones, close your eyes, press play and enter an aural cocoon.. The next thirty-six or so minutes may be the most refreshing time you have spent with something over your ears in a very long time.

- Old School

Video: .

Shawn Lee - “Head Up”

Shawn Lee - “Low Riders In Space”

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