Monday, January 07, 2008

SeaStars 2007 - Album Review

The era of the closet amateur musician/artist is here! And SeaStars 2007 is evidence that all that's needed for today's home musician is the will and desire to put your stuff out there. This first time effort between Adrian Loo and Ivan Chew is a textbook case of how the production, publicity and distribution of the album was aided by technology and the internet. As highlighted by the album's blog, the duo collaborated mainly via email and "didn’t sit down to compose anything together. It was “pass-me-the-MP3-and-add-my-track-on-top-of-it” mash-up style." With much of the album collaboratively produced in their free time, the music attempts to weave a narrative of a journey from the sea to the stars.

In this reviewer's mind, the tracks definitely fall into the category of "New Age" music with elements of nature (e.g. dolphin chirps, sounds of waves) layered between of Adrian's and Ivan's instrumental arrangements. Composed entirely on Garageband, each song segues seamlessly into each, occasionally making it difficult to tell if one has moved onto another track. Ivan has solicited for reviews from bloggers in his network and one common criticism has been that the tracks seem similar to each other after a while. I have to agree and feel that this issue is a result of the form of collaborative production (emailing tracks back and forth) between Ivan and Adrian.

Maybe something to consider for the next iteration of the album would be to not tackle something as ambitious as a whole album in one go. Perhaps, taking the approach of famous music podcaster "Poddington Bear" - who releases a new song every alternate day, the duo might think about releasing one track at a time? This might allow some variation in the tracks and may firm up the journey narrative that Ivan and Adrian are trying to achieve. Adrian and Ivan might get feedback even earlier from their fans and critics if they blog each track as they go. The album will come together as a result.

The standout track on the album for me so far has to be "Flowing with the waves". It's an interesting track that sits in the middle of the album (and hence between the stars and the sea?). The track starts off with an acoustic riff, but as it moves along, an electric guitar takes over and introduces the melodic theme of the track. The instrumentation here is very good and the performance of the track is all heart and communicates the track's message of just going with the tides and currents. I believe this is what makes the amateur artist in the era of the internet stand out - the belief and sincerity of their work. And more importantly, to play like you're having fun in this whole endeavor. To be the rock stars that you could never be in the humdrum mundaneness of the daily job and life :)

You can get your hands on a copy of the album at the following URL: http://www.archive.org/details/ivanchew_testupload5_seastars2007 (expires end Jan. 2008)

1 comment:

Ivan Chew said...

Thanks for the comment, Jude. As Adrian and I keep saying to each other, "We need to keep our Day Jobs!" LOL

Yeah, there are areas where we need to improve. Still, for two guys who don't have any formal musical training, we're happy with the results. We're glad to have the reviews 'cos it's quite insightful as to what areas we need to work on, and how some aspects of the album didn't catch on.