CD REVIEW: A Passage to the Stars - Broken Dreams
by: Cyrus Rhodes
A Passage to the Stars
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Chill, Electronica, Chill-out, Dub, Ambient, House, Techno
Sounds Like: Moby, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Digby Jones, Oakmen, Canis, Sutra, Flipside, The Man Behind C, Bhangralution,
Technical Grade: 6/10
Weakness: Winded songs, more live instrumentation, more solos, overly synthetic and one dimensional, no release date, no barcode, no liner notes, cover art concept
Portugal’s own A Passage to the Stars (Ricardo Trixeira Alves) just released a colossal double album entitled “Broken Dreams” in 2014. Produced on a Mac, this album is relaxing and atmospheric. Although instrumental it has a very intimate feel.
The CD blasts off with ‘Beauty as seen by the eyes of a lover” an ambient intro piece that serves up hypnotic rhythms, with pulsating bass painted against a colorful canvass of music from guitar. Horns and keyboards that comes at you from every which direction. Track 2 “Illusion” presents a kaleidoscope of soothing sound featuring dynamic rhythms, and vivid melody that that flow and ebbs its way through fruition. By track 2 you realize A Passage to the Stars may be on to something very creative here as these DIY Mac recordings are diamonds in the rough – but diamonds nonetheless. Track 3 “Dying is not such a bad thing” shifts gears a bit with its methodical intro, rock steady beat against mesmerizing keyboard and synthesizer accents with hypnotic walls of sound that are infectious and hypnotic. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear so many elements of Trance, Ambient, Techno, Chill, Dub & House rhythms painted against a clever canvass of NES gaming-type sound effects. You will also notice lush layers musical instrumentation layered everywhere from low end beats and rhythms, to pulsating moog and bass segments, to ambient synthesizer and keyboard accents layered along the way. You will also notice keyboards, electric Piano, Piano, Strings, Orchestral accents, sonic vocal and sound effects, electronic beats and sporadic percussive accents, exotic phased sampling layered within the music. The songs themselves are extremely unique, highly original, and in itself a brilliantly clever. The sound-scapes are interesting, infectious, and hypnotic. The grooves and rhythms are methodical and well placed and the ambient accents are well placed and flow and ebb extremely well song for song. The CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing an impressive songwriting core craft. This CD has something for just about everyone. It’s definitely a dynamic and progressive musical statement that offers a lot of musical variety and vivid sound imagery that push the envelope. The following re my favorite tracks from disk 1 - Beauty as seen by the eyes of a lover, Illusions, Beautiful. The following re my favorite tracks from disk 2 – Dwelling in the Past (Suite), Anticipation, The Day After Tomorrow
I wish there were more solo segments. Alves should also incorporate live recordings into his work to add more sonic dimension to the catalog. At the end of the day this CD and all it's instrumentation come across as overly synthetic and sounds a bit one dimensional. (It’s obvious this album was made entirely with a mac). Though the Electronic Drums provide some variety, it's fair to say they lack in thick low end frequency and punch. Whoever put these rhythmic tracks did a great job but they are overly synthetic, lack performance and frequency dynamics, are somewhat predictable and one sided and sound a bit thin. To go with the first comment - adding in a live drummer to go with the Electronic Drums, or bringing in an experience beat master would totally clear this last issue up. I also wish there were more solo segments throughout the CD. There is no release date anywhere on the CD. There is no barcode anywhere on the CD indicating to me a retail non-compatibility. All songs over 5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Mix is adequate but doesn’t swim in the deep end of the pool with pro-caliber artists. This last comment really applies to the frequencies not the performances. I would wager this CD wasn’t even mastered. There are no liner notes whatsoever in the 3 panel foldout indicating who the contributors were to the production. Some of the aforementioned issue are not typical of professional grade CD releases. I don't get the cover art concept and how it relates to the album title.
Overall this release from "A Passage to the Stars" is actually quite amazing. Make no bones about it – this CD took some time to craft and piece together. A guy like Alves obviously has a lot of free time on his hands and has much in the way of potential as a composer/producer. Equally as impressive are the hypnotic dance grooves, electronic rhythms and beats that come with the territory. This will also appeal to those who enjoy Techno, and House-type music. Finally there are even elements of ambient, chill-out & dub music making Avles a sort of a triple threat musically. The CD works best for those who want musical ambience to fill their sonic space. I found the listening experience quite refreshing, highly original and unique. It fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively. It flows extremely well song for song and note for note. Alves is a force to be reckoned with if he can incorporate some upgrades into his overall sound.