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album review
Various Artists - And Suddenly It's Morning (2009)

This is an album of chilled electronica, the sort of thing you might hear late at night, playing in the background of some trendy dimly-lit upmarket winebar. As such, it would work quite well at creating a cool stylish ambience, but sitting down and actually paying attention to it isn't especially rewarding.

The entire album is made up of lo-bpm recordings that seem somehow incomplete, more like backing tracks in search of a melody, rather than complete compositions in their own right. Anyone with one of those budget music software packages (like say, e-Jay Techno) could create something the equal of any of these tracks in around half-an-hour - just select a bass beat, a hi-hat, then overlay them with a short repeating rhythm line from one or maybe two instruments, and that's pretty well what you've got here - whilst it 'grooves' OK as far as it goes, it isn't exactly inspired.

Track 4, the 4 star "Touch", is the best of the bunch, for whilst it follows the formula outlined above, it's the electronica equivalent of a rhythmic hi-speed trainride, and in the same way that sitting in the carriage of a train that clackety-clack clackety-clacks over the rails can become mesmerising, then "Touch" conjures up a similar effect, even including feint background woo-woo's to further enhance the aural imagery. Even so, that only underlines the essentially ambient background nature of the material on offer here.

The three tracks prior to "Touch" are so skeletal and flat that they quickly induce boredom, but beyond "Touch" things do gradually pick up, so that by the end of the album things are a bit more energised.

Even so, the overall impression was that by itself this album makes for pretty dull listening, though it might be useful for DJs as a preamble for creating a mellow vibe that gradually intensifies, prior to launching a fullblown dance set (though the title suggests it's actually intended to be a comedown album).

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Posted: Saturday 18th May 2013 12:22 AM

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album review
Wendy Matthews has a good singing voice - sometimes it's quite soulful, other times it wouldn't be out-of-place fronting a traditional folk band. But it doesn't have any distinctive quality ... I mean, I doubt I would recognise it on the radio or telly and say 'Hey, that's Wendy Matthews!'. So in that respect, it's a bit generic, which is probably why she spent much of her career as either a backing singer on the road, or as a session singer in the studio.

In order to be notable as a solo artist beyond her adopted home of Australia, she'd need high-quality original material, to give her a chance of standing out from the crowd of people who also have good singing voices. And in a way she seems to understand that ...

For on this album, Matthews performs songs all written by different people ... I can't say any of the songwriter's names are familiar, and neither are the songs, which are for the most part fairly slow-paced - ponderous even. So this is a bit like an album of demos by aspiring songwriters, sung by Wendy Matthews.

It's alright as far as it goes, everyone plays in tune and they all finish together at the end of each track. But it's one of those albums that sort of just sits there on your stereo and stares blankly back at you. You either 'like it or lump it' I guess, take it or leave it. For me it simply didn't leave any impression one way or the other - unless er, 'blank' counts.

So Matthews has ended up with an average album, made up of average songs written by average songwriters, and sung by her perfectly competent but average voice. What's needed obviously - for this to stand out from the crowd - is some aspect that is well-above average. Without that special something, this album might be musical, but then it's mediocre too.

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Posted: Thursday 25th Apr 2013 11:36 AM

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