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CD REVIEW: Royston Vince - Out of the World
By Alex Jasperse - 01/22/2009 - 10:24 AM EST

Artist: Royston Vince
Album: Out of the World [2009]
Label: Independent
Genre: Ambient
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8.0/10
Songwriting Skills: 8.5/10
Performance Skill: 8.5/10
CD Review:

Looking out the window of the train I’m on from Ottawa to Toronto, it’s a bleak winter day. As the train picks up speed the light snowfall has become a blur, masking the trees in a foggy, illuminating morning glow. In my (relatively) warm seat, I look up at the roof of my rail car to find blue skies and dreamlike clouds painted on the ceiling – a stark contrast from the snow swept landscape that’s now become nothing more than pure white. Combined, both the interior and exterior begin to colour my visual senses, and as I hit play on Royston Vince’s latest, Out of this World, I find myself becoming enrapt in an album that adds a whole new auditory dimension to the familiar sounds of the rails.

A contrast from his previous release, London Nights, Royston Vince is back with his latest: a combination of ambient and downtempo pieces that weave an uplifting spirit into two genres that are often emotionally bland. Counterbalancing the familiar and iconic sounds of the 1970s and 1980s through a 21st century lens, once again, Royston delivers yet another beautiful release.

As the sound of the train on the tracks blurs into the steady drum beat of “Rain Has Fallen”, layers of synth tinged with a mid-80s sentiments begin to extend their arms across the sound stage, signaling the electric guitar to step in. Slowly drawing out each note in its solo, the guitar treads between the fore and backgrounds, before allowing a dreamlike waltz led by nylon string guitars and piano to bring the piece to a close. Welcoming back the warmth of the electric guitar, “Cut Loose” ushers in the groove of bass guitar, allowing it to occasionally direct the song’s evolution, further coloured by stuttered keyboard samples.

Marking a return to the signature sound that made London Nights so enjoyable, “Out of the World” blends a mid-70s groove into its auditory fabric. Synth arrangements become woven into fat, low-end bass grooves that push the piece forward, while maintaining a relaxed, almost freeform shape. This form of open expression continues into the beautifully introspective “The Laden Trees”, which effortlessly encourages listeners to chase after the traces of the melody, as the sonic landscape slowly dissolves into cold and dark sonic depths. Continuing this feel, “Because of You” is tinted with a Robert Fripp and Brian Eno sentiment, layered with sustained nylon and electric guitars.

Royston has once again created a beautiful series of ambient and downtempo soundscapes that beautifully maintain an upbeat character. However, by the time “An Equal Measure” kicks in with its organic upright piano sounds, I can’t help but feel that the majority of previous songs bordered on being 'demos' to varying degrees, due to the heavy use of virtual instruments. It’s not a bad thing per se, but the potential for the tracks to be elevated to something much more incites this sort of questioning: why didn’t Royston enhance Out of the World with a real string section and brass ensemble, as well as the power of a drummer using more than a standard kit? Fair, the whole access to these musical resources is probably the answer – but the challenge in finding them, would be more than worth the talent behind his music…

Overall, Out of the World is an enjoyable ambient and downtempo offering that could well give many of his musical peers a run for their creativity. It lives up to all of its promises to recreate the sounds of the 70s and 80s – to play with their familiarity – and ultimately create something memorable, experiential and highly enjoyable. Most of all, this is an excellent soundtrack for any train journey.

For more information, please visit Royston Vince’s official website.

The Verdict: 8.3/10

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