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Album Review by Michael Morgan:
DIY-er (“Do-it-your-selfer”) and one-man show Michael Feinstein, a.k.a. Tuned Logic, shows how far the imagination can escape by simply utilizing a computer and some electronic equipment to blend euro-techno rants with contemporary jazz aesthetics and electronic elements on his debut album, 24 Shades. As crafty and artful as the music is, the songs are sometimes formulaic in their structure and hence, become predictable after awhile. Still, they’re no less inviting and pleasing to listen to. These formulaic songs are ideal for movies and television shows that require dramatic, mood-creating loops.
24 Shades starts off with mid-tempo easy-listener “Night Lights.” The glittery synthesizer strings and wobbly bass lines are effortless and make this song an ear-pleaser. Like most of the songs on 24 Shades, “Night Lights”’ melody and arrangement shifts smoothly through dynamic variations creating a multitude of moods within each song section. These mini-moods are a signature throughout the artist’s work. “Caught in the Rain” also starts off in a mid-tempo loop and includes a deliberate banging on a classical piano, but then quickly builds into a rhythmic breakout of boogie synths and electro drumbeats. It’s simultaneously playful and dynamic.
The record takes a turn for the funk with “Never Better.” Its collage of big beats and synth sounds include a bass-like boom which pumps throughout the song. The song’s catchy melody is craving for some kicking vocals, but instead are lead by a lone electric-sounding synth. “Never Better” pushes an infectious and optimistic mood into the listener’s purview. Some of the moods created on 24 Shades are just the kind of sounds made for television shows and movies. “Still” is a delicate balance of classic piano laced with the sound of pattering rain, echoing clatter and acoustic guitar. The piano loops into a series of repetitive notes that create an eerie aural sensation. The mood and atmosphere is made creepier by the minute as the piano continues on in its repetitive hypnotic rage. Music producers looking for good soundtracks for their thrillers or crime dramas should pay close attention.
The mood shifts completely with “Midnight Reflection.” The artist reaches into his contemporary jazz repertoire of lounge-sounds. There is enough musically going in “Midnight Reflection” to keep a relaxed listener engaged. However, at times, there were unnecessary touches, like the hissing synth sounds made to define a new verse. Even though the sleepy pace of “Midnight Reflection” borders on music heard in the background of medical offices, it is a well-produced track that complements the other moods played out on 24 Shades.
Another techno track in the same vein as album-opener “Night Lights” is “Pulse.” Appropriately named for its pulsating bass line spouting throughout, “Pulse” illuminates the artist’s dance and rhythm tendencies with screechy synths, adding a symphonic dimension to the song. “Pulse” would fit in perfectly on an all-night dance-club set along with other electro-techno maestros like The Juan MacLean or LCD Soundsystem. “Unwind” is a trip hop respite from the dance and techno sounds prevalent on the album. It takes the listener into a dusty contemporary jazz progression, led by a series of atmospheric synth sweeps and delicate touches of rain. “Unwind”’s dramatic mood makes it good food for TV crime dramas or movie dream scenes. The pitter-patter of rain and pelting synths toward the end of the song add a haunting layer.
“Pure Imagination,” the song from the 1971 classic film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, is a euro techno spin of the classic Willy Wonka song. The synth maestro pulls off his version using carefully drawn industrial-sounding synthesizers that whiz, ping and whine throughout. Perhaps a disco mash-up with “The Candy Man” would have been an appropriate touch on 24 Shades? Nonetheless, the cover song choice is a smart and whimsical selection, and will definitely serve as a fan favorite on this album.
Music producers looking for some soundtracks to their crime drama or thriller projects would benefit from Tuned Logic’s ear for atmospherics, while fans of ambient and dance music acts like Moby, The Juan MacLean or any of the pioneering electro-dance music borne out of DFA records would perk up to the sounds of 24 Shades.
Review by Michael Morgan
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Note: Due to licensing restrictions, "Pure Imagination" is only available on iTunes and Amazon MP3 in the United States. To view, click here: itunes.apple.com/us/album/pure-imagination/id394254535?i=394254573
About 24 Shades:
24 Shades took a fairly long amount of time to complete, but not due to technical reasons. As I began to realize the musical variety contained in this album, I questioned my direction. What image did I want to convey with my music? Eventually, I discovered that my unique sound traverses genres; no matter what I write, listeners can usually tell it is something of mine. Personally, I have a hard time agreeing with this, but I don't make music for myself. I create music for others to enjoy, and if they see consistency, then there is consistency.
Naming my album proved similarly difficult. Coming up with a title that hasn't been used is hard enough, but I didn't want to label my music inappropriately. I eventually settled on 24 Shades because there are songs on this album made for many different moods and many different hours of the day. The variety has shown me that uncertainty can be fun!
I only hope that my listeners enjoy this album as much as I enjoyed creating it. The journey has been truly enlightening. Thanks for your support!
released September 24, 2010