Creative composer Donna O. Raphael takes a notably refreshing approach to crafting original music. This album, volume 2 of D’strumentals, is something of an unexpected gem.
From one track to the next, there’s no telling what audio realm or mood you’ll be presented with. The sci-fi fuzz and big-beat of a cinematic Crescent Sky, the softness of a string and wind led Night-Enchanted, the tropical, beach-side bounce of an aptly-titled Steel Vibes – already we’re three stories in, and the journey has been vast and unpredictable.
What’s more, each piece progresses in a fully immersive, interesting way. There are stages to every instrumental story, and in all nine cases the track length is no more than a pretty perfect 3.5 minutes. You get a mainstream pop sort of color and unity from the music, whatever the style or set-up, and this blends beautifully with the creative freedom at play melodically and production-wise. The whole thing is incredibly eclectic, yet masterfully put together.
With Nebula, some familiar building blocks return – this retro synth-play, the warmth of the bass, the dance-inspired rhythm and riffs. We’re taken on a flight through space again, and the details and overall feel of the composition reflect this with style. A simple yet addictive stand-out – an easy one to let play on repeat.
Every once in a while, O. Raphael’s work prompts a deeper level of thinking. Your Time, Your Moment is a strong example. The title, the opening optimism and this rising sense of anticipation and possibility – it’s inspiring and energizing to experience. Enter hints of those retro, fuzzy synths again, and a slightly familiar use of drum-lines, and we’re somewhere new, but guided by our ever-loyal composer. The drums in particular here progress in a fascinating way, adding a whole lot more to the overall artistry than the average instrumental tends to allow.
On that note, Play On, Drums celebrates precisely this quality. Speed things up a little, throw in some classic melodies and a four-to-the-flour progression, and we’re taken way back to the simple good times and carefree days of our lives.
Call Of The Birds keeps the tribal rhythm going strong, and supports it with a minimalist arrangement of natural bird sounds, a subtle wash of synths, and a quiet, aptly wind-driven melody.
This affinity with nature is a clear theme throughout the collection, and it continues in a powerfully hypnotic fashion for the following track Cry Of The Ocean. The evolution throughout this one is immensely uplifting, a beautiful piece to turn up loud and envelop yourself within. A great way to finish what has been a genuinely alternative, unusual yet musically impressive collection. Donna O. Raphael undoubtedly has a style and sound of her own right now.