An ever-elusive SMAIBLUE takes things to creative and conceptual new depths with this intriguing, heavily poignant and topical new project Volume.
An unsettling chaos of strings and spoken-word intensity starts up the raw and live sound and theatrics of The Perfect Storm. A chorus of voices, a real-time recording captured in an echoey space, a retro electronic beat subtly guiding things along.
There’s purpose in the process, and the whole thing intrigues and manages to hold attention well. Issues affecting contemporary life, brought to light with ‘volume‘ across the past twelve months, are presented in an expressive and provocative yet uplifting way. ‘We shall not budge’ repeats and repeats until its woven into your head-space for the long-term.
This entire album proves completely unlike anything prior from SMAIBLUE – with the exception of the inherent creative freedom.
Soaring To The Sun is delivered in the same reverb-kissed space, with acoustic guitar, a gentle melody and further inspiring poetry.
Beside You (Jakarta Cementary) veers away from simplicity to envelop listeners in a rising sense of anticipation. Cinematic and ambient layers of intertwining keys and rhythms, a descending chord progression, and a heartbreakingly beautiful, simple yet hypnotic melody. A personal favourite instrumental.
Switching gears again, an upfront and raspy folk vocal takes us through the story and strumming of John’s Tribute. The subject intrigues for its apparent change in direction as this ‘actor’ and ‘media director’ is seemingly celebrated for his ‘creative spirit’.
Contrast is key on this album. From dreamy arrangements like Pavilion to softly finger-picked, perhaps suddenly improvised Bashir’s Song, through guided and meditative yet fascinating, briefly upsetting yet ultimately inspiring moments like Pencerahan Pertama – every journey is new, featuring different building blocks, different voices, and different ideas.
The threads between the tracks of Volume are not made obvious, but the pleasant nature of each composition means it’s easy to spend more time here, delving into each one, contemplating the words, the references to people, to struggle, to pain, to loss, to unity.
The whole thing feels a little like a piece of theatre, stage-ready with your imagination to fill in the visuals – Simple Days is a fine example. And then, a sort of lullaby-like finish, from a title that politely and intriguingly nudges you towards the appropriate feelings – Soothing The Most Pain Ever Felt (Heal To Return, Better).
A whole new world on display from SMAIBLUE. Spend time with this one.