Emily Wells – The Symphonies (11/08/2010)

The hippity hops and the stringy music have a child.

Slapping two genres together seems to be a huge thing right now–as either a post-modern attempt at slowly crumbling the walls of classification and definition within the genres of modern music, or another attempt to clamp a car onto the train of faux-experimentalism as it gathers surprising amounts of critic enabled steam.  They probably go hand in hand more than we like to admit–but that’s really not the point here.  Whether or not these types of Mary Shelley experiments work depends highly on the artists intention with the combination, whether it is an honest attempt to integrate or fuse another style or classification or the tacking of a superfluous genre onto a body of music for shits and giggles; whether the artist has an honest appreciation and full-bodied understanding of the music at hand and knows how well to use the ins and outs of  the style and how it can mesh with another.  A talented chef doesn’t make a gorgeous Raspberry Souffle with Rose Petals only to throw a gob of Munster cheese into the middle of it and hope it works.

Emily Wells is a classically trained Violinist who is giddy for hip hop–and thankfully that interest in hip hop isn’t a gob of Munster cheese (nor is Ms. Wells a Raspberry Souffle, because that would be a  creepy metaphor). Alongside her trusty violin, she uses dashes of other instruments, from analog synthesizers to toy pianos as well as looping drum beats and violin samples; in a live setting she creates the samples live, using a feedback pedal, drawing a parallel Zoe Keating’s similar style of sampling and live playing, albeit via cello.  Another interesting comparison would be to that of Folk/Electronica hybrid Talkdemonic, as her Violin playing can dabble in a wonderful folksy, full bodied feel at times, while still taking advantage of the electronic sampling and manipulation.  And I like both of those artists, so that, too.

Instrumentally, however, the focus is certainly on her Violin playing and singing; the components of hip hop (and others) are part of a greater weave of sound, but there are core ingredients here, and these are it.  The violin is melodic, and is more in tune with the rhythms and songwriting than with becoming a variable lead; that is not to say it is simplistic, but more that it’s still a component, however strong, to the overall sound of the music.   She plays it deftly and often beautifully, and the style doesn’t seem forced or gimmicky, flowing well with the electronic beats and other instruments as they come and go.  Her voice is very melodic as well, though occasionally she does delve into some pseud0-rapping that works better than it should, but not enough to be of any significant notice; nothing lost, nothing gained, though it does show a more interesting side to her vocal tendencies.  She manages to pull of the “voice as an instrument” idea very well, but moreso in that she’s able to sing a melodic tune in rhythm but not in unison with the rest of the music, and still have a very pleasant voice as well decipherable lyrics.  This is employed a fair amount, but still shows how well she’s able to use multiple backgrounds of music into an interesting Souffle, if you will.  Generally speaking she has a very pleasant, feminine voice that is airy and bouncy, but still intelligent and serious, not working against her natural vocal abilities, but using them interestingly.

Lyrically, it’s quite frankly hit or miss;  sometimes there are very clever and interesting lyrics, and sometimes there are very flimsy, vocal vehicle lyrics.  Track 3 has an actual “featuring:” on it, the rapper named Count  Bass D, and does some interesting things with the hip hop beat, guest rapper and violin.  However, without giving away too much, there are far more hits than misses, and I’d imagine a fair amount fall into the magical realm of “personal preference,” or cowards corner, if you prefer.  She does some interesting things on this album, so it’s worth it to listen to the lyrics.

She’s also cute.

When all the things come together, whether its a Raspberry Souffle or a Munster Souffle, what matters is whether or not it tastes good, not what’s a part of it or how many ingredients you used.  If it works.  Progression for its own sake is not progress.  When the concept or sound as a whole is complemented by the inclusion and meshing of different styles, when the ingredients of each piece are equally understood and appreciated, when it just sounds good being what it is, then you can say you’ve done something right.  It has to be more than the sum of its parts, and Emily has certainly done that.  She’s brought to very different genres of music together harmoniously, not relying on either as gimmick crutch, giving equal amounts of respect and attention to detail for each of the influences, and done something unique with it.  It’s not just hip hop with a violin, nor is a violin piece with a beat; it’s a separate beast, and one that was born from the creativity of Ms.  Wells.

There’s very little reason not to like it, from the gorgeous violin to the creativity of samples and stray instruments to the woman’s voice and her bouncy nature, it’s all very edible.  And dare I say, delicious.


2 Responses to Emily Wells – The Symphonies (11/08/2010)

  1. How DARE you mention her looks? Oh my god, what does that have to do with her music?!!

    Checked her out; it’s really organic stuff.

    • fuckyournames says:

      She’s, like, so hot. I wasn’t even considering her album worth reviewing until I found out how she looked.

      All of her stuff is quite lush, but this one especially.

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