Friday, January 23, 2009

Unseen by Lori Cunningham, CD review

Status: Slogging through lists of agents
Song: Solarity - Lori Cunningham

An Outstanding Debut CD Promising a Bright Career

When I decided to review Lori Cunningham's CD Unseen I wanted to give it the test of time before I made my decisions about it. Before I decide whether I like something or not, I listen to the entire project several times through. Since I write books and use music as my inspiration, I had to separate Unseen from my writing place. I chose to listen to the CD for several weeks in my car as I drove around the many miles to my piano lessons. I also listened to it at the gym as I did the treadmill, because there are things I pick up with head phones that I don't hear in the car. The effect is completely different.

Being compared to the likes of Engima and Delierium, Lori Cunningham has put her own stamp on the electronica genre. Unlike other voices that are classically trained, she has kept the uniqueness that makes her sound her own. Her voice is beautiful, ethereal and pristine and extremely easy to listen to.

Electronica downbeat is a genre that is widely misunderstood. Instead of the voice being the focal point or the solo interest, the voice is dialed back to meld with the music like another instrument. Lori Cunningham has accomplished this with skill.

For those who don't know... Electronica includes a wide range of contemporary electronic music designed for a wide range of uses, including foreground listening, some forms of dancing, and background music for other activities; however, unlike electronic dance music, it is not specifically made for dancing. Downtempo (or Downbeat) is a laid-back electronic music style similar to ambient music, but usually with a beat or groove unlike the beatless forms of Ambient music. The beat is sometimes made from loops that have a hypnotic feeling. Sometimes the beats are more complicated and more featured instead of being in the background, but even then they are usually less intense than other kinds of electronic music. (From Wikipedia)

Okay, enough education.

The facts - Lori Cunningham - a girl, her keyboard, 18 track recorder, a mic, and a strong love of music.

Additional drums and percussion - Adam Amos on "Solarity" and "Inside."
Guitar on "Inside" - Sam Benham.

And collaborations with: Adam Amos, Katie Reeve, n pa productions, and Rose.

When I first started listening to Unseen I had my favorites. I really liked Inside because of the darker, heavier feel of the piece. A song like this can't be written by someone who hasn't been through hard things in life. It has a way of reaching into your heart and twisting. Anyone who feels the world doesn't know who they really are inside will find something here that touches them.

The second one on my list of favorites was Everytime. If you have been in a failing relationship you can't help but feel the pain that resides in the words and the tolling drums underneath the accompaniment. As I listened to the piece over the weeks, this song rose in my estimation. Lori's command over the inflection of her words is masterful.

Next in line is Silver Threads. There are two main reasons I like this song. I am a big fan of repeating notes or tone sequences that play over and over through many the chord progressions. The sameness of the tones have a way of connecting to the spirit and pulling the listener into the song. Lori cleverly uses this in several ways for this song. There is a danger here, because if not done well, a repeating note can become irritating, but Lori used several of them and handled them astutely.

The second thing I like about Silver Threads is the story line. Lori Cunningham was up front that the Dragon Riders of Pern books by Ann McCaffrey, [official website] were her inspiration for the piece--though not specifically borrowing from the works was pure genius.

I could say something about every track on the CD, such as.... Without You is very beautiful and has a similar feel to Everytime, though not as painful. I didn't want to fall into a listing of lists.

Okay, I have to say something about Without You. Well, not specifically about the song but about the creators. Lori Cunningham and Adam Amos is a collaboration that clearly works.

Adam Amos is a masterful composer known for his wonderful instrumentals, his down tempo electronic music, a lot of which has cinematic leaning. Amos is mostly known for doing great remixes in which he focuses on mixing in the voice. On this CD he did the remixing of Everytime, Without You, and Empty Well [Overflow Mix]. He is very good at drums and did the percussion on Inside and Solarity.

Cunningham and Amos compliment each other well and together they create something magnificent. Happily they are working on another collaboration called Emeria. I'm waiting eagerly for this to be completed.

The surprise of Unseen was the fun discovery of Solarity. As I drove around I grew to like this track more and more. It's an intriguing symbiosis between New Age musicality, classical influences, and dance-club rhythms. The collaboration with Adam Amos [here] really makes it a delight. In truth, Solarity is just plain fun. My favorite bits, (apart from the drums, the repeating keyboards and the etherial voice), are the charming instances of laughter hidden like diamonds in the piece. I heard them first with headphones and recommend you try to find them yourself.

The rest of the tracks are also well worth the listen. I recommend this CD highly.

Lori Cunnghiam's official websites:
Myspace page

You can find Unseen on CD BABY
and on itunes.

Track listing:
1) Reflections
2) Unseen (The Impact)
3) Silver Threads (Falling Down)
4) Everytime
5) Empty Well
6) Inside
7) Solarity
8) Tears of a Rose
9) Without You
10) Return
11) Into Absolution
12) Empty Well [Overflow Mix]
13) Unseen [Instrumental]


Jaime Theler said...

Bee-you-ti-ful review. I definitely agree that Lori is a master. :) Love the CD!

Candace E. Salima said...

Huh, I just learned a whole bunch about a genre of music I knew nothing about. Thanks for the education and recommendation!

I've added your blog to the list of blogger for Mormon Bloggers Speak Out. If you don't like that, let me know. See you in April!