Jason Vitelli – Confluence – Soundkeeper Recordings SR4003 – 24/96 DVD, 65:10 [soundkeeperrecordings.com] ****:
(Jason Vitelli –acoustic, electric guitar, piano, vocals; Dave Ramsey – piano, electric guitar; Jiliane Russo – cello; Qun Ma – French horn; Kathrine Becker – Celeste; Oliver Prud’homme – bass, electric guitar; Yorgos Maniatis – drums Cherette Lewis – vocals)
As a part time film composer out of NYU, Jason Vitelli paid his dues at open mics and the Greenwich Village club scene. His first recording, No Photographs (2009) was a highly introspective project, self-produced in a home studio. Blending rock, jazz and folk, he played most of the instruments. In contemplating the next album, he decided on a different concept. With the support of his label, Soundkeeper Recordings, Vitelli decided on a more instrumental, collaborative effort recorded on an auditorium (The Osborn, in Rye, NY) stage. After assembling the musicians, an explicit strategy for the session was established.
With a two-microphone configuration (simulating live stereo) in the center of the stage, Confluence assumes a raw, but clear tone. Dismissing the typical rock augmentation, the uncompressed sound (especially on the upbeat arrangements) is capable of volume amplification without a lot of distortion. The album is arranged into four sides, like an LP. The opening track, “Unrequited” is an emotional piano/voice duet of the woeful side of love. With his scratchy tenor voice (not unlike Peter Gabriel), Vitelli can alter the mood of the song, shifting into a dulcet falsetto. This dynamic is effective on other ballads, including the gospel-tinged, “American Reflection” and “A Promise”. There is a particular chemistry with the piano and voice, most notably on “Tribe Song”. Throughout the album, lead vocals that are usually recorded dead-center can be heard left or right, approximating live aesthetics.
The acoustic resonance of Confluence takes on different shadings with the addition of the ensemble. “Blank Page” exhibits a haunting theme with the cello accompaniment. Small touches, like a celeste expand the sonic landscape, without altering the flow of the piece. The celeste and cello create a mosaic with harmony vocals on “River Nile”. “From Egypt” evokes a classical ambiance with captivating string accents. There is also a harder edge on some of the tracks. “Working” benefits from a pulsating, thumping bass and drum. The explosive results (with a pumped up, distorted guitar) are harsh, but not fuzzy. “Stay Away!” has an “indie” feel with punk vocals.
Confluence is a modern approach to recorded popular music. It is available seven different ways: ranging from $15 to $45, on 24/96 or 24/192 DVD formats, as well as CD pressings and burnings.
Side One: Unrequited; Blank Page; Rust; Suit; A Promise
Side Two: Say No More; Sweet; Working; The Winner
Side Three: Call Waiting; From Egypt; Her Kind Eyes; River Nile
Side Four: Stay Away!; Tribe Song; Feel Better; American Reflection
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