Saturday, August 27, 2011

Polyphonic Trees by Érik Karol

I love this artwork.
The supremely talented Basque singer Érik Karol is probably best known for his affiliation as the original singer of Dralion, to which he created a new dimension of the company's music with his haunting, crystal-clear vocals. 'Polyphonic Trees' is just insane - there's no other word to describe it; Karol weaves a bizarre hybrid of electronic pop with obscure lyrics and percussive beats that's hard to put a specific label on. One thing for certain is that it's electric and undeniably eclectic - and it has some stellar moments.

The music initially is just a bombardment on your senses, but the mixing of styles with memorable melodies and a plethora of electronic influences, all topped with Karol's earth-shattering vocals, creates an extremely innovative music experience. The almost-title track, 'My Polyphonic Tree' is a hypnotic ballad drenched in electronic effects with an ambling piano accompaniment, which leads into the chorus of seductive and ethereal strings with their beauty being heightened by Karol's contrasting counter-tenor vocals. 'If Only' is glorious, a hard rock piece accompanied by harsh self-harmonies, a tremulous cello and a rocking drum beat propelled by the continuous alluring melody from the xylophone, and 'Between the Lines' is enchanting with its piano driven base and oozes beauty with its exhilarating beautiful interludes from the cello. 'Akasha' is like a dream, with strings and effects mixing with Karol's vocals in impeccable harmony, and 'Irréel' is a wonderful finish to the album, with a soft piano played over those ethereal strings with the wonderful chanting refrain.

The remaining pieces are all bold and daring attempts at aiming for innovation, but to be honest they're ferocious. There is a distinctly dark and twisted vibe in the music, along with a sense of ritualistic and religious drones. The music is inspiring in the way that feelings are induced while listening to the tracks. 'Forbidden Secrets' is downright terrifying, and 'El Roce de la Sombra' is so tedious I thought I was going to be mowed down by machine guns at some point. These tracks are great, not because they're melodic or nice to listen to, but because they manage to resonate an emotion with the audience.

Karol's pieces have a mixture of lyrics in English, French, Italian and some languages I can't decipher. The lyrics are obscure and indecipherable, but they're never dull. They're esoteric and written like cryptic poems that illustrate vivid images without being corny or sounding obnoxious.

Polyphonic Trees is an innovative and inspiring album. Érik Karol's offering evokes many different emotions in the listener and is has some beautiful, catchy, and rocking tracks. While the entire album isn't a delightful listen, Karol's hybridity of daring and bold electronic beats and effects combined with his poetic lyrics pushes the boundaries of alternative music forward, and leave you eagerly awaiting another offering.

 Polyphonic Trees by Érik Karol is available on iTunes Australia for $18.99.

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