Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amaluna Soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil - Chaotic Mess [*]

Album artwork of Amaluna (Source:
I can't remember how many times I've said "The new Cirque du Soleil CD has been released", but given the frequency of the phrase in comparison to how much I say it for every other artist I follow, I don't think it's a good thing. Claiming to "surprise by means of the unexpected" (an egregious oxymoron if there ever was one), Amaluna is a bizarre offering from the company. Under the marketing gimmick of having the whole album performed by women, it contains music from the show from composers Bob & Bill (Guy Dubec and Marc Lessard) with new and inane lyrics, pedestrian mixing, and about a dozen compositions which are not particularly strong.

The album prides itself that it is influenced from heavy rock and that the score is played by a "vivacious all-girl band". Newsflash to everyone working in the marketing team - just because the band is comprised entirely of females doesn't mean that by the music is by default innovative or high quality. The vocalists on the CD featured on the CD are also women, and quite talented - Julie Andrea McInnes's sultry alto tone is a strong contrast to Marie-Michelle Faber's airy and lithe timbre, and they breeze through the little material they receive with great skill. The most prominent vocalist on the album is Jennifer Aubury who has a colourful and clear-cut voice - while it's nothing unique, her vocal performance is strong and she delivers her material perfectly adequately. In terms of the band, their performances are fine but there's not much room for improvisation or any specific showcasing of talent.

Despite any issues with the arrangement. 'All Come Together' ('Magic Ceremony 1' from Le Best of 2) is the flagship of the album, a dreamy piece which enforces the same melody over and over again for about 5 minutes (which concludes with a spectacularly superfluous up-tempo verse tacked on the end which no-one really needed to hear or cares about). 'Hope' is a melancholic and ethereal piece which descends into a strong, pulsating rock segment, although it feels like it finishes far too soon just when it's gaining momentum. The best track on the album is 'O Ma Ley'. It's a delight, being a playful and bright number focusing on percussive and electronic beats which is really catchy, actually having a bridge that doesn't depart from the style of the song, and has a complex time meter that I can't pick out. I also love the little piano ditty 'secret track' which plays at the end of 'Run'.

The trend of Cirque CDs lately have been to have a few good songs while the rest just die of their own irrelevance, so of course the usual filter rubbish is here. 'Fly Around' and 'Tempest' are a mélange of noisy drums, cello and twangy guitar, and 'Burn Me Up' is a generic angsty pop song, but then spits out this hilariously inappropriate jazz woodwind section. 'Mutations' features some skittering rhythms, every panning gimmick you can think of, and some schitzophrenic breathing (at one point someone actually moans "OUCH!" - I screamed in the middle of the computer labs). Other tracks really suffer because they don't seem to be confined to a specific genre, like 'Running on the Edge', 'Ena Fee Alyne' and 'Enchanted Runion' which amble around with a chaotic array of instruments, tempo and style, although despite this the entire score doesn't seem to have enough variation and distinction of sound.

The production quality of this album is pretty lousy. It's not mixed particularly well - while it's an electronic album the techniques such panning, reverb, and distortion are naturally in use, but are so frequently utilised it borders on the excessive. Despite claiming otherwise, the mixing doesn't resemble a heavy rock album because it's so dull. The drums are not prominent enough and the quality of the album is too polished, which removes the raw and powerful details that make other artists so invigorating. The compositions themselves are quite mediocre in that they seem to focus entirely on one melody and keep layering it without moving to a bridge, and for what is there the arrangement of the pieces sometimes leave a lot to be desired.

There are some amateur conclusions to pieces, a lot of focusing on build ups which lead to nothing while other verses feeling as though they need extending to develop movement. There are so many bizarre moments, like McInnes muttering "SI!" at the beginning of verses in 'Run'. There's also a few weird production screw ups (like someone left their mic on at the end of O Mi Lay and you can hear the drummer fixing their sticks). To me, the weirdest element of this album is the lyrics. In the production, the lyrics are all performed in the imaginary Cirquish language. On this album, they're performed with (very clichéd and contrived) English lyrics - if this was what the composers originally wanted, why not perform the show's songs in English and then create the album in English, or vis-versa? The lyrics themselves are mundane and seem tacky since the rhymes are too convenient (one example, "I'm not a liar - I want the fire" or something like that).

The album is better that some of Cirque's recent offerings, but it is the weakest score that Bob & Bill have composed for Cirque du Soleil, and that's disappointing since Totem was a promising beginning and Les Chemins Invisbles had some excellent pieces. Despite its few strong moments, Amaluna is a short fall from the "guitar-oriented electronic anthem" style it claimed to create. It's a chaotic mess, a pedestrian production of a very mediocre score.

Cirque du Soleil 'Amaluna' is available November 19th from their online boutqiue and on Available on physical CD and digital download. Preview the entire album for free on Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna official website.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sammy, I was looking for some info about the songs of Amaluna (I bought the cd) and I "met" your blog and what you wrote. I appreciate your way to write the review (doesn't matter if I agree or not with you, it sounds like you really love music and you know what you are talking about... it's a precious and rare quality). I can only tell you that the music, in the contest of the show, to me seemed really perfect and powerful. Or, at least, it's perfectly integrated in the acts and in the wholeness of the "opera". I'm sorry about my "English"...I'm Italian, just arrived in Montreal since a few months, and my little son is a big "fan" of Cirque du Soleil so we saw Amaluna more than one times! :-)