Review Summary: A departure from reality with Azam Ali and Tyler Bates
Roseland is the combination of Tyler Bates and Azam Ali. Tyler Bates has a movie soundtrack background which includes titles such as the Dawn of the Dead remake and 300. He handles most of the instruments on the album, along with several guest musicians. Azam Ali is from the acclaimed duo Vas, the middle-eastern flavoured Niyaz, and has an emerging solo career. He voice is far reaching in range and beautifully enriches all it graces. So if these two made an album what would it be like? Answer: like nothing either have done previously. The result is one part alternative, one part ambient pop, with some jazz and funk thrown in somehow. Interested? Read on…
The album covers so much territory in just 10 tracks, there is no room for padding here. Other Side of Me opens up the album with some snare hits, non-descript guitar, and Ali’s voice setting the scene in jazz club kind of way. The song takes some time to get going but once it does Bates shows his strength with a piano based hook backed thickly with a myriad of instruments to create a deeply textured sound. The Spill retains the groovy feel even though is more of a rockier song being more guitar based, but still has quiet moments for its bass line and electronic tone to show through. This song structure is used again later in Keep It Coming, Light the Stars, and the most upbeat track on the album in Bitter Days. Each follow a similar song structure with solid beats and effective guitar hooks, while having quiet moments to concentrate on Ali’s voice which ranges from being delicate to somewhat more energetic when called upon to do so.
Mothwings and The Reaper’s Crown show their softer side and are the most passive on the album. These songs rely heavily on Ali’s voice and Bates’ ability to create a mood with minimalist use of the music. You get the same kind of feeling during these songs as ones which show up at sad parts of movies, in that they are there to highlight something. Here there is nothing to highlight, so you drift where the songs take you and wake at the end wondering what you have listened to. These songs serve as interludes and balance out the energetic songs.
The album’s centre pieces are the three tracks Hollow Feel, Forty One Ways, and Believer, which are evenly dispersed through the album. Hollow Feel has a jazzy feel to it, with bass in the foreground and with samples strewn throughout. As always Ali’s voice is showcased with a chance to visit most areas of her range from high-highs to more experimental alternative inspired passages. Forty One Ways has an electronic feel to it with it’s muffled beat at the start, synth piano, and funky sampling. The rhythm is the focus here through the beat and bass line, and is easily the catchiest song on the album. There are so many layers on this song, and so while you concentrate on one during one part of the song you turn to another during a different part. Believer is slower in its beat with little guitar doodles throughout, but this song is about the relationship between Ali’s voice and the beat which works so well on this track.
As you move through the album’s songs you get a feel of what Bates and Ali are trying to achieve. Each song has its own character and tone, and all are thick in their composition with layers of music. The album can be listened to with intent and you flow with it to places the musicians want to take you. Fans of Azam Ali will be surprised in her move away from the music of Niyaz and her solo work, as she ventures to areas not heard before and singing entirely in English. Whether the duo will continue working together though is unknown because of their individual commitments. The album has been released independently, and I got it from cdbaby.com.
Standout tracks: Hollow Feel, Forty One Ways, and Believer.