Advances in technology have revolutionised the way that music is both produced and distributed. Years ago, an artist such as Grace Valhalla doing what she does would have been largely inconceivable. This is because music technology, in particular that on computers, plays such a central role in her music. She has been producing her music on computers for about four years now and also uses a computer to distribute her music through music download site www.jamendo.com. summerCamp is her 4th album in the space of three years – which shows that she has been composing pretty prolifically. However, that is not to say that she is in any way rushing the compositional process. On summerCamp Valhalla mixes pop, folk, ambient and electronic, among other, less prevalent genres, with surprising dexterity to create a very enjoyable album.
She says that she is just trying to “create something that I’d like to listen to” and in doing so creates a very accomplished album. Almost wholly instrumental, summerCamp is a fun listen from start to finish which, as the name suggests, is a great summer album. Songs such as the title track with its bouncy bass line, simple, but catchy melodies and interesting conflict between straight and shuffle rhythms have a warm quality that endears themselves to the listener. Elsewhere, ‘Feeling Scattered’
employs an intricate synth riff along with a frantic, but not overpoweringly so, cross-stick drum beat that gives way to soaring synths which, again, has an endearing quality to them; while the rustic nature of songs such as sunDogs’
and ‘In the Savage Club’
offers variety to the album. They are two of the best tracks in the album partly due of the wide range of synthesised instrumentation on display.
However, while the album as a whole is fairly varied, the individual tracks which constitute ‘summerCamp’ are fairly monotonous. While the motifs that Valhalla uses are interesting enough, there is not enough variation on them and this essentially makes the tracks just one motif stretched out. While it is true that there is some change on tracks such as ‘Sandy’
(in this particular case it comes towards the end of the track) it is very minimal. However, as all the tracks are reasonably short (average time is about 4-and-a-half minutes) this is not too much of a setback, though more variation would have been nice. Although this isn’t a problem on most tracks when listening to them individually, when listening as a whole album by the time album closer ‘The Garden of Birds & Waters’
comes around it can be irritating.
This comparatively small gripe, however, doesn’t detract from the album too much because the tracks are all great (nearly equally so) in their own right. There are interesting motifs used throughout, and this makes the album a relaxing, but still attention-grabbing listen, though the motifs are not always explored thoroughly enough. Overall, ‘summerCamp’ has a warm overtone to it that makes it great for listening to in summer or just before sleep, and is a very enjoyable listen.
*Grace Valhalla has the good grace to offer her music for absolutely nothing here: http://www.jamendo.com/en/artist/grace.valhalla*