Review Summary: A modern day Midas.
Over the past few years, Greek composer Yanni has made that comfortable middle ground between the rooted traditions of Western liturgical music and rampant New Age spirituality his very own. He is a musical messiah whom the laymen have claimed as their very own; a contemporary composer who is neither as daunting as Beethoven nor as high-brow as Mozart, yet more earthly than Bach and less ethereal than Chopin. A sign of the times that we live in, perhaps, but there it is. The recently-passed decade saw a dearth of new Yanni instrumentals though, but following his Live in South America
tour the composer moved to complete his first full studio effort since 2003's Ethnicity
, with the finished product being touted as "the return of Yanni as you know him" by the man himself.
As Yanni's sixteenth (!) studio album, Truth of Touch
does a phenomenal job of documenting the composer's artistic growth without necessarily abandoning his comfortable, if not especially adventurous, brand of modal, consonant neo-instrumentals. As far as contemporary New Age music goes, the sweeping orchestral arrangements and mellow sound programmings that form the brunt of this record are actually quite old hat, but it serves to remind that one can always be inspired by the past when trying to construct the future. In fact, on several numbers Yanni simply explores the extent of human auditory sensory perception, using it as fertile ground for stylistic exploration and melodic tinkering. Most successfully, he uses a rich melange of organic sound design and acoustic sensibilities to derive a final concoction that manages to be delightfully easy on the ear. On the album-opening title track, for example, he employs a lush melodic progression across a bed of inspired string work, with predictably pleasant results. The haunting "Seasons" which follows utilizes a similarly pedantic approach, but the underlying message of poignancy is terribly difficult to ignore, and when the music finally slows to a halt a part of oneself always seems to disappear along with it.
In the past, Yanni the man has always sought to ensure that Yanni the musician would always be seen as a purveyor of accessible contemporary instrumentals; that stance has not changed here. Indeed, songs like "Voyage" and "Flash of Color" sweep the necessity for cultural prerequisites under the proverbial carpet, making the bulk of the album a significantly less daunting undertaking for the average listener. Yet the best tracks on the record are the more brazen interpretations. On "Vertigo", Yanni taps into the power of a vehement groove jet, while the visceral bass line that runs through "Nine"'s veins is uncharacteristically bossy by Yanni's standards, yet shrewdly manages to ride its collage of scattered timpani beats to victory.
There's also a little tip of the hat towards the composer's more recent work, as Truth of Touch
also contains three songs that see Yanni taking a familiar backseat to the vocal performances of Chloe, Leslie Mills and Nathan Pacheco (a la Yanni Voices
). Chloe's heart-rending presence on album-closer "Secret" is greatly enjoyable, yet it is the breathtaking hook of Mills' "Can't Wait" that truly solidifies the latter's credentials as one of the best vocal talents of our time. However, the member of the triumvirate which hits it furthest out of the park is none other than Pacheco's "O Luce Che Brilla Nell 'Oscurita", a semi-operatic number whose delivery manages to weave itself seamlessly into Yanni's dreamlike synth. It is worth noting that the deliberate sound architecture in this number occasionally causes the vocals to fade into the tapestry - to the extent that it's not immediately clear what language is being sung at times. This vocal transparency is not by accident, but rather by design; this is Yanni, after all, and the grizzled Greek veteran knows full well that emphasis on texture - not melody - will end up winning you the day.
But this album is not without its faults. At fifteen tracks and over an hour long, the general sense is that Truth of Touch
suffers a little from its own ambition, particularly as the final three instrumental numbers appear to sprawl around rather aimlessly without actually getting anywhere meaningful. On repeated listens, it soon transpires that the horn section on "Yanni & Arturo" feels terribly out of place and slightly overproduced, while "Mist of a Kiss" is essentially an attempt to recall the grandiose magic of "Echo of a Dream", but somehow contrives to stumble at the finish line. Still, they do no worse than "I'm So", a number which is quite loathsome to describe, for it actually sounds like a Daft Punk reject track - digitized harpy vocals and all. Ultimately however, these are nothing more than a few minor glitches, and do not take away from the album's overall quality in any way, shape or form.
On the eve of Truth of Touch
's release, many an interview with Yanni has seen him visibly excited about the upcoming compendium of tracks that he is about to reveal to the world. It is clear that he has wanted to do this record for a while now, and having finally completed it, finds himself unbearably forced to contain his unbridled enthusiasm. Undoubtedly, the making of this album was a true labor of love, and one that exemplifies the spiritual underpinnings of his brand of music. Indeed, based on the evidence shown here, we would all do well to be extremely excited along with him.