Cardiff-based art-rock outfit Blue Amber recently released their debut album, entitled Rockland’s Workshop, a 10-track collection of experimental rock.
Blue Amber’s genesis occurred when Drew Noel took a journey that meandered from NYC to the West Coast. On the trip, he listened to hip-hop, jazz, and lo-fi cult bands like The Microphones. Inspired, he decided to create his own version of the Beat Generation.
Made up of composer Freyja Elsy (keyboards, samples, vocals), Kumar Chopra (guitar), and Drew Noel (vocals, saxophone), Blue Amber began life as a solo project in Noel’s bedroom, followed by expanding into a rotating collective of friends and musicians. The band’s sound merges elements of hip-hop, post-punk, indie-folk, and beat poetry into imaginative music.
According to Blue Amber’s press info, the front half of the album was inspired by a seaside town named Aberystwyth and the people who live there. The back half of the record centers on the experience of returning to your hometown, the feelings arising when encountering people you remember, and the strangeness of what was once so familiar.
The album begins with “Blue Hour / Ystwyth,” opening on the sound of crashing ocean waves accompanied by an acoustic guitar, followed by a mélange of indistinct voices that suddenly stops.
Entry points include “Hinterland Girls,” a jazz-flavored hip-hop tune topped by brooding, rapping vocals backed by almost gospel-like harmonies. Luminous, droning washes of sound imbue the tune with delicious discordant thrums. Whereas “University Jesus” rolls out on burlesque Four Square Gospel-flavored leitmotifs flavored with raucous brass accents. The melody abruptly shifts, taking on deep, rumbling tones and dreamy, glowing harmonies fronted by rap-lite vocals.
Creamy, sweeping strings and a gentle acoustic guitar form the basis of “The Great British Sitcom (for Jozef Raczka),” emphasizing the connection between music and poetry. Tender tones blend with critical spoken-word verses to form aggressive yet warm textures.
The final track, “Fencing,” amalgamates a sparkling acoustic guitar with lush vocals, especially on the chorus, where a chorale joins together to produce radiant, sing-song harmonies.
Although experimental, Rockland’s Workshop comprehends an integral structure of careful arrangement and rhythmic pulsations, making it a rewarding listening experience.
Rockland’s Workshop Track Listing:
1. Blue Hour / Ystwyth
2. The Jerk
3. Hinterland Girls
4. West Coast Renaissance
5. University Jesus
6. Old Breed, Part II
7. The Great British Sitcom (for Jozef Raczka)
8. The Mantis/Blue Hour Reprise
Run Time: 40:52
Release Date: May 20, 2022
Record Label: Rose Parade Recording Company