With a familiar strut to lead the way, Valerian Ruminski – under the branding of his new project Impresario – lays into a sensuous and throaty cover of “Lean on Me” in the new album Songs from Inside that is truly a wild beast of sonic proportions. Completely different in style from what one would expect out of the Bill Withers classic, Impresario’s “Lean on Me” is as much an example of Ruminski’s eccentric take on melodicism as the beautiful “If You Knew” is; only presented to us in a slightly different fashion. From tracks like these two odd charmers to even more experimental territory (such as the stone cold “Whatsoever You Do”), Songs from Inside is a record that will keep you intrigued from the moment you press play to the second it comes to a conclusion.
“Leap of Faith” is probably the most addictive (and hook-driven) number on this LP, but its cosmetics are ironically on the rawer side in comparison to the trance-heavy “Sometimes” and the profound instrumental “Goodbye My Friend (For Jason),” both of which possess a lovely psychedelic hue that I wouldn’t have expected to find in such a vocal-centric record. I suppose that by the time we get halfway into this tracklist, we should anticipate unpredictability – aside from Ruminski’s consummate skill and showmanship as a multi-octave singer – but even though I’ve listened to Songs from Inside without any interruptions on a few separate occasions now, it’s an LP that gets my pulse going like no other indie record has this season.
“Gringo Bingo” is a little too swing-happy for my taste, but given that it’s tasked with competing alongside a track like “The Coat Aria (Vecchia Zimarra)” for our affections, it’s not surprising that its black and white grooves feel a bit underwhelming. This album’s best moments come when Valerian Ruminski is stretching his aural legs behind the microphone, and whether that be in his touching aria or a more cosmopolitan song like “What Kind of Man R U?,” it’s unforgettable in any scenario. This is a man who has clearly dedicated the better part of his life to refining his abilities as a musician and vocalist, and his gift is on full display for the world to enjoy here.
Songs from Inside doesn’t feature any dull moments – once you get into the hook in “Living in My Dreams,” it’s pretty much smooth sailing for Ruminski from there. Recorded solo under less than typical circumstances, this debut LP from Impresario is as eclectic an effort as they come, but in terms of likeability, it’s an album that I find to be a lot more accessible than the average indie offering has been in 2020. Valerian Ruminski is a multitalented individual for sure, and if he can take this project and run with it in an even better situation than the one he was granted amid quarantine, I believe his scene – and the experimental pop movement in general – will benefit from his work tremendously.
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