Musician and singer/songwriter Electric E has long since proven EDM can accommodate and thrive as more than entertainment alone. The Seattle, Washington based author and language arts instructor has extensive experience with film and video production keen listeners will hear reflected in his compositions. His latest release Velvet Circles builds on his past success with an audacious and far-reaching collection of songs.
He’s seldom content pursuing a single path for long. Electric E begins Velvet Circles on an experimental note with “LoveSong”, but his near-collage of musical atmospherics nevertheless remains familiar enough that few listeners will feel alienated. “The Forest”, however, is a much more traditional nod in the direction of psychedelicized pop rock. He starts the album off with two of his best lyrics though newcomers may need some time to adjust to his idiosyncratic delivery.
The album’s title song comes early. It’s a show of confidence in the material that a moment commonly considered to be a definitive statement on any album comes sooner rather than later. The song justifies that confidence as Electric E steps back from the theatrical tendencies of the opening tracks into intimate and acoustic fare. It’s unfortunate the mix buries his vocal, but the track’s mood of meandering weariness lingers long after the final note.
Defiance is a big part of E’s artistic sensibility. He makes music by his own rules, irrespective of fashion, and if his output happens to coincide with recognizable forms, it’s a happy confluence. It isn’t plotted out that way. Songs emerge here, they are not composed. “Little Slips” embodies that quite well. There’s something flinty and hard-eyed about this track, something connected to the blues though E doesn’t overtly embrace any of that form’s conventions. It’s another acoustic track that packs a wallop despite its seeming simplicity.
“My Life” opens with passages of muted but nonetheless shimmering beauty between segueing into another relaxed acoustic jangle. The low-fi sonic architecture of Velvet Circles may be a turn-off for some listeners, but Electric E’s admirers will hear the sound as another instrument of sorts, another “voice” in his overall art. “My Life” has all the intimacy you expect from a song titled as such and shares it with listeners in a wholly unique way.
There’s no question a dream-like quality surrounds each of the album’s dozen songs. It manifests itself differently each time, sometimes with only subtle variations, and “Niche” is no exception. It’s one of the tracks that, despite its acoustic arrangement, would clearly work well with a rock sound. E’s vocal clearly reaches in that direction. “Never Had a Chance” closes Velvet Circles with a fist in the air. There’s a head-down push into life with this song, a sense of growing disgust in the song’s speaker, and the forceful way E attacks his acoustic guitar backs it up. It’s an emphatic ending to an album brimming with emotion and paid for in tears and countless hours. Someone like Electric E isn’t looking to get rich. He’s just looking to survive and, if he can pull that off, love.
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