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Album Review: Analog Universe
Cover image of the album Analog Universe by Anawaty/Russell
Analog Universe
2012 / Cass Anawaty & Paul Russell
38 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Analog Universe is the second album in a three-part collaboration with Cass Anawaty and Paul Russell, following 2009’s Monjour. By presenting a fascinating combination of acoustic and electronic instrumentation as well as melodic and ambient music stylings, the duo has created a listening experience that is both very different and very familiar. Calling the overall style of the album “post rock,” there are some hummable melodies, danceable rhythms, and poignant moments that keep listeners engaged in the moment while providing the space to ponder and relax. Along with ambient and post-rock, the music contains elements of smooth jazz, prog rock, film music, and space music - quite an unusual combination that makes all ten tracks distinctive and unique. Cass Anawaty appears on lead acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synths and synth programming, hand percussion and “otherworldly textural processing.” Paul Russell plays primitive acoustic, bass, and electric guitars, keyboards, synth, groove and rhythm programming. They share composing, recording, and mastering credits. The list of back-up musicians is impressive and includes artists from classical, ambient, jazz, progressive rock, metal, and pop genres performing on guitars, cello, sax, esraj, drums, vocal ambiences, and flute.

Analog Universe begins with “Theme for an Imaginary Noir,” a haunting and atmospheric piece that features Charley Langer on alto sax. This relatively short composition segues into “On the Beach,” which is much more ambient at the beginning, but becomes more rhythmic and melodic as it develops; Romy Benton’s flutes are especially effective on this track. “Analog Radio” is a short acoustic guitar piece with a lot of reverb that flows into the title track, my favorite. This beautiful piece reminds me of some of the slow dance music from my youth. Soulful electric guitar and a strong rhythm are a bit nostalgic while the atmospheric keyboards bring it up-to-date - a very interesting contrast. As the title suggests, “Anotherworldly” takes us on a mysterious journey to a place we’ve never been. Guitars and floating keyboard sounds carry us along until the drums and flute enter, giving the piece a fluid melody and a vibrant pulse and taking it closer to jazz territory, back to ambient and a gradual fade-out. “A Space in Time” contains elements of classic space music, but the semi-melodic strings put this piece place it in a different category - again, a fascinating combination of styles!

Analog Universe is quite a different recording, but isn’t so “out there” as to be off-putting to more traditional listeners. Cass Anawaty and Paul Russell are both obviously very talented and experienced musicians, and while some of this music borders on experimental, it is also very listenable and enjoyable. It is available from anawatyrussell.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
December 27, 2012