Music of the Extraordinary Voyages
2013 / Cynelic Gast Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Music of the Extraordinary Voyages is the debut recording by Larkenlyre, a name created by Matthew Labarge to avoid confusing fans of the three solo piano recordings released under his own name. There is piano in some of this music, but there are also hundreds of other instruments - real and electronic - as well as dozens of objects and environments Labarge recorded and sampled. The music was inspired by Labarge’s boyhood passion for books that involve fantastic adventures in exotic places, especially those by Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne and Jack London. A while back, Labarge was asked to write a short soundtrack for a video a friend was making to promote originally-designed playing cards based on Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages novels. That music became an early version of “I Will Create a Machine.” With stories of travel and adventure on his mind, Labarge found himself writing new pieces with an exotic sensibility and a strong sense of place. Before long, Labarge had enough music for an album, and here it is! The fourteen tracks are very different from each other: some are very dark and turbulent while others are lighter and more playful. Some of the pieces could qualify as progressive rock while others lean closer to new age and classical. Despite the variety, the album holds together well and is an effective and fascinating listening experience.
Music of the Extraordinary Voyages begins with the aforementioned “I Will Create a Machine,” a mysterious piece with powerful metallic percussion and a swirling motion that promises adventure. “Mistral Wind” is a favorite. A rhythmic piano motif and layers of other instrumental sounds suggest dense darkness as well as a chilling dankness - love it! “Rainforest Omens” starts with the sounds of exotic birds while drumming gradually builds intensity and eventually takes over, making it difficult to sit still! “Northern Lights” is more ambient and atmospheric. “Typhoon” begins with the sound of a koto or Chinese zheng, but then a heavy rhythm track kicks in along with a very percussive Eastern melody that could easily become a dance track. I really like the element of fun in this one! “Dark Yangtzee” is another favorite, creating the feeling of sailing slowly in total darkness, not knowing what lies ahead - or below. Flutes, oboe, orchestration and atmospheric sounds make this piece really effective and very eerie. “Kanchenjunga” goes even darker and more dire with ambient sounds and pounding drums that suggest we are someplace we really shouldn’t be! “Kaarta Market” is bright, dancelike and joyful - quite a contrast to some of the earlier tracks! “The Orphan Returns Home” opens with a simple piano part played with one hand. Strings enter and then bass guitar, drum and voices, creating a mysterious setting for the electric guitar that becomes the primary focus of parts of the piece - hypnotic and stirring! “Songbird In the Morning” is much lighter and more optimistic, ending the album with a sense of contentment and peace.
Music of the Extraordinary Voyages takes the listener on quite an adventure - one that I thoroughly enjoy! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!
January 19, 2014