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Album Review: Lost in the Azure EP
Rachel LaFond and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
Cover image of the album Lost in the Azure EP by Rachel LaFond and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
Lost in the Azure EP
Rachel LaFond and The Outlaw Ocean Music Project
2021 / Synesthesia Media
28 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Lost In the Azure EP is pianist/composer Rachel LaFond's contribution to The Outlaw Ocean Music Project, an incredible project inspired by Ian Urbina's best-selling book The Outlaw Ocean. Urbina spent about four years sailing the oceans of the world, chronicling lawlessness ranging from illegal fishing to human trafficking, slavery, environmental horrors and so much more. I was stunned to learn of the terrible things that happen every day on the vast bodies of water I've always found so inspiring. For The Outlaw Ocean Music Project, hundreds of musical artists from all over the world and in virtually all genres of music have created (and are continuing to create) music that often incorporates field recordings Urbina made while at sea. The music created for the project is as profoundly moving to listen to as the book is to read, harnessing the power of music to tell the story.

Lost in the Azure contains eight instrumental tracks. Four are solo piano and the other four are the same pieces with piano and orchestration. Rachel explains her approach: "I felt a serious responsibility to honor the material, and for me that meant up-ending my usual process. I immersed myself in the book, noting and re-reading particularly powerful passages as I wrote and recorded the solo piano tracks in my home studio. But something didn’t feel quite right: I decided these stories needed me to expand my sound beyond just the piano. So, I taught myself to have a voice in other mediums by learning to produce, adding symphonic and ambient electronica textures to my piano sound."

The first four tracks on Lost in the Azure are the more orchestrated ones, beginning with the title track. Ocean sounds, choral voices and electronic textures are added to the haunting and mournful piano, creating depth and atmosphere that really draw you in. "Into the Eye" is more powerful and dramatic, with a symphonic sweep. Intense and stormy for the first half of the piece, the piano stays in the lead as the music quiets and the storm calms. As its title suggests, "Invisible Tears" is a heartbreaker. Strings and the sound of rain take this piece to an extraordinary emotional level. "You Sparkle Still" looks at the ocean from a different perspective, now aware of the horrors that happen every day, but still loving its beauty. Strings and ocean sounds add texture to this poignant piece. The solo piano versions of the pieces are just as affecting as the more orchestrated arrangements and offer even stronger feelings of vulnerability and raw emotion. I'm really glad Rachel included both versions of each piece!

Lost in the Azure EP is a very powerful musical experience that I very highly recommend. I also very highly recommend reading the book that inspired the music! The digital album is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify. There is also a companion songbook available with the four piano solos. It can be purchased as a printed book or a PDF download from Rachel's website, and individual pieces can also be downloaded.
November 19, 2021