Michael Jackson’s breakthrough album, the one that propelled him to solo stardom, was titled Off the Wall. Therefore, you may read Jude Gwynaire’s album title incorrectly the first time. Then again, once you make your way through these 15 tracks, you’ll know right away that – while excellent – Gwynaire is no king of pop. He is, in fact, something completely different and wonderful.
For starters, Gwynaire’s album is comprised of all instrumentals. So, no, there aren’t any breathy, Jackson-esque vocals in the bunch. Instead, Gwynaire has given us a wide range of auditory colors. For example, one titled “Big Sky Ocean” may remind you of early Kraftwerk. It’s not pre-synth-pop stuff, but it does have an eeriness to it that recalls early sounds from that pioneering German outfit. Another electronic music creation is “Feel Nocturno.” This latter inclusion is hard dance music, with a rather harsh feel to it. It sounds a lot like EDM, and it’s certainly – as its title foreshadows – night music.
Styles can oftentimes change dramatically from track to track. For instance, “The Church of Jolene” begins with formal church organ, before going into a rather warped sounding melody, which sounds a little like Chinese music. All the while, the organ continues to run through it. “The Night Service” is another nighttime-related title. The music on this creation is much less rhythmic than many of the others that come before it, and is a bit of a nod to Brian Eno’s more ambient musical experiments. While electronic instrumentation drives many of these tracks, there’s a lot of acoustic piano slithering through “Still Life from a Balcony.” There’s even what sounds like a saxophone part in it. It’s a bit jazzy, but also sonically a modern instrumental at the same time.
One called “Lost Valley of the Fire King” is driven by its percussion part. It is, in fact, more rhythmic than it is melodic, as its melody is relatively straightforward and simple. It has the feel, in places, of a type of African folk song. However, its rhythm is a little too speedy to be considered ethnic folk.
In contrast, “Angelino Heights” is one of this album’s quietest and moodiest pieces. It includes plenty of swirling musical backing instrumentation and a chime-y electric guitar inputting the track’s primary melody. The project closes with “Once Upon a Spanish Night.” This title suggests an evening (with yet another night reference) in Spain. It’s gentle and comforting, and a sweet way to finish the recording.
There’s plenty of different sounds and styles to choose from filling out Jude Gwynaire’s On the Wall album. Nothing quite so strange, though, that’d you’d call it something that’s off the wall. Perhaps the album’s title is an art reference. Maybe each of these pieces is like a painting hung on a wall. Listening to the album is akin to entering a room filled with widely differing picture types. If you have a taste for plenty of different sounds, where no two tracks are alike, this full-length might just be the something you’ll love. Jude Gwynaire has created quite the variety pack with this one.