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Music Review: “Masterworks” – Splendid Music From Etop

Etop just dropped an album. It’s called Masterworks, and it’s hecka-excellent! Hailing from New Jersey, while attending the Pratt Institute of Arts and Design as an architectural student, Etop discovered architecture and music commence as creative concepts which assume form and structure, eventually evolving into works of art.

Stylistically, Etop blends vintage pop, R&B, rock, soul and blues into innovative, original tunes that emanate a nostalgic aroma yet introduce a marvelous original effrontery that keeps his sound fresh.

Masterworks contains thirteen tracks. The first track is called “Blue Collar,” a rocking blues number reminiscent of Booker T and Canned Heat. An upbeat blues melody, riding the guitars and a crisp organ, delivers a down and dirty blues texture that gets your bones to shaking and quaking. “Organtuan” is a slow, bluesy tune with a country element that sifts upward on drawling, twangy guitars and a dirge-like organ. A soft steel guitar provides the tune with a pensive, melancholy feel.

“Indigo Children” establishes a solid groove, providing a base for the melody, driven by the piano and strings. The melody exudes elements of R&B and pop, along with a classical/electronic flavor. The harmonics between the piano and the strings delights the ears. It’s a smooth, comfortable number. “Funny Shoes” exudes a traditional folk melody, tapping effects and tremolo keyboards that give the tune a silent-movie savor.

“Blue Collar Reprised” is a short, deep south/gospel/blues poetic requiem with lamenting vocals riding just above the music. “Control Tower” mounts a reggae one-drop groove, skank rhythm and electronic elements that add an almost psychedelic flavor, as reggae vocalizations accent the tune’s bright feeling. “Tomoko and the Stardust” features Juri Ify Love. The melody conveys a J-pop essence within an anime matrix, while Love’s vocals enhance the ingenuous flow of the music. In short, the song comes across as an anime nursery rhyme from the 1960’s, meek and unpretentious. But it works; the end result is stylishly unassuming.

“The Guggenheim Job” starts off with an exotic assemblage of gagaku pop-tinged music and then segues into a delicate, beautiful classical piano piece with sporadic clicking accents. This is a deliciously delightful number full of mood and tempo alterations. “Manami in Twilight” again features Juri Ify Love’s sublime, vulnerable voice riding over a SoCal soft rock melody emanating a smooth, elegant musical pattern. This may be my favorite song on Masterworks because of the contrast between Love’s enigmatic voice and the Eagles-like melody.

“Shapeshifter” presents a jazz-filled electronic melody, along with a steady, strong groove and an exotic progressive rock essence. “Live, Love Repeat” includes bright horns, reeds and keyboards coalescing into sunny harmony, as the rippling melody issues forth. “M.I.T” delivers a bluesy R&B melody that is mellow and relaxed. The melody’s harmonics dazzle, as horns, guitars and strings meld creating a soft bravura effect. Because of the marvelous elegant surface, this is another of my favorites.

The last track on the album is a semi- instrumental version of “Tomoko and the Stardust,” featuring a tinny guitar, a high-pitched synth and crisp groove. Compared to the first version, it is ascetic and austere, replacing the shimmering brightness with a muted, understated musical rationale.

Masterworks and Etop have it going on! The songs on the album are as varied as the melodies, avoiding any semblance of genre precedence. Etop’s musical smorgasbord includes jazz, blues, classical, nursery rhymes, J-pop and country delicacies. The melodies are supple and contagious; the instrumentation is vivid and harmonious. Don’t miss this one. If you do, you’ll kick yourself.

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