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North Satellite - A Rising Sign (Startree, 2020)



The latest offering from Darshan Jesrani's superb imprint sees multi instrumentalist Eugene Tambourine deliver a stunning four tracker that provide a bold and refreshing dynamism of styles and flavours.


Seeing the visions of someone who understands the best usage of all manner of instruments coming to life is always a joyous occasion, as the singular field becomes multiple and provides a musical environment that remains overtly bold and musically complex. Its not just the focus on one train of thought but multiple, a feeling that expands over a collection of cuts as differing styles are spliced together into a sound that remains highly engaging and potent, and within this current musical landscape its very much reflective of the ever changing sonics and notions that define our fields of vision and fuel our appetite for the new and exciting. Bringing that live feel to tracks is something that people always appreciate, creating a richness but perhaps more importantly crafting a vitality and simmering energy that exudes from the core right to the surface, a hair raising sound that allows us to soar on the passion and emotion poured into the music. Its a welcome contrast to the manner in which electronically produced music can conjure up in listeners, but here the focus relies more on how the foundations of funk, soul, disco, nu-disco and the like spark up those feelings of warmth within the heart, a potent blend of intoxicating drumming and delicate keys, alongside the usage of vocals to add that little sparkle on top of nurturing an on going narrative that keeps the blood flowing throughout. The overall spectrum of sound comes to us as a fully realised experience, one that remains grounded in the abilities of the people who are behind it all, showcasing their complex understanding of how instruments are able and willing to work alongside one another in a journey that reaches deep into the human experience and brings forth a work of such quality and meaning, toeing the line through the mists of differing genres and feels, all bought together by weaving a musical narrative defined by inventive and intelligent usage of instrumentation. When adding this ideal into a clear cut vision of creative visions, the blend is one of total immersion into a world brimming with colours and experiences, one that moves to the beat of a singular drum but finds plenty of time to expend its energies on new paths and journeys, eager to guide our own mental wonderings through doors into fields where the soundtrack is constantly morphing into brilliant and unexpected forms. We remain glued into every single facet change, eager to keep exploring and indulging in all that transpires, mesmerised by the movement through the gears that keeps the blood pumping and the gears moving in our minds, eager to keep glazing over a spectrum of sound that allows us to keep reaching for that outer realm, that space dipped in bliss that constantly draws the mental wonderer out of us. Its a sound that skips to the rhythms of life, providing a dialogue that hits deep within us all, a quiet yearning for all that remains beautiful in the world, channelled through to us by those concerned with crafting the most enriching and wholesome of sounds.


With each passing release, it becomes more and more evident how aligned singer song writer and producer Eugene Tambourine is to the mantra of live instrumentalism as a means of conveying the most enriching and vibrant of sounds imaginable. His sound is very much in keeping with many explorers of the modern day disco sound, but there is certainly something a bit different about his works, namely the flourishing key lines, intricate melodic layers, and overall atmosphere that smacks of someone who understands totally what they want to say and how they want to say it. The music is always beautifully executed, with a flair and imagination that runs through the heart of it all, an inner core that reflects a music maker who looks to carve out their own identity through the tunes that they conjure up. Effortlessly groovy yet soft and tender at the same time, the tunes feel very much in place in his current base of NYC but could easily transpose themselves into the Rivera or Mediterranean, such is the music's far reaching feel, with many hints towards Balearic cruising in search of that most perfect sunset. That is perhaps one of the key feels that translates from his music, one that provides and caters for a wide variety of contexts, eager to explore and nurture all facets of the groove and the rhythm in providing a totality of experience that ensures the good times keep on flowing for months to come. Under various names, Tambourine has released two superb records, the first being the 2016 record 'North Satellite' EP, that showcased his talents with two tracks that crafted beautiful moments of immersion and feel; and the 2019 record 'Pathways/K.G.E.T', that landed under The Lemko Unlimited Orchestra, which only furthered his balearic tinged sound to further and greater heights. Aside from releasing his own records, Tambourine has contributed significantly to the music of Scott Matthews, that includes vocal, songwriting and instrumental inputs, with Matthew's discography more aligned to the folk and alternative side of things but nonetheless highly compelling stuff that only furthers Tambourine's credentials as a force of nature. In all, Tambourine processes a real craft within him that is always on the lookout for new ways in which to express itself, be it via working within the realms of alternative or searching for that perfect sunset within his own delightfully groovy yet emotive tracks, there's something for everyone, every mood or setting, and that remains the sign of a imaginative and intuitive song writer. We couldn't recommend his previous releases enough, so why not give them a go and provide yourself with a little bit of insight into his world, trust us you won't be disappointed.


And now we arrive at his latest offering under the alias North Satellite, entitled 'A Rising Sign', which represents the fourth offering from Metro Area member Darshan Jesrani's Startree imprint. Considering the quality and diversity of modern day disco that is found on the label, it makes perfect sense for Tambourine to embark here on his most ambitious work to date, with the four cuts that make up this EP of the highest quality imaginable, both in terms of musicianship and environment building. Each cut gives over a differing part of the night, moving within the realms of balearia but hinting strongly towards many of the tones we associate with house, with flickering key lines delicately gracing our presence atop a bed of simmering rhythm and softly pulsating bass lines. Its got a warmth and embrace like no other, content in moving through the gears with such a high satisfaction that we are left by the end of the track with a huge smile on our face, which remains testament to Tambourine and his wide ranging talents when putting together this superb tracks. A narrative that shifts between the vocal and the instrumental, but all speaking together in unison, feeding off of one another with ease and grace, as we drift onwards into the night and its many endless possibilities. So, without further delay, lets get into it.


First up comes the title track, and this one begins with the hats and bass line kicking things off. The percussive features move in and around the pans on both sides, crafting a wonderfully layered feel going through the middle, as a series of keys flow right through the centre, crafting an audial experience that provides such richness and tone, embracing us with their effortless feel. The track keeps shifting through the varying rhythmic structures, keen to showcase to us all the ideas and differing structures that are on display, with flickering tones and keys cascading with the flow of melody that keeps coming our way, with their sequencing matching up with the interplays of the cymbals and hats with ease and meaning. The track has a real dream house under current to it, with the tone and texture of the keys harking back to the manner in which that genre could really lift up hearts with its big room melodies, and here the keys do a similar job yet remain more subtle in their approach. The moment when the rhodes like chord progression fills the song for a brief second is truly magical, providing a break in the energy before we move right back into the transfixing structures that lie out before us. The chords return for one final foray into the mix, their presence adding weight and density to the movement going onwards, and like that we float towards the stratosphere, eager to continue traversing the plains of existence and tone in order to find ourselves in a new space of being. Glorious opener. Up next comes 'Le Lagon Noir', which is a reworking of Laurie Anderson's 'Blue Lagoon' with the lyrics sung in French by Camille Vourzay, and we get right into things almost immediately. The hazy feel of the cymbals leads us right into the core groove, one where the drumming is uptempo and tropical in its feel, as the bass line keeps the tempo going underneath, as backdrop keys quietly prop up the track with a gorgeous key line drifting in and out of time, as we picture the most beautiful of deep blue seas and sparkling beaches. Vourzay's vocal line starts to swing into view, and as if we couldn't be more sedated by the blissful tones occurring around us her voice, impeccably delivered, completes the picture that is being painted in front of us. The keys return for another flourish, and before long the vocals return to keep us fully involved with all that is going on within this wondrous piece of music, a groove that just won't quit, keeping us locked into all the micro transitions and switches in feel and tone that maintain our intrigue right through to the end. Its got a real weight to it, a rhythm that shines from the deepest bass note straight up to the complex drumming patterns and soaring key solos, it has it all. There's time for a dub laden outro, where Vourzay's lyrics stick to the mind as we pass through a quietly retreating rhythm, left with some extraordinary memories of what just transpired, dreaming of a place out by the coast filled with riches and happiness.


Up next comes 'Keep My Light', which begins off with the piano emphatically hitting the mark during the intro. This somewhat ominous sounding intro springs to life within mere seconds though, as the lightest of drums lead the way in crafting a foundation of excellence, as gorgeous keys and synths drift from left to right in the pans, setting the scene for the vocals to gently whisper across the tundra, their grace and poise something to marvel at. The whole audial package is so soft, so pure and tender, elegance personified, a kind of deep house leaning track with all the trimmings of soulful melodies laden on top, with the reverting between vocal driven segments and instrumentals working so brilliantly together. At just shy of 4 minutes, a significant amount is placed within this track, and we couldn't be more impressed with what transpires from it all. Brilliant stuff. To wrap things up, we have 'Love Is On The One', and this one begins with the wistful stylings of flickering keys and powerful bass notes painting the scene for us. They are quickly joined by some of the most infectious and pleasing on the ear chords you will hear all year, in the form of the chord sequence that enters at the bottom right of the pan, they are just gorgeous in every sense of the word, with their feel and tone resonating right through the track as other key elements chime along to their vibe. The vocals of Yevhen Bubon begin hovering around right before the breakdown, and as the drums move away he begins his flow with all the meaning in the world, with the keys giving his words some room during the bridge before heading right into the first chorus, as all the melodic features come together in all their complexity and layered brilliance, crafting an utterly transfixing scene that sings to the world and life itself. From then on, its an utter delight to experience Bubon's voice and the key work weave around each other with care and attention, respecting each others space but finding the time to join forces and really drive forward the driving melodic notions of the cut. And like that, we drift away into the slipstream, carried along by a series of astonishingly brilliant tracks that showcase Tambourine's talents for song writing and finding the balance to exert both technique and creativeness. Its an absolute joy to be involved within.


As statements go, you can't go wrong with showcasing the absolute parameters of your sound, and yet still show how there is so much more beyond what we hear within an EP or LP. Eugene Tambourine has showcased to us via his collection of records that he is able and willing to explore all facets of his instrumentalism and inventiveness, and this EP remains such a standout in that regard, with four cuts of the highest order that texturally convey so many moods and emotions. It feels like you could continually return and find something new to follow, a new sound here, a differing vibe there, music that remains inherently deep and intrinsically creative, with all the layers on show a real delight to revel within. Whether you are in a deep house kind of mood, or a soulful uplifting one, or one where you wish to mentally meander to the brightest and warmest of contexts, this record has it all, and we have the brilliance of Tambourine to thank for that. One of the records of the year, for sure.


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