Ethan W. Kampa is a scholar when it comes to music. He graduated with honors; receiving a Bachelor in music. He not only received the Music Talent Scholarship once but twice for compositional excellence while studying and was also awarded a commission to compose music for the Virginia Morrow Scholarship. The list continues but you get my point.
He recently released his debut album At Last and in his own words it is supposed to bring together “modern alternative/indie rock and classical music.” After taking a listen to At Last it sounds more like an ethereal electronic album that has a New Age type vibe going on. I really don’t hear the indie rock element at all. Scattered throughout album are traces of bands like Sigur Rós and M83 but I didn’t hear anything that reminded me of Deerhunter or Grizzly Bear.
The first track is called “I. Andante” in which the first thing you are greeted with are orchestral strings. A simple yet hypnotic piano melody fades as the strings transform into a lush cloud of sounds. The energy is supplied by the drumbeat that appears soon after. It’s evident early on that Kampa is skilled in composition as the song grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go till its over.
M83 came to mind on the second track “II. Scherzo,” which was the highlight for me. The beginning of the song is light and atmospheric as he layers pads and synths but about halfway through the song explodes into the most intense moment on the album. It’s kinetic, uplifting energy as if you are a rocket heading towards the stars. The synths are bright and pierce through your speakers.
“III. In Calm and Flowing Motion” revolves around light pads and cascading synths. It sounded the most like New Age out of the five tracks to my ears. “IV. Adagio” is a slower track that is filled with melancholy and percussive elements that sound similar to something you might hear from a Bjork album.
The last track “V. Rondo (Finale)” definitely sounds like a finale, as it’s the most grandiose and thematic. It’s a larger than life celestial closer that I was ok with.
I don’t think Kampa succeeded in combining rock and classical music but he did create a worthy debut. It probably would have benefited from actual orchestral strings but you have to start somewhere. Recommended.
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