Hailing from Amherst, MA, Ian Stahl isn't content with his music unless he is pushing his boundaries and exploring his creative potential. He has been playing music since he was young and has been studying jazz in college. On his recent EP These Secrets We Keep he attempts and often succeeds at combining jazz and rock. There are four songs on the EP in which the songs either feel much more heavily influenced by jazz or rock.
Take for instance “Facades,” which for the most part is a well-written song you could label as alternative or indie rock. It isn't really about until about a minute and a half in that he starts pulling out riffs that have a hint of jazz influences that an average rock band probably couldn't pull off.
“The Lotus Eater” is a much more overt jazz song. The song is one of the most compelling of the four. It initially combines psychedelic atmospheric elements with a loose bass line. It transitions to funky bassline that is highly reminiscent of the song “Bulls On Parade” by Rage Against the Machine and then evolves into a jam session that you might hear from a jam band. The song then devolves into free jazz eventually distilling down to a bit of atmosphere and a drum solo. This is a song that is definitely not your average bear.
“Far Away” is another solid song this time introducing a prominent piano and orchestral strings. The song sounds nothing like “The Lotus Eater” or “Facades.” It even goes into an a capella-driven ending that was unexpected but well done.
“Stay” melds pop and jazz. It also contains some sweet sax playing that was a welcome addition.
The biggest and really the only issue with this EP is that the songs feel like disparate pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit with each other. Stahl is obviously talented but stylistically the EP is scattered and creates an ambiguous statement about his artistic direction. Luckily, Stahl has a lot of time to figure this out and I am not too worried that he will do this as he matures as an artist.
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