Progressive rock takes a turn for modern elegance when it come to Kendall Burks' latest album Waves. I was immediately smitten with his sculpting of a genre-bending sound that falls under psych, indie and electronic. Burks is a lifelong musical student who has since become a teacher himself based in Denver, Colorado. This album is wildly experimental, worldly and really, really beautiful. Despite covering so much ground in the genre department, I wouldn't call this album fussy or overdone. It's actually very understated and subdued which has made it all the more a standout.
Everything about the instrumental work on these songs was fascinating to me. There is a distinct southwestern vibe that is VERY Denver and also beyond. The album is most lo-fi and moves seamlessly. It sounds like watching a landscape change geographically in fast forward. It's a like a quiet call of the wild. I can hear sand shifting and ice melting. While soft and subtle, there is something momentous and seismic about the music. Its reach is long and wide, but never sleepy or dull. Burks really worked out a solid balance and I think his knowledge and deep understanding of classical music assisted him in this task. The music is very much a labor of electronic love. It has a clever modern edge. However the music still achieves what classical has often done, which is paint landscapes, but these landscapes are a mixture of lush and green fields and massive urban backdrops.
The backbone of the music is all in the instrumental work, but there are vocals present. They seem to be designed to fade into the background. His vocal work is haunting and for some of the tracks works very well. However his performance style is very niche and didn't always ring my bell on certain tracks but I do appreciate how unique his vocal work is. Again, like the instrumentals, his vocals are subdued, but they do make an impact. When going through a second time and really digging for the words I found lots of thick metaphors that complement the music perfectly.
This album was a DIY project with Logic at the core of everything. Burks is a serious loop guy, but those loops are tucked away so well in a sea of thoughtful details that you forget how much loops are involved in the format. His samples and instrumental choices were so wonderfully diverse and given plenty of air to breathe. His attention to that diverse lineup is, I think, a big part of what made this album such a success.
Waves is an album for anyone who wants to take an intercontinental journey from the comfort of their own home. You will experience so many walks of life during your journey. It is well traveled and very well produced. Highly recommended.
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