London based singer/songwriter The Royal Vincident delivers the first ever concept album based on the London Underground on his first solo album entitled Victoria.
When you hear the words singer/songwriter, you might think of mopey, sad sack troubadours in lonely coffee shops, strumming a battered guitar, possibly adorned with sloganeering stickers. This oversimplification will not prepare you for the fully formed orchestral soundscapes of The Royal Vincident, which is more Randy Newman than Randy Travis, more Gary Numan than Reverend Gary Davis.
The Royal Vincident's musical approximations of the lives surrounding the stations of the London Underground - which is what they call their subway line - is painted in neon and pastel hues of 8-bit instrumentation, bringing to mind Pokemon Green as well as The Village Green Preservation Society.
Attempting to describe a place - especially a place as old as London - is always a complex, layered and multifaceted project. Imagine standing in one place in London and experiencing its entire auditory history. Medieval troubadours would mix and mingle with flocks of pigeons and the futuristic sounds of Techno, Jungle and Rave. Amazingly, The Royal Vincident manages to almost capture it all over the course of 16 tracks.
Of course, a strong concept as a guiding principle is always welcome when it comes to creating a cohesive artistic statement but it doesn't matter one lick if it doesn't sound good. The most striking musical aspects of Victoria are the vocals, which are mellow and airy in the finest British folk traditions (think Nick Drake or John Renbourn) and incredible chops. The Royal Vincident plays nearly every instrument himself, proving to be quite an adept multi-instrumentalist. With a lifelong interest in classical music, The Royal Vincident's an accomplished pianist with a wide harmonic vocabulary, with chord changes rising and falling like rolling hills or train tracks descending underground. It's a more nuanced and varied experience than your standard singer/songwriter fare, which greatly rewards multiple listenings.
If The Beach Boys were the sound of California in the '60s and Van Dyke Park's Song Cycle being a soundtrack for the ennui of the suburbs, Victoria is the sound of 1667 - 2067 in the sprawling metropolis of London. It's a journey, from the past through the future, delivered with stunning musical vision and exquisite attention to detail.
If this is The Royal Vincident's first solo record, I tremble in anticipation of what the second will bring.
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