Life is never as interesting as you want it to be, but rarely as dull as you think it is. Life From Light reminded me of that U.S. Navy or Army commercial, when someone dramatically poses the question, "If someone wrote a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?" Toni Castells helped me answer that question: "Only if that book were adapted into a movie and Toni Castells scored the soundtrack and then people were like, 'Hey, I'm gonna check out the book that movie was based on'."
I suppose calling this imposing live album some "operatic stuff" doesn't lend itself to my credibility, but that's what it is. Which scares the hell out of me because this will have been the first time I've reviewed opera music, and that's weird because opera is an audio-visual experience. I was actually reading up on reviews on opera and I learned nothing about how to write about it.
Life From Light is a 15-track live album that features the music of Castells' 2011 album Creation. That musical work explores 21st century topics such as plastic surgery and the changing family unit but also delves into more existential issues like the origin of human life and the importance of sex. I'll be frank, there's a piece on here called "Fake Boobs" that made me chuckle, but not as much as I thought it would because it's a delicate piano-and-strings affair that make it clear where Castells is coming from. Even when soprano (I hope I identified that correctly) Susan Jiwey belts out "fake boobs" I couldn't even crack a smile. And then the music delves into the atmosphere of a military execution.
All this from a guy who claims Abba's "Chiquita" pointed him down the road to conductorship.Castell’s orchestrations dip low and soar high, soaring over a musical battlefield. Strings guided with blunt precision often back the vocalists, who hit high notes that overtake even the powerful musical swells. "Never Be Afraid" uses a victorious horn section that builds under a searing cello (or violin, I always confuse the two, point is, it sounds good); compare that with "Annabel Lee," which is far more joyful and has a more rustic feel. Life From Light carves emotion using a myriad of instruments, and because of this its able to experiment with different genres outside of opera."Inman" is an excellent example, as an electric blues riff introduces again the soprano, and that's all the song uses. It's a brilliant display of minimalism and an unorthodox approach to mixing two very different styles of music. At least I think so. More than an hour long, Life From Light uses everything from New Age chants to classical string arrangements to assist the listener in meditating on today and tomorrow and the days after that. Some parts remind of Psychic TV's dramatic experiments.
In closing, if you're reading a review of an album in a genre the author freely admits he knows nothing about, what you really have to question isn't the review but whether the author was bored. I was never bored when I listened to this album.
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