Actually by @VizMajor
One of the best things about listening to a concept album is immersing yourself into the music and simultaneously living in that moment of the sounds being produced almost as if you had astral projected directly into the experience. With MIGMA SHELTER’s newly released full album “ALICE” we get transported right into the wacky, twisted, animated world of the classic story of Alice in Wonderland. Anyone familiar with the Disney animated film adaptation can take one glance at the song titles in the tracklisting and notice words or phrases that relate to the story and even see that it is also in chronological order. One thing I will recommend here: wear headphones because you will want to hear everything on this album.
The album opener “In Wonderland” immediately sounds like you are being taken on a journey, one can even imagine a moving aerial shot of the landscape of Wonderland. We are greeted by spacey percussion-like synths and a warm violin melody that seamlessly pans between the left & right channels in a ping pong effect. This first song is also where we are introduced to a recurring theme in the sound production of this entire album: soundbytes of nature & living things (weather, animals, insects, etc.) One in particular that I found quite unique in this song is in the 1st half before the tempo picks up there is a hi-hat that rolls & playfully skips around from left to right channel that sounds really cool.
The second song “Rabiddo” features fast escalating buildups paired with falsetto vocals and an interlude of strings that would fit well in an old movie score to a sunny day in the Classical era. It’s a very dramatic song with captivating melodies & alluring vocal harmonies. The next song “Drops” begins with a sinister bassline that can remind one of the bass in the Pink Panther theme and when paired with an old sounding piano enables one to visualize a dimly lit, smokey lounge. The song picks up the pace into something reminiscent of a Burlesque theater chorus line leading into a nasal zipper synth which is then washed away by bubbling water, water drops, & faded vocals followed by a return of the theater music to finish.
Now we get to the middle portion of the album starting with “Egg Head”, a maniacal composition consisting of 7 or 8 transitions and featuring instrumentation in the forms of timpani, midi synth, string melodies, marching snares, and even a rooster’s crow that is sampled & chopped up to fit with the rhythm of the beat. I found this song to be one of the more complex & fun productions on this album. The 5th track “Y” either samples or contains an interpolation of “Pink Elephants on Parade” from the Dumbo soundtrack which serves as a fantastic tuba & trumpet accompaniment. This song follows along in the story when Alice meets the hookah smoking Caterpillar who’s deep voice can be heard speaking his famous line “who are you?” during the percussion break at the halfway point. Fantastic brass instrumentation and full, powerful kicks in this song.
Song #6 “It doesn’t matter” is where we get a change of pace by slowing down the madness and bringing in a feeling of tranquility which not only shows a different side of MIGMA SHELTER but results in one of the highlights of the album. Starting off we are treated right away to warmly tuned acoustic guitar strings & outdoor ambience of birds whistling giving the feeling of being around a campfire singing indie folk music. To top it off, the girls’ singing on this song may be the best we heard from them yet. There’s a strong bass pad that sounds great as it envelopes the atmosphere and leads into the sound of rustling leaves as a bird flies out from a tree which transitions perfectly. The thunder & rain is also a very nice addition to the sonics and really works in setting the mood. Very dark & mysterious soundscape that matches well with the Cheshire Cat character who also said to Alice the phrase “it doesn’t matter” in the story.
Following this song is “Unbirthday”, the song that is most fitting to the psychedelic trance soundscape. The music here has intervals of an Arabian theme melody and the familiar tone of sci-fi synth trance patterns. The chorus in this is probably the catchiest & most memorable on this album with the girls singing the lyrics “a very merry unbirthday to you”, which is what the March Hare & the Mad Hatter were singing at their tea party. The placement of sound effects in this song was also mapped out very well. The next song “Road” I will say is one of the best produced records I have heard this year. This composition is structured in about nine different sections. The pop beat & rhythm in the beginning flows into a gritty smug rap-like vocal cadence which then mellows out for a short break before returning to an electronic dance breakdown. What follows is the most interesting section of the song: a flourish of fanfare that swells & builds up into an incredible drop of background static & electric guitars and finally finishes with a guitar solo.
The second to last song “QUEEN” I can only describe best as serving as battle music for a last boss in a JRPG. There are brooding & pulsating bass synths and backing choir vocals. This song also features on production Chapa Didgeridoo who plays the didgeridoo and provides that low frequency rich bass & strong vibrations. The second half of the song kicks up the tempo to make everything feel more intense. I actually think this one may be the fastest BPM that MIGMA SHELTER has ever done before. The final track “My Wonderland” is a 9 minute epic that encapsulates all the elements we experienced throughout the album and is formatted into a song that perfectly expresses the feeling of accepting this wild & weird Wonderland until the last two minutes where we seem to slowly drift away from the dream into a beat that could play during the ending credit roll of a movie. The chirping of birds and even what sounds like a faint voice saying “Alice!” eventually wakes us up for the album to come to a close.
The factors that really make this album great are the always superb production & mixing of AqbiRec recordings and the high attention to detail in the sonics & compositions. Every song was carefully planned and song structures & melodies meticulously pieced together. It feels like an art performance piece or avant garde painting projected through music. It’s difficult to say this album can be completely labeled as Trance since there are so many different genres & orchestrations found here: Pop, Goa, Classical, Experimental, Rock, R&B, etc. The members of MIGMA SHELTER each have great voices and vocals are arranged in a fashion where harmony is melodic & contributory to the instrumental. In 10 songs there are so many ideas & layers that can fill two albums. Transitions are executed flawlessly, vocals are performed well, and the songs have a good replay value. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year.
Official Homicidols Rating