The Opium Cartel — Valor
(Apollon Records AP071, 2020, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-08-07
I’m going to say that The Opium Cartel is what happens when musicians at home in progressive rock turn their attention to mainstream pop. Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, Weserbergland, Galasphere 347, Telepath) is the driving force here, writing all the songs and playing all manner of keyboards, guitars, and bass, and programming the rhythm parts that aren’t handled by Lars Fredrik Frøislie of Wobbler, White Willow, and Tusmørke. The majority of the lead vocals are by Silje Huleboer, with Leah Marcu and Ina A each getting one song. Other contributors are Ole Øvstedal (guitar, bass), Ilia Skibinsky (saxophone), Bjørn Riis (guitar), and Maria Grigoryeva (violin, viola). Many of the songs sound like refugees from the 80s, with their drum machines and synth bass parts and only slight hints of rock. In some ways, I consider the 80s a golden area for pop music, with excellent songs from many different artists, so it’s natural that current artists would look to that time period for sounds. But is Valor good pop music? It’s certainly well produced, though I’ll admit I find some of the bass synth tones annoying, too clean to be interesting. A good fat synthesizer can be a great low end to a piece, but a wimpy tone just sounds like lame dance music. The vocal arrangements often strike me as what would have happened if The Primitives had gone synth-pop. In the final judgment I’ll say The Opium Cartel presents skillfully made pop music that occasionally rises to the level of interesting, but I wouldn’t seek it out.
New Aristocrats Live Album on the Way – No foolin'! These supreme musicians toured Europe early in 2020, just before touring ceased to be a thing musicians could do, and there were some hot performances captured. On May 7, some of these will be releases as Freeze! Live in Europe 2020. » Read more
Jewlia Eisenberg RIP – The sad news has come out that Jewlia Eisenberg has died. As a founding member of Charming Hostess, Eisenberg changed the face of music, bringing together Balkan klezmer, American folk, and experimental rock in a distinctive blend that garnered much praise. » Read more
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more