Undocument – The Quiet Crusade – Album Review
Part of me wanted to save this record. Part of me wanted to listen to this record so many years down the line that I’d potentially forget I even had it…so that I’d still have new Undocument music in the future. Like many of you out there that follow the electro or independent-scene, I’ve been looking forward to a new Undocument album ever since listening to the last…but as joyous as the occasion truly IS…it’s also on record in social-media posts that the new record The Quiet Crusade could very well be the last album from this one-man project. I’ve talked with the mind behind the music, Mr. Brian Pampaselle briefly about it…I’ve done my due diligence in begging him to stay and communicated in words at least, my hope that he’ll continue.
But you know something? Much like these reviews…there’s nothing I can say that will ever matter more than the music itself. No amount of words from me will keep him making music…but resisting the genuine pull of our true talent is a whole other story. In my heart of hearts…you just can’t have this kind of talent and let it all go…and of course I hope he’ll stick around for years and years to come…but only time will tell. As it stands, the stunning music found within the creative confines of The Quiet Crusade are the last we might hear…and for the moment, I’m going to forget all these rumors about this being the end of the line for Undocument and celebrate the fact that the new album is out officially…and that this artist once again fully exists in our world here at sleepingbagstudios.
It honestly only took one song in order to be able to breathe a true sigh of relief that Undocument is not just back – he’s out to crush the electro-genre once again with stunning sounds, swift & subtle transitions and impressively produced material. “Grace / Under The Endless Sky” really is like two different tracks at the end of the day…but the way that Brian’s threaded and woven these two imaginative parts together is absolutely seamless. The opening half has excellent energy to start the record with…arpeggio piano-sounds light-up the first minute alongside a solid beat that instantly grabs your attention…and somewhere just past that not too far away, you can hear the subtle-work of the transition beginning to form. “Grace / Under The Endless Sky” becomes a truly emotional and sincere sound by the end with beautiful piano, strings and percussion soaring straight into an entirely chilled-out atmosphere. SO GOOD to have this guy back…just sayin’!
The depth of sound and quality of production come to life even further as the album progresses to the second of its 27 tunes with “Last Night & Daydream.” A lot of the tracks are short on The Quiet Crusade…this one is only two-minutes or so; no matter short, no matter long – Undocument makes music worth listening to. I don’t even know how you do what he’s doing on “Last Night & Daydream” but the chilled-out vibe and smooth-sounds in combination come together as joyously as a Lemon Jelly track – I loved this tune. There’s really not too much to it when you listen…but it’s HYPNOTIC and full of awesome. A lot of these tunes I’d let cycle on repeat individually as I’d listen, and I got stuck on “Last Night & Daydream” for what felt like a whole week by the time I was done. Inviting as electro can be.
Playing with the tempo & editing-tools on the short-cut “Luscious” – it’s just fun to listen along and figure out where Undocument will take the idea to next. I like how the songs are quite often presented with a hint of what the idea will eventually become…and I love how this dude delivers something even more solid than the expectations every time in terms of how the songs develop. “Luscious” might be too short to be memorable for some…but for others, they’ll certainly appreciate how this short track snaps together and finds itself on solid ground all within a minute & twenty seconds.
Everything’s been solid so far…but here comes the record’s first true stunner with the collaboration between Undocument and Amena Melody on “She Breathes.” The atmosphere that the music has is stunningly-rich and has incredible texture to its every move…and what started in a gorgeous place already becomes an all-out unforgettable moment once Amena takes the microphone. The instincts of this singer are beyond-good – she’s amazing…I could listen to her voice all day long; it’s not just what she sings but how she’s chosen to sing this song that makes it hit that next-level of awesomeness. This combination of talent between them highlights not just one, but two superstars within the indie-music scene through stellar, committed performances…I want SO MUCH more of this…just sayin’!
Solid contrast through the combination of low-end rhythm and bright electro elements on “Inamorata.” Another track I left on repeat for a very long time to allow my mind to wander into its hypnotic rhythm – I love how sometimes the final piece of a song’s puzzle can be as simple as an accent note from the piano to make it all come together. Undocument sticks to a minimalist recipe here and as a result, every ingredient truly counts for something. Love the subtle horn-sounds…at least, that’s what I think they are…who knows with this guy’s creativity? The following track “Morningland” also sticks to a minimalist style but goes even further with a darker texture to the atmosphere and rubbery synth sounds. There’s an added air of mystery in the rhythm of “Morningland” and the tune pushes on to be even cooler by the end with the additional beat & guitar-solo sounds mixed in.
“Houston” is pretty damn irresistible as well with its electro-funk vibes. The Quiet Crusade has roamed through a whole bunch of versatile territory by this point already, but this is the first time Brian’s really brought in the FUNK and it works! Oh man it works! One of the most fun grooves on the entire record, “Houston” is a fantastic moment in time with excellent production beaming from the lefts & rights of the speakers. Again, case in point though on the subject of diversity within this record, “For The Reverie” takes the sound of the album down a whole new path once again. With light, bright & airy sounds fueling the electro-rhythm/guitar combination…it’s one of the shortest cuts on the record but really packs a lot into its length with well-mixed acoustic-based electro ideas shimmering & shining.
“New Wounds” finds Brian back in the mythical, mysterious environments of electro to great results. Love the thickness in the atmosphere…love the subdued vocal sample that runs underneath the surface. Again…at least that’s what I think I’m hearing…could just be the voices in my head for the record. Overall though I felt like this was one of the stronger tunes on The Quiet Crusade…really dig the sounds & textures of Undocument on this cut. Pulsing into “Psalm Readers,” the record springs to life with huge low-end sounds resonating and thumping away…all mixed-in perfectly as you’d expect from Undocument. Once again, twinkling piano-sounds come in to add that final-layer on top like a deliciously-audible cherry. Mix-on-the-low-end-wise though, don’t know if it can get any better than the giant sound of the slow-moving “Prey” to follow. I love how spread-out “Prey” is in its atmosphere and how chilled it sounds mood-wise; the rhythm is generally supplied by the low-end here and it holds the fort supremely. Great breakdown and piano moment on “Prey” as well before the man brings it all back together for its stunning conclusion. Even though we’re just approaching the halfway mark of the album in the next couple tracks – Undocument has yet to let it drop or let my ears down for a single moment.
Most apt-title award goes to “Fascinations,” which sounded like the musical-form of the wonder in our minds. Solidly hypnotic, floating and hazy with a really gentle sound to it…loved the vocals you can hear just slightly in the swell of the music on this tune…something really soothing about this tune. From there, The Quiet Crusade launches into the danceable rhythm of “Stoic” – love the way this track moves! It’s mid-tempo…but the build of the rhythm and groove really take over on this one and soon the repetitive nature of the song wins you over quite handily. It ends bizarrely…and I liked that too.
Major credit to Undocument for not just putting his own talent on display, but also for being the gateway into some new & extraordinary artists along the way. By this point, we’d already been impressed with what we’d heard from Amena Melody on “She Breathes” earlier on – but equally awesome is the performance from Nahneen Kula on “Oratorio Of Momentary” – which I thought she really shined on. The performance is absolutely stunning…great movement to her vocal-flow and passionate delivery…in a sense there’s a similarity between the two vocalists we’ve heard so far in that they’re both awesome…and that they also have stylistically-angelic tones and confident approaches…Undocument deserves the credit for bringing them into the spotlight, and they deserve all the credit for owning it once they got there. Oddly enough I thought the music of “Oratorio Of Momentary” came close as Brian gets to missing the mark…he’s just on the inside of the edge of this one; I like the implied melody, but you can hear he’s just barely hanging onto the threshold of the low-end threatening to take over this tune at any moment. It stays intact enough to love it still…but the real credit for keeping this one as real as it is goes to Nahneen Kula for sure.
The mysterious nature of the electro returns on “In The Event Of Snow” – and I gotta say, this track kind of snuck up on me. Loved the sound of the recording and main-line at first listen, but getting right into this one really pays off. At first I wasn’t sure if my speakers were just slightly cracking somehow…but then I realized it was all on-purpose…but it’s those kind of subtle additions Undocument has made to “In The Event Of Snow” that truly hold its rewards in listening. The main-line stays repetitive & chill…it’s a completely accessible and inviting sound…but man-oh-MAN Brian put the delicate art of subtly in music on crystalline display for all to see/hear on this tune! It’s completely all about the background movements in this track for me – loved the ideas on this track…and if you listen just right, that main-line just melts away into the background and the background becomes the foreground. And that sentence right there is a perfect example of why music speaks best for itself!
Boldly returning to the crisp & clear snap of electro-beats and widespread atmosphere, “Para Os Perdidos” is filled & fueled with gorgeous tones and thumping low-end. A great contrast of sound here…I wasn’t sure this one needed the extra synth-line around the two-minute mark, but I suppose the sound had to change-up a little somewhere right? Sometimes it’s hard to resist adding that extra layer in…I think the main-parts of “Para Os Perdidos” worked really well…but yeah…he might have added one too many layers into this chilled-vibe by the end…might just be me. Heading into the break-beats of “Disintegrational,” Undocument shakes things up on The Quiet Crusade once again with a quick dose of DJ-style bliss. I dig this uplifting vibe in this track…once again he’s reminding me of Lemon Jelly here…but as I’ve often mentioned and will ALWAYS mention, that’s always a good thing in my books. It passes by quickly and brightly…breaking up the record with plenty of contrasting sounds is a great way to ensure the attention stays paid…for example, the moment that the phone stops ringing on “Disintegrational” and “Hillcrest” begins, you sit up straight and start paying close attention all over again. One of my favorite tunes on this album from Undocument, “Hillcrest” is 100% stunning all the way through…a great mystic-style of electro similar to Four Tet…the breakdown of this song is a rad moment in time and the bring-back on this one is jaw-dropping. Love the additional ‘record’ sounds added to “Hillcrest” to make it all sound like it’s coming from the vinyl direct…Brian’s a freakin’ genius when it comes to the art of subtly and adding in perfect elements into the music…always has been. So I took up issue with ONE additional layer in “Para Os Perdidos” – the man has been getting it RIGHT every other step of the way perfectly and “Hillcrest” is a stunning example of the depths he can reach in the atmospheres he creates; incredible ideas and flawless execution.
I’ve always been a big fan of natural sounds being mixed into music…especially electro/ambient when it’s done just right. “This Ocean’s Edge” is pretty much exactly the blueprint of what I’m looking for in that combination. Excellent sounds of crashing waves, birds in the distance…beautiful electro-melody over-top…I mean…what else can you ask for? I mean, ASIDE from that lime you asked for with your Corona while you’re sitting there listening to this on a beach inside your mind. Don’t let your own imagination rip you off…you paid for that lime! You get the idea though…this is the kind of atmosphere and creativity combined that truly sets the mind free to wander and roam…this track was another huge win for me.
I realize a lot of what I’ve said here is undoubtedly positive I’m sure…even without reading it all back, I’m certain there’s a lot of praise being written today on what I’m hearing. I’ve been honest with ya from the start though remember…I was very much looking forward to the new album from Undocument and if anything at all, it’s usually easier to let someone down with high expectations than deliver. Also recognize that Brian has taken a healthy amount of time to create the songs for The Quiet Crusade…just so there’s no one out there thinking the praise is false – understand that these are the kind of stunning results you can achieve when you allow yourself to take time, grow and evolve…study, re-record, re-write, and perfect the art of your concept before releasing the record. The results indicated here, with Undocument winning track-after-track all over The Quiet Crusade speaks much more to the results you get by taking real care with your material, taking the time to assemble it RIGHT and tweaking it all until it’s exactly how you want it to be. If everyone I heard took the time Undocument has here on The Quiet Crusade, the entire music-scene would more than likely be much better off than it is even now. Like…LISTEN to “White Chapel!” Songs like that aren’t no accident, I assure you! Innovative and completely sharp through its rubbery-pulse, “White Chapel” is a solid example of how the ideas of Undocument are constructed. With its main idea in place…the alternate elements that really drive the song step-in…editing happens…structural changes…sounds are added, sounds are dropped…and it all happens seamlessly in charismatic ways that excite the earholes.
“Looking Back” feels like a re-visit to the wild beat of “Disintegrational,” but this time with the added vibe coming from guest-star EARLY on the mic. I think EARLY does well on this cut…I think the music is solid enough…”Looking Back” wasn’t my favorite personally, but it’s well-constructed, produced and performed. I’ll say this – I felt like the verse was stronger than the hooks in the chorus…but I also kind of dig the smooth-roll through that chorus on a ‘trip down memory lane’ and the self-reflective nature of the lyrics on “Looking Back.” I had just settled right into the immaculate groove of “White Chapel” though…so maybe that had something to do with any resistance I had to “Looking Back” but also potentially explains why my ears were so ready to accept “Petrichord.” Love the way the beat of this one starts-up & sounds and I absolutely loved the choice of vocal-samples laced into the music. Sounds like the same voice that’s on Hooverphonic’s New Sterophonic Sound Spectacular…I’d suspect it’s the same guy. I have no idea where this guy comes from, but I always love hearing his voice pop up when I do! Once again, Brian’s added plenty of audio-texture to the sound of what we hear on “Petrichord” and absolutely outdone himself when it comes to the production and background of this track.
I had to shake my head a little in disbelief when I got to the twenty-third track on the record, “Sleep Very Well” – how can the record still be getting BETTER at this point? Even I’m amazed truthfully. Twenty-seven tracks on an album stands the chance of losing an audience at points no matter how good it is for the most part – but there is so little of anything I’d change on this album and it continues to captivatingly shine. “Sleep Very Well” is one of the most diverse tunes on the record in what is already a highly versatile set of ideas and melodies – but MAN does this hit a huge homerun with me! Proving his mastery of samples and precision timing – Undocument is on another level right here…the tones, the vocal-samples…everything that’s been chosen is sparkling and stunning in its structure and composition. I simply cannot praise this track highly enough…I wasn’t expecting this one in the late stages of the game…I probably should have been, but I wasn’t. “Sleep Very Well” came out of left-field for me and absolutely knocked it out of the park.
Just as I’ve indicated, Undocument still has so much more to give! The album’s title tune, “The Quiet Crusade” absolutely deserves the crown-jewel of this record. The main-line’s harmonics sound absolutely fantastic, the beat and the acoustic-guitar rhythms, the string sounds…everything combined he comes together in a complex composition that’s truly accessible to all. “The Quiet Crusade” is basically full of all of the sounds that I wish filled my head all day long; the smoothness to the flow and true emotion you can hear in this title-track is truly tangible. You don’t just hear this one, you feel it too. As bold as it is fragile & delicate, the ice-like sounds of “The Quiet Crusade” are warmed by the gentle & inviting rhythms that back it up.
Another apt-title on the record, “The Only Way.” As in, “The Only Way” that any song could follow the strongest set of three on the album with “Petrichord,” “Sleep Very Well” and “The Quiet Crusade” would take a miracle to raise up the game on this record any further. “The Only Way” doesn’t rise to this challenge…but that doesn’t make it a bad song by any means. It’s a hypnotic & smooth rhythm with plenty of flavor, movement & beat to it…but inarguably, that’s the toughest slot on the album coming after such an incredible three songs combined. I liked the beat of “The Only Way” and I really liked the final addition of the piano-line overtop from about halfway on…but yeah, no doubt this was a tougher one to love, as ANY of them would have been coming after that killer threesome.
With gorgeous editing and a fully-vibrant beat, “Xadin” coasts beautifully along like a Sunday drive. After a stuttered-electro intro launches you into this cut, it glides on air from that moment on. You take in the sights as you cruise to a track like this…and just in case you can’t, Undocument has added the nature sounds into this one for ya. You know, for folks like me that are hunkered down in the basement and afraid of sunlight and people…it’s appreciated! Definitely something everyone can enjoy though – “Xadin” has a charming and easily-acceptable groove that slides right into your ears to fill up the soul. Somewhat like Prefuse 73 from the One Word Extinguisher album in a way right here…I really like the way that Brian has edited this one together in dynamic ways that make this chill-beat pop & stand-out.
The twenty-seven song theoretically-final album from Undocument ends with pensive-intensity in the final moments with “Star Lane” sending us off into the atmosphere one last time. Each note that springs up in the music is like another star coming out in your night-sky as the daylight fades away…I love the gripping way this final tune uses space and sound combined to create a real stunning moment in time. Right around the second-minute mark, you can hear this tune starting to spark to life…and in many ways, I hoped it wouldn’t…I think that the subtle-intensity of the emotion that runs through “Star Lane” runs deep and shouldn’t be disturbed…and I was happy to find that Undocument must have felt the same way. This final track is like a minimalist-version of a track like Mogwai’s “Auto-Rock” – and it’s incredible to hear the same amount of emotion and power being delivered like this with so much less in the music to create the feelings you get. “Star Lane” is actually quite a chilling and haunting final tune…if this indeed is Brian’s final voyage into music, you can almost picture him sitting outside and looking up at the stars on this tune, wondering where life might take him next and potentially questioning whether or not leaving music behind would be something he can actually do.
What I do think…is that Brian can deliver in any sound or circumstance – and I think that The Quiet Crusade proves that once again through the music of Undocument. What I don’t think…is that Brian will ever be able to truly stay away…and of course, with the gifts he has I certainly encourage him to stick around and put them to good use like he did on this record. There are SO MANY places that music like Undocument can fit into our lives whether through stereos, screens or airwaves…and I certainly hope he’ll continue to make music in some way, shape or form whether or not it’s as Undocument. Who knows? Maybe he comes back wearing the 4-5 like Jordan one day…
All that being said…if this truly is the end, I simply want to take a moment and sincerely thank Brian Pampaselle for making my life a better one personally through the music he’s made over the years. I really believe this electro-artist is absolutely loaded with all the right talent to succeed in whatever he chooses to do…and if the three-albums I have from Undocument are what we get, then that’s what we’ve got. He’s made music that will absolutely last a lifetime – and I couldn’t be more thankful for him choosing to share his extraordinary talents with all of us. Salute to you Brian…all the best to you sir.
Find out more about Undocument (while you can!) at: http://undocumentmusic.com/
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