Voluptas Mors – Imagination – Album Review
If any of you out there have been wondering which genre snags my interest just by seeing it written before I even hear the music, it’s Trip-Hop. Without question, that’s my favorite genre on the entire planet…very rarely will any other genre show you a true glimpse into a unique combination of art and music. The rules for Trip-Hop are still massively undefined and its borders know no bounds…the future is essentially still wide open for this entire style of music – which is where a project like Voluptas Mors comes into play. Traditionally-speaking…if you mention Trip-Hop to someone out there and they DO have some vague idea of what you’re talking about (if you’re lucky), they’ll be familiar with the darker side of sound displayed from its origin in bands like Massive Attack or Portishead…solo artists like Tricky. Not that they don’t have their lighter-moments too, they do…but for the most-part, those acts all dwell on the dark-side. Conversely, I’m not saying Voluptas Mors doesn’t have their own heavy & emotional moments on their new album Imagination either, because they do – but they also prove that theory I’ve just put forward to be true by exploring an entire universe of sound that offers a different dimension to the Trip-Hop style. And if you wonderful people out there have any sense still rolling around in your noggins, you’ll be pushing play on this record just as frequently as I have been and plan to be for some time. Imagination is an absolutely blissful listening experience that you have seriously got to check out!
Mmmm. Speaking of that – did I mention this album just came out TODAY? Merry early Christmas!
What’s also interesting to note…is the age of this project. Voluptas Mors just started this year in 2017, based out of Barcelona – a duo that consists of Ramon (producer, keyboards, guitars) and Laura (producer, electro-beats, percussion). Now I’m not talking about the age of the people involved, I’m talking about the age of this project in relation to how much music they’ve ALREADY put out into the world. Do you realize that this is the FOURTH record that Voluptas Mors has put out this YEAR?
Their commitment, creativity and Imagination clearly have no limitations; Voluptas Mors is on pace to outwork us all. While there can always be challenges & ups/downs with creating so much music at once, there’s also a flipside to that coin where the music is simply consistently flowing out of endless inspiration…and I’d challenge that this is exactly what you hear on the new album from Voluptas Mors. This whole record is full of colorful sounds and bright ideas that truly do sound beautifully inspired; you can tell that these two have found the place where they belong in this world and hear how genuinely passionate they are at the idea of making a life out of doing what they love most – making music. I can say this with confidence – you don’t get to your fourth album in a year without being completely invested in the art just as much as the process and adventure itself – these two are entirely dedicated.
And just so I’m being completely clear…because I don’t want anyone out there to misdiagnose this record – if you’re not like, immediately hooked in by the electro-funk groove of the opening track “I Love You,” well, I just want to assure you that the problem is NOT Voluptas Mors, it’s you. And you should honestly see a doctor about that issue. Seriously – this is a MASSIVELY inviting first impression; the music and beat are more than enough to pull you right into the smooth sound & production, and the chilled rhythm & flow of the vocals is a spectacular match as well. From what I’ve read about Voluptas Mors, they’ve typically used guest-stars in the past for the vocals in their music & they are sticking with what works again this time around for Imagination as well. Holly Drummond rocking this first track is absolutely spot-on perfection, making her first stunning appearance on Imagination. I love the mix of dreamy tones from her voice and how stylistically she’s singing them…tremendous skill & control over every inflection; she’s the icing on the cake when it comes to “I Love You,” because this entire beat is extremely on-point…the vocals purely make what was already going fantastically RIGHT for Voluptas Mors even more exciting.
With Jem Strickland taking over the vocals on “Wake You Up,” Imagination continues to display its multi-faceted sound with a bold switch up-front on the record. Those that are familiar with Voluptas Mors might already be expecting this – those that are brand-new to what they’re doing will likely appreciate this happening right at the beginning of the album…it gives people an idea of what they can expect, which is essentially the unexpected! He sounds somewhere in between David Gahan of Depeche Mode and Gavin Rossdale of Bush – I think he’s done an exceptional job of finding the real rhythm and tone required to pull this idea off and delivers with the perfect energy and power. Keep in mind, when you’re looking at one of these tracks from the perspective of Laura and Ramon, there would be no point in finding vocals that don’t end up complementing their efforts in the music…I think you can already hear from this second track that they’ve taken great care in their selections and found the best possible characteristics, energy, tone and sound from their guest-stars to bring their ideas to life. “Wake You Up” moves with a brilliantly-chill electro in the atmosphere alongside an intense beat, creating an incredible contrast and juxtaposition in the way each part contributes to the music intoxicating to hear.
Here are the facts though. I’ve spent roughly about twenty years of my life writing songs and I’m convinced that even over the course of the next twenty or forty more years to follow, I still won’t come up with anything half as cool as the music on “Harmful Ambitious.” Like I said…it’s not even debatable, that’s just a fact. To think that Voluptas Mors is already THIS COOL on the inside of their FIRST YEAR is absolutely mind-blowing to me, honestly. There’s zero doubt after listening to a track like “Harmful Ambitious” – these two absolutely know what they’re doing and they’re in full-control at all times. There is SO MUCH to love about this track. The initial glitch-filled electro-intro is rad, the vocals from Veela get better and better throughout the entire structure of the song, that AMAZING guitar tone and extremely rad solo from Ramon mid-song, the way that the vocals brilliantly soar when they come back in after the solo, the killer beat and synth-sounds that keep the song moving with a real slow-burning intensity…what else could you want? It’s ALL here in this wildly entertaining cut. Structure and production lead this one to extra bonus points; the evolution and flow of “Harmful Ambitious” is wicked. I might have been able to live without the very last line in the vocals…but I mean, c’mon…that’s hardly any kind of criticism lol; that’s a judgment call they likely made and probably debated…it fits well enough to work in the end. As for the rest of “Harmful Ambitious,” there’s not a damn thing I’d change…really cool cut and great ideas. They head towards similar sonic territory you’d find the Sneaker Pimps or Curve occupying in the way this cut comes out sounding…I think the ambition is anything BUT harmful here, it’s definitely a sound, style & approach that works strongly in the favor of Voluptas Mors.
“I Trust You” brightens up the atmosphere on Imagination, starting with an inventive beginning that uses vocal-samples to create its rhythm. I liked that they brought that electro-jazz flavor into the music of this tune and how you wouldn’t really see that coming from the way this song begins. The transformative style and approach from Ramon and Laura continually lead them to wonderful contrasts in sound that truly work; notice once again how remarkably chill “I Trust You” feels when you listen to it, and notice that it’s also got a serious beat that just don’t quit! That mix of an up-tempo pace to the beat and the subtle nature of the surrounding electro sets the stage for amazing things to happen – LISTEN to the way the dynamics of the song shift again for its highlight moments around the two-minute mark. Up until that point, I was enjoying the vocals from guest-star Veela…but right around that magical two-minute mark, she ups the ante and pushes ALL-IN, raising those angelic tones right up as far as they’ll go with perfect tone & power. Veela reminds me of Nina Persson…beautifully bright energy and soaring tones; as the mix surrounding her continues to develop, the more her personality is heard in her performance…it’s smooth, it’s enticing to the ear, it’s insightfully well controlled and perfectly delivered.
When “Be Like Me” started…I heard something else entirely. I mean, I heard the song of course – but I certainly heard the future and potential for where this sound of Voluptas Mors can go as well. The second-half of Imagination starts out with a real highlight of the entire album with “Be Like Me” – they work with kind of a post-punk vibe in the melody & sound of the electro, almost like what you’d imagine The Cure would come up with if they went fully digital. Real credit to this duo for once again finding incredible ways to develop and evolve the music through structure that consistently display tangible Imagination; I loved the way Veela’s vocals start out this chilled beat & groove and how the melody fills in around them. The addition of synth-strings creep in gorgeously…you can hear the smart & subtle glitch-edits in the electro laced into the background as this modern-day tale of love is sung with real character over top. I know a lot of instruments and credits were listed at the beginning…I did not see a saxophone listed. I also know that largely, most of what we’re hearing in the music of Voluptas Mors is electronically-based. And I’m telling you, if that’s not a real saxophone being played in the incredible solo of “Be Like Me,” I’ll eat my hat. It HAS to be real…the texture, tone and movement are absolutely amazing to listen to…it’s one of the serious highlights in this song. There are hooks everywhere from the smoothness in those opening vocals, the immediate impact of the keyboard melody, the chilled beat and attitude in the versatile sound of the vocals…and just like you’d hope, they save the biggest fireworks for the very end. The finale of “Be Like Me” is enormously satisfying to listen to…from moment one, this entire song continually develops just like a great story does…the climax and payoff with the increased intensity of the music enveloping the atmosphere in the final minute or so of this cut deliver the payload perfectly.
And then like, as IF things could go ANY BETTER for this project that has been around for LESS THAN ONE YEAR, they do, yet again, on the stunning “So Dance With Me.” By far and away the most flawless vocal performance you’ll find on the album, courtesy of the extraordinary talents of Holly Drummond once again, and overall, even musically I’d argue that Voluptas Mors probably has their most accessible track and single-worthy tune here. The music is beyond gorgeous and so insightfully well assembled…the jazzy-beat and walking bass-line of this cut are a combination that cannot be denied by the ears. This track slides like butter with its slippery rhythm & groove, taking Trip-Hop right to a place where it seriously belongs…as far as my ears can tell, this is the sound done RIGHT. The phrasing, pace and cadence of the vocals is beyond-brilliant…she bends & breaks-up the words perfectly to fit the metering & energy, stylistically sweetening-up the singing as the song progresses. Make no mistake, “So Dance With Me” isn’t JUST another great song on Imagination, it’s a song that’s so strong, it’s right up there with the best in the genre – you and everyone you know will love this track, this much I can promise ya.
Yet still, one of the biggest surprises and rewarding listening experiences on the album is just around the corner as Voluptas Mors continues to prove that whatever’s in the water over there in Barcelona should be bottled and sold as the new musician’s energy drink. The pulse and pace of the low end groove & beat on “Left With Nothing,” is sick, sick, SICK…think like…something along the lines of Ken Andrews or Trent Reznor when they’re more focused on the electro-side of their music than the rock stuff. Different sound to the vocals of course with the male-lead track marking Jem’s second appearance on the album, but the mono-syllabic & robotic tone/approach was a perfect match…Strickland’s vocals coming back to the record was a solid switch in sound that snaps us back to attention and keeps us with them as Imagination heads into its final moments. Another tune designed for maximum entertainment, the smooth groove eventually breaks way to pure ROCK at its Grohl-esque finest – I loved the way that “Left With Nothing” detonates and explodes as it heads into its final thirty-seconds or so. The vocals and music both roar and surge with energy as they rip to the end of “Left With Nothing,” bringing the idea to full-fruition…you can hear how this track was slowly building to that potential detonation, yet it’s still so unexpected when it happens because it’s just nothing something we’ve heard yet from Voluptas Mors on this record. It makes for a massive moment and another huge WIN for this duo on Imagination.
“Are You Gonna Love Me?” confirms what you already know – Voluptas Mors is an incredible project. I’m seriously blown away…for something that has started up only earlier this year to already be so many light-years ahead of the game with their music is truly beyond impressive. The combination of art & music, along with real poetry in the lyricism like you’ll find on this final tune and throughout the album, has been a tremendous achievement and a real lesson in what true dedication and commitment can bring to a record. With incredible guest-stars lending their extraordinary talents to performances like you hear from Veela on “Are You Gonna Love Me,” they’ve really allowed the character and attitude in the music to guide them to victory time & again with the right energy, sound & style to match on the mic. They haven’t shied away from ditching traditional hooks for artistic ones – and as a result of their commitment, everything sounds spectacular and truly captivating, song after song.
Imagination is a seriously awesome record…more importantly, Voluptas Mors is a seriously skilled, talented and incredibly capable project. I’m excited about absolutely everything I’ve heard on their new record and I have every bit of faith that these two can truly take this project to the absolute limits & beyond our wildest expectations. They’ve got a certified place in both Trip-Hop and the future of music as far as I’m concerned – I could put on Imagination by Voluptas Mors at any time and be completely satisfied I made the perfect choice for exactly what I’d want to be listening to.
Find out more from the official homepage of Voluptas Mors at: http://voluptasmors.com/