Our friend Andydan has featured on these humble digital pages before with his debut release Rhythm & Sound. For those unfamiliar with Andy’s technique and sound I suggest you take a look at the previous review to get to the bottom of his electronic wizardry and learn where all those amazing sounds come from. The Andydan-ites amongst us already know it’s all from a MIDI ukulele. Yes folks we’re far from the traditions of Hawaii here, we’re not in Kailua anymore Dorothy.
Down the yellow brick road of Andydan’s inventiveness this time takes us to, well shall we call it a concept album? Seven ethereal soundscapes themed around the fourteen highest mountains on earth, each with a suitably themed titles which cleverly reflect not only the colour and emotion of the track but also often get under the skin of the notes and sounds they contain. Ascent for example nods its head to the album’s overall notion with its rising chord structure while the alarmingly captioned Death Zone (apparently “where the air is so thin you expel more oxygen than you can take in”) is underpinned by a rather shrewd breathy minimalist semi-tonal vocal theme.
The album abandons vocal melodies, this is a recording of instrumental music, pieces rather than songs only embellished by mildly sinister narration be it from a digital voice app or Liam Capper-Starr who guests on The Hilary Step.
“The Eight Thousands” is perhaps succinctly described as an experience or audible journey. I’ve avoided diving into each individual track too much in this review, it’s simply not that sort of album. It’s one for an isolated quiet dark night, a good quality pair of headphones, eyes closed in your favourite chair where you can let the music absorb you completely. We live in a world that seems to constantly push us to taste second rate virtual reality but I propose you can take all the VR headsets and sensory enhancements on the planet and smash them into the nearest oncoming Lightcycle as nothing will ever transport me to another realm more completely than well written music, especially when all other senses are dispossessed on a comfy sofa.
What dazzles me about Andy’s approach to the ukulele is his disregard for the tradition. I mean that in an utterly positive way, it is a tribute to someone who pushes the musical boundaries as frontiers should always be challenged in all art otherwise we may very well get stuck in some watery Orwellian version of X Factor for evermore. That’s a reality I’m sure virtually all of us would love to avoid! ¡Viva la revolución Andydan!