Musical Charis – Ace of Space
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: August 11, 2011
Charis (n.) – warmth, kindness
There’s not a lot I can say to categorize Ace of Space (and what a shame it would be if I reduced it to a series of buzzwords just to box it in). Instead, I think I’ll just go and point to that word at the top of this review, because for all of the unusual places that Musical Charis go in the course of this release, that’s the vibe I get off of them: warm. Kind. Ready to invite in anybody that shows up at their door.
Maybe part of that is just how relaxing it is to listen to something as lighthearted as this after getting inundated with so much darkness from the world around me. Sure, a song like “Beelovin” is basically bound to be happy with a title like that, but between the choir of cheering children, the vocal interplay between the multiple leads, and the rousing guitar lead, it doesn’t take long before I get that lump in my throat. It’s so cheery it should feel artificial—I’m conditioned to, after all—and yet it feels ridiculously sincere and genuine. That the track collapses into a pile of string samples and ends on a goofy little ditty does nothing to diminish that connection.
Or maybe this is just damn good music, spanning tons of influences and thoughts. “Pop Culture” doesn’t completely shed its novelty premise, but it’s still a rousing anthem of sorts, with a kicker chorus, a gang of voices to back us up, and a funky guitar groove that drives the track along at full speed. “Monday” is a more subdued pleasure, a wistful folk song with some killer harmonies and quite a few variations on its melodic center. The songwriting here flies through tons of tones, moods, and sounds, and it doesn’t ever sound calculated or random; it sounds like a group of friends having a jam session, laughing and bouncing ideas off of each other. The more astute listeners could argue that some of the lyrics here are so theatric that they verge on silliness (there’s a spoken word passage on “1852” that may strike some as egregrious), but their insistence on keeping everything bare is a bold move.
I’ve always believed that music, no matter what shape or size, is capable of connection in a very special way. And when that faith has been somewhat diluted by the natural pessimism of our culture today, it’s sobering to hear a release like Ace of Space, which reminds me that I’m more vulnerable to that power than I’d like to believe. You can try to dissect it, but in the end it’s still that gut feeling that tells you what you know. What I do know is that after this release, Musical Charis has gotten their hooks firmly in my brain. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
Random plug: If any of you guys are interested in getting recommendations to awesome free indie music, come swing by wasfuersohr.blogspot.com! We cover a legion of different genres and artists, so no matter what your tastes, I hope you’ll find something you like.