I have several more “high profile” albums on my list to review; but, popularity be damned, I want to review this instead. I’ve been listening to the new record from Matelo Mantra, called Architects of Fantasy. The album released on April 12th.
Matelo comes to us from Montreal, Canada. I feel like he doesn’t give himself enough credit, though. When he contacted me about his music, he downplayed it somewhat, doubting if I’d even be interested. You see, Matelo labels his music as New Age progressive rock, and he wasn’t sure I’d dig the whole “New Age” thing. Little did he know, though, that I happen to love that genre.
I would point out Matelo definitely has some New Age sounds here, mainly in the casual, soothing, and multiethnic atmosphere he creates. However, there is plenty of progressive electronic, guitar, and gorgeous keys to be had here, too. This album, for whatever reason, reminds me of Mike Oldfield’s The Songs of Distant Earth, one of my favorite albums ever. It doesn’t necessarily sound the same, but it does feel in the same genre, so to speak.
One thing that really sets this album apart is Matelo’s ear for melody and eventful songwriting. He doesn’t artificially elongate his tracks, and each and every song feels unique to me. Songs like “Blue Snow” have a very climactic “chorus” with guitar playing up against a wall of synth and sweeping keys. Yet, the next song “Flight of a Feather” is more progressive electronic in nature, and the addictive rhythm in the second half always snatches my heart.
The album progresses much in this way. “The Maze” is ethereal, crystalline, and cinematic. “Illusions” relies on some gorgeous piano, plus a percussive interlude. “Giant Strides” brings in Far Eastern sounds in grand fashion. “Bounds of Time” almost has a hint of reggae and blues in it. “Moon Theater” glories in the night with piano and drums that feel organic and transformative.
And so the album goes, with each track feeling different and somehow also united. My favorite song overall is called “Skylark”. It starts off with beautiful piano, but soon, Matelo’s synth instincts kick in with a strong hook, soaring ambience, and just a sense that he knows exactly what he’s doing. The album ends with two “liquid” tracks, “Whimsical Sea” and “Be Water”, both feeling quaint, edifying, and wonderful. The former is more electronic, while the closer is more acoustic-based.
So, Matelo has a great album to his name. Architects of Fantasy is a fanciful, artistic effort, one that I can tell was carefully crafted through emotions, sweat, and pain-staking determination. This album deserves high praise indeed.
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