I’ve been covering the music of the illustrious Michael Whalen for a few years now. I find his wit, imagination, and introspective tendencies to feed directly into my tastes. He has a couple albums releasing this year, the first one being Our April Tigers, which comes out on April 21st.
Michael has been composing most probably for longer than I’ve been alive. He has done countless works for film, TV, and advertising, and his delicate touch is always apparent. This particular album sees Michael collaborating with some new musicians, namely Michael Manring on bass and devices, Michael Brook on guitars and devices, Jeff Oster on flugelhorn and trumpet, and Karsh Kale on percussion and samples. Michael, of course, handles keys and synth.
You know, this album doesn’t sound like much else out there. It is an electronic album, yes, but it has such a flexibility, flow, and flourish to it that I haven’t heard elsewhere. It is certainly chilled-out, and most of the tracks have a low, downtempo pulse to them that feels quite warm and soothing. With that pulse, though, comes various other sounds, such as the brass or the guitar portions. You’ll hear lots of trumpet and flugelhorn, sometimes in purity and other times with filters or plunger manipulations adding more texture. The album certainly has a bluesy side to it; but, I don’t know, this album just exists in its own world.
So, this album is all about the floating ambience. Much of that is driven by terrific bass that is detailed and generous, never asserting dominance but always there. If you are looking for outlandish, cinematic works, you’ll find that on other albums by Michael Whalen. This album is focused, serene, and steady.
Our April Tigers has seven tracks, and they are all solid or better. I really like the opener “Over Water” with its gentle melody and flickering ambience. “Disappear” is another good one with plenty of horn and synth in play, and there are many layers here that all work together well. “Morning Bell” is an extremely calming piece that feels gracious and grey. “Visceral Organ” is probably the most upbeat of all the songs with its bright and edgy demeanor.
For my money, the last three tracks on the album are the best, though. I love “So Fragile” for its casual gait and distant, bluesy horns: I could listen to this all day. “Hope Haunts” is probably the most expressive piece here with its emotional horns and reflective nature: I absolutely love the heart and soul in that one. Finally, the closer is my favorite: “Temporality” is a beautiful piece with a nice slice of synth and very active bass lines. I love how it progresses and feels funky and alive. The gentle synth hooks that Michael uses here are to die for.
Our April Tigers is yet another gorgeous album from Michael Whalen. This album feels hushed and human, while finding a balance between shadow and color. I like the emotions portrayed on some tracks, but love the fun and spunk of others. It really is a tender and interesting record, and I find that it keeps growing on me.
Find Michael Whalen online:
Manring! Right on! I’ve been wanting to see him back in the spotlight on so many prog projects, and alas, finally! So under-utilized by the prog community. I still revisit Thonk! from time to time. Most excellent!