Review: Lovespirals

“Windblown Kiss”
(Projekt Records)

Founder and long time force behind Projekt band Love Spirals Downwards, Ryan Lum has a new partner, a new band name and a new style. Lovespirals is now Ryan Lum (all instruments) and Anji Bee (vocals and vocal arrangements, sampling and programming), with guest musicians Doron Orenstein (of Frescoe – saxophone) and Sean Bowey (of Eden – acoustic guitar, vocals) added for good measure. Leaving long time partner Suzanne Perry and quite a bit of the Love Spirals Downwards formula behind, Lum and Bee have come up with an album that grabs you from the first note.

Drawing inspiration from many sources the music bounces all over the map for the most part. In fact, the middle section of the album starts to sound the same for a few songs and loses momentum rapidly. Once it changes direction again, it’s as if you’ve been holding your breath, hoping things weren’t going downhill. The album even has the good old hidden track after the last song. At least you don’t have to wait forever to hear it.

Anji Bee has an incredible voice that moves from sultry to sensual to surreal to earthy, that winds its way around the guitar work of Ryan Lum like smoke. Where Suzanne Perry always sounded sweet and ethereal no matter what she was singing, Anji Bee showcases a wide variety of vocal styling, which, in my opinion, gives the duo much greater latitude on this and future albums.
The first song, “Oh So Long,” opens with a guitar chord, the high hat and a wailing sax and you’re immediately transported to a smoky lounge, in the wee hours, with an audience lost in the music. The voice of a sultry chanteuse join the music and you’re lost for sure. Coming from the wold of hard rock/heavy metal, I don’t know what jazz clubs are like, but this reminded me of the many forms I’ve seen in movies. There’s not a chance Anji Bee doesn’t have the audience in the palm of her hand. In a complete turn around, “Dejame” is flamenco oriented and is sung in Spanish. Bee sings with perfect tempo and accent and again you have mind pictures running through your head about the stage, the clothes, the big Spanish guitars and all that goes with it.

“He Calls Me” is almost a pop song – a little slow, but catchy and interesting. Bee’s voice is all over with the assistance of  sampling and she has one hell of a range. This particular song would probably be one of the more radio friendly ones for adult contemporary. The title song, “Windblown Kiss,” is an acoustic guitar number and one of the few ethereal songs (note that I said songs!) on the album. It’s okay, but a bit of a let down after the songs before it. “Our Nights” has  what I would call a bosa nova beat to it and this time it’s Anji’s voice that has the ethereal quality, but the pace and the backing guitars keep it interesting. This is also one of the few songs that has at least a short instrumental bridge, which makes for a nice change.

The next song, “You Girl,” falls just short of being a power ballad and it sounds SO familiar. I can’t place where or why, but I think I’ve heard this song before. The verses are sung a bit slow, but the chorus picks things up. There’s some really great acoustic and steel guitar work in this song too. “How The Thieves” and “You Are The Gun” both have the male vocal as the main one with Bee harmonizing or backing. They also rely mostly on acoustic guitar. Percussion doesn’t even show up until the songs are about half over. This is the section I mentioned earlier where I started to worry a bit. These songs were sounding a whole lot like Love Spirals Downwards, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they didn’t seem to fit the new format. The vocals were  done in an almost monotone fashion and the lack of expression in the words being sung pretty much ruined them for me.

Never fear, with “Swollen Sea” things head back in the right direction again. Bee’s vocal is especially strong on this song, almost covering the accompanying instrumental. Since the instrumental is a very simple 2 or 3 note set on a keyboard and guitar, obviously the voice is the lead on this track. And then we come back full circle to that smoky lounge with the sax and sultry chanteuse for “I Can’t See You.” This is a total slow-paced, lounge type song done to perfection by Anji Bee. The sax solo in the middle carries you off on its wings back to the vocal and continues to join in for the rest of the song. I don’t know what the name of the hidden track is, but it’s been done in a way that makes it sound like it’s coming out of an old radio and is again lounge oriented. It’s an okay track, but nothing to shout about.

Since I mentioned my personal music inclinations earlier, you would think this was a tough album to review, but actually it was pretty awesome. I totally respect what Ryan Lum and Anji Bee are trying to put across here and I think this partnership may go much farther than Love Spirals Downwards did – and that’s saying a lot! I remember reviewing LSD’s album “Ever” back in 1996 or 1997 and I thought they were pretty cool as an ethereal goth band, but this duo has that one beat hands down. If you’re into trying new kinds of music, check this out. If you’re into jazz, you’ll love this album. It will probably end up in the Adult Contemporary area, but it’s really got a little bit of everything on it. In my opinion that’s what makes a good album – one that gives you variety and moves forward from its past endeavors.