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Album Review – Amirali “In Time”

Earlier this year there was a certain excitement on the musicmag-web about an EP named Beautiful World. Keyboard-crooner Amirali’s first release had struck gold, not least because he was one of those rare cases of a tenderfoot signed directly to a large and renowned label with no previous hits. It was all down to respected Crosstown Rebels founder, Damian Lazarus, who signed Amirali after receiving a few demo songs. Every budding producer’s dream come true.

Before the release Iranian-Canadian Amirali was already established as a polished live performer of cool, artsy, easy-listening dance music, so it was a safe bet for music-magazines to trumpet his merits. And to an extent, on this 13 track debut album In Time merit there is. Amirali’s craft certainly has it moments: elements of suspended rare beauty, of well-considered layering and instrumentation.

Amirali adroitly emulates 80s synths and bendy, slightly out of tune 80s vocals in The Story of Us to create his signature melancholic and retro style. The addition of modern pulses (which in dubstep are called wub-wub) and the experimental sound effects showcase his craft in contemporary retro sound. The various driving elements across the album are meshed cleverly either by his inspired melodies, dreamy voice or touching verse, the best of which is in A Beautiful World:

Your body and soul, slipping together in twilight

Several tracks, however, are laid over such generic, unrelenting, featureless beats that we ask if this is the sit-down contemplative work it at times seems to be, or instead an album for laptop DJs and chic kids to play on iPods at parties. The delightful, evocative opener The Harmonious Song has no beat loop at all and so escapes this creeping travesty, as does the first half of Painting on a Canvas. Several of the other tracks clearly place themselves as ‘art’ over ‘entertainment’, and interestingly Amirali excels in this area, above all he deals with space within sound very well. At other times though, the tick-tock electronic kits on loop leave one feeling thrown out of the winged armchair of imagination and onto a mainstream disco floor with glaring lights and gurning punters. That’s not to say there aren’t a few well-measured beats against the chords, as in My Way where the beat is spurred on by rhythmic synths.

What a rare dilemma. It can be useful as an artist, which it would be right to consider Amirali to be (albeit in the making) to straddle two very different genres, as it brings in a wider audience. However Amirali is going to mainly appeal to a more mainstream listenership with this album, a crowd it’s clear he doesn’t really belong to. Perhaps in answer to his own question “Where’m I gonna take this?” for his second album he’ll make a bolder move towards the arts crowd and leave the generic production to people with less talent.

In Time is released on Crosstown Rebels