Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya (2009)

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Relaxed, contemplative, and cucumber cool in its approach to nouveau -80s electronica, Nicolay's Shibuya demonstrates why the Great Dutch is in demand as an indie soul and hip hop producer, but not necessarily why the multi-instrumentalist is a compelling enough solo talent. Gratefully, the music here is not aggressive or obnoxious enough to be considered commercial synth pop, but nor is it languid or atmospheric enough to fully earn chillout or lounge cred. On his genre-free instrumentals, Nicolay only intermittently creates a soundscape that stands up without a vocal or instrumental solo riding over his electro-soul beats. When it does rise above a hot track for someone else's spotlight, as on elaborate thought pieces like "Meji Shrine" or the compellingly rhythmic "Crossing" and "Shibuya Station," Shibuya delivers the addictive dopamine of Nicolay's previous two City Lights offerings.

Relaxed, contemplative, and cucumber cool in its approach to nouveau -80s electronica, Nicolay's Shibuya demonstrates why the Great Dutch is in demand as an indie soul and hip hop producer, but not necessarily why the multi-instrumentalist is a compelling enough solo talent. Gratefully, the music here is not aggressive or obnoxious enough to be considered commercial synth pop, but nor is it languid or atmospheric enough to fully earn chillout or lounge cred. On his genre-free instrumentals, Nicolay only intermittently creates a soundscape that stands up without a vocal or instrumental solo riding over his electro-soul beats. When it does rise above a hot track for someone else's spotlight, as on elaborate thought pieces like "Meji Shrine" or the compellingly rhythmic "Crossing" and "Shibuya Station," Shibuya delivers the addictive dopamine of Nicolay's previous two City Lights offerings. Flashes of unique composition and arrangement are heard scattered on various bars within songs, as on "Rain in Ueno Park ," but the Shibuya standouts are those that include vocals from his rapidly expanding Foreign Exchange camp. On the musical perfection, "Saturday Night," and on the stunningly kaleidoscopic "Wake Up In Another Life," artists like the feather-voiced Carlitta Durand and an uncredited Phonte bring a frivolity and attractive brightness to nocturnal Nicolay's Neptunes-lite compositions. Rather than bringing undue attention to themselves on these tracks, the singers actually draw you into appreciating Nicolay's quietly cerebral musicianship. Like jazz pianist Billy Strayhorn before him, Nicolay's best work seems to be that done for others to shine, in turn giving this understated artist his most blinding moments.

Notable Songs: "Saturday Night," "Meji Shrine," "Wake Up In Another Life," and "Crossing" 

Vocals: 3.0
Lyrics: 2.5
Music: 2.5
Production: 3.0
SoulTracks Call: Recommended       

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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