The British musical duo Luna Rossa have already released two fantastic albums. On Sleeping Pills & Lullabies (2013, see review) and Secrets & Lies (2014, see review) they most of all showed that they can entertain an audience with a minimum of electric instruments. The duo consists of members who are also musical partners in the British band Panic Room, namely Anne-Marie Helder (vocals, 6 & 12-string acoustic guitar, flute) and Jonathan Edwards (piano, electric piano, organ). They must have discovered, that playing songs on most of all acoustic instruments, could work for the songs they recorded with Panic Room as well. Therefore they released with this band the album Essence, which has the same musical concept as used on the albums mentioned above; stripping songs to the bone and hearing them in the true essence as they were written originally, composed on the acoustic guitar and piano.
On Essence you can hear ten of the band's finest and most popular tracks taken from their four studio albums. Furthermore they wrote and recorded two brand new songs exclusively for this album making it a total time of almost one whole hour of semi-acoustic music. I'll have to mention that the album was financed by the use of a Kickstarter campaign. Otherwise the album probably never could have been released! This way they could ask for the recording of the album guitarist Dave Foster (Steve Rothery Band and Mr. So & So) to help them out on the electric and acoustic guitars. Dave was not totally unknown to the musicians because he had already been on the road with the band on their Wildfire Tour. Later on he became a full time band member and in a way is the actual replacement for guitarist Paul Davies, who had left the band for personal reasons in 2013. The rest of the line up on the album consists-next to the duo mentioned earlier-of the rhythm section Yatim Halimi (Steve Rothery Band) on bass and Gavin John Griffiths (former Fish and Mostly Autumn) on drums and percussion.
The question of course could be asked if the same formula that worked for Luna Rossa, works for Panic Room as well. Without any doubt I can tell you that the songs sound undone from all their electrical camouflage perfectly. The compositions still sound very recognisable. Most of all songs such as I Am A Cat (Anne-Marie still believes that she is a cat and sings meow, meow, meow a couple of times again), Satellite and Moon On The Water didn't lose anything music wise. The album versions were already excellent compositions and again they shine in a minimal setting. The songs are not completely recorded with acoustic instruments only. Foster several times gets the chance to let his electric guitar rock all the way. Good examples are songs such as Black Noise (with a cool reggae rhythm), Apocalypstick, Satellite and Denial. The latter together with Rain & Tears & Burgundy are the newly written compositions on this excellent album-songs which sound as if they have come from one of the band's earlier releases, because they fit perfectly between the rest of the songs on Essence.
The band came up with a wonderful album of semi-acoustic performed songs which I enjoy all very much mainly because of the strong musicianship of the musicians individually. Everybody shines on his instrument and above all the voice of Anne-Marie is just perfect in this minimal setting.
Just like on the albums of Luna Rossa the musicians Helder and Edwards once again proved with the rest of the musicians of Panic Room that sometimes less is more! Again this is an album highly recommended to people who like to listen to an album without Mellotrons, without a lot of electric guitars, without fast rhythm parts and without any synthesizers. Again I can say just give it a try because you won't regret it!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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