The American multi-instrumentalist Johnny Unicorn, who recorded and performed music with Phideaux, started his solo career in 2006 with the album Dates Or Non-Dates followed by Riversongs (2007), Put Your Mind Inside My Mouth (2008), Sweet Edith Manton (2010) and Thinking Hard To Overcome Nervousness (2011). Until now I wasn't familiar with any of these albums, so I can't tell you how they sound like. However, I received his most recent production Sadness And Companionship to review and as an introduction to this musician.
I'm not sure whether this new album represents the music Johnny Unicorn normally writes and records, because this CD contains a mixture of techno, dance, hip hop, house and progressive rock. For people with overweight who love progressive rock, there's actually no music that can be used for exercises in order to lose weight, but this album contains the perfect musical mix to do so! Unicorn's aim is 'to create as many kinds of music possible' and recording an exercise album was one of them. His goal for this album simply was to create a piece of music that on the one hand could support an aerobic workout, but on the other consists of different musical elements something we don't expect with workout music.
There were times that Unicorn was into techno music, but most of the time he liked to listen to music with many complicated parts and interesting concepts. However, when he wanted to play a piece of music that keeps pace with the increased heart rate of an aerobic workout, he discovered that complicated music usually doesn't work. The relentlessness of a techno song, however, seems to make it perfect for exercising, but music with a lot of dynamics isn't ideal. Many Gentle Giant songs are very energetic, but they can suddenly switch to a harpsichord or recorder section and throw off your workout completely. So he took up the task of creating a prog rock workout album. There should be at least one album that could get your blood flowing non-stop for thirty minutes and keep your brain engaged the way you like!
After listening to the album I think Unicorn succeeded. The music is mainly performed on keyboards and drum machines. But Johnny Unicorn also sings and he plays the guitars and saxophones. Finally Naomi Adele Smith added some vocals to the rather extensive two tracks Sadness and Companionship. Unicorn also added two short remixes of these tracks, but those remixes aren't meant to be used for exercises since these versions are more radio-friendly tunes.
When I listened to this album for the first time I wanted to put if off immediately. At first the disco beats didn't get me in the right mood, but after a while I noticed that Mr Unicorn had created some beautiful progressive rock tunes. From time to time these two large compositions made me think of The Buggles, a British new wave duo consisting of Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Downes who later on joined the legendary progressive rock band Yes on their album Drama (1980) and the following tour. They're best known for their debut single Video Killed The Radio Star (1979) and the albums The Age Of Plastic (1980) and Adventures In Modern Recording (1981). People who don't do any exercises and are more into regular progressive rock music without disco beats won't find much of their taste on this album. But it's nice to hear it once in a while, because it certainly is a nice gimmick!
Well, thanks to this record you can find me on the beach since a very long time. For the first time in years I wear swimming trunks, having a 'six pack' and being in perfect condition thanks to Sadness And Companionship. I never thought that this would happen again and frankly speaking it didn't...
***- Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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