The creative process is intensely personal. We draw on our personal experiences, our conditioning, our thoughts, our fears, our desires, all of it to create something new. And we do so in physical form, be it with paint, words, food, stone, sound, or what have you. However, what is not so personal is the fact that limitation breeds innovation. With a dozen instruments, one can presumably produce a compelling, enjoyable album with greater ease than one could with, say, half a dozen instruments. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I hope you take my meaning.
What I have for you today is an example of what one man can do under self-imposed restrictions. I can’t find his name or much about him other than that the release page claims he’s from Greece, and his act is called Moderator, or The Moderator.
Speaking of the release page, it’s found within the Cult Classic Records netlabel. If you don’t recall, they are the good people who brought us Black Chamber, another class act.
Here we have is a 16-track album titled Escape, composed of tracks all two to four minutes long. Each track is relatively simple in its composition. By that I mean there is a drum-and-bass skeleton onto which a couple of other instruments are dressed or showcased (guitar, saxophone, violin, piano, or vocal samples). The titles are aptly chosen, which I find impressive, assuming our Greek producer didn’t grow up speaking English. They succinctly convey in a word or phrase the mood evoked by the music. For example, “Black Tux” feels very much like a formal gathering with a four-man band on a low dais as we the audience take partners and carve paths through the wooden dance floor. “Sleep Tight” has a dream-like quality, almost a lullaby. The violin (or so it sounds) draws us closer to sleep with each mellifluous note. The beat is calm, the guitar subtle.
Despite the general simplicity throughout the album, there are standouts, quite a few, in fact. Perhaps my favorites would change with my mood, but right now I’m liking “Let Me Take You There” and “Wonder Why”.
The former begins with a beautiful guitar and trumpet duet before giving way to an assertive saxophone. It commands attention without demanding it. Once it has our attention, it treats us to a dance. When I close my eyes, I’m in a 1920s, gangster-era bar (romanticized, of course) surrounded by pin-striped zoot Suits and Flappers.
“Wonder Why” stands out in that it’s one of few tracks on the album with vocal samples, and it reeks of soul. The oft-repeated sample questions “I wonder why she left me” — which might be a lyric from The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby”. It showcases the organ, which conveys a gospel feel, and a blues guitar, which only underscores the soul in this track.
If what we’ve heard here today is any indication of the rest of what Moderator can produce, I’ll follow him closely. I suggest you do the same.
Moderator – “Let Me Take You There”
Moderator – “Wonder Why”
Escape release page