August 22, 2007
Buy at CDBaby
The original album Number Nine is the aptly named ninth album release by Chris Hülsbeck, famed composer of Turrican. This is primarily an electronic album and is inspired mainly by his current hometown of the San Fransisco area. Does it manage to capture the attention of the listener?
The album opens up with one of my personal favorites. “6000 Miles from Home” is clearly inspired by the distance that separates Hülsbeck from his current home in the San Francisco area and his birth country of Germany. As far as the overall soundscape is concerned, there is an upbeat electronic beat that couples nicely with the melancholy synth melody. Although I’m sure Hülsbeck is quite happy where he currently resides, I think this piece is an embodiment of the homesickness that one might feel after being away from home for so long. The piano melody in the latter portion of the track is truly a poignant experience and really helps heighten the overall experience. It’s a fantastic track and one of the best things on the entire album.
Another favorite of mine is “Lombard Street.” What draws me into this piece is the extremely catchy melody — so catchy that it really gets stuck in my head. However, besides the melody, this theme is pure atmospheric bliss. Now, when I say “atmospheric bliss,” I don’t mean something that is really ambient and calm. I am more talking about the overall mood when I use that term. The trance elements, fantastic drum pad rhythm, and the cultural flair produced by the flamenco guitar really make this theme extremely one. It does feature a sense of melancholy, but at the same time, it also inspires a lot of positive feelings as well.
“Scenic Drive,” although not one of my favorites, still has a great sense of style. It has a very rhythmic focus, as one might expect from a “driving-related” composition. I also love the electronic harmonies that really help serve as a foundation for the melody to really shine. There are some nice retro elements thrown into the mix as well, making for an interesting listen that bridges both modern and classic electronic sounds. “Germany Calling,” on the other hand, takes a very atmospheric approach and the result is stunning. I’m not entirely sure why, but I get this overwhelming foreboding sense when I listen to this song, as if something terrible is about to happen. At times, the heavy beats and electronic melody suggest this, but at others, there is more of a dramatic focus. It’s definitely one of the best slow tempo themes on the soundtrack and Hülsbeck really manages to craft a beautifully layered theme that really leaves an impression on me.
There are also three vocal themes on the album. The first, “Tomorrow’s Yesterday,” composed by Hülsbeck and Doug Laurent, features Nina Gerhardt on vocals and is an absolutely stunning theme. Out of the three vocals, this one is easily my favorite. It’s an extremely exhilarating trance theme with a fantastic beat, vocals that carry wispiness about them, and a stunning melody. This is truly one of the best themes on the entire album and really contrasts with some of the more melancholy focused themes heard on the album. “Those Were the Days,” co-composed by Hülsbeck, Jan Zottmann, and Fabian Del Priore, features Birgit Holler on vocals. The overall soundscape is quite playful and features a clear R&B influence, particularly in the rhythm. The vocals aren’t lyrical, like those featured in “Tomorrow’s Yesterday,” but they do help add a bit of exoticism to the entire piece when they are featured. I’m a big fan of the melody though. It just has this carefree sound to it and really stands out in my opinion.
The last theme to feature vocals is “Stay,” composed by Hülsbeck, Doug Laurent, and Robert Gerding, and sung by Raquel Gomez. This song has a very mysterious and somber atmosphere. Powerful vocals tell a sad tale of a woman begging her lover to stay. The back story seems to infer that there was some sort of affair or trust broken. The vocal performance is, surprisingly, my favorite part of entire theme. I think Raquel’s vocal performance really elevates the despair hurt in the music and it really accentuates the dramatic and direness heard in the orchestral accompaniment. It’s a lot different than most of the themes on featured on the album.
If I had to pick an absolute favorite on the entire album, I would have to say, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, “Golden Gate.” To me, this embodies the heart and soul of San Francisco. Although I’ve never been there — something I hope to remedy in the near future — I just feel that this is the iconic imagery when it comes to the Bay City and that the music really digitizes the essence of San Francisco. There is a fantastic house beat, some exquisite piano work that really serves as the main strength of the piece, bringing with it an air of happiness and carefree attitude, and the slightly more serious synth work that helps bring the piece back down to Earth. In the end, this is such a playful and unrestrained composition and one that I really can’t stop listening to unless I consciously tell myself to move onto the next song.
Another fun piece is “The Island.” This one combines some fantastic Asian and tropical flavors with an excellent club beat. The acoustic guitar is superb and I really like the Asian influenced synth featured in the melody during the calmer sections. It’s such an upbeat and beautiful composition. Lastly, I’ll cover one of the only heartwarming melodies on the entire album. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, despite my love for exquisite themes, because I really enjoy the overall electronic influence much of the album features. “Remembrance” is an extremely touching composition that features poignant and heartfelt piano work with strings/synth accompaniment. It doesn’t try to do anything flashy, nor should it have to, given its intention. It manages to reflect Chris Hülsbeck’s bright, beautiful memories — with some painful present feelings as well — about his girlfriend who tragically passed away during the making of the album.
While I can’t say that I’m extremely familiar with the music of Chris Hülsbeck, I went out of my way to get this album due to the preview featured on his website. Having first been truly introduced to his music through the marvelously arranged Symphonic Shades album, I felt it was part of my duty to explore more artists to get an original album of music that featured a different side than what I had heard. I am extremely glad that I did. This album features some exquisitely produced electronic music that manages to incorporate a variety of moods and cultures. Although I didn’t mention every track on the album, they are all very much worth the listen. Please do Hülsbeck a favor and pick this up as soon as you can, especially if you are a fan. I truly look forward to his next solo album, whenever that may be.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.