25 May 2018 (released)
01 June 2018
Flamenco guitar is already a style with an ethereal quality. The dramatic melodies coupled with the glowing sheen of nylon strings soaked in reverb conjures all sorts of tales of heroic and tragic scenes that have past and are yet to come. Stories woven in the ether of time. However, like many styles that have been around for ages, they can get rigid and stale. Purists insist that there is only one way to explore the genre, perfecting its fundamentals and leaving no room for modern expansion. There are cases where flamenco has been borrowed for a solo in a pop or rock song, from Carlos Santana to the Spice Girls but this is really just a throwback, not an evolution.
Guitarist and producer James Labrosse is changing the game with an inspired fusion of flamenco with airy synthesizers and clever, subtle production, elevating the genre to another astral plane. It's perhaps his rich cultural background that has opened his mind to allowing different styles to permeate his writing. Labrosse was born in a Spanish neighbourhood in South Florida, grew up in a French Canadian home, at 18 moved to Spain to learn flamenco then honed that skill at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Now, Labrosse is based in the cultural crossroads of New York City and his style epitomizes the artistic melting pot of that town.
His latest album Orange Night is amorphous. It's haunting, it's inspiring. The magic moments illustrated by the guitar are only enhanced by the swelling, round synthesizers that blend seamlessly in each track. 'Find a Way' opens on gorgeously enveloping synths and mallets that caress Labrosse's leading lines. Borrowing the vocal talents of Melissa McMillan, the track tells a tale of modern relations underscored by a magnetic drumming performance by Fabio Rojas.
The stunning 'Magnets' begins delicately with the impeccable voice of Raquel Rivera balancing like a butterfly on a leaf on the subtly dynamic performance of Labrosse. Deep bass and strings with an air of tension transport you to more tumultuous currents before landing again to leave Rivera and Labrosse alone for another chance to duet in enchanting harmony. To close out the 8-minute incantation, Labrosse fades in lush layers of warm synthesis enveloping the listener in a shimmering glow.
Orange Night shows what you can create when you shed the labels of tradition and forge ahead. In all his experimentation, Labrosse remains completely tasteful. Not abusing the electronics in any contrived or cheesy way but using those tools to elevate and deepen the flamenco melodies. Labrosse clearly operates from a deep love and respect for the form, he just sees its path into the future. 9/10.