According to the press release for Elmaroe's EP, 'Sequences', it is a collection of "songs written straight from the heart that openly document his thoughts, hopes and dreams". Listening to the CD, this statement rang true to me. If there is one thing that is truly evident in the 'Sequences' EP, it is a feeling of intimacy and very personal subject matters addressed in an open way, set against warm musical backdrops of strong rhythms, diatonic chord sequences and rich mixes.
'Sequences' opens with the brief but enjoyable 'Home Is Safe', which evokes a sense of immediacy as Elmaroe skips the customary instrumental introduction in favour of instant vocal entry, accompanied by two acoustic guitars played in unison, panned left and right. On a first listen I was struck by the warmth of the voice and the accessible pop melodies. It was a most pleasing accessibility, but I felt the potential effect was slightly diminished by the somewhat dissatisfying excess of treble on the acoustic guitars, which brought out an undesirable harshness.
The song abruptly concludes at around 1 minute and 45 seconds. I like the brevity - it would be obvious to go into another verse, chorus, bridge, two choruses and outro, but this sudden ending indicates thoughtful song-writing. Admirably, in this short space of time, Elmaroe manages to develop the mix from sparse to full (laden with guitars, bass, drums, piano and glockenspiel - all played by Elmaroe), creating a very interesting musical accompaniment to the wonderful melodies and thoughtful lyrics that are the forefront of his music.
This is generally one of the great strengths of this CD. The overall running time is about 13 minutes, but an impressive amount of variation in the mix and dynamics is present throughout, thereby creating a consistently interesting listen. Despite the crowded mix, all the parts had a certain 'breathing space' and each came through with perfect clarity, without sounding unrelated to one another, as can often happen in spacious mixes.
Track 2, 'Gentle Charms' is more typical in terms of structure and duration. It opens with an agitated bass line played in 16th notes, a drum part that follows suit and a guitar lightly filling in the harmony. This angsty mood is countered with a charming piano and glockenspiel part on the second line of the verse that accompany the charming lyrics, "I should get up from the table and move next to you/I'm thinking of the words I need to say to make myself clear".
The tension builds towards a beautiful and uplifting chorus featuring memorable lyrics, extremely well-crafted melodies and backing vocals reminiscent of that one really famous Kings Of Leon song. What was that called again? Be Me?
The second verse showcases the thoughtful structuring and variation in Elmaroe's songs by beginning with the same choppy rhythm as the second part of the first verse, followed by a return to the bass line in 16th notes as featured in the first part of the first verse. Did you follow that? So basically it went ABCBA - like a mirror image! I don't know whether that was intentional or not, but it's neat.
The song then closes with 4 repetitions of the chorus - the first and third are the same, but the second has a different melody and lyrics, which brought a new emotional aspect to the song, and the fourth is stripped of the previous chorus' many parts, left only with a skeletal remainder, of subdued vocals, piano, drums and glockenspiel.
Track 3, 'Golden', opens with bright chords and buoyant, uplifting rhythms, which make a fitting contrast to the subdued ending of the previous track. The opening hook concludes with chords arduously ascending diatonically in quarter notes into a verse driven by a rhythmic octave guitar part, joined on the second line by a smooth arpeggio in the treble register of a second guitar.
Throughout the song the vocals weave around the jagged rhythms to create the most 'groove'-oriented song on the CD. The different style adds colour and interest to the EP. It is well placed, slotted neatly between the two (possibly) more heartfelt tracks on the CD, which added to the rhythm of the CD as a whole. Track listing is important people, even on a 4 track EP! TRUST ME.
Track 4, the eponymous 'Sequences', is seemingly the centrepiece of the EP and a fitting ending, with its touching chorus that evokes feelings of nostalgia and longing (for me anyway - I probably totally misinterpreted it). By this stage it became clear that one of Elmaroe's favourite musical tools is the use of a pedal or drone, often on guitar, but in this case on the left hand of the piano, along with other parts - particularly bass lines - that feature more melodic activity to create fluctuating chordal relationships between one another. In this song the left hand of the piano plays the same note (I think it's middle C!) repeatedly in quarter notes, which lends the song a sense of persistence as the lyric, "I'm taking you back to the days where we still had our innocence", dazzles with its nostalgic power!
The overall impression I got from this EP is that this is music that cossets the listener, wraps them up in a warm blanket, gives them them a hot chocolate and a kiss on the forehead. This makes for an enjoyable listening experience. However, at times the music could get earthier, such as in the minor bridge in 'Golden' and often moving, as in 'Gentle Charms' and 'Sequences'. Don't be deceived by how 'nice' it is, this CD has some serious musical prowess! Sometimes I found myself wishing for more harmonic adventurousness to heighten the sense tension and relief in the songs. Also I wished it was longer! I guess I'll have to wait for an album. Apart from that, what's not to love? Nothing, that's what.