Image © Neurodisc Records 2009
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Worlds Apart (2007)
(30 September 2009) Blue Stone is the production duo Robert Smith and Bill Walters. Both write, produce, program and arrange all the music for Blue Stone. The music is electronic based, but the group uses many organic sounds and natural percussion to elevate the sound beyond simple electronica. World music, tribal rhythms and lush orchestration are the underpinning for melodic female vocals and harmonies that give the music its ethereal texture and angelic sound.
The female vocalists on Blue Stone's albums include: Sara Bloomfield, Sheyenne Rivers, Samantha Sandlin, Sara Day Evans, Veronica Gunter and guests like Bridin Brennan. To date, Blue Stone have released three albums including their most recent, Messages (Neurodisc Records (USA), NR32 101 2009).
Their debut album, Breathe (Neurodisc Records (USA), NRO 32 064, 2006), focused on chants and operatic vocal treatments, while the stunning World's Apart (Neurodisc Records (USA), NRO 32 080, 2007) and the new album place strict emphasis on song structure and more pop-like vocal arrangements. The Worlds Apart Remixed (Spectacle Entertainment (USA), SPC 20004, 2008) not only served to tide fans over between albums but firmly planted Blue Stone in dance music as well. The album included a live acoustic and previously unreleased track as well.
Blue Stone's music is unique but in the style of Delerium, Conjure One, Balligomingo and Sleepthief. They present their music in a way that is, by and large, tactful and reflective, and for the most part feels very sincere and well thought-out. Their songs are known for throbbing bass lines. Surrounding this deep intensity are intriguing electronic pulses, glued together with sexy female vocals and topped off with catchy piano melodies. This type of music is great for meditation and easy listening.
"Lotus Bloom" is an instrumental and one of Blue Stone's best in the category. It contains an interesting blend of heavenly female vocals layered over ethnic drums and electronic effects that weave in and out throughout the song. This song is similar in its feeling to "Contact" from Breathe. The crowning compositional achievement of much of Blue Stone's music involves the blending of both the natural and the electronic. "Lotus Bloom" hits the spot, and has all of the best Blue Stone elements rolled into it. For example, there are some African hand drums in this song, some elegant piano melodies, but also some deep electronics.
Blue Stone puts a bit of sensuality into their music and "Wait For The Sun" has some of that. Listen to the clip for this song and you'll understand. Needless to say, its subtle and introduced through the mood of the song, but not explicitly, which is part of what makes this song so enchanting. The bass line is simple and yet very catchy and the chorus is excellent. "Voleti" and "Set Adrift" from Worlds Apart also contains some of this as well in the form of lush female vocals and an overall deep and eerie mood. Another example is the title song "Breathe" from the first album, which contains whispering at the beginning. "Wait for the Sun" works on the seductiveness of the lyrics and the sound of the mouth. Blue Stone pulls this off with a certain level of tact. The language is an old form of German. Not knowing what's being said only adds to sensuality of the whole thing.
"Déjà Vu" has a nice mix of the right elements and is one of their best. As with many of their songs, the piano segments add tremendously to the composition."Open Skies" sounds closer to songs from the first two Blue Stone albums. It's good to have some of the familiarity of their earlier albums connecting them to this one, and Blue Stone has done a commendable job of keeping the distinctive sound that they're known for, while also experimenting with some new styles to keep things fresh.
Some don't like the pop texture of "Hypnotized" or the passage where the voice has been processed through a metallic reverb/filter. This song is still fun to listen to, it has a good beat to it and a memorable chorus. There are some interesting synthetic sounds going on in "Moving Forward" that are complemented well by the inflection in the voice of the singer. The lyrics explore the journey through time and ask questions about where life began and it's purpose. There's a refreshing optimism to this song. It's the bright side of the spectrum, which acts as a respite from some of the darker moods of other songs.
In "Set Me In the Sun" the vocalist and piano arrangement are both stunning. Listen for the effects during the instrumental break. "Come Alive" is more pop-oriented than most of the other songss, with a catchy chorus. "Bridges" offers an interesting background mood, but the emotion presented in this song doesn't reach the same elation as the others. I felt like the chorus didn't offer enough of a punch. It still offers that distinct Blue Stone sound and feel, but climatically falls short.
"The Silence" does intentionally what "Bridges" seemed to do accidentally, that is to create a subtle background mood. It features a common Blue Stone call-and-response style of lyrics during the verses. The bass-work is its strongest point. I think they picked the right vocalist--that part was well done--but like "Bridges," I don't feel like the chorus fits with the rest of the song. It feels out of place. The verse builds a mysterious anticipation with the slap-bass, slides, and the "oh's." It has this "tick... tick... tick..." and is building and building, and you're getting lyrics like "the shadows hide me," "the coldness holds me," "the flames can't warm me," "fight off your demons," which is just awesome. This is then squashed by the chorus, which transfers into a resentful love story, with chiming sounds and a flat presentation.
Like "Lotus Bloom," "Ancient Echoes" is mostly instrumental. This one starts out slow and then has a couple moments where it really picks up. The verses build a certain suspense and feel like they would fit into a fantasy/adventure movie or game, but then, unlike "The Silence," "Ancient Echoes" really delivers during the chorus. Like much of Messages, "Ancient Echoes" contains layer upon layer of very creative effects, making it and others interesting to listen to many times over because each time you'll pick out something different to focus on.
"Open Your Eyes" gets a little spicy in its lyrics. "Touch my face in the night, made me feel it was right to play along. You're too scared to arise, afraid to open your eyes with all you've seen. Won't you understand, grab a hold of my hand ... when the lights go out?" Again, Blue Stone never gets very explicit, but many of their songs have this sort of deep pervading mood to them that explore both the dark and the light.
"Messages" is a chill and relaxing song full of harmonic "ohs" and "ahs" that create lush layers of female vocals. There are some lyrics here as well. The end of this one glides smoothly, finishing out the album with a restful ambiance. With a stronger groove than some of the others, "Midnight Tides" features a pronounced snare and kick during the chorus. There are some throat-like vocals that lay in the middle of this song with some softly presented lyrics over the top.
A consistant producer of fine electronic music, Blue Stone is here to stay. They don't deviate too far from what got them here, but they will always push the musical envelope to stay at the forefront of their genre, and to satisfy what they consider some of the most beautiful people anywhere: their fans.