|Writing about music can be really difficult at times. It can be difficult if you hate an album and it can be difficult if you love it because in both cases you lack the objectivity to describe it accurately and resort to adjectives that don't mean much to the readers of the review. It's even more difficult, however, to write about albums you're not sure what to think of. What usually happens in that case is that we end up listening to the album so many times that every second of it becomes so familiar, we have no idea whether we like it or not.|
I had the above thoughts while listening to Q&A, the new album by Australian electronic musician Cornel Wilczek, aka Qua, not so much because I didn't know what to think of the album, but because after a while I felt I had listened to it so many times and knew it so well that there was really no reason to keep listening to it.
But before I delve deeper into the issue, let me explain what is good about Q&A and what I could have done without. Qua creates a kaleidoscope of sounds on his laptop that remind me of both Dreamsploitation and the more jazzy works of Four Tet. Using guitars, drums (that sound awesome I might add) and digital sounds, his music is very colorful, and to some extent unique. Listening to Q&A is certainly an enjoyable experience and fun from start to finish, but for some reason I felt there was something "off" about it. Why did I feel this way?
The best way to determine whether an album is great or simply good, in my opinion, is by listening to it many times. Most albums after repeated listenings tend to bore you to death, but when an album is great you discover something new in it every day. Perhaps it's the fact that the opening track "Lapsang Souchong", which attempts to stand out with a barrage of electronic noise, ends up developing into a rather typical dance track and becomes more and more boring every time you listen to it. It's not a good idea to start with one of your worst tracks, but thankfully what follows is much better. There are quite a few gems that make Q&A worth listening to, such as "Magnificent Mister" with its distorted, computerized vocals and dirty background noise which he somehow blends with upbeat shoegazing sounds that bring to mind Kettel. Another favorite of mine is the more experimental "Evening Bell", but the best is "The Lion's Flying Dream", where Qua makes jazz for the 21st century. It's interesting that while all tracks are electronic and the differences between them are not always evident, at their core, they're all different, which tells us that this is an artist that is willing to experiment and make music that is original. And that is probably what keeps me from dismissing Q&A as another album the music industry had no need for. The reason all these positives don't amount to a masterpiece is because his experiments in some cases either don't work, or don't go far enough, and the album ends up being uneven. That awe we often feel when listening to something we love seems to be missing here, and as nice as I want to be after listening to it for as long as I have, I can say that I know it pretty well, and no surprises await me the next time I press the "play" button.
Are my expectations too high? Perhaps, but as unfair as it might be, it suffers from a problem that often plagues recorded music - it all feels too perfect, and soon loses its shine. While that is no reason to dislike it, it keeps an otherwise worthy effort from reaching greatness. - The Silent Ballet