Recently, I wrote articles on Naked Music downtempo music, and while researching these articles, I found myself listening again, to songs by this artist. An artist who is highly talented, not just a singer, but also a songwriter and producer. I have long been a huge fan of her music, and have always loved the album that I am about to review. When it was released in 2004, I couldn’t wait to hear it, and wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic album, one that is a great showcase for her considerable talents. Her name is Gaelle, and the album is called Transient, and was released on Naked Music in 2004.
Gaelle Addison was born in New Jersey, and is now based in Atlanta. She first came to the public’s attention when she sang the vocals on dance track King of My Castle, which she recorded for Atlanta producer Chris Brann’s Wamdue Project. When the track was released here in the UK, it wasn’t a huge hit, it only became a massive hit once techno producer, Roy Malone remixed the track. Suddenly, the track was huge, it was a huge favorite with clubbers in the UK, and eventually sold over two million copies overseas. Sadly. Gaelle wasn’t allowed to enjoy her moment in the sun, when the label hired someone else to appear in the video, and lip-synch on the tour. For some reason, this was what labels did, preferring image over honesty. Gaelle’s replacement was what she calls “a buxom Argentinian lady.” Deeply saddened, this lead to Gaelle splitting with Brann.
After the split with Brann, Gaelle managed to recoup the royalties she was owed. However, a fortuitous meeting with Eric Stamile, a keyboard player, saw Gaelle launch a new production company, Speakeasy Music. She left Atlanta University, where she had been studying business management, purchased some recording equipment, and the duo were in business. They were able to teach themselves how to produce tracks using the newly purchased equipment. This lead to them producing dance tracks for San Francisco label Naked Music. So impressed with Gaelle and Stamile’s work were Naked Music, that they offered Gaelle a recording contract.
Transient took four years to produce. Why I hear you ask? There are two reasons. Firstly, to pay bills, Gaelle and Stamile had to work with other artists in the interim period. This was good experience, and they worked with Cee-Lo Green on the 2002 album, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections. Remixes were another source of income for them. They remixed tracks for Jagged Edge and Esthero. The second reason for the length of time it took the pair to record Transient, is that they are self confessed perfectionists. Listen to the album, and you will realize that this was four years well spent, and that the album is musical perfection.
When many people saw that this album was released on Naked Music, they would be expecting to hear an album full of house music. That isn’t the case. This is a sophisticated album, one that crosses musical genres. Listen carefully, and you will hear soul, jazz, blues, electronica and yes, a house music influence. Quite simply, it’s a glorious album, full of glorious music, by one of the best voices in contemporary music.
Transient opens with Falling, and as you hear the opening bars, of this track you’re immediately struck that you’re about to hear a quality song. The sound is complex and full. Drums sit at the front of the mix, they’re fast, almost frantic, they grab your attention, as if saying listen carefully, this is great track. Keyboards accompany the drums, and are a perfect foil to the effective harshness of the drums. However, when Gaelle sings, she transforms the track. Her vocal is fantastic, it’s strong, she sings clearly, articulating the sadness in the lyrics. She competes with the drums, singing over them, her voice refusing to be bullied by the drums. A good track to start a great album.
Parkway begins with sound effects, a radio plays, a car travels along a road, then the track opens out. Sound effects are used to good affect throughout Parkway. Gaelle’s voice is soulful, she sings she song slowly, behind a minimalist arrangement. The track benefits from having plenty space in the arrangement, especially with the drums. Unlike Falling, the drums are slow, spacey and generate a dramatic effect. When Gaelle sings, she leaves space in the vocal, this too, adds to the impact of this great song.
Give It Back has a gentle, melodic start. The introduction is played on keyboards, then Gaelle’s vocal sweet enters. It’s a bright, breezy uptempo track, one that has a huge crossover appeal. This track would work well either on radio or dancefloor, and I’m sure producers would love to remix this track. She sings a track that has its roots in soul and dance music. Her vocal has a nu-soul sound, and the drums and synths have been influence by dance music. This is a really catchy song one laden with hooks. Brilliant.
The next track, Fade Away, has an atmospheric start. Waves crash against the beach. Gaelle’s vocal keeps up the atmospheric feel. It’s slow and has a dreamy, atmospheric sound. Saying that, her voice is loud and clear, and she sings against crisp and crunching drums that accompany her vocal at the front of the mix, and an acoustic guitar plays gently. Fade Away is similar in style and sound to. Parkway, and like Parkway, is a great track.
Haiti (Interlude) is a short instrumental track. The tempo is faster, waves crash against a beach, an acoustic guitar plays, strings sweep, drums sit in front of them, crisp, loud and fast. Bursts of vocal harmony, enter and leave, adding to the beauty of the track. This is a good way to break up the flow of the album.
When Love You More starts, Gaelle sings straight away. Her voice is loud, strong and confident. This is a faster track, one that benefits from a good arrangement. Like other tracks, the drums are, loud, fast and right at the forefront of the mix. They draw your attention, you can’t escape them. That is not a criticism, merely an observation. Both piano and guitar play a part on this track, and help to shape the sound, on what is, a good track.
Repetition starts with waves crashing, keyboards playing, then Gaelle goes on to give the lushest of vocal performances. This is a love song, one with lovely lyrics, about how you feel when you’re in love and how sometimes, it’s hard to give too much of yourself, in case you get hurt, should the person leave you. The arrangement on the track is clever, the song starts slowly, there is space within the track, then towards the end it turns into almost a house track. It has the tempo and drum sound of a house track, but just when you become used to this, suddenly, the tempo drops again, back to what it was. A beautiful track, with a great vocal, lyrics and tight arrangement.
Shape Shifting, the next track, has a totally different sound and feel to it. On this track, Gaelle half sings, half speaks parts of the song. A vocoder is used frequently to transform her voice. Effects can be heard in the background. The effects are loud, predominant and repetitive, yet don’t jar or annoy, quite the opposite, the blend in well with Gaelle’s voice, and produce an interesting and different track.
The title track Transient is next, and it’s another song that Gaelle sings beautifully. Just about everything is perfect with Transient. My only quibble is that there is an effect that sits above the vocal and instruments, that you can hear sort of reverberating. It distracts your attention from everything else. I would suggest that this somewhat spoils an otherwise perfect track. The vocal and arrangement are flawless apart from that one slight criticism.
Probably the track that is most familiar to most people is Rain. It’s a song that has featured on several compilations. Rain has the tempo of a house track, and like Give It Back, has crossover appeal. This track would be at home on radio or in a club. The song starts with a piano gently, meandering, the vocal starts slowly, very slowly, but, quickly, the tempo increases. A saxophone blows, the drums get quicker, and settle into a house beat. Gaelle sings the vocal, and in doing so, leaves plenty of space in the vocal. Keyboards fill the space, and in the background, handclaps mark time. Rain is a masterful track, the highlight of the album.
When you hear Separate Rooms, the first thing that strikes you, is the drums. The have the sound and feel of what you would expect in an old drum and bass album. It’s loud and crisp, with an irregular mid tempo beat. Gaelles vocal is loud, clear and confident. Her range is good, she articulates the lyrics well. As usual, the track is well arranged by Gaelle and Stamile. Although the sound is quite full, they have achieved that with very few instruments. Maybe it’s because the drums almost dominate the track. Regardless of how it has been achieved, it’s another great track.
The final track on Transient is Moonsglow. Here Gaelle half whispers, half sings the introduction, and just behind her vocal sound effects can be heard. The drums are dull sounding, percussion is crisp and sharp. It’s an effective contrast, one that works well. Gaelle sings the song slowly, surrounded by drums, sound effects and percussion. Occasionally, brooding strings can be heard.This adds to the air of mystery present. The longer the track goes on, the louder the drums and percussion become, dominating the mix, and taking over centrestage from Gaelle. Moonsglow, although different from many of the tracks on Transient, is still a quality track.
That is the story of Gaelle and her debut album Transient. As you will now be aware, this is a brilliant album, a perfect showcase for Gaelle to show how talented and versatile an artist she is. She also co-wrote and co-produced the album with Eric Stamile. Although the album took four years to record, it was well worth the wait. Every song on the album is of the highest quality. Gaelle’s vocals are second to none. Her voice is glorious, capable of expressing and articulating every emotion, and capable of singing songs from soul to jazz to house. Not many artists can achieve that, but Gaelle can. Do yourself a favor, buy this album now, you won’t regret it. Standout Tracks: Falling, Give It Back , Repetition and Rain.