Victor Sierra's Electric Rain
by Allison Curval
A look at this worldly steampunk band's highly charged first album.
September
09
2012
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Victor Sierra
Official Site: Click Here

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A Little Background

Back in 2011 my band, The Clockwork Dolls, was ask to participate in a compilation CD for the book Blood In The Skies (by author G.D. Falksen) which was used to promote various musical acts in the Steampunk Community. Along with notable names such as Frenchy and the Punk, Strange Artifact, Dr. Carmella, Escape the Clouds, and Sunday Driver, I was introduced to an international helping of some of the finest bands Steampunk has to offer.

Now, I'll admit, I listened to the CD primarily to hear myself. What can I say? I'm a self-absorbed ass. But one night after passing out in my studio on my usual diet of deep fried foods and liquor, I dreamt the most amazing dream and--dare I say--oh thank heaven for the junk food gods who have given me the opportunity I would not have otherwise had.

I had the most incredible dream you see, and in this dream I was flying to the most incredible soundtrack. The music was grand, the synth brass was majestic, and the guitars, oh dear reader the guitars, like pure sonic nectar. And then there's the beat... like the heavy stompings of industrial clubs past I felt my legs moving in rhythm until CRASH! I knocked my beloved pint glass to the floor. I jolted up in a cold sweat the song already ended leaving me asking a single question....

Who wrote this song!? Who sung those words!? WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE!? I played the CD back over and over again skipping from track to track until again I was greeted with the very tune that had haunted me all those...minutes.

Oh, music gods, you have a name and thy name is Victor Sierra. Suffice to say, I bought their inaugural CD, Electric Rain, the moment it hit the shelves.

Victor Sundae

From the first track  ("El Topo") to the last ("Bridge to Nowhere"), the first thing you'll notice is VictorSierra's mastery of merging guitar driven rock n' roll with an omnipresent, but not overbearing, synth orchestra. Add a dollop of synth drums mixed with a healthy dose of hand drumming, and you have yourself a Victor Sierra sundae or salad. I prefer sundaes because they are delicious.

The cherry on top is Anouk's sultry, smoky vocals which presents to the listener the alluring voice of a lounge singer and the theatrical flair of a seasoned storyteller. Each word beckons you to listen to their tales. Anouk's vocal performance is complemented by the occasional chime in from Bob's  gravely voice, creating an interesting vocal landscape that is unique among those who claim Steampunk as their aesthetic choice.  

However, you'll have to forgive me, as a sundae might not be the best way of describing Victor Sierra's sound. Perhaps I should describe them as the soundtrack to an old black and white film being performed by a contemporary rock band.

Sometimes, the songs remind you of an old classic western; other times, the backing score to an epic roadtrip. Each song takes you on a lengthy journey. Whether it is through exotic lands, as evident with the use of arabesque melodies, or through an Old West town, Victor Sierra's music is the perfect soundtrack for a lengthy road trip or a journey on your dirigible (in my case ... my Chevy).

The Good

The samples used in Electric Rain are tastefully done and, in some cases, used to further enhance the musical experience. A prime example would be the song "The Road Taken," which uses train samples which merge seamlessly with the tempo of the piece to the point where the train sound actually drives the music itself. (Mental note: Steal this idea). Another prime example would be the use of wind and metal scrapes in the introduction for "Bridge to Nowhere," which brings you into a desolate landscape of an almost post-apocalyptic journey. It's clear that Victor Sierra isn't merely writing music, they are setting a stage. (Again... Steal this idea)

The composition of each piece is masterfully done using exotic melodies, a dark and foreboding vocal choir, and brass samples reminiscent of such peers as the Vernian Process, as well as gritty guitar tones that makes me green with envy. I was especially envious of the percussion work, specifically the hand drum samples, as well as the catchy dancy drum patterns which leave me bobbing my head and spilling my drink, all over my keyboard.

And then there are the vocals. Oh, yes, the vocals. Anouk has a very smokey quality about her voice which is best showcased with Victor Sierra's cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." The vocals lend a sense of mystery to each piece and wraps up the all around feel of Victor Sierra into a nice, complete package. Unfortunately, the vocals can sometimes detract from the all around music, which leads to the next part of my review.

The Bad

The only thing that prevents me from calling this album 100% perfect is the vocal performance on a handful of songs and the production value of some of the instruments.

Now, it's not to say the vocals are bad, quite to the contrary, the vocals are good and Anouk's execution of the lyrics are masterfully done. However there are a few moments in the album where the vocals are clearly being pushed a little too hard. Prime examples would be "Make My Day", where the vocals have a tendency to waver just short of where you'd want them. I've had the opportunity of hearing Victor Sierra perform live, so this might be a simple matter of mixing and production, as I know for a fact that Anouk can certainly sing.

Production wise this album could use just a bit of improvement; again, I am definitely nitpicking here. The vast majority of my complaint regarding the instrumentals of Electric Rain is the way the string sections are treated; I would love to hear a little more reverb and perhaps volume adjustment to further blend them in with an otherwise masterful soundscape.

The Final Verdict

This is the part where I ask myself, "Do you regret purchasing a copy of Electric Rain?"

The answer is, "HELLS NAW." This album is worth the price tag so much that I own two copies, one for me and one to lend to my friends. I kid you not! I have two copies of this CD sitting in my studio.

Yes, there are flaws and weak points, but the strengths of Victor Sierra's carefully crafted album far outweighs their faults, especially for an inaugural release. I am very happy to say that I'm extremely satisfied with my listening experience. Kudos to you, my friends across the sea, you have certainly impressed this Clockwork Doll, and I am excited for any works you have coming around the corner.

P.S. My name is Allison Curval and I eat puppies.

  
Author Bio: Allison Curval
Allison Curval's love affair with composition began at the tender age of 11, writing 2 minute songs on Mario Paint. While the Super Nintendo is collecting dust at the bottom of her parents basement, Allison still writes music for The Clockwork Dolls.

A self-taught composer, Allison wrote her first recorded song back when she was 17, using her parents karaoke machine and a cheap knock-off Fender Stratocaster. The song was called “Chumbucket.” Thankfully, it never saw the light of day.

After repeated attempts to start a band, Allison quickly educated herself in music theory and writing complex electronica pieces. She eventually became involved in a synth pop project Digital Collapse. Unfortunately, the project caved, and Allison was left back where she started. Over the period of several years, Allison began experimenting with orchestral composition, and that's where the groundwork for The Clockwork Dolls was formed . Allison Curval, as a child, was given the option of playing either the piano or the violin...

She chose wisely.

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