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Album Review: Marcel Heah – Travelogue

Marcel Heah is a multigenre musician who creates an array of variant, mood-based instrumentals. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Heah’s style showcases an exceptional blend of classical piano melodies contained within a textural, alternative skeleton. Under the name Marcie, his latest offering, Travelogue, functions like a canvas in displaying these tracks, each emitting their own individualized poignancy, and to consistent effect.

On the opener, “Architectures,” there’s solid focus on making each component of its melody stand out. Into the song’s first minute, the surface section has a kind of straightforward grace about it, while its base is complementary – equally pronounced, yet slightly more intricate, almost as if coming from an acoustic guitar. As the song progresses, one could visualize a sketch of life, that becomes increasingly fluent and flushed with color. “Fluorescene,” the track to follow, seems to expound on that perspective through its choice of chords – gentle, but curious and wandering, as if exploring unfamiliar territory, but feeling safe enough to absorb its atmosphere. Though the song is presented more or less as an interlude, its string section does well to accentuate the album’s pace. “Cherry Light” continues to carry that feeling of curiosity, through its combination of seventh note starts and dissonant tips. The bounce on each phrase has a strolling quality to it, like being free of worry and subsequently indulging in life’s simple pleasures. However, as the album approaches the midpoint, starting with “Troubled” and capping with “Her Waltz,” it is implied moments worth basking in are commonly supplemented with challenges. While the first song could represent certain bleakness amidst a mental block, the other is a representation of the aimlessness to come afterward. Ideally, both songs exhibit a winding quality in their chord sequences, which is an apt indicator for this shift in tone.

The latter half of the album brings a positive note with “Dotted Rain.” I found this song to allude to a scenario where raindrops slither against a window pane. The tune very much gives rainy days a pleasant connotation – featuring fair, non-intimidating skies accompanied by a light, calming drizzle. This feeling picks up by the song’s halfway point, with more pronounced, uplifting strikes. What follows is a slightly contrasting, but equally impactful subduing, bolstered by higher octave and piercing drips. “Louie the Golliwog” draws yet another aspect to the imagination. I imagine a black doll, dancing lifelessly with an oblivious smile, while covered in the spotlight. But even with the rather extreme nature of the title, the song interestingly fits with “Dance of the Shadows,” which, much like its predecessor, sports a catchy, jazz-inspired groove. Once again, as if beginning anew, the penultimate track, “Sun’s Out” uplifts the album’s mood. By this point, it’s as if each of the songs phases describe the sun at different points of time, from sunrise, to midday saturation, and then dusk. The final track, “An Island, Both Seas Sleep,” does its part as the closer for the album. To a great extent, it’s as if the aforementioned seas exhibit human behavior; in other words, literally lying in a state of slumber. The initial chord sequences seem to portray the mind in a dreamlike state, constantly in ascension and, at times, unexpected. Toward the end, the collection of notes disperses into simple wisps, eventually slowing to an ultimate, peaceful lull.

Overall, Travelogue is a solid, nuanced listening experience, especially by instrumental standards. In a precise sense, the album is essentially a log of Marcel Heah’s travels. Even more so, it acts as a series of relatable anecdotes that resonate with each listener – the peaks, the lows, and the bizarre detours, all in one sufficiently unified adventure. I’m definitely interested to see what ideas Heah has in store for the future!

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About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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