Release Date: Sep 6, 2011
Record label: ESL Music
AM, with his incredibly un-Googleable moniker, is an L.A.-based musician with an ear for the past. Shawn Lee, anchored in London, is a multi-instrumentalist with a willingness to explore any musical territory, from jazz to electronica, in his compositions. The two artists recently discovered each other and, thanks to the Internet, virtually crossed the Atlantic to create Celestial Electric.
Los Angeles-based AM and London-based Shawn Lee both have an inherent feel for unadulterated soul vibes and funk tempos filtered through '70s soundtracks. These soul boys found each other across oceans and joined forces to create Celestial Electric. Together, the duo's understanding of classic sounds take on a modern flavor that enhances what each artist does exponentially.
In the opening monologue of The Big Lebowski, Sam Elliott says, “Sometimes, there’s a man — well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.” Music is full of examples like this, songs and albums that capture the essence of an era, from classical and romantic composers to late-60s psychedelia, 77 punk, 80s hair metal, early-90s grunge, late-90s drum-and-bass, and so on. Yet every once in a while, an album comes along that stands outside of the time in which it was recorded, an album of such complex greatness and astounding joy that one may gloss over initial listenings under the subconscious impression they’ve not just heard this music before, but lived with it for decades.
A collaboration between multi-instrumentalist/producer Shawn Lee and singer/songwriter AM, 2011's Celestial Electric is a cornucopia of laid-back, psychedelic-tinged, '60s and '70s-inspired hippie funk, soft pop, and rock. On their own, both Lee and AM have revealed an aesthetic trend toward such chilled-out vintage sounds as Brazilian tropicalia, soft rock, sunshine pop, and various dance grooves from soul to disco. For longtime fans, Celestial Electric is about as good as one could have hoped for the coming together of two like-minded musicians.
What worked about AM’s Our Future Sons and Daughters was the singer-songwriter’s clever and seemingly effortless incorporation of world music influences into his brand of otherwise straightforward Shins-pop. So a collaboration with Shawn Lee, a multi-instrumentalist best known for a strong Latin music aesthetic and whose Ping Pong Orchestra released the terrific everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pop record World of Funk earlier this year, seemed natural. It’s a shame, then, that the result of the collaboration between these two talented artists, Celestial Electric, is as ungodly dull as it is.
Celestial Electric, the first collaboration between L. A. -based singer-songwriter AM and multi-instrumentalist/producer Shawn Lee, is an ambitious and idiosyncratic album created by and continuously refined through e-mail, yet the sonic frame of reference is strictly pre-Gmail.