Sound: The debut record Exile by Los Angeles based Composer/Songwriter/Guitarist Kole is a successful offering of skillful composition and musicianship in which a gifted musical mind creates a panoramic landscape of musical emotion and color. This record's initial offering Tides begins with a restrained instrumental line performed on an acoustic guitar establishing a feeling of serene contemplation. Elegant guitar passage subsides to elegant guitar passage, gaining in energy and vibrancy. Throughout, natural harmonics compliment the congruity of the harmonic structure. As the pace of the guitar quickens, the vocal assumes a more assertive, forceful presence. Thematically, the ending of the song seems a bit unresolved, as if to say ...to be continued.
The record continues with a number of selections rich with terrific guitar work set to a variety of orthodox musical forms manipulated to display the Composer's facility and versatility. The track Fuguish is based on Classical fugue structure, but is interspersed with elements from other musical genres. Various tempo changes facilitate the introduction of ample Jazz motifs, as well as Spanish dance passages to provide a truly compelling, very original listening experience, with outstanding playing throughout. The song September begins as a pensive, plaintive recitation of a poem seeming to lack a bit of congruency. This particular melody seems to be begging for accompaniment until the orchestration sweeps onto the soundtrack providing a terrific sense of balance. The song, at this point assumes the feel of a 1950's pop big-band number, which underscores the sincerity of the piece. The graceful, soaring vocal harmonies solidify the nostalgia of the vocal. The apex of the song's energy is delivered in the form of a stunningly restrained expertly played solo on the electric guitar.
The real fire on this record is the three part musical experience Opus 1, which is delivered in three movements, each of which represent three distinct stages of emotional coping. The first movement, subtitled Denial, is narrow, contemplative instrumental which represents the initial sadness. Movement 2 subtitled Reminiscence, pairs the established depression with a series of bright, hopeful, and energetic passages and scale choices to introduce the presence of fond memories which serve to assuage the grieving process. The final movement, subtitled Acceptance, is the musical analog of the personal growth that is realized by working through extreme sadness. The vocal is a bittersweet affirmation of the Songwriter's will to move on, however changed. Opus 1 is a masterful example of conveying complex nuances of emotion in musical form.
Throughout the record Exile Kole matches his extraordinary musicianship with terrific composition and arrangement. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrical program to Exile occupies a complimentary role to the soundtrack. As a lyricist Kole focuses frequently on intense emotional content. Many of the tracks are purely instrumental, allowing the guitar to be the primary narrator. The interjection of lyrics is well placed and effective. For instance, the lyrics of the song Wrong begin with the following lyrical image: Kissing the ground, thinking of all my choices'/I want to know am I right, or am I wrong.../...what if I am wrong?/Ambition blinded me and I couldn't see/The best thing I had... This passage is fairly indicative of the intense emotion conveyed in Kole's lyrics. The lyrics of the song describe a fairly brutal self examination which is borne of a more mature perspective, and the regret that process entails.
Alternately, on the third movement of Opus 1, the lyricist provides a confident, resigned description of acceptance. The final lyrics which follow provide a magnificent articulation of this arrival at acceptance: ...And when it's time to go, I'll be sad, and I will know/That you're in a much better place,/But my dreams will always know your face. The lyrical content of this record is, comparatively speaking, small. Without a doubt, the instrumental is the emphasis. It is with careful and precise restraint that Kole forges his lyrical program as a guiding voice through the range of emotion. // 7
Overall Impression: Kole's debut album Exile is a stunning musical work with a distinct, palpable feel of humanity. Emotionally evocative, occasionally gut-wrenching, occasionally exuberant, always intelligent, this record is splendid. The key to the success of Exile is the structure of the composition. Kole clearly has a firm working understanding of music theory, and traditional musical forms. While working within orthodox musical conventions, Kole's creativity allows him to amalgamate these forms into passages that seem fresh, and new. Intense, intelligent, and masterfully played, Exile, by the potential phenom Kole, is a big success. This record will appeal to an audience well versed in music theory, as well as anyone who enjoys beautiful, dare I say, virtuoso guitar work. // 8