Barffie reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This must qualify as our first unsolicited review!

Adrian and I were pleasantly surprised (i.e. macho-speak for “shocked and fell off our chairs”) when we received an email from Barffie, saying she’d be reviewing our album.

I had trepidations though. She was the self-proclaimed ‘Whine Connoisseur’.

Whine + SeaStars = We’ll take a year off to recover!

So she reviewed the album and posted in her blog:

For a homebrew album, I have to say that they’ve got the main melodies down pat. They’ve got the mood all rolling. I sense no awkwardness in their instrumental execution and the sound mix was pretty decent. It was a satisfying, transporting experience that got me a little mellow at night, really.

OK, so far so good…

Then she continues:

However (here come the buts)…

Uh oh! Here it comes!

Perhaps, just perhaps, The SeaStars should consider roping in an experimental sound engineer who might add in more surprises to their tunes.

The waves in the album could have done much better with some nifty layering, maybe some hide and seek in between the different instruments. I love the whale songs from Into The Deep, but they sometimes overwhelm, instead of embracing the listener in its floatiness.

Would love to see them strip away some of the more distracting elements in tracks like Seashore Days so that the listener could focus better on the musical journey, instead of having them competing for attention all at once.

At this point, Barffie must have felt bad for us, for she added:

(Note: I hope I don’t sound too critical with the details?)

We’re crushed, Barffie. But we’ll live, LOL!

She must have anticipated that Adrian and my bruised egos need some massaging by now, so she writes:

Hanging on this note, I’d have to say that I like Stargazer quite a fair bit, as well as the later tracks like Once Upon A Star where the layering was a little more silky, and I could sense the effects being a little more intricate. One of the tracks (I forgot which one) had synthesized choir voices, which is kind of a downer, so I *ehem* have bravely volunteered my own voice for their next collaboration!

Barffie ended off by saying we have “a little more mileage than just spa or yoga music” and there’s hope for us!

Heh, I was just kidding around. 🙂

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Lest anyone misreads my attempt at self-effacing humour as sarcasm, let me state unequivocally that it’s a good sign when Barffie publicly announces in her blog that she’d like to try singing for our next album.

Sure! We’re open to collaborations.

We look forward to your demo track.

Barffie’s full post, here.

~ Ivan


Michelle likes SeaStars 2007!

•January 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

From my friend, Michelle:

So, overall I liked it, which I should mention is quite an accomplishment because I’m not usually into pure instrumental new-age-ish music. (If I can characterise it that way.)

I felt that the background wave sound could have been a bit subtler in a bunch of the songs, particularly in the first track, Sea Shore Days. It worked well for a bunch of the other songs, though, e.g. Into the Deep (suitably mysterious).

The screechy bits in Starfish were a bit…weird, but some of the other “surprises” brought a smile to my face.

Overall I think I liked the quieter songs in the latter half better, particularly those with the lighter beats.

Sea Breeze remains my favourite, the melody is there and somehow it speaks to me, and I find it very evocative of a walk on a lonely beach.

Nice work overall…glad I got the chance to listen to it. Thanks for sending it along (and don’t bother with a CD, I’m not a physical media type person anymore…)

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Incidentally, Michelle mentioned that the download page was hard to access. It failed 2 out of 4 times when she tried (I suspect it’s because it’s a temporary page and therefore not that stable).

Anyway, glad you liked it Michelle!

Thanks for your time.

~ Ivan

Draft of SeaStars 2007 album cover art

•January 4, 2008 • 5 Comments

It’s an illustrated dolphin.

Not a photo.

Draft SeaStars 2007 cover art

Yeah, this fella (who’s doing this pro-bono for us) is THAT GOOD!

I’d say I’d kiss him.

But you’ll get the wrong idea.

~ Ivan

Billy “Mr. ZeroTwoHero” Tan likens us to Hair Metal!

•January 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I was hesitant in asking Billy “ZeroTwoHero” (aka Mr. “52 books in 52 weeks“) to review SeaStars 2007.

Not that he finished one book each week, for every week last year (plus, it’s not just a list of 52 books but reviews too. That was amazing even for me… man, if there was a Reader of the Year award, I’d nominate him. 52 times. Serious.)

I had reservations ‘cos I knew his musical tastes aren’t the New Age music type. See, I read his blog posts like this and this one.

But I figured if anyone could be objective, it would be Billy.

If he said the album sucked, I’d respect that too.

He agreed to listen to the songs. Here’s what I extracted from his review:

The album in a nutshell – wispy synths, straightforward piano, quite emo lead guitar (sometimes bordering on hair-metal, which is a good thing), and kinda cheesy sea-related sound effects (like dolphins and waves), all very new-agey and inoffensive. Bordering, actually mostly crossing the line over to sleepytime music.

I like myself some ambient from time to time, but I think people tend more to slit their wrists to Enya more than Aphex Twin. Did that last line make any sense? I have to say though, I did kinda like the guitar overdubs in Stargazer, but that’s probably my inner 80s hair metal fan talking.

In any case, the problem I have with new age music is that it’s pretty much meant to be unobtrusive background music. So I listened to the album 3 times through and spaced out each time. I just can’t actively listen to and appreciate something that’s constantly slipping and sliding out of my conscious brain. So if that was the plan – good job, guys. I’m pretty sure there’s a market for this in the yoga or spa music business, if it exists, that is.

His blog post, here.

SeaStars 2007

Considering that Billy is a “punkrockertechnofreakdiscogrooverpostrocker at heart” and prefers something he can dance to, having him listen to the album THREE times and still giving a review… I am grateful!

Oh, I asked him what was “Hair-Metal”.

He clarified it referred to music in the ’80s — “metal bands with the big hair [like] Warrant and Whitesnake“.

Now that’s a compliment! Two of my fav bands of that era (yes Kiddos, I’m kinda old).

Thanks again, Billy!

~ Ivan

What Choon Keat thinks of SeaStars 2007

•January 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Choon Keat, who was recently nominated for one of BusinessWeek Asia’s Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs, agreed to listen to the album and he emailed me this:

I’ve listened to the music and enjoyed it. Quite good as music for working 🙂 I like the waves a lot, but the children laughing not so much


Choon Keat. I guess the kid’s laughter distracted you from analysing iPhone codes like this:

require ‘RMagick’ unless defined?(Magick)

rescue NotImplementedError
# Older versions of ImageMagick has no auto_orient!
case img.get_exif_by_entry(“Orientation”) && img[“EXIF:Orientation”]
# img[“EXIF:Orientation”] might not be ready until get_exif_by_entry() is called
when “6”
# Magick::RightTopOrientation

I understood that.

Really, I do.

I think.

Nah, I lost it. 🙂

SeaStars 2007

After he listened to the songs, Choon Keat asked if I created the songs myself (he didn’t visit the blog; I emailed him the songs) and how we intended to make the CDs (DIY or in his words, “kow-tow” to a publisher, haha).

I replied that Adrian and I worked on the album together. We started four months ago, and met twice in between. And now we’ve got an album.

About the “Music CD”… it’s really just burning the songs to a CD using our home computers, then printing a label and slapping it on the CD. I was told there are companies that charge $600 to $1000 for about 100 CDs, but Adrian and I couldn’t spend that sort of money.

OK, one home-made DIY CD for you, Choon Keat. Thanks for listening.

~ Ivan

Alice reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 3, 2008 • 1 Comment

I got to know Alice when she answered the call for library@orchard citizen reporters. She was one of those whom I “ambushed” when I saw her online. She very gamely agreed to review the album:

Dolphines Galaxi has a soothing feel. But at around 1min, 1:24min, 1:34min, a new instrument was blended into the songs. Somehow, the soothing effects feels like being disrupted at those points.

Song number 2, Flowing With The Waves. The download was 8KB. So, I don’t get to listen to the music.

Into the Deep. It has a jazzy, yet old days feeling.

Song number 4, Once Upon A Star. I wanted to listen to it again, but the download was also 8KB. So, based on the memory of the first few times I heard it on the web, while downloading the rest of the songs, it is my favourite. Lively. Happy. I feel more like dancing to the rhythm.

Sea Anemone. Feels light hearted. Not as lively as song number 4.

Song number 6. Seabreeze. The first 1:30min sounds nice. But, once a certain musical instrument is added at around 1:30min, it felt like I am listening to some old chinese traditional music. Very strange feeling. This song ends up being my least favourite.

Seashore Days. It is soothing. Can just use it as background music. Maybe even during a candle light dinner.

Starfish is also soothing, but it has a light touch of lively to the feel.

Stargazer is another soothing music. Not as gently as Seashore Days.

Her post is at this link.

I was tickled at her mentioning that Seashore Days could be used during a candle light dinner, that I had to leave this comment!

SeaStars 2007

Thanks, Alice, for taking time to review the songs. Will contact you re: that free CD.

~ Ivan

Betty reviews SeaStars 2007

•January 3, 2008 • 1 Comment

Betty (a fellow songcrafter) emailed me her review:

I like how listening to the album calms me and makes me feel like I’m actually standing in front of the vast ocean, staring out at the horizon.

I noticed most of the songs start off with a soothing introduction and the solo instrument would enter… good that there is consistency but it can become like a “standard formula” after a few tracks.

I like the piano pieces more. Probably because the piano sounds more gentle than [the jarring sounds of] the electric guitar. But good, contrast in timbre is good 🙂

However track 7 seems to have ended abruptly.

Overall a good effort by the two of you. It’s enjoyable a listen however I’d like to suggest visuals to accompany the music as after a while my mind started drifting… sorry!

Is this a soundtrack? Cos it immediately reminded me of this album: cover
Real cool and good stuff by da man, Sting.

Thanks Ivan for sharing this project with us!

SeaStars 2007

Betty has a nice voice, and was one of the stars in the inaugural Songcraft concert.

Hey, no need to apologise for your mind drifting, Betty. We *ahem* intended for the songs to have that effect on people. 🙂

~ Ivan