On the Record | Bluelight’s self-titled debut an excellent addition to Akron’s musical landscape

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by Roger Riddle

Bluelight’s debut effort is an ode to city life and all that comes with it. Their songs explore love, loss, frustration, transportation and the people all around us, as well as ourselves. Set against a backdrop of urban sounds, there’s no doubt composer Philip Anderson’s time in Brooklyn helped to shape the soundscape that gives texture to the album. Vehicles, trains, conversations and street sounds seep in around the edges of songs, giving the EP a cinematic quality.

Big Jul Green in a still from the video for "Trains"
Big Jul Green in a still from the video for “Trains”

Keyboardist and vocalist Anderson, drummer Holbrook Riles III, bassist Matthew DeRubertis, hip-hop vocalist Big Jul Green and saxophonist Chris Coles all attended the jazz program at University of Akron before spreading out across the country. Anderson found his way to Brooklyn, where he currently resides. He and the rest of Bluelight returned to Akron in January of this year to write and record their first release

While Bluelight should be considered a jazz band, their style is reminiscent of the mid to late 90’s acid jazz sound, woven with R&B and hip-hop vocals, and an arrangement that highlights their skillful musicianship. Listeners familiar with groups like the Brand New Heavies or Groove Collective, or more modern groups like Jazzanova, Cinematic Orchestra and Zero 7, will welcome “Bluelight.

“Bluelight” is meant to be listened to as a complete album. In this digital age, too often albums seem designed to be a collection of singles; any song can be downloaded and stand on its own. However, the production on “Bluelight” leads you from one song into the next, assuring that the best listening experience is in its intended order, and from beginning to end.

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Songs are well-written and layered with meaning. A particularly clever moment occurs with the track “Departure,” which follows “Trains.” While the titles work well together, the fast-paced, minimalist “Departure,” with rapid-fire rap lyrics from Big Jul almost seems out of place on the EP. The quick snap drumming from Riles seems frantic and the sparse notes from Anderson’s keyboard lends an unsettling feeling. You get the feeling that the person in the song is running to catch the train. But a deeper listen reveals Big Jul’s lyrics are an ode to John Coltrane. His quick lyrical delivery could be emulating a solo from the famous saxophonist. That’s when you realize this song is a disguised nod to Coltrane’s “Chasin’ the Trane.”

The 8-minute “Mirrors” provides another beautiful moment on the EP. Anderson’s vocals are hypnotic and his keyboard playing dances around a shining performance from Coles and his saxophone. This song of introspection leads the listener to turn within, while the song crescendos around them.

The “Bluelight” EP is a very tasteful listen, perfect for a lazy day spent staring out of the window on a rainy day. A genuinely good addition to your music collection, made particularly sweet because was made in Akron.

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‘Bluelight’ CD Launch Party
Thursday, July 9 at 8 pm
None Too Fragile Theatre at Pub Bricco ($10)
1841 Merriman Rd, Akron

Bluelight celebrates the release of their EP with a midwest tour kick-off performance. Doors open at 8 pm. You can learn more about Bluelight at philipandersonmusic.com/bluelight.[/su_box]

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