PACIFICA - SUPERMAGIQUE ALBUM REVIEW #9


Evaluated by Claude Lemaire. Max. perfect rating: 10/ A+ [sound/music] Original review published Feb. 2011

PACIFIKA - SUPERMAGIQUE 
Six Degrees Records (2010)
U.S. CD 657036 1168-2

Rating: 7.0/ B 

Category: World Fusion

Format: CD (red book 16/44.1k)
Written, Produced and Mixed by Pacifika
Recorded and Mixed at Rear Window Song & Sound.
Mastered by Emily Lazar & Joe Laporta at The Lodge, NYC

Pacifika is:
Silvana Kane - Lead and Backing Vocals, Cajon, Palmas, Tambourine, Shakers & Synthesizer
Adam Popowitz - Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals, Programming & Engineering
Toby Peter - Bass, Drum Kit, Dumbek, Udu, Cajon, Triangle, Guitars, Backing Vocals & Synthesizer

Musical friends:
Elliot Polsky - Drum Kit, Congas, Dumbek, Claves, Wahshaker
Joseph "Pepe" Danza - Congas, Surdo, Double Udu, Shakuhachi, Timbales, Mbira & Cuica
Christina "Zippy" Zaenker - Cello

Package Artwork, Design & Layout Lee Fenyves

Lately I had the pleasure of discovering two wonderfully original Canadian bands; one posting a small following after two albums and the other less well known, emerging with a five song EP. What they both share is a multilinguistic approach to singing, a respect for the environment plus a deep and mutual appreciation for and from its audience. Here is part 2 of those encounters.

The CD jacket is a double gatefold carton with a slight gloss; the insides featuring stylised group photos with red shadowed effects and the usual credits. Unlike their debut album above, no lyrics are to be found.

"Close to Everything" starts off with deep low synths and 'doubled' vocals. There is some compression but the sound remains not too agressive.

"Chocolate" has vocals leading, followed by a knocking beat, hi-hat, percs, bass, 'one note' guitar then turns into a Spanish guitar feel. They come back to the main theme with a lowering heavier electronic feel to it. Sound is slightly better than the previous track. 

"Ana Maria" has an a cappella intro plus strumming guitar; modulated synth; the beat is artistically 'dirty'; electric bass a bit burried in the mix. This continues with a heavy emphasis on percussion. Too bad it's a compressed dense mix.


180 degree change of style with "Story". Vocals back to English, acoustic guitar plus sweep with lots of weight goes way down on a 6/8 rhythm bar. There's a bit of a progressive influence, voices are doubled then ends with bass chords, acoustic guitar plus vocals; hi-hat and snare are soft before fadeout.

The title track "SuperMagique" intros with a cappella vocals then shifts towards rock and electro-processed electric guitar plus muffled bass and panned distorted percussive effects. Here Silvana's vocals take on a heavy accent–that makes following the lyrics a bit of a challenge–amid the more commercial writing orientation. Interesting electric guitar a la Edge; narrow filtered effect on background spoken Spanish vocal track strangely recalling Kraftwerk's "Numbers" ("Mummern") from Computerworld (Computerwelt). Unfortunately quite compressed, it is the lesser sounding of the album.

"Le Matin" has cleaner, less compressed sound which does good. Her accent while still strong and cute, resembles 'French chanson' and the simpler mix allows her French to cut through better. This slower song in particular is perhaps aiming to penetrate the Québec music market. Strumming acoustic guitar plus percussion, doubled vocals and fadeout.


With percussion on left and guitar on right, "Little Me" has Silvana back in English. Weighty lows and sparse smooth meditative mood. The sound, fairly good. 


"Star" fades in, cymbal and guitar on the left; interesting beat comes in establishing a groove rich in certain complexities. Nice harmonies, doubled vocals, nice detailed acoustic guitar layers. Great change with two short chords, percs ending with a deep weighty sustained outro. One of the better sounding tracks of the album.

"Doce Meses" represents a change of rhythmic style. A faster 'hurried' tempo with a sunny calypso influence. Good balance of treble details vs lows. Another strong one for music and sound. 

After the frenzy comes the calm with "Perlas". Slowing down of tempo, muffled bass smooth groove, excellent acoustic guitar on the left, subtle reverberated oriental flute and percs. The mood is relaxing, refreshing and airy. Beautiful interplay of male and female vocals recalling Simon & Garfunkles 1966 hit "Scarborough Fair/Cantabile". Nice long fadeout. With it's great sound and superb song writing this is definitely the pearl of the album.

 

"The Mariner" is very slow and reaches down in the sub-bass region. Nice sustain and guitar a la Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here and The Wall ambience. Also in the vein of the lesser known outfit The Sonora Pine. Good sound.

The group surprises us with their version of Chicago's 1969-70 hit "25 or 6 to 4". Adam's guitar intro resembling more Led Zep's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" from their 1969 self titled debut album. Superb warm soft sound with a slightly veiled groove. My only quibble is the too short timing. Even so it's my second favourite for music and sound. Which is why I would have preferred ending the album on this high note instead of...

"La Semilla", a Spanish mid tempo ballad. It is compressed but at least has good tonal balance, though the highs sound digitized. Ends with vocals plus acoustic guitar along with percs and running water on the right.


Summing up


Instead of taking the easyway out and repeating the same winning stylistic formula like many groups do, Pacifika chose to explore a different approach on their second full length release Supermagique. This one is more dense in music (track) layers while remaining, perhaps even more so, accessible to the masses versus their debut Asunción. Which CD comes out on top, has more to do with personal tastes than any other factor. With it's rawer sound and more groove oriented rhythms as well as flamenco influences and electro overtones, I favoured quite a bit their debut album. 

As for the sound quality, it is most definitely above average. Once again, the mix is generally well balanced, same thing for the tonal balance which often goes down quite low and weighty but regrettably, the higher compression and limiting, sucks out air and dynamics, making it therefore a good notch inferior to their debut. Assuming Adam reprised his role as engineer for tracking and mixing which I believe is the case–explaining the many positive attributes noted above–one must come to the conclusion that the determining and deteriorating factor is the change of mastering engineer. In this instance, Emily Lazar & Joe Laporta at The Lodge, NYC instead of Ken Lee of Ken Lee Mastering, Oakland, CA who had done a splendid job on Asunción; unless of course it was the band's wish.

Let's hope, at least for us audiophiles, that Ken Lee will come back to the fold or that this immensely talented (augmented) trio find somebody of his calibre for the next album, perhaps even on vinyl.

Claude Lemaire/soundevaluations