Review Roundup: Qualia – “Kaleidoscopes” – 79%, “Resonance” – 86% and “Ambient Improvisations” – 77%

In today’s review round up we take a look at Qualia’s latest offerings. With these releases, Qualia has now put out six albums this year! Quite an impressive amount of content.

Kaleidoscopes cover art

QualiaKaleidoscopes79%

The one man project from Cambs, UK has had quite the 2012 producing 6 albums worth of content. While the project tends to be on the lighter side, ‘Kaleidoscopes‘ does bring loud and sweeping distortion guitar to Qualia‘s music. At four tracks and 33 minutes long, this album falls fairly easy into the standard third wave category. Long ambient passages and strong build ups help characterize the album. At nearly 13 minutes, Track 3 is by far the best work on the album with the beautiful ambient picture it paints through the use of fantastic guitar tones that are as brilliantly layered as they are beautiful.

On the down side, the same problems I spoke about three months ago when I reviewed Qualia‘s earlier work still persist in this release. ‘Kaleidoscopes‘ is plagued by Muddy distortion guitar that lacks equalization, awkward transitions and audio anomalies (pops) can be heard when listening to the album with quality hi-fi gear. Still these issues won’t keep me from excluding Qualia from my post-rock catalog. 11-5-12

Resonance cover art

QualiaResonance86%

Resonance‘ is without question my favorite Qualia release. The 5-track 39 minute album is shrouded in a mist of peace and harmony. The piano work is elegant and brilliant and the guitar work is complimentary and relaxing. Although there are heavy spots and distorted guitar to be found here, the transitions between the lighter and heavier areas are much better and I don’t really find the heavy areas detracting from the lighter work. ‘Resonance’ is the perfect album to drift off to, and I’ve done just that on numerous occasions. Earlier this year I said that I preferred Qualia‘s heavier stuff to their lighter work but after this album I’m going to flip-flop on my opinion like a politician. Qualia‘s softer work is far more refined and sounds far more natural than their heavier segments. This is THE Qualia album to check out if you’re just going to check out one. 11-5-12

Ambient Improvisations cover art
QualiaAmbient Improvisations77%

‘Ambient Improvisations’ is over an hour of Qualia material across seven tracks. “I” is a hypnotic little number that sees ear-piercingly high synths work their way into the track near the end. “II” is an acoustic number that has subtle hints of folk-rock worked into it. Again overpowering synths overtake the beauty of the track in almost a drone like and very unpleasant approach. “III” is a much darker track that also leans more on the soft drone side but the primary difference is this is drone done right and proper. “IV” is a piano driven ambient track that brings a certain amount of depth and somber emotion to the table, at least in my interpretation. The spirally guitar work at the end is really quite nice. “V” features some of the best guitar work on the album and builds naturally in its entirety. “VI” is the first track to really get loud through the use of distortion guitar, although it is purposely ratcheted back in the mix and feels like a full sound than it does a loud sound.  Finally there is “VII” which is a dense and spacey track that feels by far the most explorative on the album.

Overall I like the album, but there is some questionable decision making. I really felt like the synths in the first two tracks were so overpowering and unreasonably high that they outright ruined the tracks while they were present. Other than that, the rest of the album is decent and even though a bit long, worth the listen. 11-5-12