(Austin Weber reviews a new release by guitar wizard Felix Martin.)
Recently when I wrote a review for a Felix Martin concert here at NCS, I didn’t get to talk about one of the most important things that happened that night. After Felix Martin and his band finished their set I went to inquire about merch and talk with them. When I asked Kilian Duarte, their bass player, just what was in this new CD called The Human Transcription that I hadn’t heard yet, he told me it was inspired by the last Blotted Science EP. I knew then that I had to buy it. Little did I know just how amazing it would be.
To introduce the concept, here is an important explanation of it that I am quoting from Felix Martin’s website:
“The Main concept of The Human Transcription is to extract the music that comes from spoken words, in this case, speeches in different languages. In other words, to notate the natural human speaking voice into music notation, and then arrange it to the musical instruments.”
Using the speeches of famous political and historical figures, Felix wanted to showcase the musicality hidden in our day-to-day language in a way that very few have ever attempted to undertake.
“There are eight different languages spoken on this project, each of them by a well known character from its region. The characters were chosen by the language type and how interesting the mood of the speech was to showcase vocal dynamics. For example; slow-lyrical Italian, fast Arabic, screaming/angry German, theatrical old English accent, call and response in Swedish, and very enthusiastic/emphatic Korean.”
The Human Transcription features some of the best young musicians in progressive music today. Contributing all of the drumming apart from the final track (Vitaliy Minyaylo appears on that one) is Philip V. Galatioto, a young virtuoso based in Los Angeles, California and the main drummer for Felix. On bass, the album displays the talents of the Kilian Duarte (Felix’s’ main bassist), Nathan Navarro, and Ali Tovar to bring the compositions to life in a way that only a handful of musicians would be capable of handling.
The Human Transcription will be a YouTube exclusive consisting of eight videos released one at a time, each one devoted to a different character. The videos will showcase the players as they recorded their parts in the studio, along with the original speech footage, giving listeners an in-depth look into the making of the album.
Having played it quite a bit, I can tell you that the album is very interesting and truly does bring gorgeous music out of the speeches the band chose to sample. One of the more interesting aspects of the music are the fascinating rhythms that the band came up with as connective tissue between pauses in the words being spoken. Since the music mirrors the words in their flow and structure, some tracks sound very spastic and tremendously dense while others come across more like traditional fluid music with easier-to-follow, graceful rhythms.
Whether it was intentional or not, I find it fascinating that the album has tracks that sync up to speeches by notorious dictators (e.g., “Hitler” and “Mussolini”), because they were using words as divisive weapons in an evil way, and yet somehow Felix Martin and crew have made something beautiful from their ugliness. At first it can be kind of jarring, but once you take in everything that The Human Transcription has to offer, you’ll probably agree with me that it’s fascinating music.
Currently, the band has released only five of the nine song videos, which by the way, feature a four-panel, four-instrument playthrough inside the video of the speech being adapted to music. For those who haven’t heard the project, stay tuned to the Felix Martin Facebook page and or YouTube page to stay on top of the new videos/songs that will be coming out. Or if you want to hear all of it now, you can buy a digital copy here: