Gospel choirs, haunting organs and dark 1980s synthesizers meld seamlessly on Swedish DJ Steve Angello's 21-track magnum opus, Human.
As one-third of the recently reunited Swedish House Mafia, he is no stranger to floor-filling bangers, but this solo work is very much a passion project that is the antithesis to feel-good electronic dance music numbers. Instead, you see his vulnerable side on this concept album, one in which he finds God.
In fact, the album came after one year of soul searching by the producer, who says he "lost himself".
Album-opener Rejoice features an impassioned sermon by pastor T.D. Jakes over dramatic organs interspersed with thumping electronic beats.
The divine inspiration is again apparent in tracks such as Glory - a battle between light and dark, with dramatic shifts between pitched-up choral vocals and a driving bassline. Lord is a gritty electro number with syncopated beats that harkens back to Angello's early production from the early 2000s, while God is the sort of dramatic, atmospheric track that would work in a reboot of The Dark Knight movies.
Yet, Angello's commercial sensibilities are not entirely lost. While they are not smash hits made for festivals, singles such as Breaking Kind and Flashing Lights are meant to reel Swedish House Mafia fans in.
Either way, his versatility and vulnerability are showcased on the record, which he closes with the dramatic and inspiring Nothing Scares Me Anymore.
QUELLA FIAMMA: ARIA ANTICHE
with Orfeo 55
Whenever the subject of "aria antiche" comes up, one invariably thinks of old Italian songs in singing lessons watched over by crusty teachers of a didactic bent.
French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann completely dispels that notion, breathing fresh air into 19th-century voice pedagogue Alessandro Parisotti's collections of "teaching" songs.
Seeking out the original contexts of 17 such songs - some from operas, cantatas and others as stand-alone arias, Stutzmann has produced breathtaking results.
In Francesco Conti's cantata Doppo Tante E Tante Pene (After So Much Suffering), from which the titular aria Quella Fiamma (The Fire That Burns Me) arises, one is immediately in awe of Stutzmann's agility and outsized vocal range, especially in the low registers.
Handel's Ah! Mio Cor, Schernito Sei (Oh, My Heart, You Are Scorned) from Alcina simply sizzles from the depth of emotion displayed. Also, enjoy the variety provided by composers such as Scarlatti, Bononcini, Cesti, Caccini and Carissimi.
There are also familiar favourites: Martini's Plaisir D'Amour (Pleasures Of Love, sung in French), Paisiello's Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento (I No Longer Feel In My Heart) and Se Tu M'Ami (If You Love Me), once thought to be by Pergolesi, but now attributed to Parisotti.
Purely orchestral pieces, also conducted by Stutzmann, add to the immense pleasure of this outstanding recital disc.
Chang Tou Liang