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Paradise Cove is a psychedelic hellscape. Written by Misha Panvilov and Shawn Lee, this is the most experimental piece of music I’ve ever listened to. It literally doesn’t have a genre; Apple Music puts it under the Latin category, but that’s just one of the dozens of influences it draws from.
A completely instrumental album, Paradise Cove, to me, tells the story of bravely wandering the ancient rainforests and jungles unfamiliar to western society, all in search of Paradise Cove itself: Eden on Earth. With 12 songs, but clocking in at only 36 minutes, this album is a must-listen for anyone who wants to expand their taste, have the weirdest music playing while doing laundry, or experience an actual drug trip in the form of music.
The album opens up with “Deep Sea Oddities,” possibly the tamest track on the record. With echoes and reverbs really making the listener feel underwater, not dissimilar to “Ocean Man,” ethereal and otherworldly ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’ can be heard in the background — one of the two cases of human voices we actually hear on the album. The song then transitions into an acoustic, vaguely Mexicana bridge, before merging into the second song, “Volkswagenesque,” a title that, like the rest of the album, makes no sense whatsoever.
“Volkswagenesque” brings the energy up from a dreamy, underwater beach, instituting a repetitive, marching bassline and drums. This is juxtaposed after the intro by the same, higher-pitched and lazy guitars as before, a guitar section I like to call the highs. Synths join in to create a wavy pool of sound, with the lead guitar sounding like it’s just taking a stroll on its notes; it has no particular plan or direction, and only plays when it wants to. This is suddenly interrupted by the second guitar section, one I’ve nicknamed the Santana’s for their resemblance to the all-time great’s music. These lower and mid-pitched guitars come off as aggressive, but don’t clash, instead harmonizing with the lush beauty of the sounds up until that point. As the song fades, the cloudy synths slowly get louder and overtake everything else, ending in a sort of ‘anti’ fade out for the song.
Next up is “Camel Sands,” a title very fitting for its mood. Led by an acoustic guitar, sounding like an echo from a desert, soft ‘Santana’ guitars and twinkly synths come in to fill the void, creating a soft and comforting impression. The melody is windy, almost like a snake, signifying a winding, curvy road the listeners have to follow to the end. The percussion slowly gets stronger, with the introduction of maracas being the main snare, and a soft electric piano to finish the job.
This is where the clam ends, though, as the next song, “Teledisko,” starts off with more of an EDM or House theme than anything else — electronic and rough basses repeating like a club from a distance. It sets the energy; this is one of the first high-tempo songs, and one meant for dancing. Even as the EDM bass quickly disappears, the rest of the instruments fill the void perfectly; the drum beat sounding hip-hop influenced, a jazzy acoustic bassline, and a chill, playful guitar riff to go along to some dancing and sparkling synths just barely detectable. The midpart is where the dance has its swan song, though, as, with a sudden twang of a gong, everything goes absolutely silent. The hip-hop drums quickly come back into fill, but nothing else. The tension is building. Then, with one ripped note from the acoustic base, the guitars return, along with a synth sounding like a chime or xylophone going off all at once. A man’s voice is also barely audible — a deep voice with a coarse and mischievous laugh — a laugh I immediately thought as coming from the devil himself. Synth pads rise and the gong joins the rest of the percussion, but tension is building once again: then, the second chorus. Every newly-introduced instrument has been added, with a duck-sounding call thrown in the back for good measure. The bridge is otherworldly, though. It immediately changes to a quiet backing band, with a solo from some instrument I can only describe as sounding like a mash between an otamatone, melodica, and a children’s toy keyboard from the 90s. It works though! The melody of the solo is clearly club and Hip-Hop influenced, with its notes resembling the scratching and improv a DJ would do while spinning records. It’s my favorite part of the album by far, and makes you want to dance just out of the absurdity of it all.
Remember when I mentioned “Ocean Man” earlier? This next song, “Aquaria,” is an exact spin of that. You could replace this song with “Ocean Man” at the end of the Spongebob Squarepants Movie and no one would notice. The guitar chords sound like a surfer strumming on the beach; the backing synth sounds exactly like bubbles popping, with mumbles of a melody, almost as if it’s all improv. A small guitar solo takes the first verse, but the magic is in the second. That entire section is a church organ solo, and ends with an insane amount of tension, playing a singular note for what feels like eternity. There’s nothing quite like it; the feeling is like a physical and spiritual journey, and, at this point, you’ve gotten to a resting point, and can relax in the clear, calm waters of a reservoir. A ‘Santana’ guitar breaks that tension and leads into the last chorus, but just d—mn, it was an experience.
At the halfway point we have “Miles Away,” beginning with a tribal sounding drum beat — not even Latin, but African-sounding in nature. Slowly, more stick hits and snares are added, with a soft guitar riff being the only non-rhythm instrument. After eternity ends, the introspection and mysticism starts. A guitar and synth, both heavily flanged, begin harmonizing, and their melody tells a story every human of past and future can relate to. The instruments sing of sitting by a campfire, looking up at the stars, pondering the universe, pondering existence. It’s a musical representation of our lack of knowledge, our consciousness, and must have been what our ancestors millions of years ago felt while looking up into the Milky Way.
With this deep talk out of the way, the next track is the most hardcore of the album! “Belt Buckle” starts with heavily-beaten drums, guitars sounding like they’re arguing with each other, but still with the winding synth guiding us down this curved, endless road in the jungle. Background synths portray alien-like sounds and samples, confusing and disorienting the listener even more. Then, once more, most instruments fade away, leading to, arguably, the only ‘lyrics’ of the album. A man and woman suddenly jump, screaming “BELT BUCKLE” repeatedly. They sound British, and are reminiscent of the original British Punk music scene, as the music becomes more distorted with each chant. After they finish, the chorus does drive an octave, but suddenly ends.
This leads to one of the most mysterious and awe-inspiring songs, “Sympathy for the Devil.” The drums are simple and echo-y, almost hypnotic or mesmerizing in nature. What sounds like a melodica starts the song, playing the most winding, twisting notes I could imagine, reinforcing that we, as listeners, are still wandering around in circles in uncharted territory. One of the highs guitars adds a bit of a backdrop, and cymbals are added, but the second chorus reasserts itself as the motif, harmonizing the melodica an octave up to sound almost like a snake charmer — an untrustworthy figure, but who the others have no other option but to follow down this road, intentions unknown. The outro brings back all of these instruments, with another hint of an alien-sounding synth.
Nearing the end is “Gyroplane,” which is probably the most accessible to the mainstream, or those who dislike experimental music. The guitar riff is catchy and radio-ready right off the bat, and it leads into an echo-y cave verse with soft, soothing synths while a person’s voice goes on to sing “ahhhhh’s.” Distortion grows as the song progresses, but not enough to annoy a typical listener. It gives the impression of exploring a new cave, and the wonder of ‘discovering’ a part of earth.
Following is the only song I can accurately classify as Latin for a genre: “Freaky Tiki Cafe.” Calling it Latin is still a stretch. It’s obviously Hawaiian-themed, but uses more traditional-sounding Latin drums and melody. It’s another upbeat song in the album’s sea of ambiguity, and, to me, represents the nearing of the end of the listeners/characters trip, giving them a chance to celebrate. One of the only other human vocals on this album is here: a man shouting “WHOOO!” as if getting a little too excited at a party. It has the atmosphere of festivities, where all differences are put aside in the name of fun, socializing, dancing, and maybe a few drinks, all led by the cheers of partygoers, a groovy high guitar, and Latin percussion.
Finally, the penultimate: “Sigmund Jahn Bossa.” Another more commercial song, its guitar throughout the chorus gives the perfect vibe of relaxation while still providing a lot of energy. This seems to be the thesis of this song, as, while the musicians are way into it and jamming their hearts out, with heavy rock influence, it also signifies the transition to the outro — the end of the journey. The listeners just celebrated nearing the end in the previous song, and now, while still happy, need to make it to the home stretch, which all pays off in “Voodoo You Love.” Filled with a content sort of happiness, it feels like they got to their destination, with allusions to snakes hissing in the background like the twisting trail they were on, but all is well, and the story has its happy ending. The most interesting point of this song, though, is actually its instrument choice — again being experimental by making the melody of the song, and especially the chorus, play entirely off of a xylophone. The lower end notes could be mistaken as another instrument in the verse, but the chorus takes it to its highest octave, putting specific emphasis on its use; in my opinion, saying no beach party by the cove would be complete without some cool, hippie instruments — like a xylophone, for instance.
Paradise Cove was incredible. I’m personally not the biggest fan of instrumental albums, but this truly blew me away. I still don’t understand why this is categorized as Latin for genre; this thing literally breaks all boundaries. Even if you don’t like instrumental or experimental music, give a few songs a try, at least; the cool, laid-back vibes make individual songs for hanging out with friends in a dorm or even just doing chores. I’d have to give this a 9.2/10, at least; it’s truly stunning. For the less musically-inclined out there, maybe try listening to “Gyroplane” and “Sigmund Jahn Bossa.” For those more curious, I’d suggest giving “Deep Sea Oddities,” “Aquaria.” and “Miles Away” a listen.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Misha Panfilov Sound Combo – Bandcamp