All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Carrie Armitage - Mind Trips

Carrie Armitage - Mind Trips
2010, Carrie Armitage

Toronto’s Carrie Armitage is a singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and sound designer born into music.  Her parents founded Toronto’s long-running Armitage Music School and performed professionally well into their seventies.  Carrie Armitage grew up seeing her parents integrate teaching, performance and family life, and grew to want that mix of creation, glamour and simplicity.  Today Armitage is clearly following in her parents’ footsteps, creating a blend of folk, Electronica, pop and world music that shows great promise.  Mind Trips, one of three albums Carrie Armitage has released in 2010, is a digital-only affair consisting of eight instrumental folktronica experimentations that show promise and limitation intertwined.

Mind Trips opens with "Mind Trip 1", beginning with a spacey feel that quickly resolves into a repetitious mash of synthesizer and synth-generated piano and dulcimer with electronic beats.  It's a cold start to the album, with Armitage exploring a post-modern Windham Hill sound but failing to capture the warmth of a George Winston or Michael Hedges.  You might almost hypothesize an alternative title such as 'Daydream For An Automaton' here.  "Mind Trip 2" is textured and dreamy with a synth-rock feel that's part new age and part Howard Jones.  Armitage gets a bit stuck in her own loops but there's a sort of kitschy good nature to the song that is appealing.  "Mind Trip 3" has an ethereal trance feel, while the piano serves as a focal point for construction rather than providing a traditional melody.  In jam rock this is called noodling; here it works on a limited basis.

"Mind Trip 4" alternates between cascading synth runs and meticulous, low-key machine-like musical constructs.  "Mind Trip 4" feels a bit disjointed but has its own charm; mellow ear candy that's not overly complex but aesthetically catchy.  "Mind Trip 5" is a bit of musical bread and circus.  Less complex that it initially sounds, Armitage mixes glockenspiel, synth, piano, guitar and ethereal shading in a new age/house blend.  The treble choral samples of "Agnus Dei" are repetitive and tangential, but would work if it weren't for the poor mixing that results in an audible hum stop at the vocal samples are cut off.

"Mind Trip 6" plays like a reverb-laden musical painting of a nature scene.  In that what may be Armitage's most ambitious and successful cut on the album, she manages to create transitory images and movement that are palpable.  "Mind Trip 7" brings a slightly more aggressive (relatively speaking) approach on the piano, implying the passing of time or great events.  There's little in the way of aesthetics here, but Armitage clearly seems to be painting more than a single image in the notes and chords.  Mind Trips closes with "Mind Trip 8", a repetitive and monotonous bow that's an unfortunately epilogue to an album that was really starting to take flight.

Carrie Armitage starts off slowly but builds the tension and character of her compositions on Mind Trips.  While occasionally getting stuck in her own repetitive musical traps, Armitage nevertheless manages to inspire imagination, movement and image in her new age/Electronica blend.  Armitage really hits her stride toward the end of the album, but closes anti-climactically, leaving you wondering if it was all a dream.  In spite of writing in the crevice between new age and Electronica, Armitage constructs her songs according to the traditional formats used in pop/rock music, locking herself into repetitive loops that dull the listener's appetite after a while.  But listening to "Mind Trips" you can tell there is more there beneath the surface, waiting to be freed from the moorings.  If Armitage can unlock that door the mind trips are only going to get better.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5) 

Learn more about Carrie Armitage at or Trips is available as a free download if you purchase either of Armitage's other two albums from CDBaby.

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