Listen to the album while you read:
Woody Allen, aka ‘Etherwood’, is an artist that emerged on Hospital Records’ sister label, ‘Med School’, a few years ago. Allen started to creep into the ears of Drum & Bass fans when his first solo releases featured on Hospital Records and Med School’s compilation albums in late 2012 and early 2013.
Etherwood released his highly anticipated, self-titled, debut album in November 2013, which saw the producer reap what he sowed by picking up the award for “Best Newcomer DJ” and “Best Newcomer Producer” at the 2013 D&B Arena awards.
Ever since then Etherwood has been dubbed by many as “one of the most promising young talents in the scene today”. But with the release of ‘Blue Leaves’, Woody Allen may have just staked a claim as one of the most talented breakthrough artists, not just in the tight knit world of Drum & Bass, but also in the entirety of electronic music.
‘Souvenirs’ serves as a beautiful, and promising, start to Woody Allen’s new album. The uplifting piano chord progression and heart-warming strings make for a subtle, yet powerful, track made even stronger by the immediately apparent vocal talents of Zara Kershaw.
The lyrics heard here seem fitting of the mood created by Etherwood as Kershaw sings “one day I’ll bring you something more, than just these souvenirs”, which connotes an ode to long distance relationships – full of promise and the lust for something a little more. This track can be used as the ‘crystal ball’ for which you can use to peak into the depths of the rest of the album.
As ‘Blue Leaves’ progresses, Etherwood explores a variety of different styles of Drum & Bass; from more minimal tracks such as ‘Caption’, to straight up ‘bangers’ like ‘Souls Rejoined’, which features elements of Jungle and rave. Allen also makes time for other genres as he tries his hand at Future Garage, with a style reminiscent of ‘Phaeleh’, on his track ‘Breathe It In’, which features a syncopated and jittery drum pattern. His time paid off. Allen even presents the listener with a moving spoken word piece with Vinny Ferraro, dubbed ‘Under the Surface’.
Furthermore, as if to show off his dynamic musicianship, Allen wraps up the album with a stripped back classical piece, ‘The Last Hour’, which is littered with intimate, Jon Hopkins-esque found sound; what with floorboards creaking and the like.
Although the tracks throughout the album vary in style, they are all tied together by the same vibe. Soft and airy layers of sound flow seamlessly as the seconds pass by. Uplifting strings and memorable chord progressions, often played by the piano, a timeless instrument, are carried forward by each drum break. The wisely selected vocalists who feature throughout are also worth noting. Each vocal compliments the album beautifully, and they are as diverse as the tracks they feature on.
In a nutshell ‘Blue Leaves’ is an emotional and delicate album bathed in reverb, held together by sturdy drums and a belly warming bass-line. In some ways the album appears simple in terms of instrumentation, and yet it remains awe inspiring and full sounding. Finding something so elegant, honest and moving at the same time can be very hard to come by – especially in today’s saturated world of music.
In a world where many electronic artists are intimidated by entire albums, for a variety of reasons, this release shows how beautiful they can be when approached with a fistful of talent, creativity and a sprinkle of bravery.
Woody Allen’s music is of the kind that takes you to another world. As a relatively new artist still, Etherwood is but only a well-respected prince of Drum & Bass. However ‘Blue Leaves’ is Allen’s jewel to the crown forged from his previous works and placed upon his head by his peers and fans. He may not be king, but there is no doubt that he can establish himself as a prominent, and highly regarded, figure within the scene; all in due time.