Label head, DJ, producer, artist and all round tastemaker Erol Alkan teams up with fellow longtime music creator, DJ, remixer, producer, sound engineer and collaborator Richard Norris, as the pair embrace their moniker – Beyond The Wizards Sleeve. Released through Erol’s own label, Phantasy and overflowing with a bucket full of mind altering music, is their fantastic debut record – The Soft Bounce. The record is a total voyage through sound, much attributed to the way both Alkan and Norris conduct their musical creativity, vision, and artistry, respectively.
The record is animated with a mastery one would expect from producers of their combined calibre – setting a heightened sonic standard that many aspire to reach. The consideration and level of quality in production is made well-known from the first moments in the record’s opening track, Delicious Light – as it is repositioned slowly through emotionally dampening vocals and refined instrumentation. There are elements of punk, indie, and electronica as a crescendo of atmospheric beauty is unleashed – delivering a bold statement of what we’re to expect from the rest of the album. The Soft Bounce sees the pair embrace their songwriting and musician qualities to a satisfying and triumphant result. Armed with an effervescent talent arsenal, Alkan and Norris have no shortage of worthy musical contributors on the record as guest appearances include Blaine Harrison (Mystery Jets), Jane Weaver, Holly Miranda, Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) and Hannah Peel. Difficult to place in a single genre box, the record is instead a contemporary journey through unfamiliar yet essential creative territories. Alternative vocals heard throughout the record makes for a series of varying avenues of refreshing sorts. The sultry, light and dusty vocals eased through on the track Creation, hypnotise the palette as Balearic instrumentation and quick jazzy-esque drumming lift the elements of a feathery synth accompaniment. Wordless hooks express the tracks hidden and unsure beauty – crowning it a sure standout on the album. Expressing the true nature of the ability for Alkan and Norris to appeal to many senses, is the direction taken on the brit-rock psychedelic gem, Door To Tomorrow. Reminiscent of work by early Pink Floyd or Beatles output, the songwriting and production in this track generates a heap of genuine and charming pleasures. The record does a great job of being distinctively different with every track. Each song carries with it an advanced and different set of original and potent ideas – so as to intentionally set them aside from any assumptions one might make. This is perfectly experienced in the track Tomorrow, Forever as all elements of time and space are forgotten in a seven-minute ambient psychological trip. Soft synths and faint vocals transcend over feelings of sadness and joy, grasping to an inescapable and beautiful weightlessness. The end of the track brings with it an overwhelming feeling of rebirth and a deep sense of achievement.
Fundamentally, The Soft Bounce is a breathtaking gift of creativity and a musical treat of many colours and flavours. Beyond The Wizards Sleeve have managed to deliver a decadent platter of polished ideas with scintillating detail. Radiant, intense and subtle at moments – the recorded results on this album are simply amazing and done so with expert articulation and complete musical thoughtfulness. Take the journey from beginning to end.