03 March 2019 (released)
09 May 2019
At the end of the last century, New Age music seemed to have pretty much run its course. It had flirted with the mainstream guided by a few leaders of the genre. A handful of hits gained widespread renown in the 80s and 90s but by the mid-aughts, it had largely been relegated to crystal shops and your mom's “Me time” collection. However, there was a vastly untapped market on the verge of exploding that would put New Age music in the earholes of the most unlikely of candidates: teenage boys.
With the massive rise of video games over the last two decades, particularly of the role-playing variety, this tenuously held together mix of synthy ambience and medieval court cadences has had a huge resurgence. Video games are big business and nearly every menu, interactive map and playing environment have a version of New Age music serving as its background. Whether intentional or not, it seems like no surprise that moonlighting CG artist and programmer Versal has composed an album that feels right at home in a virtual world. The musical prodigy took strongly to music at a young age and had a firm grasp on eight different instruments by the end of his second decade alive. The San Juan native, now based in Houston, has released his debut self-titled album the culmination of his years as a composer, arranger and conductor.
'Versal' opens welcomingly with a soft swell of airy synth and a catchy piano hook strongly invoking a child-like wonder. Choral aahs further lift the lofty piece. Rolling and tumbling lines effortlessly flow from the main theme in majestic sprawls. The view of a great land from the clouds above. 'Flamenco en Culebra' evolves from a lazy flute and guitar intro to a spirited waltz with swaying strings leading the dance. Versal's delicate 'Dawn' does its best to unseat Edvard Grieg's early a.m. classic 'Morning Mood' with flutes echoing the flutter of birds. Synth pads take the place of warm underpinning strings. Chimes and other pattering percussion personify all the woods creatures stirring at first light. The closer 'El Camino a Montserrat' closes the album on a darker sombre note. Strings hint at strife, adversity and the crazy circumstances of an adventure. A quest perhaps.
Versal's debut is no first step. It shows Versal quite in command of his vision. The passages are perfectly crafted to help the listener visualize a time and place far away.