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The artist known as James D. Stark is a classically trained pianist and started creating music several years ago.  His first release in 2002 was an instrumental trance-filled album Transcendence that explored several different styles.  But then in 2004 he switched styles and dove into the world of darkwave and synthpop for the release of Fortress of Solitude.  This was followed by the maxi-CD Dying Beauty containing several remixes and an exclusive b-side track.  All of these releases were written, sung, produced and engineered by the artist himself portraying his many talents.  He continued to work refining his style and put together a new album in 2007 titled Music of the Night.  In addition to the studio work and these albums he has also done a number of live performances which include sharing the stage with the likes of Bella Morte, Hungry Lucy, ThouShaltNot, The Last Dance and also at the annual A Different Drum synthpop festival in Salt Lake City.

The music of James D. Stark spans the boundaries of trance, ethereal, synthpop and darkwave.  However, the boundaries are well defined on each album.  His sophomore work and maxi delved right into the heart of the structured synthpop world of electronics, smooth vocals and clear melodies.  Obvious influences seem to include Depeche Mode since a cover of "Halo" appears on Fortress of Solitude.  There are other similar 80's and 90's synthpop styles like Camouflage and De/Vision.  His latest work Music of the Night settles into a pattern of slow electronic ballad-like tracks.  So fans of this style and the previously mentioned groups and similar bands should enjoy this music from this artist.

Check out selections on both radio shows for a taste of what you can enjoy.  Also check out the official website for links to news, bio, gallery and even some online games.

Music of the Night - Review

I was very pleased to get this new album and anxious to see what we would be presented, if any interesting new twists would be present or if the sound had matured at all. What we have is a solid refinement of the pulsating, synth-filled, emotional ballads.  There's not really much here that you would hear at a dance club, but more a great album that you can just sit down and listen to from start to finish and really be pleased with what you hear.  It's soothing, yet moving with powerful beats and the throbbing electronics providing a backdrop to the soothing vocals.

The album starts off immediately with this pulsating rhythm, slowly but steadily moving along with "Ready" and then giving way to "Prisoner".  Each of these two pieces have quickly become favorites with the heavy bassline and nice beats that stand out so well against the musical backdrop and smooth vocals.  The album continues to move along in much the same style pausing only for the ambient interlude "Snowfall" which is a sweet, dreamy break from the slow beats.  After this short break we're right back into the thick of things with another favorite piece "Hell" with powerful angst-ridden vocals moved along with some of the best throbbing synths and percussion I've heard in quite a while.

The album winds down after a quick upbeat piece "Unbreakable" and then one beautiful piece after another with "Savior", "Victoria" which is another great piece and finally ending the album with "Bitter End".  With that we're to the end of another great album.  I highly commend James for the work put into this album, the synths and slowly pulsating beats are excellent and I think this is a style that fans will enjoy and that comes together well for him.

Rating: 4/5

Dying Beauty - Review

This is the first single from Fortress of Solitude. It includes seven different mixes of the title track including everything from the solid slow beats, trance-like club-friendly rhythms and a smooth piano version.

After the original album version with it's pulsing rhythms and slow, steady beat we're presented with the "Martin Atkins" remix which sounds a lot like what Berlin might come up with in the 80's or some of the modern electro-clash artists with all of the analog synths loops.  This gives way to the "Winterstahl" remix with is a fast-paced trance beat.  While it creates a fast-paced track, it just doesn't seem to mix well, the vocals, the fast beats, etc.  Assemblage 23 even provides a remix that I never really expected.  I usually really enjoy the dance-friendly remixes that Tom Shear puts together, the mix of break-beats just doesn't seem to work well.

Apart from all of these remixes, the b-side track is an excellent addition to this disc.  In my opinion, besides the album version of "Dying Beauty", it's really the best part of the maxi.  "Aidra" is this extra track and sports a solid synth-line with a dance-friendly beat and solid elements of the 80's new wave scene.  The finale of this CD is a sweet piano version, delving almost into the ethereal vein with a sweet neo-classical side.

With eight tracks total, it's a nice maxi with definitely one of the best selections from the album.  It's a fairly decent collection of remixes that DJ's and fans should enjoy but probably not something you would listen to all in one sitting.

Rating: 3/5

Fortress of Solitude - Review

Not being familiar with the previous release by this artist, I had no idea really what to expect except what I had read or heard from others. So I popped the CD into my player and sat back ready to listen.

What I heard on this album was pleasantly surprising from the first slow pulsing rhythms of "Dying Beauty".  The smooth vocals relate each meaningful phrase as the layered electronics and slow beats provide a slow-moving rhythmic background.  This gives way to more of the slow moving electronics as an intro to "Need", but this quickly builds up to a fast-paced steady and dance-friendly synthpop tracks.  Through these and the next few tracks, the dynamic nature of this artist comes out.

The two-minute interlude "A Long Time Ago, In A Land Far Away" is a sweet piano piece and gives way to more of the modern slow synth tracks "Chance" and the popular cover of Depeche Mode's "Halo".  I was impressed with this cover, while so many artists do covers and add their own styles to the track, this cover shows how despite the slightly minimalistic elements in most of the other tracks, the full body and dynamics are possible.

As the album winds down, so does the tempo and intensity of the album as we drift through several ballad-like tracks.  "Home" stands out as the diiferent piece with the fast-paced rhythms and more up-beat electronics.  But the finale to the album "King" is truly unique with the fun poetic piece with piano as the solo instrument.  It's a great way to wrap up the album after ten nice tracks.

Rating: 3.5/5


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