Album Review | Versal Is Joyous On Debut Record Versal
Javier Valez, a.k.a. Versal, has been engrossed in music since the age of three. From then, he developed into a prodigy, mastering several instruments by his mid-teens. At nineteen, he was conducting and arranging choir performances in San Juan and making television appearances with various groups.
Although composing an album was a lifelong dream, professional and other life commitments always got in the way. Now, close to the age of 50, he has realised this dream. In his own words:
“This is my first release, and a dream long overdue for me. I have spent a lifetime involved in music, always in collaboration with others, which gave me little time to do this until now. I hope everyone enjoys this music as much as I enjoyed creating it. May all beings be happy!”
As a work, Versal has an overtly thematic-oriented style, more akin to a soundtrack than anything. The six tracks blend romance, adventure, dreaminess, epic grandiosity, and more.
The opener, ‘Eternal’, is an ethereal piano track cushioned by floating synth chords and theatrical progressions. The main piano motif is instantly unforgettable, almost as if you’re hearing a melody from a classic film close to the heart.
The progressions and instrumentation on ‘Dawn’ sound straight out of an Aztec adventure movie. Seriously, the first minute sounds like the musical undercurrent for a motivational speech given by the protagonist to his band of adventurers. Things really kick in around the two-minute mark as flamenco guitar lines add some beat and energy to the mix.
Valez’s emphasis on happiness is evident on several tracks. Most of all on ‘Carrousel’, propelled by glittery staccato strings and gentle percussion offerings. The warpy synths that crisscross whole tones to weave intricate and charming harmonies are sublime. It wouldn’t be amiss to say Valdez would make for a stellar video game composer, given the imagination and otherworldly nature of his pieces.
The grandiosity reaches a peak on ‘All Together’, a heavily charged and triumphant sounding piece with booming brass and sweeping string arpeggios.
Closing on a darker edge is ‘El Camino a Montserrat’. Valdez makes use of some intense modulations, amplified by well-directed dynamics, to ramp up the drama. However, a slight criticism concerns the arpeggiated woodwind lines in the background, which feel a tad out of place and redundant at points.
Brimming with creativity, Valdez’s work is not your average release. This is music made by a composer for other composers in a lot of ways, but anyone with a penchant for fantasy will be undoubtedly pleased.