Back in college, I had a roommate that was a classical music major. When he wasn't too busy smoking pot and doing Level 1 runs of Final Fantasy VIII, he was practicing his violin. But he was more than just a classical violinist, he also loved rock (particularly metal). He was in a speed metal band, and I always struggled to reconcile the beautiful music he could play with his violin and the loud dissonance he loved even more as a metal musician. But one day I got it: technical proficiency. Metal is perhaps the most technical of rock genres (barring prog) and you can't study classical music at the collegiate level without having a deep mastery of not just your instrument but the building blocks of music itself. And on his rock LP, Play Human
, classical cellist (Juilliard trained) Noah Hoffeld
shifts those building blocks of rock into his own experimental and string-fueled image.
We have the premiere of Play Human
, and it's a record that defies simple categorization though familiar sonic touchstones are there for those willing to dive into the rich textures of the record. There's a little bit of David Bowie's 'Berlin' Trilogy (particularly Low
) in the sweeping, cinematic use of strings as a counterpoint to the wall of sound production (though I use that phrase in an intentionally minimalist sense). There are hints of the avant-garde 70s rock of Electric Light Orchestra in the twisting and churning of Hoffeld's vocal melodies. Hoffeld utilizes modern production flourishes to create a rich sonic soundscape to lose yourself in.
But that guessing game of "where does Noah's unique sound come from" is meaningless if the songs aren't good. Fortunately, they're very good. "Role of Rock" is the most propulsive track on the record and it's also where Noah's background as a classical musician shows itself the most. It is a track with genuine movements and a sense of the building and releasing of tension. Other tracks like album opener "Play Human" turn Hoffeld's strings into futuristic reverbed buzzes of sound without sacrificing tightness of melody and composition.
is available August 5th. It is available for pre-order here