Reel to Reelby Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Shawn Lee is nothing if not prolific. His Ping Pong Orchestra made their mark by creating scads of library music tracks of all stripes, usually organized around themes from classical to Christmas, from exotica to psych, and beyond. 2011's World of Funk, for example, featured the Ping Pong Orchestra exploring nasty breakbeat grooves through a variety of world music traditions, with a host of collaborators including Elliot Bergman, Stuart Bogie,and vocalists Natacha Atlas, Curumin, and Dengue Fever's Chhom Nimol. Of course, that's only one part of Lee's identity; the other is creating theme-related collaborations with other musicians such as Celestial Electric with AM, Into the Wind with Chinese classical musician Bei Bei, and his vocal album, Sing A Song, which utilized a host of singers to create a tapestry of sounds where '60s-era sunshine pop met soul vintage to the future. Reel to Reel is a return to Ping Pong Orchestra basics; it takes its cues from its early offerings à la the two Ubiquity Studio Sessions volumes. It is library music pure and simple, with many shades, textures, colors, and moods; the kind of stuff producers and DJs love to sample. As is his wont, Lee played (or sampled) most things here himself -- he is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, after all -- with the exception of horns on one cut and woodwinds on another. Familiar themes are captured in the guitar, drum, and synth blasts of "Biker Chick," film noir in "Spy Seduction," blaxploitation soundtracks on the corny "Definition of Funk," deep drum funk on "Boomwhack," suspenseful action film segments in "Soho Chase," "Daytime Robbery," and "Mirror Mirror," softcore themes in "Well Hung," atmospheric, percussion-laden jazz-funk in "Rocks on Rocks," and even a tribute to the spaghetti westerns scored by Ennio Morricone in the beautiful closer "Song for Ennio." That said, while Reel to Reel is a pleasant, often engaging listen, it's not an essential one. Maybe it's because Lee's so good at this stuff, and has set the bar so high, that no matter how hard this music may or may not be to create, he's made his library sounds feel like they are his sidelines rather than his passion.
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