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Though it's not part of the made-for-soundtrack Strings and Things: Ubiquity Studio Sessions three-part series that Shawn Lee and his "Ping Pong Orchestra" issued, there's still a lot about Voices and Choices that resembles a film score, from the Mission Impossible bass-and-vocal line of "Changing Times" to the blaxpoitation keyboard in "Tense Bossa" to the Ennio Morricone chord changes of "JW." Lee is a gifted composer and musician, playing everything on the record except the woodwinds and horns, sapient of what it takes to create a successful piece, layering guitar and keyboard lines expertly, giving space for the occasional flute or trumpet riff to break through; nothing is ostentatious, but because it's all produced very cleanly, the instruments certainly make their presence known. But more than in the electric riffs and contemplative lounge progressions, Lee's true talents lie in the rhythm section. With understated drums and a prominent bass, he makes beats that enhance the other instruments while still holding them in place. This grounding allows for a kind of looseness to develop in the tracks' overall feel, even though they're tightly composed, which not only adds to the effectiveness of the music as, in the case of film, a plot developer, it also means that it works well with lyrics. Three of the songs on Voices and Choices feature guest vocalists (not to mention those on which Lee himself sings, though this varies from subtle harmonies to the more vocalese-type work on "Bobulski"), and although each is fairly different stylistically -- Nino Moschella uses a funk falsetto on "Kiss the Sky," Ohmega Watts raps on "The Hour Glass Effect," and Pierre D sounds a bit like Jacques Brel on the excellent "Françoise Hardy," -- the accompaniment is perfect, spotlighting the singers while also lauding itself. Lee is clearly influenced by other great composers (for example, "A Song for David" is an obvious allusion, both lexical and musical, to David Axelrod), but he also has his own distinctive style that mixes subtle electronic elements with live instrumentation and keeps everything neat and focused, reflective yet celebratory, and makes Voices and Choices an excellent release.
Performance CreditsShawn Lee Primary Artist,Vocals,Various
Andy Ross Flute,Alto Flute,Tenor Saxophone,Guest Appearance
Nichol Thompson Trombone
Dominic Glover Trumpet,Flugelhorn
Ohmega Watts Vocals,Guest Appearance
Nino Moschella Vocals,Guest Appearance
Pierre D. Vocals,Guest Appearance
Technical CreditsShawn Lee Composer,Producer,Audio Production,Instrumentation
Pierre Duplan Engineer
Ashkahn Visual Direction