By day, Randy Stahla is a full-time electronic technician here at CSU. By night, he’s a dreamer.
Stahla’s passion is in composing instrumental, electronic music and his latest release, “Red Rose”, is part of an even more ambitious whole: it’s the soundtrack to an upcoming animated film that he is still busy producing.
Note that though I said the music is electronic, I did not say that the album is electronica, techno or any other supposed synonym. “Red Rose” may exhibit a tendency towards the hypnotic beats and overlapping melodies that has made those genres popular, but that doesn’t mean that you are likely to hear Mr. Stahla’s newest musical compositions at your favorite club this weekend.
In fact, most of “Red Rose’s” tracks are defiantly un-danceable. But don’t think of that as a failure on Stahla’s part, because it is his insistence on including odd time signatures, erratic tempos and occasionally dissonant melodies that is the album’s greatest success.
When “Street Kids”, for instance, devolves from a catchy piano melody into a frenetic, descending assault on the keyboard, it isn’t the catchiest choice and certainly isn’t the easiest choice, but it is the most musically stimulating choice.
In other words, Stahla is not afraid to stray from the path of least resistance in his music and that is a truly refreshing characteristic in any songwriter. His songs often challenge the listener, but that does not necessarily mean that listening to them is a burden.
On the contrary, “Red Rose” has an abundance of captivating, infectious moments. In fact, a particularly foreboding melody from “Dark Energy” has been stuck in my head since the first listen. Stahla simply has an ear for crafting good, artsy electronic music.
However, the album is not without its missteps.
The Caribbean-themed “Candy Island”, for instance, may clock in at a speedy 1:37 minutes, but it has enough overbearing marimba and vibraphone for a song twice as long. Moreover, the song stands in harsh stylistic opposition to the rest of the CD and ultimately disturbs the album’s continuity.
An even more egregious example of this same type of jarring inconsistency can be found with the unfortunately titled “Sparkle Up The World.”
This song – the only one on the album with vocals – features cloying piano and lyrics to match (“Every child needs someone to sparkle up their day”). That isn’t to say that the song is without merit: the vocal harmonies of the first chorus may be a touch bombastic, but they are also alarmingly catchy.
At about an hour in length, this isn’t “Red Rose’s” only unnecessary song; there are simply too many tracks that fail to retain the listener’s attention. But when Stahla manages to walk the line between art and pop, the result is radiantly beautiful. For those moments alone, “Red Rose” is worth a listen.
3 / stars