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Album Review: Guthrie Galileo, 'Modern Day Ripples'

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Guthrie Galileo, Modern Day Ripples
  • Guthrie Galileo, Modern Day Ripples

(702999 Records DK, digital download)

Guthrie Galileo lies motionless in an infinity pool, floating atop its unblemished, glassy surface. He's acutely aware that any movement or motion he makes will disturb the water's placid sheen. The slightest jostle will send wavelets in every direction, which inevitably reverse course back to the source of the aqueous upheaval. This is all metaphorical, mind you.

The Burlington-based R&B singer-songwriter/producer's second album, Modern Day Ripples, is an examination of how our actions — and interactions — spread throughout the people and places we touch. He figuratively explores this with his lyrics and takes a more literal approach with fluvial field recordings and buckets of reverb. And his voice. The word "fluid" comes to mind. So does the phrase "Holy fucking shit."

Galileo substantially flexes his producer prowess throughout. He pulls sounds from a seemingly bottomless digital toolbox, incorporating lavish accents such as harp and steel drum to his synth and electro-beat foundation. Self-harmonization at the ends of phrases adds flair and variety as well as emphasis.

"Ripples (Suite)," the wordless, spacey opener, is as angelic as it is turnt. A digital string orchestra cautiously signals a rising tide of rhythmic synths as Galileo unleashes his ascendant vocals.

Things get hyper-political a mere six words into "Labor Day." He sings, "Make a fool of a Trump supporter / Try not to get too involved with him." In 6/8 time, the song describes and nearly re-creates the vitriol of a Facebook comment war. Galileo condemns complacency and ultimately acknowledges the futility of petty grievances in the face of the true enemy: discord itself.

The subzero centerpiece, "Crystalline," is a flickering, operatic juggernaut. Icy, digitally fractured bells and glassy percussion tinkle over a muffled, bubbling choir. Watery imagery returns as Galileo emphatically chants, "Crystalline / I can see your teardrops in the rain."

"Opia," named for the inexpressible vulnerability of looking into someone's eyes, begins as a languid piano-driven confessional before morphing into a fizzy, stuttering meditation on relationships.

"Flowers," the album's closer, is a seemingly sedate send-off. Tranquil beach vibes give way to waves of synth and hip-hop snares as Galileo implores his listeners of his primary directive: "You've got to give love / You've got to be love."

Modern Day Ripples is a dazzling exercise in deftly constructed pop R&B. It retains all of the hypnotic intoxication and sex appeal we expect from the genre, and its socially conscious message is refreshing, rather than intrusive. And, again, his voice... 

Modern Day Ripples is available on iTunes. Guthrie Galileo performs on Saturday, August 26, at Red Barn Gardens in Williston as part of the Nightshade Festival.