Reviewing Rebecca Brandt’s Numbers & Shapes has not been an easy experience for me. The reason here isn’t because I was uncertain about how I felt about the music. I’ve been certain of my love for this record ever since I heard the few tracks that were available on her site to preview prior to the album’s release. The problem was that this album had so much variety and beauty that at times it was difficult to wrap my head around. It was becoming difficult to express the feelings that this album gave me, and I didn’t want to write a review that didn’t give this album the care and attention it deserves.
Numbers & Shapes pulls off a magnificent feat. While this album, as well as the tracks themselves, contains a broad range of influences and musical styles that are proudly displayed in every song, it still manages to connect all of these tracks together. Tracks on Numbers & Shapes perform beautifully separately but, while played as an album, create something that is so much bigger. Rebecca makes the transitions feel seamless and effortless while it’s clear that there was so much care put into the creation of this album.
Opening Track “Staying Silent” gives the listeners an idea of what the album experience will feel like. Starting with a soothing and gentle piano line there’s just a great sense of emotion and feeling. Soon enough this piano line is joined by these beautiful, almost dreamy, vocal harmonies. The vocals here lack lyrics, although lack would imply that I am disappointed by this. The reality is, that by excluding lyrics here, the song instantly becomes more accessible, transcending any barrier of language or speech. This is the beauty in instrumental music and Rebecca knows this and knows how to utilize this well.
“Staying Silent” only lasts a little under 3 minutes but with its transitions from piano vocal pairing to woodwinds and guitars it feels like a longer, more lasting and profound experience. The amazing part is that just about every track on this album feels the same way. “Run” amazingly soars between traditional instruments to the use of synthesizers and electronics. All the while this track features a hypnotizing percussion pattern that manages to stay relevant even when switching between what would normally seem like 2 drastically different sounds. Additional styles seem to find their way into the track as a saxophone lead jumps in for just enough time to leave an effect on you as it smoothly finds its way out of the track to allow room for even more variety. If you can’t tell by now, this is what makes this album the masterpiece that it is. Rebecca knows how to arrange these instruments well and knows just how to integrate the multiple influences that inspire her without sounding like a cheap cut and paste attempt of homage.
As expected with such a wide palette of styles and influences, Numbers & Shapes is filled with so many interesting textures and details that it’s important to note it. Ranging from electronically modified vocals to raw string sections and electric guitars, this album has enough sounds to fill up books and, due to her intelligent arrangements; this is one of the best qualities about this release.
The track “Jivko”, for example, is able to quickly and smoothly combine piano with flute with strings, simply layering in sound and depth. As this track progresses the layers just become so much more lush and detailed. It’s an amazing experience, regardless of whether you enjoy this type of music or not.
Emotionally and sound wise, this album also gives us a nice amount of surprises which is always a great experience. Some tracks are able to quickly shift from feeling generally cheery to dark and eerie, even mysterious at times. Much like human emotions, Numbers & Shapes highlights the swiftness of feeling, the fact that we are all capable of shifting our attitude at any moment, in an almost unpredictable sense. In terms of sound, “Rouge” is a great example of how quickly the textures on this album can shift. Opening with a sitar (??) chord progression and some catchy drums this track quickly evolves into an almost tropical sounding piece that just emits sheer positivity. It’s such a beautiful sound that almost catches you by surprise but somehow still manages to fit in with the entire album.
Of course, I wouldn’t be able to discuss this record without mentioning “The Moment”. This song alone embodies the creativity and vision of Numbers & Shapes as a whole. Featuring a 32 piece orchestra, “The Moment” is able to neatly finish off the record by reminding us what this album is all about, the beauty in diversity. This track draws us in with these gorgeous slow moving winds only to build up to something so large and epic. Crashing drums and distorted guitars start to join hand in hand with all of these classical instruments as it grows with each additional layer, each additional lead, until this all seems to grow into something bigger than the track itself can possibly stand and like a burst these sounds explode and fade out.
Numbers & Shapes is more than just a collection of songs or a collection of sounds. Numbers & Shapes is an experience that you won’t just feel with your ears. This amazing journey of sounds and emotions will lock you in from the beginning and keep your attention for the rest of the ride. There is just so much soul and passion put into this and it clearly shows. Rebecca Brandt didn’t just create an album; she created something much more than that. She created something that deserves to be shared with the entire world. She created something that can connect with everyone.