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PandemoniUM

University of Maryland

Momentum (2010)

4.0

July 1, 2011

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 3.3
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Did You Get My Message? 4.3
2 Come Here Boy 4.3
3 Paralyzer 3.7
4 Dancing 4.3
5 Happy Ending 3.7
6 Sweet Dreams 3.7
7 Love You Out Loud 3.7
8 Many the Miles 4.3
9 Objection Tango 4.0
10 One Sweet Day 4.0
11 I'll Be 3.3

Recorded 2009
Total time: 43:42, 11 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Did You Get My Message? 4
2 Come Here Boy 4
3 Paralyzer 4
4 Dancing 4
5 Happy Ending 4
6 Sweet Dreams 4
7 Love You Out Loud 4
8 Many the Miles 4
9 Objection Tango 4
10 One Sweet Day 4
11 I'll Be 4

Momentum marks a largely upward trend for PandemoniUM. With each release they've upped the production, and consequently the accuracy and fullness of their sound. Distortion, octavising, modulation, pitch correction, and cut-and-pasted vocal percussion are among the many vocal tricks that make this one of the most listenable of all PandemoniUM's albums. The full arsenal of effects is nothing less than one would expect from stalwart mixers Boyer and Sperandio, and it serves the group well.

Momentum also marks some of the most enjoyable leads PandemoniUM has yet offered, and it is this quality that keeps scores as high as they are.

What keeps the album from excellence is, in part, the ever-improving level of the "average" competition. All scores are comparisons, and though this album compares very favorably to past PandemoniUM releases, it's just on the edge between average and good when compared to the slew of extremely similar sounding collegiate releases out today, many slickly mixed by the same hands.

The wall of sound is there. The chords are in-tune and in place. The songs reveal none of the singers' weaknesses. The first hurdle has been met.

But now, the emotional connection has to be made. That's a responsibility that rests on a strong-handed musical director/producer, someone who can make a thing of real lasting artistic beauty out of these talented singers.

The glimmers are there: phrasing in the backgrounds of Happy Ending; unexpected key changes in the Sweet Dreams mash-up; open space in the arranging of One Sweet Day; and of course the many strong lead performances.

But dragging the group down are the syllable choices, which are frequently goofy and distracting (Love You Out Loud and Many the Miles are noteworthy offenders in this regard). The backgrounds are so consistently, persistently full that they simply exhaust the listener. There's no space for the lead to reach us and so we're emotionally removed from the core of the song. The first time the lead of Objection Tango takes center stage is the bridge! Before that, "jah" seems more important. Let background be background.

As far as the liner notes are concerned: arrangers, soloists, and original artists are provided, but disturbingly absent is the credit for the composers and lyricists, the irreplaceable contributors.

Momentum is a proud moment for PandemoniUM and their fans. It's not a must-own for the general populace, but for those who love the collegiate sound, it's not a bad offering at all. Momentum rises above the status of yearbook album, as this recording does more than merely capture a snapshot, and that achievement alone should provide PandemoniUM with much to celebrate.


4
Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Did You Get My Message? 4
2 Come Here Boy 5
3 Paralyzer 3
4 Dancing 4
5 Happy Ending 2
6 Sweet Dreams 3
7 Love You Out Loud 3
8 Many the Miles 4
9 Objection Tango 3
10 One Sweet Day 4
11 I'll Be 2

While not really causing any pandemonium in the a cappella scene with their latest recording Momentum, the co-ed collegiate group from the University of Maryland is still gaining traction and truly garnering attention. PandemoniUM continues to float just under the national radar. The new album sometimes gives you a glimpse of the greatness to come, and only occasionally do we see the group get stuck in mediocrity.

The disc opens up with a fairly entertaining cover of Jason Mraz' Did You Get My Message?. Right from the start, the group grabs your attention. The sound is expansive and the arrangement is fun and quirky. I love how the entire group is engaged throughout the song, singing accent lines and solo riffs without obtruding on the wonderful work being done by singers Andrew Lericos and Alyssa Seibert. I want more songs like this, and gratefully they deliver.

But, what's interesting is that the other songs that capture that same spirit and energy happen to be on the slower end of the tempo marking. Come Here Boy is simply superb, enchanting from the first syllable uttered by soloist Amanda McCarty to the ending hiss of the background vocals and percussion. Dancing has a driving beat, but the angelic melody line hangs over the moving parts like a feather skimming a rushing river. And though One Sweet Day has some syncing issues throughout that cause sections to drag, the emotion from each of the soloists is palpable.

On the other end, we have Happy Ending and I'll Be, where the singers seem like they give up on making moving music. It is as if the cliché of performing two of those songs overwhelmed the group. Happy Ending didn't seem very happy — believe me, there can be joy in singing a break-up song — and thanks for not letting that be the closing track. And that goes double for I'll Be, one of the most uplifting and rapturous songs recorded in the past twenty years. And yet, it's delivered here with a dirge-like quality that makes you question the authenticity of what's being lyrically conveyed.

Sometimes the mistakes are slight; Paralyzer and Objection Tango are set wrong. The former is totally lacking in any aggression or anger, no guttural umphf that propels the song from one lyric to the next. And Objection Tango possesses no passion. In fact, it comes across as virginal ... a word that should never be used to describe a Shakira song other than Waka Waka.

PandemoniUM is adept at singing and recording in a naturalistic style. You'll never not know that these are human voices singing, sometimes to their detriment. Yes, we have several guitar lines on the "jow jigga now now jen ju jocka jocka wa wa" tip (I'm talking about you Love You Out Loud). But if you can forgive such arrangement choices, the voices behind these syllables are attractive and wonderfully human. Overall, Momentum is a non-offensive album that shows a lot of promise and provides an enjoyable listen or three.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Did You Get My Message? 5
2 Come Here Boy 4
3 Paralyzer 4
4 Dancing 5
5 Happy Ending 5
6 Sweet Dreams 4
7 Love You Out Loud 4
8 Many the Miles 5
9 Objection Tango 5
10 One Sweet Day 4
11 I'll Be 4

University of Maryland's PandemoniUM could have earned a "6" in the "Repeat Listenability" category for Momentum, if such a rating existed at RARB. These singers have made a recording that is both consistent and coherent, sounding like one unified group across various styles (pop, rock, country, R&B). This work plays beautifully as an album and doesn't feel like a mixtape, and that's not easy for most collegiate groups (especially mixed collegiate groups) to achieve.

The album works as a collective whole, but there are some great individual moments here as well. Did You Get My Message? is a high-energy album opener. Dancing floats with a heavenly, trance-like sound. The group (and soloist Suzanne DeStio) capture a fun sultriness and sassiness on Objection Tango. The background voices pulse phrases beautifully in Many the Miles, giving a lovely energy and drive to a slower ballad. In general, the group has picked soloists who really mesh well with their songs (not doing so was my biggest complaint about their last release, PandemoniUM).

There are still a few issues here: Come Here Boy is shaky in the bridge and is pitched too low for the soloist, Paralyzer could've had a little bit more of a bite, and the syllables on Love You Out Loud are too busy and literal.

But even a few individual details that could be improved can't negate how pleasant this album is to listen to as a whole. PandemoniUM really understands what it takes to make a collection of songs sound like a unified album, and that makes Momentum an exceedingly pleasant album to listen to, over and over again.


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Ordering Information

To order this album, contact the business director at businessdirector@pandemoniumumd.com.

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