Osunlade undertakes a panoramic journey on Aquarian Moon, the music producer’s impassioned love letter to the Greek Island of Santorini and its rich culture. Recorded live over a twelve-day period, the album’s a richly orchestrated and stylistically encompassing affair, with its thirteen (one hidden) vibrant cuts working their way through a comprehensive array of house, Latin, African, jazz, soul, and funk rhythms. The equally atmospheric and danceable disc impresses technically too, with Osunlade playing no less than fifteen different instruments (drums, piano, mini moog, electric bass, etc.) and handling most vocal chores too. In addition, tracks like “Circles” impress in demonstrating how convincingly the Yoruba label head realizes the illusion of ‘live’ performance, despite the album’s ‘constructed’ status.
“Thira,” an elegantly soulful setting of chanting voices, strings, piano, and percussion (shakers, bongos, drums), makes for an enticing overture before the title cut’s languorous vibe declares itself, with hushed voices hypnotically chanting the title throughout its seven lush minutes. Elsewhere, Osunlade does a remarkably convincing Jaco imitation in the delicate ballad “Fingerblood,” drapes slamming soul-funk breaks over “Oia in Winter,” and bathes “Casablanca Soul” in sunlit house flavour.
Having worked with figures like Patti Labelle and produced music for Sesame Street, Osunlade brings an eclectic CV to the project, not all of it good (who could possibly want to take credit for production involvement on the execrable “Rico Suave”?) but Aquarian Moon is a largely tasteful affair with the exception of a momentary lapse or two. The Bootsy-styled funk rhythms and flute and sax soloing in the ‘80s jazz-fusion workout “TwoPhish,” for instance, are palatable enough but the same can’t be said for its over-the-top electric guitar playing. Such minor missteps don’t leave a crippling dent in the album’s smooth soul-jazz vibe and overall lush sparkle, however.