In the many months that Twilight Archive’s Mood Chain has been sitting in my music library waiting for me to get around to reviewing it, I have lost track of how many times a piece from it has come up in shuffle and absolutely hooked me. Kicking off with vibrato Fender Rhodes electric piano tones and smoky trumpet, “Sense Making Stops” (bonus points for the killer title) instantly grabs my attention. It says, “Hi, we’re going to mix jazz and ambient, and it’s going to absolutely infiltrate your soul, so get ready.” Then it laces in chopped vocal snips and a tempo shift, and I’m all in. The core of Twilight Archive is Chris Mancinelli and Tom Vedvik, two guys who, in my opinion, can definitely get away with referring to themselves as “an even hipper Thievery Corporation.” They lay down 10 super-slick tracks pegged with killer bass lines, an ample dose of that give-me-more trumpet, and loads of laid-back cool. And whereas it’s not chill music with jazz painted over it, but rather solid jazz bits with the temperature turned way down, it never feels forced or obvious. I latch onto the Lalo Schifrin-style themes in “Unit Blueprint,” where the muted horn is lifted straight out of a spy flick and the tight keyboard phrasing just glistens. The horns arrive in chorus on “The Divining Rod,” arcing over a patient and consistent walking bass phrase. This comes off like a handful of pure candy to a bass lover like myself. This track oozes cool, and indulges itself in a couple of drops because it knows you’ll stick around. There’s a nice small-combo vibe to this track, and whether the trumpet here is actual or synth (I can’t find who plays what, but I find Vedvik notes himself as a “synthesist” on his site), the bebop flairs that get perfectly spat out here are pretty much all the jazz credentials these guys need. “Midnight Memento” is dark-edged stroll with the piano leaning heavily on left-hand chords. The trumpet sings beautifully here, shooting off into the night sky. The closer, “Ethereal Alibi,” owes some of its pedigree to 90s downtempo, with its rhythm track washed out just a touch with a light mist of sound. This one is soft and slow, brightened up by horn trills and the occasional sharp, high phrase on piano.
Mood Chain is a fantastic album, start to finish, and it’s become one of those releases I pick to wind down to in the evening. It’s got its share of cool, and it’s also just a pure pleasure to have playing. The mood is relaxing, the musicianship is first rate, and thanks in part to Vedvik’s background composing for film and TV, you get a shot of narrative sensibility tucked into the mix. There’s a theme song hiding in almost all of these tracks. This is top-tier listening, particularly for folks who already groove on the name-dropped Thievery Corporation or other delicious chill/lounge stalwarts. Cue it up, grab an adult beverage, and enjoy.
Available at CD Baby.