Like a cold spray of water on a smoldering summer afternoon, Aquanote is refreshing, cooling and fun. A solo project of San Francisco’s Gabriel Rene, The Pearl is a seamless fusion of house, funk, and jazz featuring carefully crafted tracks of ’70s soul and R&B with a modern dance sensibility.
Peppered with a little Latin percussion here and something that sounds like a Hammond organ there, The Pearl is sultry and seductive, and immanently danceable. With lush vocals from Zoe Ellis, Lisa Shaw, Caitlin Cornwell and J-Soul, plus live musicians Richard Worth (flute), David Boyce (saxophone), Nelson Braxton (bass), Josh Davis (trumpet), Carlos Araiza (flute, percussion), Mike D. (bass), and Avram Brown (guitar), and Gabriel Rene at the mixing helm, the tracks are light and shimmery, almost effervescent.
Since I’m partial to songs with water themes, I’m drawn to “Water Psalm I,” “Water Psalm II,” and “Water Psalm III,” which chronicle the arrival of a mythical-sounding woman. Is she a mermaid? A storm? An emotion? A lover? The mystery is never solved, but the tracks are intriguing enough to make you want to listen again and again to draw your own conclusions if you’re so minded, or just enjoy if you’re not. “Come Around” is one of two tracks featuring a male vocal (J-Soul,) but instead of being distracting, his smooth vocals are well-suited to the light jazzy feel of the track.
Each track on The Pearl has some electronic element to it, small decorative accents that blend seamlessly with the other live instruments, rather than detracting from the song itself. It’s as if the electronic aspects are rather “organic,” being used as another instrument, not merely showing up because it’s an “electronic” CD. The Pearl certainly lives up to its name — a perfect sphere of soft color and iridescence.