Chris Standring

Electric Wonderland

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Buoyed by the success of his first guitar/strings-themed album, Blue Bolero, British jazz-soul multi-instrumentalist Chris Standring adopts a similarly adventurous method for its follow-up, Electric Wonderland, by abandoning his usual plucked acoustic style for a fingerpicking Fender Stratocaster approach. It's a move that results in arguably his most expressive and playful record to date, its ten original instrumentals drifting from seductive bossa nova ("Oliver's Twist") to infectious brass-led soul ("Almost September") to dreamy lounge-funk ("Castle in the Sky") with the effortlessness and grace that fans of his smooth contemporary sound have become accustomed to. The funky grooves, wah-wah riffs, and vocodered vocal loops of "Pandora's Box" and the languid acid jazz of "Wishful Thinking" are affectionate nods to his Solar System background, while the mellow blues of "Nightingale's Bridge" and the stripped-back shuffle of "Heart of the Matter" are tender romantic numbers likely to have many listeners hearts aflutter. But it's when Standring fully utilizes his newfound love of the string quartet that the album flourishes, whether it's the suitably amusement park-style waltz of "Merry Go Round," the skittering drum'n'bass of "Escapade," or the percussive new age of "All That Glitters." A convincing foray into new territory, Electric Wonderland more than lives up to its name.

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