Sunday, April 21 2024

Chicago-based Sacha Mullin’s third full-length album, ‘Casino Wilderness Period’, follows the 2017 sophomore, ‘DUPLEX’. The record showcases sophisticated pop hooks that defy the norm, delving into themes of heartache, opulence, and relationship intricacies. Produced, mixed, and mastered by Todd Rittmann, this impressive album features backing vocals from established singers like Emily Bindiger, Judi Vinar, Annmarie Cullen, and Mem Nahadr.

The album kicks off with the lead single, ‘Arranging Flowers’, a standout track lasting six minutes (the radio edit is more concise, clocking in at just over four). Opening with a blend of techno vibes that transition smoothly into a soulful, jazzy verse—think Jeff Buckley meets Alicia Keys—the song immediately captivates. Sacha’s strong lead vocals seamlessly weave between the layered backing vocals to create a powerful and expansive sound. And, whilst the rhythmic drums provide a solid backdrop for the vocals, ‘Arranging Flowers’ stands out due to its compelling lyrics.

… all in all, a hero tends to falter.
We learn them, then burn them,
and find that we could all do better.

Arranging Flowers

The second track, ‘Waves’, delves into the challenges of lost love and navigating the emotions that follow. With its infectious groove and soulful feel, this song captures the difficulty of coming to terms with heartbreak, all while riding on a mesmerising beat.

In ‘Thanks.’ Sacha addresses the challenge of moving on from those who hinder in life. The interplay of drums and piano rhythmically supports the song, which has a chorus that echoes the vibes of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’, but perhaps as if Kate Bush had performed it. The lyrics, once again, are interesting and clever.

… ever get that feeling of inverted living?
Ever get that urge to call him at 3-in-the-morning?
Ever get that moment of a tapped-out giving?
Ever settle for the funeral of a constant mourning?

Thanks

Next, ‘Neptune in the Snow’ offers a shift in tempo with a more laid-back feel. Despite the mellower approach, the track still highlights soaring vocals and a robust military-style drum that creates a compelling contrast with the piano. It’s during this song I’m particularly reminded vocally of George Michael in his prime years.

This comparison continues into the next song, ‘Margaret’. Here, Sacha excels vocally, weaving beautiful falsetto riffs and melodies throughout. The hypnotic backbone beat creates room for the song to transform into the genuinely emotive piece it is, accentuated by the delivery of rapid-fire, pain-fuelled lyrics.

‘Casino Wilderness Period’ then feels like it hits the reset button as the two-minute interlude of ‘Fiberglass’ begins. Bringing an upbeat rhythm and poetic lyrics the song feels like it belongs in a contemporary Broadway show.

Sacha Mullin - Casino Wilderness Period Album

Penultimately, ‘Telepathy’ brings an extra funky vibe with a memorable chorus and a guitar style reminiscent of Nile Rodgers, akin to a slowed-down ‘Get Lucky’, but executed in Sacha’s distinct style.

The album concludes with ‘Window Out’, a piano-backed piece with jazz bass, adding a touch of Joni Mitchell. The bass punctuates vocal lines for emphasis, while a mid-song choir grabs your attention and builds the track and the album to a climactic exit. Sacha’s nod to Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the closing lyrics “the windows of the world are covered with rain” add a poignant finish.

With the CD version also featuring 2 bonus tracks ‘Love Sisyphean’ and ‘Power! (a co-write with producer Todd Rittmann) it’s well worth grabbing a physical copy and basking in these extras.

Referred to as a ‘vocalist extraordinaire’ by The Chicago Reader, Sacha Mullin unquestionably lives up to the praise. Vocally, there are shades of George Michael and Jeff Buckley, whilst compositionally the comparisons are vast ranging from Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Alicia Keyes. Each track within this album is an ode to Sacha’s prowess—masterfully composed and poetically written. Sacha Mullin leaves an indelible mark on the landscape of avant-garde pop music.

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Review

Summary

Sacha Mullin’s third album, “Casino Wilderness Period,” showcases sophisticated pop hooks that break from convention, exploring themes of heartache, opulence, and relationships. Referred to as a ‘vocalist extraordinaire,’ Mullin’s work leaves a lasting impression, with comparisons ranging from George Michael and Jeff Buckley to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, marking a significant contribution to avant-garde pop music.
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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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