Level Up by Mary Ancheta Quartet album Review by Leslie Chu for Northern Transmissions


Level Up

Mary Ancheta Quartet

Level Up is an appropriate name for Mary Ancheta new release. The Hamilton-born, Vancouver-based musician is a seasoned performer. Her repertoire spans a robust palette of genres including pop, hip-hop, roots, and jazz, largely from playing keyboard alongside notable names both established and emerging including Khari Wendell McClelland, Kimmortal, iskwē, Buckman Coe, Ashleigh Ball, Jill Barber, Missy D, and Amanda Sum. As if that isn’t impressive enough, Ancheta is also an accomplished composer. Her music has appeared in programs on Showtime, Netflix, HBO, Fox, and more. Working with such an array of artists has made for a seamless transition into her latest role: bandleader of the Mary Ancheta Quartet, featuring tenor saxophonist Dominic Conway, bassist Matt Reid, and drummer Trent Otter.

Together on Level Up, the ensemble dishes out a neon suite of funk-infused electronic jazz. “With our roots in jazz we recognize where this music has come from and aspire to broaden our galactic awareness,” Ancheta has said in a statement about the EP. Yet what the quartet have created is no mere reproduction of genres she’s played in the past. Like the works of Squarepusher or the Meters before them, Level Up boasts ascendant melodies and vast, undeniable grooves, miniature worlds in which to get lost.

All five of Level Up’s tracks come from an emotional place. According to Ancheta, the title track is about “when you have been struggling with something for so long and right before you feel like you want to give up you find that 11th gear and Level Up. It is a song about stepping up and breaking through your process.” “Level Up” is colourful and more kinetic than any other track on the EP, giving sonic life to the idea of keeping the momentum going and continuing ahead.

The rest of the song titles, too, convey movement, constant forward motion, determination. Even “Impermanence” implies urgency in its title, never mind in its daunting, slightly ominous opening chords that give way to more buoyant melodies. Its overall bright spirit reflects the overriding mood of the EP. And speaking of determination, there’s the song “Envoy.” An envoy is a messenger, a representative on a diplomatic mission, and Ancheta certainly seems like she’s on a mission. And as the restrained track shows, she’s proceeding with composure, an air of refinement and sophistication.

Creatively adventurous and musically dexterous, Level Up shows limitless potential for Mary Ancheta whether she follows the lead or takes the lead.

Pre-order Level Up by Mary Ancheta HERE

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