Hugo Lee's Confluence: A Review

In Hugo Lee’s letter to the listener he tells us to close our eyes, open our ears and drift away. That’s exactly what I did – I lay down and just listened, and it was 45 minutes well spent. Confluence is the 5th official release of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hugo Lee. Primarily recorded right here at ANU School of Music, as well as in peoples’ homes and on location, the recording and writing processes were often merged to create an organic and experimental style.

The leading track, “Confluence”, throws you into a gust of brilliant brass and intelligent lyrics, sung with the beautifully relaxed voice of Rose Costi. The saxophone trills and trombone crescendos, contrasting with playful guitar rhythms and soft keys makes for a roller-coaster sound experience. This first track really shows how many talented musicians were involved in creating Lee’s sound – about 18 of them. From the haunting harmonies of Canberra female vocal trio Kaleid in the introduction of “The Boat”, to the impressive jazz piano solo of Tate Sheridan in “Damage Control”, Lee brings a wide group of musos together to create this complex but cohesive album. Hugo Lee’s main instrument, the alto sax, stands out with the constant theme of the whole album, and he uses it in a way I personally have never heard before. It pierces through all other layers of sound in the big instrumentals, whilst it also softly complements Costi’s voice in the stripped-back, lighter tracks. Lee definitely proves that this lil’ brass instrument is goddamn versatile.

This album is a beautiful balance of big and impressive sounds, married with soft and humble tones. Throughout Confluence you can hear the presence of a myriad of influences – from the hypnotic tunes of Pink Floyd to the psychedelic tone of Tame Impala’s production style, to the great foundational sax players Kenny Garrett and Dave Sanborn. He mixes up instrumental songs with free-style solos, pop-like beats and beautiful lyrics, all tied together with a strong sense of groove.
You might think there’s only so much saxophone one can listen to. But that thought never comes to mind during when you sit down Confluence. In each song Lee explores new sounds, rhythms and arrangements which all somehow fit perfectly together into a consistent and unique album. We all have a spare 45 minutes somewhere, so close your eyes, open your ears and drift away…

For a free download, have a listen at: https://soundcloud.com/hugoleemusic/sets/confluence