Thomas Hutchings, Richard Lee Wendel’s Neutron Stars go with the ‘Hybrid’ flow
Every indie musician out there talks a good game about pushing boundaries, reinventing genres, combining styles in a hip, hybrid fusion. Established New York musicians and producers Thomas Hutchings and Richard Lee Wendel — heading up the new Neutron Stars — have actually come up with the right balance in their upcoming debut album, appropriately titled, Hybrid.
The new album came together as a collaborative effort, with funds raised on PledgeMusic back in Sept. “It includes a lot of music we’ve been working on for the past… 20 years,” Hutchings said in a PledgeMusic campaign video.
“For me, it’s a concept album” Lee Wendel added. “It goes back to the ’70s when I was listening to people like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and their albums, and one song led into another and it meant something. I’m hoping this project is the same, it takes you on a journey, on a trip.”
Billing themselves as the Neutron Stars, Hutchings and Lee Wendel put together nine totally original, effortless groove tracks you can kick back and chill to — “Space Trance,” the most fetching of the bunch.
“Space Trance” uses a sample of what sounds like an actual rocket launch to intro a cool, catchy groove kept alive by an EDM queen hyping the hooks and vaguely referencing a futuristic fantasy, where humans vibe off energy frequency and ever-evolving dreams just a finger-swipe away.
The engaging diva vocals melt in and out of synths simulating churning pop melody in succinct batches, a living, breathing amalgam of melody and pulsating life, living and breathing in the mantra, “I see music, I hear colors, colors in my mind… I feel love.” It’s the subliminal come through, the natural embodiment of thought and feeling in musical form, a light reflective of the human condition — and the definition of genre-less, defiant empowerment.
At the beginning of Feb., Hutchings, a saxophonist and beat-box producer, reached out across the digital universe for feedback on the early tracks. The co-producing duo hopes to “debut the song with most votes at our album release in April. We’re [also] going to make a video for the song with most votes!” Hutchings explained. “We’re planning a listening party for early April and actual release party in late April.”
“Space Trance” grabs you immediately and sucks you in. The rest of the tracks, take second and thirds to sink into, yet nothing’s all that hard to vibe off.
“Bad Day in Bedrock” — nice “Flintstones” sample — riffs off that easy dance groove of “Space Trance,” while infusing plenty of rock-funk in the flicks and roars of that guitar (is that Oz Noy?) popping off a synth trip, the vocals serving merely to please.
“Verulian Tube” hangs back considerably, the break between sets, a chance for the lovers in the room to dance slow, an hypnotic aerial of tone, bass, synth, and that constantly moving beat. A trumpeter moves to and from the scene, a lonely Miles Davis figure wandering half-empty streets, finding his way back home.
On “Knuckle Up,” jazz trumpeter Shareef Clayton brushes by familiar catch-phrases of those big bands of old — that’s Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” in the melodic hiccup — updating the story and melding the class divide into the now.
Hybrid is not without its weak spots. “Cry for Kaiyani” seems thrown in there for effect, similar to that one KISS ballad (just to prove the band’s not all fun and games but chops too). Totally unnecessary, since the trumpet solo thrives on its own, without the shaky vocals trying to be what it’s not.
The 2011 Grammy-nominated Thomas Hutchings and the 2015 New York Blues Hall of Famer Richard Lee Wendel know their way around a recording studio. The executive producers have been at this fusion-making business, chasing muses and connecting collectives, for quite awhile.
Hutchings’ music has made appearances on major reality-TV shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Real World: Las Vegas,” and “Bad Girls Club.”
Lee Wendel enjoys his own hybrid sound — New York Vibe — for his group Stop Irrational Logic, which brings together R&B, trance, rap, heavy metal, funk, gospel, and classical music. He’s also a horn arranger for acts such as Pucho and his Latin Soul-Brothers, SaRon Crenshaw, and Grant Green Jr.