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Pipeline Vocal Project

Bronze (2021)


December 18, 2022

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 3.7
1 Everybody Wants to Be a Cat 3.7
2 Talk 4.7
3 Sucker 4.0
4 Everything I Wanted/Bad Guy 4.0
5 Attention 4.0
6 End of Time [LIVE] 4.7

Recorded 2021
Total time: 15:48, 6 songs

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
1 Everybody Wants to Be a Cat 5
2 Talk 5
3 Sucker 5
4 Everything I Wanted/Bad Guy 5
5 Attention 5
6 End of Time [LIVE] 5

Pipeline Vocal Project is in the groove. There are a lot of other things going for this recording — great voices, good energy, smart arrangements — but they all benefit from the rock solid rhythm that anchors every single track in the collection. Whether or not the percussion is active, there is a pulse to each song that locks me in as a listener from start to finish.

Three voices can do a lot, and this record is a welcome showcase of what's possible without loops or overdubs. Soprano Adriana Latonio has a fabulous lead flair that also blends well in trio with alto Molly Dieni and vocal percussionist/singer Lisa Hawkins. The overall effect is feminine but not shrill, with echoes of En Vogue when everyone is singing at once. I like the way the group alternates between tight ensemble harmonies and a jazz trio with soloist, backup, and percussion each doing their own thing. I like the way the songs shift rhythm and texture within those formats without losing their essential pulse. The production team of Alfredo Austin (editing), Ed Boyer (mixing), and Dave Sperandio (mastering) certainly helps keep the sound together, but the live track at the end shows that this group is generally doing what they do anyway. Talent will win out.

The song choices are a bit of a mystery to me. The tracks are all interesting and well sung, maybe that's good enough? Talk is the only one I really connect with as a composition. For the rest, I like the performance more than the repertoire.

Vocal music in Alaska should get a big boost from the tunes coming down this Pipeline. Bronze is absolutely worth your time.

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
1 Everybody Wants to Be a Cat 4
2 Talk 5
3 Sucker 4
4 Everything I Wanted/Bad Guy 4
5 Attention 4
6 End of Time [LIVE] 5

Debut albums are a wonderful opportunity to test the waters of artistic expression. And while some are still forging a musical identity, others have already established their group's unique makeup. Fortunately for the members of Pipeline Vocal Project (PVP), their debut album Bronze evades many of the concerns that accompany newer artists, affording listeners joyfully inspired music that is big on charisma and substance.

Taking on the challenge of performing as an a cappella trio can bring about a set of hurdles, including no backing track or instrumentation to fill space, and a greater spotlight on blemishes and mistakes. Fortunately, PVP members Adriana Latonio, Molly Dieni, and Lisa Hawkins prove to be up for the task and present their craft with both style and grace.

Each of the six tracks featured on Bronze showcases the level of skill that is required to deliver solid tracks in an unconventional way. PVP absolutely flourishes when they are mixing up the standard solo, bass, and vocal percussion structure, such as on Sucker. The quick rhythms, jaunty solo delivery, and ability to switch up the vibe on a dime make the presentation captivating. More importantly, the track highlights the group's strength: saucy harmonies that go beyond where you would expect them to go.

Similar sentiments are felt on Attention. The song incorporates bigger, vocally satisfying moments and production effects that keep the listener engaged. While the fast-paced pop track is full of fun moments, it is missing an emotional connection to take the track to the next level.

Everything I Wanted / Bad Guy provides an endearing emotional relief for the album that is big on pulse and even bigger on expression. The chords utilized at times are ethereal, confirming PVP's vocal and emotional range to take listeners to new heights not previously felt on the album.

PVP is at its absolute best on both Talk and End of Time. The bubblegum pop rendition of Talk is the feel-good hit of the album and sparks an endless joy with its infectious energy. The arrangement is fitting for a small group like PVP, playing with warm tones and rhythmic harmonies. What I love most is how well PVP fills space with this track. As for End of Time, it too benefits from such a full group sound that's further complemented by a complex arrangement highlighting the group's skill. The group pushes all its chips to the table on this track with body percussion, a prominent bass, incredibly controlled singing, and balanced harmonies.

My primary concern with Bronze comes down to filling space. There are moments when PVP shines, such as on Talk, and then takes a step back, as is the case on Everybody Wants to Be a Cat. Then there are times when the group's live track outshines its recorded material. Finding that right balance between when to use bass versus percussion may be a good place to start.

Still, Bronze is an impressive album that is chock full of potential, creativity, and endless enjoyment.

Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
1 Everybody Wants to Be a Cat 2
2 Talk 4
3 Sucker 3
4 Everything I Wanted/Bad Guy 3
5 Attention 3
6 End of Time [LIVE] 4

Alaskan a cappella trio Pipeline Vocal Project takes on the challenging task of performing and genre-bending contemporary vocal music with just enough members to complete a triad. While rarely done, such a feat is not unprecedented; the 2018 Varsity Vocals Open champion, Iris, was comprised of only three members and delivered one of the most compelling and innovative live sets this reviewer has ever witnessed. Unlike Iris, however, Pipeline does not innovate quite enough to consistently fill out its sound and capture the raw energy from its live performances in its recorded EP, Bronze.

Perhaps the largest issue at play is texture: Pipeline Vocal Project's numbers feature long stretches with solo, bass and/or harmony, and light percussion together or slightly alternating. Even in most genre-bent tunes, there isn't a ton of wholesale reinvention of songs' architectural structure or harmonic content, resulting in a fairly straightforward product. And in following a standard contemporary a cappella formulaic texture, Pipeline's tracks sound empty in comparison to other groups producing similar work, most of which have around 5-15 members. This is felt strongly at the very beginning with Everybody Wants to Be a Cat, which doesn't carry quite enough electricity to support an introductory shout while listeners try to grasp the aural experience of three singers.

In RARB terms, a "3" is average, which is one of the last words I would use to describe Everything I Wanted / Bad Guy. Lisa Hawkins's stunning low timbre is on display for the first time in Everything I Wanted, and studio effects like water dripping to support text painting and augment the natural sparsity of having few voices are a welcome addition. But Bad Guy begins with a nonsequitur, features some awkwardly empty moments, and finishes abruptly, which pulls the track back to a middling subjective rating. As a microcosm for the album as a whole, while far from average, it fails to wholly move the needle forward.

Interestingly, while I am not normally a fan of ending a carefully produced vocal album with a live track, I quite enjoy End of Time. In some ways, I enjoy it more than the group's studio-recorded tracks: Pipeline's infectious energy is fully on display, the group's intonation is sparkling, and if you are looking for an "aha" moment as to how they make the three-person medium work, this is it. The only drawback to a live track with something like a cappella is an unavoidably drastic difference in timbre; in this case, there is a tinny sound that is nearly impossible to ignore after having grown accustomed to pristine studio production work in the previous five tracks.

Like the title Bronze suggests, Pipeline stands on a podium with a "3", complete with a great deal to be proud of and quality raw ideas to build on for future releases.


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Ordering Information

Stream or purchase Bronze from the Pipeline Vocal Project's website