Max Lilja is best known as one of the founding members of cello rock band, Apocalyptica. The title of Lilja’s first solo album is a nod to his time with Apocalyptica – their first album being Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.
Cello and metal seemed to be a winning combination for Apocalyptica – they wouldn’t have seven albums under their belt, and a 20 year career if it wasn’t. The question is does the cello lend itself to electronic music as well as it does with rock?
It certainly makes an interesting combination. When I first heard about the record, my mind went straight to dubstep type house beats that could only find a home in a dark, dirty nightclub. The only track that comes even the slightest bit close to that image, would be “Now.” The album’s focus point is on the cello, however not all tracks are driven by the instrument.
Tracks such as “Now”, “You Me” and “Qualified” are driven by the electronic side of the record, while “A State of Mind”, “It Is In” and “The End” shift the focal point back to the cello. The album opener “I Sound My Sound” sets the tone for the entire record, perfectly combining a melodic cello piece with an upbeat electronic groove.
The record alternates between dark and light, upbeat and sombre. The heavy electronic beat of “Now” is offset with a recurring, haunting bell chime, while “Like This” creates tension through a slow, pulsing bass line. On the other side of the coin, “State of Mind” and “The End” are more tranquil, ambient soothing pieces. Creating a calming effect to the harsh electronic side of the record.
Lilja has created something beautiful here that shouldn’t be quickly dismissed. Just as himself and Apocalyptica proved before, the cello doesn’t just belong amidst chamber music. It’s not a dated instrument, that can’t find use in modern music. Finding a safe place in rock and metal, and now among electronic beats, Lilja is creating art one music genre at a time. Who knows where him and his cello will end up next, but I can’t wait to hear it. For now, it’s time to take Plays Electronica by One Cello out for another spin.