A visit to Maui inspired Mark Riddle to record an exotica album with tracks inspired by his trip. Vibraphonist Riddle is also known by DigiTiki, host of the long-running Quiet Village podcast, and also by Marty Lush (ex-Tikiyaki Orchestra). Drawing inspiration from Arthur Lyman’s style and his Hawaiian Sunset Vol. 2 album, Riddle’s collection of songs will appeal to those looking for mellow melodies with lavish arrangements.
The title track blends vibraphones and ukulele and delivers a strong opening song complete with the sounds of lapping waves and birds. The mid-tempo “Road to Hana” opens with dreamy sounds that provides the listener with the feeling of entering a portal, and continues on a journey with a hypnotic driving rhythm. Several songs pay homage to Lahaina’s Japanese cultural roots by using familiar music themes and bamboo instrumentation. Of these tracks, “Evening at Hong Kong Gardens” is the most interesting, featuring intricate piano and Japanese stringed instrumentation.
“Lahaina Hula” was written as a Hula song, but the tempo is slowed down so dramatically you may not understand why it seems so familiar. The cheekily named “Tune for Crab Rangoon” is the the most traditional exotica track, with interplay between piano and vibraphone that any Martin Denny fan will love. The lone cover song is “Path of the Wind” and closes side two of the album with aplomb, though two stand-out bonus tracks are available on the digital release.
I’ve never felt that most of Arthur Lyman’s recordings were mixed properly, but there are no such flaws on Riddle’s. None of the delicate instruments are lost in the mix, nor is there too much to get in the way of the vibraphone or piano that leads the melody. Ambient sounds support the music and themes well.
Lahaina Sunset is available in several formats. Many will be drawn to the audiophile virgin vinyl LP, but a deeper drive is available via the Flash Drive version that comes with bonus tracks, music videos, behind the scenes making of videos, and a version of the album without ambient audio sounds. A faux postcard features the photo from the album on the front and a note from “Marty” on the back. There’s also an option to purchase the LP and the Flash Drive at the same time.