Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vibrating Universe, Birth of Truth

I take today's post to expound on the virtues of a local New Jersey group, Vibrating Universe. They were kind enough to send me their new double-CD Birth of Truth (self released). It is wall-of-sound post-prog rock with very nice guitar work by Derrick Klybish (who plays bass as well), concept, lyrics and keys by David Pardine and all vocals divided between him and brother Brian, who are also jointly responsible for the music writing. Derek Schildkraut holds up the rhythmic end nicely as the drummer.

It is a sort of cosmic-themed progressivity. Sometimes the melody lines are direct and essentialist, almost chant-like in their single-minded thrust. At other times they are filled with multiple parts and/or harmonic richness. There is something distinctive going on in any case. And the lyrics are searching and space-directed in ways that complement the musical spaciousness that is a hallmark of this group on this their extended sojourn. The vocals are generally very full--with multiple voices hitting the senses strongly, contrasting and layering nicely with the full-bore instrumental density.

I will not say that this sounds like a present-day equivalent of classic Moody Blues sides because the sound is not the same, but the intent to send the listener into an experiential orbit is nonetheless there like the Moodys at their peak.

But no, it does not sound retro or dated so much as it partakes in an outward-bound thrust in common with early classic prog, only it does so on its own terms. I understand from the band that they took no little effort and time to get the sound just right, and it most certainly shows.

There are no dead spots or fillers in this involved two-CD presentation. Far from it. All lays out very well and originally, lyrically, cosmically.

I do recommend this for those who seek spacy-lyrical song fare of a decidedly original sort. Bravo!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Harvey Valdes Trio, PointCounterPoint

Guitarist Harvey Valdes brings to us a vibrantly iconoclastic trio outing on PointCounterPoint (self-released). The unusual and well articulated instrumentation is Harvey on electric guitar, Sana Nagana on violin and Joe Hertenstein on drums. Each contributes much to the totality, which is a sort of avant jazz rock with pronounced rhythmic presence and odd or shifting meters that are foregrounded by Joe's definitive drumming. The melodic interplay between Harvey and Sana is most unusual, modern in its chromatic expansiveness, ever-shifting and evolving with the two melodic lines intertwining and allowing space for soloistic improv flourishes.

It follows very original post-fusion advanced form with remarkable consistency and some highly unusual ways that unwind with excellence and give Harvey the chance to show a special solo weight both unusual and with an undeniable logic and brilliance. But then Sana is in there too with counterlines of real worth.

It is the kind of music that states its own case, not bending to an assimilation of the typical, but holding its own in exciting ways.

It is of considerable interest from a compositional standpoint but also gives us some wonderful guitar, violin and drum work in the process.

It is something you must check out if you want something new and very out-of-the-ordinary. Oh, no, I do not exaggerate. This is beautifully new!! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Charlie Ballantine, Providence

Some albums just lay out naturally and speak to us without holding back but also with a kind of natural directness. That is so of electric guitarist Charlie Ballantine's album Providence (self-released). It's a set of (mostly?) originals that set Charlie's bluesy-folksy electric guitar against a nicely put-together group with Amanda Gardner on alto, Josh Espinosa on organ, Conner Green on bass and Josh Roberts on drums.

There is a sort of country-pie rural flavor to the music that might remind you a little of early Pat Metheny but not exactly. Charlie solos nicely in a very laid-back way that is not out to wow you with chops though there is evidence of all that. No, he wants to build moody, bluesy edifices of sound, to capture a shifting dynamic that puts forward its particular, relaxed, local kind of significant approach.

It's a sort of music that decidedly is more rock-jazzish than smooth, that floats into your listening mind without a lot of sweat and struggle, and so should appeal to a broad swath of audiences without sacrificing artistic merit.

I like it. It just hangs there for you like a good painting. It does not go out of its way to call attention to itself, yet it is there to examine in some detail should you be so inclined. It's mood music for mood music more than some stated activity. And it pleases without pandering.

Shoot it on and you'll find yourself drifting in a very nice way.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Electric Suite

When in the course of the many submissions I receive as part of my blog writing I get something in the realm of the totally unknown it is not in itself unusual. But when the artists "prefer to remain anonymous," as the guy in that very old show "The Millionaire" did (showing my age again?), it is pretty unusual. Who would not want their names emblazoned on their CD? Well, no matter. Today we have "a post-rock duo playing a rough, loud, tense and minimal sound. A Bass and a singer performing electric tracks colored with a subtle and sophisticated darkness," to quote the front cover. Well, yes, that's so and in the end the music communicates fully even if we only know this outfit by the title of the EP CD, The Electric Suite (self-released).

Put expectations aside and open your ears as I did. In the end we get six songs, hard-hitting mostly, with the electric bass played with zeal and a guitar-like fullness, quite nicely really. The singer counterpart is a woman who sounds like herself, poetic, declamatory, dedicated to a certain intensity that matches the bass playing.

After you listen a couple of times it makes very much sense as a unique and creative duo effort with the intensity of avant rock but yes, post-rock, in that it does not follow any formulas that a typical rock outing might.

We get some pretty intense bass plying and a sung poetry that places it all in the contemporary underground, and all the better for us, as it does so in ways that will reward those who open up to it.

And in the end this is music that is the opposite of anonymous, in that it is very personal and original. It is, after all, the music of "The Electric Suite." And they are definitely onto something.

PS: After I posted this I received some additional info on the group from a most reliable source:
The Electric Suite, according to the vocalist on the CD, Carla Diratz, was recorded in November of 2010, after she and bassist Corentin Coupe got together in Montpellier, France. They created some 20 tracks or so in a matter of 3 months and played a few gigs ... and then for various reasons, they were unable to tour and play gigs that were offered. So the duo separated. One and a half years later they decided to get together again and added guitar and drums to play the music they'd recorded, and voila, her new group No White Of Moon was born.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Out Louds, Tomas Fujiwara, Ben Goldberg, Mary Halvorson

The internet is all about classification. Or I should say being read on the internet is that. Here today for example is an album, a first by the trio known as (and a CD self-titled as) The Out Louds (Relative Pitch RPR 1042). It is a well considered triumvirate of Mary Halvorson on electric guitar, Tomas Fujiwara on drums and Ben Goldberg on clarinet. I post it here on the Guitar Blog because Mary's playing will be of great interest to guitar-minded folks. But if I had a clarinet blog, it could easily go there, or on a drum blog, too. That is because all three give us much to appreciate.

It is a matter of 11 freely improvised numbers of weight. Each captures a special moment of inspiration, where Mary comes up with some foundational single-line and/or chorded memorability, Ben replies with a wealth of jagged and/or flowing lines that express a good deal that is wonderful, and Tomas drums in and out of time with a special flourish which is his alone. So it is a matter of some great guitar, great clarinet, great drumming, great trio enacting. If I put it here it at least covers one-third of what makes this one a real keeper.

Mary has gone her own way for quite some time as her own "brand" of free guitar, which is to say that the WHAT is original and foundational. You could say the same for Ben's clarinet and Tomas' drums.

The ins and outs of it all is that this one gives us some fine and original free improvisations, free jazz with its own way of presenting melodic-harmonic-rhythmic complexes that keep interest level high, that make a kind of modern statement of uniqueness. And it's all good. Very good!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kevin Kastning, Skyfields

If you do not know of him already, here is a great way to become familiar with the very original and provocatively beautiful 15- and 36-string guitar work of Kevin Kastning. Skyfields (greydisc GDR 3530) is Kevin in a solo setting, mapping out his extraordinarily way with these fabulous sounding guitars, played in the upright position like a contrabass and tuned in special ways that Kevin exploits with an  intelligence, exploratory will and lyrical sensitivity for a result that is truly one-of-a-kind and musically fascinating, almost like music of another planet it sounds so unique.

The album pans out nicely with five segments of compositional-improvisational interest. The flexibility of the guitars is exploited so that we hear harp-like strains, guitar-centered melodic harmonic inventions and things that almost sound lute-like.

It is an excellent outing that will make a believer of you if you do not know his music and will confirm to the others that do that Kastning makes memorable atmospheric music that puts him in a special place.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Raptor Trail, New World

Time for a little new alt rock by a good band I have not been exposed to previously, the Raptor Trail. The one I have been liking, the subject of this review, is their second album, New World (MBM Entertainment). It's a power trio of Matt Mayes on guitars and vocals, Johnny Meyer on guitars, keys, bass and vocals, and Gene Bass on drums.

They get a densely vivid sound on the album, with some heaviness and lots of fine guitar/bass routines--and very solid, driving foundational drumming. Their musicality is everywhere evident. The songs have progressions not at all cliche, and the melodic vibrancy reminds me just a bit of early REM, and that to me is a cool thing. Both Matt and Johnny sing well.

And in the end you have an album that stands out as singular and nicely arranged, songs that grow on you little by little and do not tire the ears, ever.

The Raptor Trail are doing good. I hope lots of folks get into them. I do recommend you check this album out if you want something very substantial and worthwhile among the new rock offerings out there now. I am a fan based on this one!