Keith Knudson, Firedance (CD, 39:51); Hollenden HLDN-0010, 1998 P.O. Box 18129 Cleveland Heights, OH 44118-0129 E-mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: www.hollenden.com Guitarist Keith Knudson's Firedance is a minimalistic montage of short pieces. Overall, it's mood music, I'd say, although the two longest cuts, "Fields" and "Contemplation," are showcases for Knudson's classically influenced fingerpicking. He cites J.S. Bach, Yes, Tangerine Dream, and Michael Hedges as influences, and those influences are all represented, perhaps a bit too obviously. The driving pulse and low-tuned bass strings of "Six Eight" are Hedges through and through, and in "Contemplation" we hear a figure several times that sounds a bit too close to the intro of Yes's "And You and I." There are some nice contrapuntal moments on the record, like on "Midnight Shelling." But overall, the production is a bit too do-it-yourself for what this music wants to be. The atmospheric pieces make use of phase shifting, backwards tape effects, and plenty of delay, but these tools stand out too nakedly. You know exactly what they are - there's no mystery. The left-right panning on "Stalker from the Void" is elementary, and it's downright irritating on the album's closer, "Descent." Knudson is ambitious about creating big sonic textures, but there are too many seams in what he's laid down here. You can see behind the curtain. Compositionally and conceptually, as well, the record lacks coherence. Three out of eleven tracks exceed the seven minute mark and one other is three minutes and change, but the rest are less than two minutes long. I'm not advocating length for its own sake, but the radical variation in song length gives the program a jumpy feel. It's also over before you know it. "Contemplation," in particular, lacks a strong structure; it's a suite of many parts, but the segues are abrupt and don't really gel. There's some nice playing throughout, but it doesn't exactly feel like a composition. Knudson is on his way toward something, but it's not fully realized on this CD. He has a lot of room to grow, and I hope he'll show more of his potential on his next outing. ~ David R. Adler
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