|Brett Garsed: Big Sky|
|2002, Paranormal Records, 1909-37028-2|
Australian guitarist Brett Garsed is widely known in the progressive music culture as a fretboard wiz for his collaborations (mainly with TJ Helmerich) and contributions to various albums. But, now Garsed has compiled a collection of ten tracks for his first solo effort that puts him squarely in the spotlight with backup from fusion veterans Ric Fierabracci and Toss Panos.
Having listened to Big Sky about ten times, it became apparent that this album is a music reviewer's nightmare. A nightmare, not because the music is bad or anything of the sort, but because the music is so unique and undefineable stylistically that it is difficult to describe. As much as this stylistic uniqueness might jokingly be a reviewer's nightmare, it is a progressive music fan's dream because it brings a refreshingly new musical perspective that is found in Garsed's instrumental compositions. Though the styles are not really similar, the distinctiveness and uniqueness of Garsed's style on this album is analogous to Joel Hoekstra's accomplishments in achieving uniqueness on his ground breaking release, The Moon Is Falling.
So, despite the admitted futility in trying to categorize Garsed's style on Big Sky, I will attempt to give some depiction of it by describing some of the stylistic elements that are defineable. The compositions are definitely strictly instrumental, complex, and very progressive. I would hesitate to describe the sound as fusion because it seems closer to progressive instrumental rock in sound and feel (sort of like Eric Johnson), but the level of complexity and sophistication involved is more in line with what is more commonly found in world class fusion. This is not to say that there are no fusion influences or elements of fusion to be found in this album, but the character of the album might better be described as progressive rather than to set expectations differently for listeners who might expect a more Gambale variety of fusion.
The sound has some semblance of influence to Eric Johnson in that it deploys very clean toned voicings of a mixture of speedy and soulful guitar lines, and some of the tonality seems influenced by Johnson as well, as does some of the compositional structuring. Specifically, it seems that some of the arpeggiation of chords that involved leading fourth and fifth intervals seemed traceable to Eric Johnson. The intricate complexities of the composition and musicality seem to have a Joel Hoekstra-ish depth and feel to them, though the persona projected is quite different from Hoekstra. The same being true for the character projected by Garsed's use of the Johnson-sounding arpeggios. These arpeggios (for example, from the first track "Undoing"), though noticeably similar in technique to Johnson, seemed to take on an entirely different character in the manner that! Garsed applied them and seems in no way derivative or clonish of Johnson.
Garsed's selection and matching of guitar effects and tones to the passages he applied them to was nothing less than perfect and nothing short of breathtaking. His ability to use clean tones that clearly articulate his advanced and speedy technique while maintaining the integrity of a pure and unpolluted guitar sound are truly mesmerizing. There is no use of overdrive or distortion to mask any imperfections in precision to be found on this album. This is one of the more impressive aspects of Garsed's playing. The manner in which these voicings articulated his flowing runs is very artistic and expressionistic. Garsed uses a wide variety of voicings for his musical ideas, including some very tactful applications of speedy legato, arpeggiated sweeps, fluid scales, and well-felt slide.
Using this clean-toned sound that deploys carefully crafted effects to project some character into his musical phrasings, Garsed constructs a number of soulful compositions that balance intensive development of intricate musical ideas with fluid feeling direction. The seamless transition of his musical ideas from one to the next give them a natural accessibility to the listener that overcomes the complexities involved in the composition and his guitar technique. The resulting musicality of Garsed's arrangements is such that the musical vision that is projected dominates the listeners' comprehension of any of the complicated mechanics involved, though an educated ear will definitely appreciate the complexities involved. There is so much emotional content, feeling, and musicality that is conveyed through the music that the compositions just continue to become more enjoyable wi! th each successive listening.
Not only does the album reach great heights in the artistic achievements that it accomplishes, the consistency of quality in the music runs true from start to finish. The entire album is just phenomenal. It is impressive from a technical perspective and it is enjoyable from musicality perspective. Fans of progressive, instrumental guitar are going to feast their ears on this album, as do I suspect fans of fusion will, as well. Brett Garsed has put together an amazing solo release on Big Sky that is without a doubt of world class caliber.
On the scale of "into it", I give Big Sky a "very into it" and two thumbs up. Instrumental efforts of this caliber, musicality, accessibility, and that have soul-appealing enjoyability are few and far between. I can't imagine any fan of instrumental, progressive, guitar-centric music that would be disappointed with this release from Brett Garsed.
|~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com ~ November 2003|
Brett Garsed/TJ Helmerich/Gary Willis/Dennis Chambers/Scott Kinsey: Uncle Moe's Space Ranch; (CD, 61:13) Tone Center TC-40162, 2001 Cyberhome: http://www.brettgarsed.com I will have to say this first off, "Whoa!" This funked-n-free-jam fusion splash is a tricky ride. Though truly off-center and extremely innovative in many solos and song structures -- you gotta love this release's overall groove. Everybody seems wide open, slammin', chops-laden, pumpin' and hard groovin' -- and 100% slick! It is a mine field of genius, crunch, technical feats of fusion and best of all -- full of soul and fire. This is no limp-wristed, rag doll fuzak. No! GnHnWnCnK have crafted a must-hear, nouveau fusion of jazz/funk/rock and treatments. If you dig GnH or Tribal Tech then just buy this. As Tribal Tech's Rocket Science was one really wild excursion, so too Uncle Moe's Space Ranch will have you in orbit above Planet Trippy's Freaked Fusion Restaurant. Again we have that Weather Report on steroids wall of fused jazz colliding with GnH's Under the Lash of Gravity type of brutality and monster-sized stompings. This is not dinner music nor background dribblings of jazz. UM'sSRanch is strictly for those hip to the trip of loud, fast, and explosive. Enjoy axes dripping with riffs, bass that delivers seismically , drums that attack the primal bedrock and keys that will tie your ears in knots. Even Virgil Donati pops in for some percs too. 2001 has been a year for fusion to stretch itself out into daring new territories of expression. I listen to this GnH release, T Tech's latest and McGill/Manring/Stevens' +/- release and I see a new kind of fusion rock coming into being -- free fusion. I wonder what is next. I wrote my pal Brett as to what-in-the-heck kind of effects and and/or pedals he and TJ were using to create the novel sounds found herein. He informed me he was just playing through his fav LINE 6 settings but TJ had recorded a solo to vinyl first and then TJ/DJ scratched it in for the final mix. Unreal! These guys never cease to amuse and amaze me. For those of you wanting to hear that Exempt and Quid Pro Quo sound just skip to the outro track for a deep dip into GnH nostalgia. Minx will also stir those classic GnH neurons too. All other songs will be a brand new experience I heartily recommend. If you want cool fusion that rocks head- to-head with anything else out there -- then check into Uncle Moe's Space Ranch. Head rushes and whole-body shivers included with assorted solos. "Bravo mates and dudes, izza good'un! Eh?" (Beware hidden weird bonzodogband zappa sophomoric castrated gnome tracks.)
~ John W. Patterson, EER-MUSIC.com
Tracks: Colliding Chimps, email@example.com, Swarming Goblets, SighBorg, He's Havin' All That's His to be Bad, Minx, I Want a Pine Cone, A Thousand Days Fusion dudes: Brett - axe, TJ - axe and scratch, Gary - bass stomp, Dennis - stix, Scott K - on zawinulic keys, Virgil - guest percs, and Djemel Chergui adds electronica thingamajigs and assorted guest whatnotz
Garsed, Helmerich, and Donati: Under the Lash of Gravity, (pre-release CD-R, 52:20); Cooee Spide Music, '99-2K Contact Info: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: (818) 508-9058 Cyberhome:http://www.brettgarsed.com/ Well this time out GnH have radically departed from their previous releases. This is a strongly vocal album full of samples and bizarre sonic treats. Helmerich's voice is as good as money if the right person hears him. He can croon right alongside U2, Talking Heads, or Sisters of Mercy lead vocalists. The explosive Virgil Donati rips up the skins with Richie Garcia percussing. Linda Nilsson does backing vocals. Much angst and gothic-tinged gloom hovers around this quirky and kinked release. Avant garde electronic treatments, introspective howlings, turntable antics by "Black", and mean guitars abound. I absolutely got off on the Zappa meets George Michaels meets Stone Cold Steve Austin meets Godzilla on "Giant". Crazy rock abandon! Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee-fi-fo-fum, Fee- fi-fo-fum, oh yeah! Garsed is on fire with perfect timings and in-your-face crunch. Twang! On "Wake In Fright" I kept hearing Sisters of Mercy and Skinny Puppy with Ministry guitars but at a 16 rpm doom drone. Weird but worthy. Darkness and dungeon dismal, pained-doomrock continue on "King of Neglect" that Wino of The Obsessed and Spirit Caravan or Circle of Dust would applaud with full force. This is scary stuff will make the Blair Witch run for the outhouse. My favorite lithium moment/'ludes drool/thorazine shuffle/controlled substance piece was "Vicodin". Beautifully anguished guitar work and ethereally oppressive treatments and ambient textures make me cry for Garsed and Helmerich to please, please, do a 2-CD release of instrumentals like this. I am dead serious! On "Simon Says" we have a return to that "Giant" monster-crunch, smashed-thumbed pathos, and phat fuzzed bass. I pity the poor fool that has to tune Garsed’s axe after this kinda abuse. "Galactic Waterhole" and "Nemesis" offer more eclectic rock but on the fine "Bad Luck Go Away" outro we are graced with oodles of superb Jeff Beckian, Hendrixian, and Satrianic outer limits, riffs done in that fine Garsed and Helmerich style. Big high five on this one mates! ~ John W. Patterson