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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mattias IA Eklundh

Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that having heard an earlier disc by Eklundh I came at this with more than a little trepidation. That other album literally gave me a headache. It wasn't because the music was obnoxious or bad, though. It was more like a time I can recall getting a headache in a Systems Analysis and Design class because the concepts were way outside the box. It was just really hard to get your mind around. Well, this album does not have that problem. Either that experience adjusted my perceptions enough to appreciate this or Eklundh has produced a more accessible release this time out. That's not to say that it's mainstream, because it isn't. This is still challenging and creative musical motifs that are somewhat in the vein of Steve Vai. I find it interesting how Eklundh also manages to infuse a solid sense of humor (all you have to do is look at the titles to see that) into his work. This album should appeal to fans of innovative guitar dominated instrumental (although there are a few isolated vocals this is nearly all instrumental) progressive rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Road Less Traveled
With fusion textures that at times calls to mind Vai and at other Frank Zappa, this one moves through a number of intriguing changes. It's a case of if you don't like where this is, just wait. At points it's dramatic yet melodic and at other dissonant and chaotic. It's never boring, though.
There's No Money In Jazz
Wow, this one is lightning fast and crunchy, but yet still jazz like. A weird start and stop processing creates an unbelievably unique texture. It has a bit of a "Flight of the Bumble Bees" feel at times. This is so strange, but so tasty.
Print This!
The sounds of a printer start this and carry forward as the backdrop for the musical insanity about to ensue. This is an electro techno stomp that's part crunchy metal and part avante garde weirdness, but very cool. It turns to an acoustic guitar solo with keys and the printer as accompaniment later, but then stomps back up to the main song context.
Father
This is mellower and pretty with just a hint of a noisy crunch to give it an off kilter musical texture. This one shifts around a lot in its jazz prog/fusion mode.
No Strings Attached
World percussion starts this, then swirls into a fast paced rhythmic pattern over which ultra chunky guitar riffs dance around one another. This is an odd little piece of a jam. It includes some strange voice loops at points.
Caffeine
This is a bouncy distorted little piece of fun weirdness with a decided Latin bent.
Fletch Theme
Yep, Eklundh takes on the awesome theme from those great Chevy Chase movies. This rocker is a lot of fun as it is updated but still very true to form.
The Battle of Bob
Lightning fast, off kilter and quirky as hell, this is noisy, but very intriguing. It is quite King Crimson like, and would also fit well into the RIO school of prog. It gets rather heavy at points and also feels like Zappa at times.
Chopstick Boogie
More super fast jamming, this cut has another oddly processed texture, but also resembles Satriani at times. This is weird, but quite cool.
Toxic Donald
Bizarre ambience makes the backdrop here. This is dark, dramatic and very brief.
Happy Hour
This straightforward cut is fun and actually has vocals. While not a real Earth shaker, it is a nice change of pace.
Smoke On the Water
This take on the oft-heard garage band classic (originally immortalized by Deep Purple) is very fast and a bit peculiar with its techno motif. Eklundh screams out some soloing here, and even adds some Zappa-like changes into the mix.
Insert Coin
Wow! If Frank Zappa had created video game music with electronic sound effects it probably would have sounded a lot like the main portion of this brief cut. It drops to a short melodic movement in the middle.
The Woman in Seat 27A
A gentle rainstorm begins this, then a techno rhythmic structure enters. Eventually bouncy, fairly classical sedate tones emerge to drive the track. The guitar begins its solo journey, in pretty and intricate patterns over this backdrop. It starts growing ever so slowly. This is not only the longest track on the disc (9 and a half minutes), but also one of the best. It shifts later to hard-edged crunchy sounds that are quite tasty. Other than this introduction, the main themes remain unchanged here. Eventually the rain returns to end the piece.
Ketchup is a Vegetable
This is a short, yet quite tasty fusion jam.
Samba Caramba
This quick paced number is fun and fast. It's humorous with its breathy in and out type of musical motif. It is weird, but very cool.
White Trash Hyper Blues
Based in super fast crunchy Satriani like fusion jamming, this shifts for a short time to a slower Zappaish jam.
Toxic Mickey
Ambient weirdness makes up this brief cut.
Minor Swing
Bouncy and melodic, this is a fusion rocker that's fun. It shifts to old school jazz as it carries on. The traditional jazz movements are just plain awesome. This is my favorite cut on the disc.
One-String Improvisation
This 15 second cut is just plain bizarre. It's a good thing that it is so brief.
Asteroid 3834
"Frank Zappa disco" would be a good description of this unusual composition.
Little Bastard
This chunky jam is another that's a bit odd, but quite tasty. It has more of those Satriani/Vai like textures at times.
Difficult Person Music
This is just another piece of strangeness. At 36 seconds it doesn't stay around long, but I think the disc would have ended stronger without it.
 
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