The ultimate goal of musicianship, as I understand it, is to reach a point where personal expression is not limited by external factors like technical ability or straightforward commercialism. Once you’ve reached a point where you can play anything that comes to mind, then the great infinite plateau of musical ideas stretches out before you like an ocean of time. On his latest release, guitarist and composer Jason Sadites has further shed the trappings of the concept of “genre”, and entered into a rich world of diffused pure instrumental expression. By tapping a couple of world-class musicians to accompany him, he has exponentially multiplied the sonic possibilities of the guitar as a composition tool. Unbound by mechanics, he is free to roam his own particular universe as a guitar-wielding free radical.The whole album plays seamlessly, more like one long piece than a set of separate tracks.
The album opens with a groove-based track called “Red Herring” which manages to be both laid back and vaguely sinister, thanks to the creeping minor vibe. Layered, swirling guitars skitter over a syncopated drum/bass pattern, before the sun rises with more major-sounding middle section, before the danger returns with synth-like tones and a gauzy haze of white noise segues into the next track.
“Mi-Nee Mi-Nee” represents a continuation of the squeezing, skwonking synth-type tones, with a subtle increase in the melodic tension. There’s a stellar drum breakdown and then some horn-like guitar leads back into a more resolved melodic structure. It gently returns the listener back to earth upon a thousand bejeweled guitar sounds.
“Puffery” lurches to life with a glam-metal riff and wonderfully damaged bent intervals. But it’s a bait and switch, because it’s married to a classic jazz progression which quickly morphs into a slippery, ambient prog groove, punctuated with periodic reiterations of the initial metal themes. At times this track becomes almost purely rhythmic, which bridges the jazzier sections with the more aggressive movements.
“Pathos”, as the name implies, is a more gentle jazz-rock vibe, complete with harmonized guitars and some round, delicate tones. On an album this tightly paced, it’s a welcome moment of tranquility, which slowly fades out on the tumbling harmonic notes of the bass.
“Weasel Words” brings the volume and intensity back up with a series of hard-edged poly-rhythms with scorching guitar phrases. The backing musicians (legendary musos Marco Minneman and Ric Fierabacci) lock into these oblong beats with Sadites in a way that seems beyond the world of most musicians. The stop-start foundation and the tension in the note intervals is a great showcase for the masterful skill of these world-class musicians.
“Big Lie”, one of the centerpieces of the album, opens with a slab of old-school funk, punctuated by spacey noise and long, languid melodic phrases which cycle back on themselves, as if trapped by their own gravity. There’s brief shimmering middle section, where frozen chords drift through the periphery like snowflakes. And then a slightly whimsical, vaguely psychedelic staccato phrase announces the new theme, a stately fusion groove built up by the drums and bass. And then another left turn: the roaring, aggressive metal licks return and the delicate woodwork house they’ve just built is now in flames. Another pause, and the listener is returned to the sophisticated space-funk of the earlier movements, bringing the song to a majestic close.
“Demagogue” plunges the listener downward like a trap door, powered by ambient noise over staggering drum fills, punctuated by noisy blasts of guitar. Over a down-tempo beat, Sadites sends flurries of notes out into the darkness. Sinister and over-driven, the song builds momentum steadily until reaching its apex with a full-on rock song. Then, like the eye of a hurricane, it all disappears into a lovely, understated jazz bridge, only to roar back with a series of heavy, slashing riffs.
The album’s final track is a beautiful coda to all this electric wizardry. On “Repercussion”, Sadites lays down his electric guitars and settles into a wicked, groovy acoustic funk jam. The clarity and precision of his playing really shine on this track. His guitar goes dancing in long runs and quick rhythmic fills, with ambiguous open-voiced chords punching through every so often like mirages.
Jason Sadites has given us another exciting and surprising entry into his already varied and accomplished catalogue of work. With a combination of technical skill and creative vision, he has demonstrated the endless possibilities of pure sound. Go out and get this album if you desire a challenging listen, free from traditional musical boundaries. The future is wide open.
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