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Trey Gunn - Modulator (with Marco Minnemann) CD (album) cover


Trey Gunn

Eclectic Prog

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2 stars This is a bit of a special review for me. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to be the first member to review an album. As I've mentioned before, likely several times now, I have a thing for intriguing album covers, and that is what has lead me to review Modulator by Trey Gunn. I think it's a great idea to take a shot in the dark every now and then and explore new musical horizons and a nifty album cover is just as good an excuse as any to get you to go out and do it. After all isn't that what Prog Archives is all about? Sadly they cannot all be winners.

I am loath to say that Modulator is a bad album, because I don't really think it is. The problem, as it happens comes in at my end. Modulator is an extended jam session between Trey Gunn and Marco Minnemann. Minneman forms the back bone of the jam with Gunn doing the really heavy sonic explorations over top of Minneman's usually soft but quick drum line. If you have ever read any of my previous reviews you will note that I think highly improvisational works often do more harm than good. I understand that it is an integral part of the creative process, but the really interesting stuff is often hidden in small pockets packed within extended stretches of what I would consider to be largely incoherent noise.

I also know that there are a good deal of members here at PA who find improvisational music to their tastes, and this album is for all of you. On this review I will forego my standard track by track review. Mostly because the album has 22 tracks in total with some clocking in less than a minute and most in the one to three minute range. The album goes through many distinct changes with themes carrying on over from track to track and themes at times making changes within tracks themselves. Modulator is best approached as one whole. What I will do instead is point out some of the locations where I thought the juicier nuggets and deeper pitfalls were located.

The intro track Contact sticks out for its strange and distinct keyboard work. The -/+, +/-stretch is one of the weaker earlier bits. The latter half of Lumen and on through Switch, Daughter and Pole is made up of a very intriguing plucking. The best of the bunch is arabesque Pole. Scatter does continue at first with the plucking but is not as good as the aforementioned tracks.

Spectra, is for me the nadir of Modulator. The drumming is erratic and unfocused and the guitar playing is riddled is dissonant sounds and agonizing drones. Another strike against Spectra is that it happens to be the longest single track on the album at 6:08 and the only one clocking in longer than five minutes.

The next mostly good stretch, if you leave out the miniscule Californ-a-Tron (0:46), comes in on Mono-Punkte, which has a very cool combination of heavy riffing and staccato piano chords. You can hear just a bit of the Power to Believe come through on this track too. It's follower Coupling isn't much like it, it's like a quite shamisen rock out, but also makes for a good listen.

The intro to Slingcharm is the most recognizable riff based portion of Modulator, it's pretty cool, for a little while. Twisted Pair, must be a reference to the musicians, it is horribly dissonant and scratchy which makes the comparatively relaxed Hymn's synth intro that much more appetizing. The synth leaves for a bit but comes back even stronger. They saved the best for last here.

If you are interested in a pair of pretty talented guys doing some very far out jamming I think you'll enjoy Modulator. If what you are looking for is a more conventional musical experience, then I suggest an immediate 180 degree turn. For my personal tastes Modulator is really only a two out of five.

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Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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