Hundred Word Reviews, May 2023 Part 3

Jason Blake – Subsequent Ruins
Seeing the 7D Media logo on this CD meant that Subsequent Ruins went straight onto the must-hear pile. Y’see, that’s the New Mexico-based label that’s home to Trey Gunn, thunderous stick/Warr guitar player extraordinaire. And Jason Blake is a Warr guitarist, too. Teaming up here with the always-compelling drummer Marco Minnemann, Blake serves up a big, big, big instrumentalist sound. Sure, it’s prog, and listeners who dig King Crimson and such will likely find that it hits their sweet spot. But there’s an accessibility inherent in the music that renders it less foreboding than some of Crim’s latter-day exploits. Brilliant.

Lasse Mørck – Imagining Places No One’s Probably Ever Been
I don’t quite know what I expected when I popped this CD into my player, but what I heard was totally unexpected. For this project, upright bassist Mørck assembled a chord-less quartet: trumpet (Jonas Due), saxes (Ludvig Samuelsson) and drummer Snorre Kirk join him on a delightfully tuneful set of originals. The harmonics on the eight tunes are the result, then, of collaboration; the four musicians work as a seamless unit. I hear you saying, “Oh, but that’s what jazz is about!” Yes, but the manner in which these four execute it is nothing short of inspired. It’s supremely tuneful.

Star Collector – Attack, Sustain, Decay… Repeat
Knowing the (excellent) kind of music Star Collector makes, I was amused to see the title of their latest album. It’s a nod to an abbreviation used in the analog synthesizer world: ADSR. In that usage – describing the categories of sound envelopes, it stands for attack, decay, sustain and release. But Star Collector is no synth band. So I’m guessing the phrase pertains to a manner of playing electric guitar. These guys deliver a huge, wide-screen sonic assault, the kind of thing we expect from, say, Cheap Trick. No filigree here; their approach recalls the Smithereens. Roaring, rocking, really good.

 M-Opus – At the Mercy of Manannán
It was just this week when I was lamenting the lack of current-day progressive rock that eschewed the metal edge. So I was delighted to discover M-Opus. Deliberately retro, this Irish quartet makes albums that are specifically designed to sound like they were made in a specific year. And not this year: this one is their 1972 album. And they do it exceedingly well, which means that if – like me – you dig Close to the Edge, Demons and Wizards, Octopus, Trilogy and A Tab in the Ocean, you’ll dig this. Luxuriously melodic and technically adventurous, it’ll take you right back.

Paul McCann – Alter Ego
Another Irish artist? How lovely. Wish I had known about M-Opus (above) and McCann in March when I was in Dublin. No matter; we have their music, which is the main thing. With just the right amount of jangle, McCann conjures pop gems par excellence. His tonal palette is wide; one minute he’s gentle, the next – sometimes in the same song – he rocks out. Lots of shade and light in these superbly arranged tunes. “Lost in This Moment” is the best kind of pop: gloriously catchy. Try not singing along. Then give up and be swept along. A keeper.