REVIEW: DPRP 2012
Author: Mark Hughes
Tracklist: Particle Dance (3:42), Black Hole (4:54), Cognitive Dissonance (4:44), London Vibe (2:21), Avatar Jones (6:03), Erdinger (5:00), Martian Sunrise (5:25), State Of Siege (2:32), October Skies (5:48), Particle Coda (1:12)
The musically revived Peter Matuchniak has been on a bit of a creative roll since his reappearance as part of Evolve IV. Not only has he just released his first solo album, Uncover Me, but his new prog band, Gekko Projekt, have seen fit to release their debut album Electric Forest almost simultaneously. Like Evolve IV, the Gekko Projekt is a quartet, although unlike the earlier band the newer unit includes keyboards, played by main composer Vice Gloster. Matuchniak handles all of the guitars while the rhythm section consists of Rick Meadows on bass and Alan smith on drums (impressively using a kit he built himself!). The bulk of the album is instrumental, although vocals do accompany three of the tracks.
With Gloster writing the bulk of the material, it is no surprise that there is a predominant focus on the keyboards throughout much of the album, although Matuchniak is hardly pushed aside as he makes his presence known throughout the album providing some tasty solos and plenty of atmospherics to accompany the more traditional keyboard-derived sounds. Prime example of this is October Skies whose central section is a fine slab of instrumental prog rock – it is just a shame that this instrumental section is bookended by far weaker vocal parts. Have to admit it, the three vocal tracks are somewhat marred by the lack of a strong vocalist. As well as on October Skies, Gloster also sings on the album’s longest piece, Avatar Jones, which also features some epic prog passages, while drummer Smith takes the mic on Black Hole, the most ‘pop’ orientated of the tracks (i.e., it has a chorus!). All the vocals sound as if they have been electronically treated and have consequently lost a lot of natural timbre and warmth. Shame as all three tracks have some nice moments, and given the fine vocal contributions of Tali Azerad to the Evolve IV album it is a shame she could not have been roped in to contribute.
The album starts and finishes with the instrumentals Particle Dance and Particle Coda, the former an interesting guitar-based piece that gets things moving with some nice work from Matuchniak, the latter a refrain of the main guitar line but played in a more sedate and relaxed manner. The guitarist’s other contributions are London Vibe and Martian Sunrise which, like Particle Dance, was co-written with Gloster. The shorter of the two pieces has a more jazzy feel to it whereas the aubade is a gentler number relying heavily of synth derived washes and some lovely, melodic, flowing guitar work, providing an eloquent mixture with a story-like quality. There is very little to compare the music on this album with, no doubt at least in part due to the maturity of the musicians who have got past wearing their influences on their sleeves. Gloster’s other two pieces on the album, Cognitive Dissonance and State Of Siege are remarkably distinct from each other, showing the breadth of ideas that the composer has at his disposal – it is rare enough to create something original that is distinct from any other bands but to create instrumental tracks on the same album that sound distinct from each other is quite an achievement! Only the guitarist’s signature style really forms a link between pieces. The final track, Erdinger, was co-composed by the rhythm section. And it is far from being a sop to appease Meadows and Smith and stop them from being sidelined by the lead instrument chaps. With a more prominent and adventurous bass line and somewhat more quirky nature in general, I suspect that many will find a greater affinity with this number than any of the others.
On the whole Electric Forest is an accomplished and finely rendered debut album by four musicians who are at the top of their instrumental game. If they can sort out the vocal issues, either by bringing a guest vocalist on board or restricting themselves entirely to instrumentals, the next album will be something to await with anticipation. Well worth checking out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10