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(161:35 CD+DVD, ‘Boing Music’)
Prolusion. The multinational trio THE ARISTOCRATS was formed by chance when drummer Marco Minnemann and bassist Bryan Beller were set to perform with a guitarist at Winter NAMM in January 2011, when that guitarist gave a last minute cancellation, and Guthrie Govan was brought in as a replacement. This concert proved to be so vitalizing for all three that they decided to form a band, which so far has released three studio and three live albums. "Culture Clash Live!" dates back to the start of 2015, and was released by Boing Music, presumably the band's own label set-up.
TRACKLIST: 1. Sweaty Knockers 8:48 2. Ohhhh Noooo 7:43 3. Get It Like That 9:44 4. Culture Clash 7:58 5. Gaping Head Wound 6:29 6. Louisville Stomp 5:20 7. Desert Tornado 5:41 8. Living the Dream 8:22 LINEUP: Marco Minnemann – drums Guthrie Govan – guitar Bryan Beller – bass
Analysis. Supergroups are creations that have come and gone for 50 or so years, some more successful than others. For every Cream you'll find plenty of projects like GTR and The Firm, as well as more obscure ventures that people just never took notice of. And while The Aristocrats don't come across as a new band with a similar stature to Cream, the music they explore is a bit too niche-oriented for that to ever be the case, I imagine, within the landscapes they operate they will be regarded as a fairly successful one. That they are a highly active live unit with hundreds of concerts to their name, having played just about all over the world by now, also ensuring that this is a band that already has created a legacy for themselves. Even more important is that all this documents that Aristocrats is a real band, rather than three famous musicians trying to use their names solely to earn money, their choice of music giving this notion something of an emphasis. I guess that the best description I can give the music here is that it is some variety of instrumental heavy fusion. Not music typical for the descriptions heavy nor fusion as such, but the combination of those two words is the best general description I'm able to conjure for their excursions on this CD and DVD production. I rather suspect that one of the goals of this band is to shy away from conventions, alongside mixing things up in more or less unusual manners as the title of the album might suggest. The two main recurring elements are distinct jazz-oriented instrument details and heavy guitar riffs, both tendencies explored in expressive and rather innovative ways, I should add, with plenty of variation to boot. While Beller's bass is perhaps the most dominant of the instruments when it comes to jazz-oriented and inspired movements and sounds, both Govan and Minnemann have a hand or two inside that realm as well, from time to time. Govan in particular also impresses with the manner in which he fluently moves between various styles and modes of expression, and is arguably the main unpredictable element in this trio. Mannemann showcases his abilities as a versatile musician more than anything, and one that knows to perfection when to have a minor role, when to dominate, when to use more expressive and intricate patterns, and in which cases a more simple and steady rhythm is the optimal choice. I suspect, music nerds could drop band and artist names from here to next Friday when listening to this production, and probably a few clear cut cases of specific songs given a homage here and there as well. Rather than trying to closely analyze any patterns as such, which would probably result in a gaping head wound for me, as well as for whoever is reading this, I'll merely drop some names that came to my mind when listening to this album: Rush. Robin Trower. Django Rheinhardt. Terry Bozzio & Billy Sheehan. King's X. Joe Satriani. Toss all of these in a blender, add an equal amount as those combined of jazz-rock and spice it up with some improvisation, and you'll possibly have a mix not too far away from what the Aristocrats are doing here. Highly impressive on a technical level, and rather intriguing also on a music level, although the material can be a bit too quirky and shifting for its own good at times. I rather suspect that those really into this kind of music won't mind the latter detail, though.
TRACKLIST: 1. Furtive Jack 2. Ohhhh Noooo 3. Louisville Stomp 4. Get It Like That 5. Culture Clash 6. Blues Fuckers 7. Gaping Head Wound 8. Desert Tornado 9. Living the Dream Bonus material: - Behind the scenes tour at Tokyo venue - Drum solo by Minnemann with switchable camera angles - Song demos from Culture Clash album LINEUP: Same
Analysis. The DVD part of this package doesn't cover a specific live concert, but rather assembles chosen cuts from the set list from five different concerts, combining those into some sort of ultimate Aristocrats live experience. Plenty of cameras are used on all venues, and the footage has been excellently mixed into an entertaining, flowing documentation of what's going on, featuring plenty of detailed shots of each of the musicians playing their instrument, which, presumably, will be appreciated by all the musicians that decide to get and watch this release. The image quality is good, sharp and crisp, and with fairly high resolution to boot, and without any colored stage lights around; the color balance is excellent as well. The band members all come across as well-versed in the art of entertainment. The on stage banter and minor shenanigans indicate a band that really and truly enjoys playing together; there's plenty of well thought-out audience interactions, and the band as a whole showcases more than a slight sense of humor. The pig and chicken solo merits a mention in that particular context. The audio is high-quality, as one expect from a modern day live recording, but it's worth taking note of the fact that the CD and the DVD don't overlap all that much: Most of the songs on the DVD are in fact not the ones found on the CD. So we're treated to different versions of several tracks, and a few have been added to the DVD that aren't on the CD as well. So for this kind of release, we get a bit more for the money than what is common with such combined live CD/DVD productions. In addition, there's around 30 minutes of bonus material to enjoy, with a drum solo, a presentation of the camera set-up used at one of the concerts and a handful of demo versions of tracks to be found there, including a demo of a track that at least at the time of the release of this package was unreleased.
Conclusion. The Aristocrats is a band that, I suspect, will have a high general appeal among musicians due to the band members alone, but in addition, I suspect many that have an interest in fairly expressive music blending jazz rock, progressive rock and hard rock will find the exploits of the Aristocrats to be compelling. This live CD and DVD combo comes across as a solid, quality production, and appears to me as an excellent choice to kick off with if you want to get more familiar with this high quality threesome.
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