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(72:40, 'JT Bruce')
TRACK LIST: 1. Bellatrix 18:32 2. Altair 4:53 3. Rigel 11:06 4. Spica 6:09 5. Procyon 2:34 6. Capella 6:15 7. Fomalhaut 6:51 8. Betelgeuse 12:26 9. Sol 3:54 SOLO PILOT: JT Bruce – all instruments
Prolusion. The US based artist, filmmaker and multi-instrumentalist JT BRUCE is something of a mysterious figure, despite having issued three full-length albums so far. "Universica" is the latest of these efforts, originally released as a free digital download towards the tail end of 2008, with an official self-released CD edition following 12 months later.
Analysis. Those who have encountered this artist due to his previous releases, or just read about his works, may be in for something of a surprise when they encounter this production, which is still freely available in digital format, making it easy to find out what this is all about. Anyhow, JT Bruce has been labeled as a progressive metal artist, but the contents of this particular CD defy most characteristics of that stylistic expression. At best, you might say that Bruce took a look at the book of rules for this genre and decided to disregard almost anything he read. To try to describe his musical exploits is a challenge. If you can imagine mid ‘70s Tangerine Dream hooking up with mid ‘90s Nine Inch Nails and a versatile guitarist, then that might be a logical allegory to start with. Bruce is no stranger to vintage progressive metal, and on occasion we're served driving passages featuring riff cascades underscored by steady rhythms and organ, keyboards or synths floating on top. On most occasions these segments are brief and fragmented though, utilized as energetic impact moments and to contrast whatever proceeds and precedes them. Dark, electronic dominated themes makes up quite a lot more of this venture, with spacey sounds and space-inspired textures floating above partially experimental electronic themes somewhat in a similar vein to the aforementioned German pioneers, and partially industrial inspired antics not too dissimilar to the more sophisticated ventures of Trent Reznor – more often than not liberally spiced with subtle but dissonant sounds, or drawn-out textures of a distinctly psychedelic nature. To add even more variety, lush ambient passages and calm, at times pastoral, acoustic guitar explorations and wandering piano excursions are frequently added into the compositions as well: pretty eclectic, in other words, and at times also rather challenging. The nine tracks on this disc come across as something more improvisational in nature than logical constructions as such. While some pieces do revolve around a set number of themes being explored, developed and evolved, the majority seems to be more freely wandering affairs where themes rarely are revisited, and the shifts in pace, mood, intensity and stylistic expression are frequent and extensive. However, somehow Bruce manages to make the myriads of twists and turns to sound logical, even when the shifts are major and surprising. The latter is pretty often the case here too, which is a major positive aspect of this disc in my book. As will be the case with such an eclectic production not everything works to perfection. But, apart from second track Altair, which I find to be too fragmented and chaotic, this disc comes across as well made and accomplished, touching upon the brilliant on the tracks Fomalhaut, Capella and Betelgeuse.
Conclusion. "Universica" is a fine example of instrumental progressive rock of a variety that deserves descriptions such as eclectic and challenging, the latter mostly due to the number and diversity of stylistic expressions explored, but to some extent also due to subtle utilization of dissonances and disharmonies throughout. The sheer diversity in genres covered and touched upon may limit the target audience somewhat on this occasion, but I'd think that most fans with a broad and liberal taste should enjoy this production quite a lot. And, as it is freely downloadable, it should be fairly easy for the curious ones to find out if this album is to their liking or not.
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