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(56:46, ‘Soniq Theater’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Judgment Day 4:12 2. Downtown L.A. 4:05 3. Beach of a New World 6:30 4. Metropolis 1990 5:01 5. Something to Say 3:09 6. Starlight Madness 4:32 7. Moon in June 5:48 8. Lunchtime in Space 5:34 9. Straight into My Dreams 4:14 10. Metropolis Remix 2014 5:00 11. Sweet Dreamscape 4:20 12. Harlequin 0:40 13. Serengeti Walk 1:39 14. Rays of Light 3:52 LINEUP: Alfred Mueller – keyboards, programming Stefan Grob – guitars; programming
Prolusion. The German project SONIQ THEATER is the long ongoing creative vehicle of composer and keyboardist Alfred Mueller, and he's just about annually released a new album under that name ever since 2000. "Guitarissimo" dates back to 2015, and, as usual, it was self-released by Mueller.
Analysis. While it has been interesting to document Alfred Mueller's journey and development as a musician and composer over the years, for 2015 he has chosen to dig into his archives rather than to prepare a new album as such. While this is an album of new music, in the manner that it hasn't been released previously, the material on the album actually dates back to 1990 – ten years prior to the first Soniq Theater album, and a good handful of years before Mueller's stint in one album band Rachel's Birthday. An archival release in other words, although one of the songs has been given a more recent remix as well. This is also the first album released under the Soniq Theater moniker where a second musician is present as a performer on all tracks, and on most of them as a composer in addition. Musically this is a very different album from most other Soniq Theater productions. The keyboards are joined by a guitar here, for starters, but perhaps more important is that the songs don't have all that much to do with progressive rock. The compositions here can roughly be divided into two different categories: Vibrant, energetic and dramatic excursions, with solid punches and tense guitar soloing as key ingredients, and more relaxing, almost new age-like affairs operating at a slower pace, with more room for atmospheric keyboard sequences and mostly a less prominent role for the guitar. All the songs do suffer somewhat from what I experience as a low recording, as well as being products of the early ‘90s with sharp sounds aplenty, especially by the programmed rhythms. The production is a bit unbalanced at times too, and by and large, I'd describe the album as having a near demo quality to it on some areas. Therein lies the greater weakness of this disc as well. Some songs suffer a lot from sharp keyboards or drums, some from both, and then especially the more tension-filled, dramatic ones. Quite a few made me think about some of the lower budget crime shows of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and the musical scores made for those. The ones that made the Miami Vice opening theme song come across as spectacular in comparison. Other songs suffers from what might be a lack of experience on composing songs, the calmer ones often giving me the association of looking at a still photo, which can be pleasant enough, but an experience that becomes less appealing if broken by sharp, clinical sounds or, in some cases, a guitar presence that is too dominant and sharp in landscapes otherwise around the borders to the new age universe.
Conclusion. Those familiar with the previous works of Alfred Mueller's ongoing project Soniq Theater will be surprised by the contents of this album. A blend of new age-oriented affairs and what might be described as movie or TV-score dramatic soundscapes, this production is, at least for me, more interesting as a chapter in the development of Mueller as a musician and a composer than it is as a standalone production in its own right. As far as pointing towards a receptive audience, I'd suggest that those who find movie and TV scores from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s to be generally appealing may find this album to be a charming experience too.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 25, 2016
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