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TRACK LIST: 1. Awakening 6:52 2. Breathe 5:44 3. Questions 1:30 4. Con-Fusion 9:00 5. Hidden Time 3:33 6. My Self Reflection 8:27 7. Strat-o-spheric 3:35 SOLO PILOT: Sifu Stephen Doe - all instruments
Prolusion. "Playing with Time" is the second release by Sifu Stephen DOE, who is a New Hampshire based musician. His main instrument is the guitar, but he also handles some other instruments quite well - he plays all the instruments on this release.
Analysis. This release, as the artist's first release "Trial", is a homemade album. The recording quality has been much improved over his debut album though, for those familiar with that release. Musically Doe mostly presents two sides of his playing and writing skills on this one. The shorter tracks on this CD are melodic instrumentals in the same vein as those Satriani made in the late 80's, songs where mood and melody have the priority and where Doe's technical abilities, pace and shredding mostly are highlighted in bursts fitting into the overall melody and mood of the songs. On the two longer songs on this album Doe explores prog metal as well. Still all instrumental, but he creates long songs with certain repeating themes, changes in style, pace and mood, riffing overlayed with soloing as well as a good number of breaks. Unlike many other instrumental guitar based releases Doe also allows other instruments to be central in his soundscapes. On this release it is mostly the piano that shares the credit with the guitar instrument-wise, and although not used extensively the piano forms central parts of melodies in many songs here and is the main instrument in one track as well, the brilliant transitional piece Questions. As with his debut album, the songs here vary in quality in my opinion. There are few bad tracks as such here though. The only letdown on this release for me is the lengthy Con-Fusion. It is a track with many good ideas, but ultimately it is too much of a mish-mash of pieces not fitting well enough together to my ears. The other songs on this album go from nice to brilliant in my opinion, stand-out tracks being Breathe, a melodic solo piece in the spirit of classic Joe Satriani, and the dark sounding piano-based transitional piece Questions, brilliant and captivating. Also worth mentioning is My Self Reflection, where Doe successfully showcases his writing and playing abilities in the prog metal vein.
Conclusion. Overall this adds up to be an interesting release. Far from a classic release, but a release worthwhile checking out for fans of instrumental guitar records in general, especially if said fans have an interest in prog as well. It is worth noting that this is a homemade record though. The mix is not of the same quality as on a profiled label release, the drums sound rather tinny, track transitions aren't perfect and a background hiss can be heard at times. For many listeners that may not be a problem, but those who depend on high quality production to enjoy the music may have a problem with this release.
OMB: December 2, 2007
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