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Trey Gunn - Trey Gunn

  by Lisa Torem

published: 18 / 5 / 2011

Trey Gunn - Trey Gunn


Lisa Torem examines King Crimson guitarist Trey Gunn's latest solo album, ‘Modulator’, and also a new retrospective of his other work, ‘I’ll Tell What I Saw’

American musician Trey Gunn has performed and recorded solo and with Robert Fripp, David Sylvian and John Paul Jones. He is also well known for performing and recording with King Crimson from 1991 and 2003, and contributed to their ‘Vroom’,‘Thrak’ and ‘Level Five’albums. ‘Modulator’ is his latest album and Gunn produced and played guitars, keyboards and basses on it, adding Michael Connolly on Uilleann pipes and Marco Minemann on percussion, two musicians who add a great deal of romance and polish to the mix. He has also recently released 'I'll Tell What I Saw', a two CD retrospective which compiles together music from all eight of his solo albums. 'Modulator' will appeal to an esoteric fan base, as it is primarily based on minimalist instrumentals and ambient sounds. ‘Contact’ features outlandish harmonics, and the second composition, ‘Flood’, is contrasting, in that it is dark and drips with moans and intervallic dips. Some of the tunes are paired: There are ‘Fall Time + 1’ – and ‘Fall Time + 2’ which are polar opposites; the first being tame and the second being more mysterious and suspenseful, exuding an undercurrent of eerie vocals. ‘Lumen’ scampers with sound bytes and shifting tempos, while the contemporary ‘Switch’ resembles industrious ants marching through layers of earth. ‘Daughter’ embraces the pentatonic. The second duo, ‘Up Spin’ and ‘Down Spin’ are a dramatic pair, but not as adventurous as ‘Spectra’ which features a bewildering, distorted sonic landscape that imitates the squelching of bagpipes. ‘Superstish-a-tron’ might be best depicted as Superfly shakes hands with the Ventures and then smokes a joint with Frank Zappa. Ready for more? ‘Spray II’ is a prog rock, psychedelic canvass awaiting a nervous breakdown. ‘Incantation’ swirls with boneless motifs that flutter guilelessly in a gust of wind. It’s oddly riveting, yet, I have to ask: ‘Is there a there there?’ Gunn is a talented composer and instrumentalist, yet, the shocking progressions, shrieks and fragmented melodies don’t entirely make sense as a collective work. The two-disc 'I'll Tell What I Saw' includes wild, instrumental interpretations that move from smooth jazz to vocalized, ethnic-folk with eastern European flavours in a flash. ‘The Joy of Molybdenum' even embraces funk. ‘The Fifth Spin of the Sun’ thrashes cymbals and fuzzes the bass. ‘Va El Diablo’ (‘Go with the Devil’) is sung enthusiastically by Alonso Arreola. ‘Morning Dream’ is enveloped with airy strings and further sweetened by bright horn and a wistful sense of desperation. But ‘Real Life’ does come off as self-absorbed. Doesn’t real life have more tension than this tidbit would have us believe? ‘Maslenitsa’ (The Farlanders) is a leap forward. Sonorous female voices allow their voices to rise effusively against hypnotic horns. It is one of the most memorable of the set. ‘Dziban’ is flush with acoustic fragments, while ‘Misery Misery, Die, Die’, as expected, dishes out distortedly savage. That brings us to the finely-structured and Philip Glass-like ‘The Shimmering.’ The first disc ends with the passionate, irregular rhythms of ‘Well’ Disc Two starts with the swerving, melodic and explosive ‘Jacaranda.’ ‘The Magnificent Jinn’ is tinged with exoticism that would excite the jaded snake charmer; it is brilliantly structured. ‘Contact’ is electronically-based and whispering, wind chimes battle to be heard above the cacaphony. The unanticipated ‘Drunk’ features more stunning female harmonies, while ‘Killing for London’ lurks darkly in a sinister way. The driving force of ‘Single Cell Shark’ is oddly simple, as opposed to the surrealistic ‘Cheeky’. ‘Make My Grave’ is urban street scary and chaotic. ‘Hard Winds’ is an algorhythm put to song; both mentally stimulating and enjoyable sonically. Another favorite is ‘Flood’ – its intriguing introduction leads to a glorious build up. The penultimate song, ‘Vals’, is an extraordinary folk song. Trey Gunn has a vivid and thoroughly wild imagination which shines forth inexplicably in this colourfully packaged, but you’ll need some patience and tolerance to find the most captivating moments. They simply won’t be thrown in your face.

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Trey Gunn - Trey Gunn

Trey Gunn - Trey Gunn

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