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(51:53, ‘Roland Buhlmann’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Breakthrough 6:23 2. Hamnagen 7:04 3. Unexpressed 7:04 4. Aineo 6:00 5. Meldilorn 8:19 6. Kenosis 5:55 7. Contemplation 11:08 SOLO PILOT: Roland Buhlmann - guitars, mandola, bass; programming; voice
Prolusion. Swiss composer and musician Roland BUHLMANN is something of an unknown quantity for me, and the sparse information about him on his websites doesn't really say too much about him either. He's self described as a musician with a past in numerous band ventures, who got the desire to make his own music a few years back. The end result of that creative process is the album "Aineo", which was self-released towards the end of 2014.
Analysis. I don’t know the time, budget and equipment Buhlmann had available for this production, but the end result sounds professional. The mix and production are of a high quality; the instrumentation is nicely balanced; the general soundscapes are warm, compelling and inviting. One can say a lot about how technology has enabled creators of music to be the masters of their own material, and this album documents just how good sounding such a production can be. An album is about more than how well prepared and arranged the material is though, and as far as content is concerned, my main impression is that this is much more of a niche production. A CD that will have a limited audience of the kind that appreciates the type of material explored, and perhaps slightly larger one that will find this to be music to be generally pleasant and compelling. Both audiences combined will still make out a niche audience though, at least as far as my impressions are concerned. This is an instrumental album, and one mainly dominated by the guitar. Not in a Joe Satriani or Steve Vai oriented manner however, as Buhlmann's creations explore a rather more relaxed and almost carefree sounding environment. There's no metal here, and only trace elements of anything distantly related to hard rock. This is instrumental progressive rock, with a toe or three inside the kind of landscapes often described as ambient or cinematic. Buhlmann handles everything here himself, apart from the drums and percussion sounds that appear to have been bought on a professional website for such cases, and while his compositions come across as a bit of a hit and miss affair to a listener like me, I suspect there is an audience out there that will find this album to be interesting on a higher level as well, the majority of them either musicians or aspiring musicians, I suspect. Layered guitar textures are the dominant aspect throughout here – wandering plucked guitars, dampened guitar riffs and licks and occasionally multiple levels of gliding, surging or fluctuating guitar solo motifs, with mostly careful rhythms backing it up. Sometimes bringing artists like Vangelis to mind, especially when the keyboard is given more of a limelight position, but more often than not the songs appear to hover around the borders of Robert Fripp, Steve Rothery and Andrew Latimer. A fairly impressive number of guitar solo-driven passages appear to blend in subtle details inspired by one or more of these, with subtly mystical sounding layers the ones with the closest ties to the first of this possibly influential threesome. While generally compelling and often striking, the sounds and landscapes explored ultimately do become a bit too one-dimensional for me though. Or, perhaps, a bit too similar in form, arrangements and structure is a more appropriate description. It's not a lack of quality that bothers me, and not really a lack of variation either, but perhaps more a case of the same variations used and nothing really unexpected taking place combined with the landscapes explored being beautiful without managing to become thrilling. The use of sampled rhythms and percussions, even if of a high quality, may be a contributing factor in this, as it does make the album experience a more sterile one in general.
Conclusion. Instrumental progressive rock with a strong focus and emphasis on the guitar is what Roland Buhlmann provides us with on his debut solo album, a production that exists somewhere in the borderlands of Fripp, Latimer and Rothery in terms of the dominant guitar sounds used, with perhaps a slight touch of Vangelis added to the proceedings. Not an album that will have a broad reach in my view, but for those who truly love the guitar escapades of the possible three sources of influences stated, this CD might well come across as quite the hidden gem.
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