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TRACK LIST: 1. Skating on Europa 9:35 2. Know Again 6:26 3. A Poet's Talespin-1 1:56 4. A Poet's Talespin-2 8:28 5. A Poet's Talespin-3 7:55 6. A Poet's Talespin-4 5:01 7. A Poet's Talespin-2 6:17 8. Get the Hell off My Lawn 4:20 9. Counted the Stars 1:18 LINEUP: Dave Kulju - guitars, bass; keyboards; programming Frank Basile drums With: Ian Cameron violin Annie Oya vocals
Prolusion. US composer and multi-instrumentalist Dave KULJU started his solo career back in 2007 when he released "Abstract Expression". Since then he's been crafting more music whenever time allows him to, and in the summer of 2010 he had an album's worth of finished material which became his second solo production, issued as "Notes in the Margin".
Analysis. Going solo is a common thing these days, even more so than just a few decades ago. Modern technology makes it much easier to create and record good quality music for starters, and as far as hobbies go it is an affordable one. Those good enough and lucky enough will be able to finance such ventures from sales, although even that has become harder with all the music that is out there. Others will have to treat it as a hobby, something they do in their spare time that is fun and interesting but which also leads to money being spent. How well Kulju does in that department I don't know, but it's crystal clear to me that he's among those who deserve to earn some money from this hobby of his. The opening two tracks are both instrumental, with plenty of room for the guitar to soar. As Kulju's primary instrument is the guitar, that isn't unexpected really. The style and effects chosen are, however, venturing back and forth between a harder edged sound not too far away from Rush on the one hand and richer, dream-laden constructions not too far away from late 70's Pink Floyd on the other. A few forays into the use of textured, distorted guitar motifs with something of a post-rock or metal vibe to them is another nifty detail in Kulju's repertoire. And to his credit, he has chosen to give plenty of room and space for keyboards as well. Indeed, I suspect that relatively few will assume that the guitar is Kulju's main instrument unless they know about it beforehand when listening to this album. Second track Know Again merits special mention, as this creation also features some intriguing violin motifs courtesy of Ian Cameron, which to my ears add an additional vitality to this composition. Following these instrumentals this disc suddenly takes a sudden turn to territories of a slightly different character. A massive five-part epic clocking in at almost 30 minutes is up next, and while mostly sticking to the previously described sound, a few elements are added in for this grand creation, the most important of these being the vocals of Annie Oya, who does a good job in parts 2-4 here. In the simplistic vocal and piano parts that dominate the fourth, a delightful string intro is subsequently applied as a symphonic backdrop, as well as the richer arrangements explored on the preceding chapters Soft Collisions and The Bridge. This epic has slightly more of an emphasis on symphonic details, arguably edging a bit closer to Pink Floyd's characteristic late 70's sound. Only rarely to the point where the music can be described as highly similar, but the approach and some of the elements used are of a similar nature. The following instrumental Get the Hell Out of My Lawn shares similar characteristics with the opening instrumentals, albeit a tad shorter and with slightly more of an emphasis on the harder edged parts of Kulju's repertoire, while final effort Counted the Stars is a brief cinematic feature sporting static noise and voices as from an old radio applied to a melancholic cello and violin theme - presumably digitized versions of both instruments, but striking and effective nonetheless.
Conclusion. "Notes in the Margin" is a partially instrumental album that explores a sound that ranges from hard prog akin to Rush on the one hand to space and symphonic-tinged themes that share some characteristics with late 70's Pink Floyd. Those who enjoy both these acts might well find Dave Kulju to be an artist worthwhile exploring, and I suspect that this album might also appeal to some of the people who tend to like neo-progressive rock. Overall, this is a good-quality production from start to finish, and one that should have a much broader appeal than most solo efforts crafted by a guitarist going solo.
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