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(43:26, Martin Webb)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Gathering Storm 5:07 2. Caravan 6:22 3. Snake Charmer 5:36 4. Sea of Jagged Glass 5:59 5. Happenstance 5:18 6. The River of Life 4:34 7. Lost in Shangrila 5:28 8. Kel Adur 5:02 LINEUP: Martin Webb - all instruments
Prolusion. US based composer and musician Martin WEBB has a history going back for a few decades as a professional musician according to his stated biography. An Englishman by birth that spent a few years in Canada prior to settling in Texas. I do not have any more details about his past available, other than the fact that he launched a solo career a few years back as well. So far this has spawned three albums. "Happenstance" from 2016 is the most recent of these.
Analysis. Instrumental progressive rock comes in many flavors, and the ones explored on this album is of a variety and nature I surmise will have a fairly broad appeal among progressive rock fans in general. Webb manages to strike the balance between compelling and challenging very well throughout, and includes some striking nods to some core fan favorites in the genre to boot. On one hand, he is fond of using timbres and scales we in the west would describe as exotic and mystical. Quite a few of the compositions here explore this in an elegant manner, conjuring up associations to the middle east and Arabia by way of both plucked guitar details, floating guitar solo textures and a variety of keyboard driven details. In an album one-off we're also taken on a ride to sounds with more of an Asian feel to them, book-ending the track Lost in Shangrila. The plucked guitar details spread throughout the album combined with floating guitar textures also reminds quite a bit of Trey Gunn era King Crimson, and I suspect both Gunn and Robert Fripp are fairly high on the list of possible direct influences here. Some of the compositions hone in rather close to the landscapes those two are renowned for, and some of them focus almost completely on them as well, letting go of the more exotic elements for those endeavors. Which is just as striking, at least to my mind. That he adds a few jazz-tinged details here and there rather fits those landscapes as well in my opinion. Webb also appears to have a thing for more purebred guitar heroes, as I did find myself getting associations towards the likes of Joe Satriani in some of the more traditional guitar solo interludes that appear here and there as well, and as a more prominent feature throughout on Sea of Jagged Glass. Webb isn't quite at that level, but he does make entertaining fare also in these landscapes. Not quite as compelling, but not the kind of material you might skip for that reason either. The drums may be a tad too pedestrian at times though, and some abrupt end points on certain tracks reveals that some details on this production might well have been handled better. These are minor flaws though, and doesn't really take all that much away from the album experience. It does showcase that this is more of a DIY production though, so those who do find minor flaws annoying should be aware of those small details.
Conclusion. Just what kind of impact Martin Webb has as a solo artist I do not know, but I rather guess that he isn't as well known as he should be. "Happenstance" comes across as quite the charming and appealing production, and those who find the notion of someone blending Middle Eastern and Asian inspired soundscapes with Frippian instrument details and Trey Gunn tinged atmospheric laden instrument textures to be appealing should take the time to give this album a check at some point.
Progmessor: July 15th, 2018
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