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Neil Campbell - 2015 - "eMErgence"

(41:11, 'Neil Campbell’)


1. Morphogenetic Fields 7:00
2. MC Squared 5:21
3. Private Collection 1 4:04
4. Private Collection 2 3:10
5. Teilhard de Chardin 4:18
6. Private Collection 3 3:58
7. Private Collection 4 4:05
8. Fields within Fields 4:54
9. E= 4:21


Neil Campbell – guitars; keyboards
Viktor Nordberg – drums 
Roger Gardiner – bass 
Perri Alleyne – voice 
Anne Taft – voice 
Marty Snape – electronics 

Prolusion. UK composer and musician Neil CAMPBELL has been around for a good few years, with 10 albums to his name as a solo artist, as well as with his band The Neil Campbell Collective, and also occasional side projects such as Bulb from a few years back. "eMErgence" is the most recent of his solo albums, and was self-released in the late winter of 2015.

Analysis. How best to categorize the music of Neil Campbell is something of an open question. His approach and take on music is one that occasionally does defy a few established truths and conventions, and while I suspect that the greater majority of the material on this album may be placed inside a jazz rock context, I wouldn't state that this album is a typical example of that style of music. The most striking feature throughout the album is how unobtrusive Campbell is as a musician really. He tends to use the acoustic guitar as his primary instruments here, and his plucked, wandering guitar motifs and solo runs rarely, if ever, become the sole dominant aspect of the compositions, more often than not they are a part of a greater totality on a fairly equal footing with the rest of the instruments used. Fairly equal, as an instrument taking a solo spot obviously will dominate, although in this case I'd say that the instrument in question dominates in something of a subservient manner. Careful guitars, supported by bass, percussion and keyboards of an equally soft mannered nature are key features of this production, or at least on just over half of the album’s playing time, where subtle differences and alterations maintain tension in a delicate but effective manner. Occasional dips into firmer territories are used to good effect in these compositions, by way of keyboard textures, angelic style backing vocals and even an occasional run into a guitar riff and electric guitar solo section, but always with a return to a more careful, almost ethereal landscape, and one more often than not with something of a jazz and jazz rock orientation at that. The two opening tracks, Morphogenic Fields and MC Squared are good representatives of the second aspect of Campbell's material here, the former a flowing, smooth yet elegant and sophisticated jazz-rock piece, an alluring, gliding run into somewhere close to the heartland of that particular style, while the latter is more of an eclectic case blending the acoustic guitar with elegant but forceful keyboards and what appears to be, at least partially, programmed rhythms in more of a less easy to define type of music in terms of style, but where jazz rock is a component. Later on Fields within Fields plays with genre conventions in a compelling manner as well, alternating between a set of acoustic jazz rock sequences on the one hand and a cosmic laced arrangement with layered keyboards as the dominant aspect in one version and a harder edged guitar riff and solo dominated arrangement on the other.

Conclusion. I suspect that they key aspect to focus on when trying to describe this CD is that it is an elegant one. It showcases the talents of a composer and musician with an ear for the unobtrusive use of his main instrument and how this may elevate the end result and create nerve and tension in a more cloaked manner, yet also using the opportunity to showcase that he does indeed master the use of the guitar in a more dominant manner when called for as well. Those fond of elegant jazz rock in general and music of that kind with liberal use of the acoustic guitar in particular should take note of this production, and those fond of mainly instrumental albums that ordinarily won't listen to this type of music may find this CD to be a compelling one as well.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 16, 2016
The Rating Room

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