REVIEW: Elektragaaz — The Synaesthetic Picture Show Now Playing, Part 5 (EP)
Part 5 in Elektragaaz’s ongoing instrumental series The Synaesthetic Picture Show Now Playing is a six-song EP that will defy most, if not all, of your expectations. Instrumental music often suggests such fare as elevator or restaurant muzak, self-indulgent demonstrations of skills lacking soul, but not Elektragaaz. As the EP title implies, the cadre of musicians responsible for these songs are interested in providing their audience with a full sensory experience through music and they’ve labored mightily concocting a concept capable of supporting those ambitions.
It doesn’t mean they suffer from any sort of pretentiousness. They call their music electronic multi-fusion and the EP opener “Behind the Final Veil” introduces newcomers to what that means. It is a sleek and electronically driven performance, without question, but there are ample traditional instrumental touches coloring the release. The sound is massive, layered, but never overwhelming. Keen-eared listeners will latch onto many parts of the performance, but Tom McCaffery, aka Tom Elektron, delivers memorable guitar work that strengthens the song.
The sometimes off-kilter combination of instruments they can bring to bear comes through for the first time during the song “October’s Child”. It steps back from the electronic flavor of the opener in favor of a more “natural” air. It isn’t often you’ll encounter any act willing to pair accordion-like instrumental touches with horns, lightly synthesizer guitar, and a few more surprises. Elektragaaz embraces the challenge, however, and you can’t help but notice the understated soulful rhythms pervading the track.
We’re back, however, in rockier territory with the track “Manhunter”. Elektron unleashes unexpected bursts of slightly warped surf guitar over a scintillating electronica foundation. His guitar playing takes a different trajectory as the song develops, however, inhabiting a stylistic land that’s part souped-up surf rock and part shredding exhibition. It isn’t ever sound and fury signifying nothing, however, and takes some especially dazzling turns during the song’s second half.
The band treats listeners to another unexpected turn with its penultimate song “Sebastian’s Cat”. There are certain recurring musical elements rising to the surface over the course of this EP. They never go back to the same well twice in a row, however, and the abiding musical themes help give a sense of unity to their musical vision. “Sebastian’s Cat” is airier than its predecessors and, as well, boasts a much more theatrical and self-conscious presentation than earlier cuts.
“Daylight and Déjà Vu” is a languid and dream-like finale. The confluence of numerous melodic instruments weaves without any apparent effort; like any great band, this collective of musicians makes the difficult sound easy. Founded by the mysterious composer Poppo Redband, New York producer Trebor “Big T” Lloyd with City Canyons Productions, McCaffrey, and co-founder Kathy Sheppard aka Kathy Kaos on keyboards, Elektragaaz doesn’t stop there. Kate Amrine, aka Kosmic Kate, plays trumpet, flugelhorn, and flugelbone, Josh Henderson (otherwise known as Josh Firebow) on strings, bassist Mat Muntiz (“Mat Thunder”), and flutist Jasper Dutz (“Jas Windstorm”) complete the band. It’s an experience unlike any in modern music today.