REVIEW: Ian Bouras — A Cure for Reality (LP)
Instrumental releases are hit or miss propositions for me. I’m an enormous fan of guitar-driven music, for instance, but the instrumental releases from fretmasters such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai do little for me. Put on some Jeff Beck, ala Blow by Blow or Wired, or even Bitches’ Brew era Miles Davis, and you have my undivided attention. Players who maintain or even tighten their focus on songcraft invariably trump players far more intent on demonstrating their instrumental prowess.
The reissue of Ian Bouras’ 2007 solo album debut A Cure for Reality falls into the latter camp for me. He’s written and recorded a collection capable of keeping one foot in musical substance while still serving up an entertaining sonic platter for listeners. “The Call” is a well-chosen opener for the album and shows off the predominant balance of guitar alongside a bevy of electronic instrumental support. Some listeners will spot the pre-programmed nature of Bouras’ musical backing, but the bulk of listeners will not. The drumming is a good example. It gives the material the best of both worlds in the way it maintains an unwavering pulse while still retaining a convincing physical sound.
“Buttercup” pushes much of the same design behind the remainder of the album’s material. There’s a dollop of added sweetness missing elsewhere; more than one track benefits from mild compositional sweetening that smooths over his iconoclastic edges. There is a certain amount of sameness that settles into the album during its second half, Bouras really latches onto clipped reggae-like tempos, the first half has the advantage of freshness.
One of his fresher stylistic turns is the song “Afro”. This track has much more meditative, introspective flair than the opening trio without ever venturing too far afield of the album’s general direction and his gift for recognizable yet unique melodies serve listeners well. Another important break comes with “A Cure for Reality”. The album’s title song is one of its more imaginative statements due in a big way to his willingness to move away from a reliance on the guitar. It’s a powerful number.
“Classcycle” is another of the album’s best compositions. These aren’t slapdash performances tossed off or perfunctory; Bouras’ solo debut shows the extent of his skills. He’s able to construct fine-tuned songs that never surrender a sense of daring. Nothing here is inert. “Classcycle” has a hook listeners can hang onto early on and you can hear he’s tried to reach the widest possible audience. His songwriting isn’t bound by tradition, but fundamentals underline everything he does.
“Sirens” begins with atmospherics and a sense of foreboding reminiscent of the earlier “Afro”. The bass and percussion provide a slinky foundation for Bouras’ guitar work to twist and turn in various directions; A Cure for Reality’s penultimate cut “Traffic” rates among the album’s best performances. It kicks off with a bit of exotic color before settling into a relaxed groove. There are moments and passages full of subtle color during these fourteen songs, but it’s a wildly entertaining release.