Greg Howard plays a Chapman Stick. a unique electric 10 stringed instrument where the player taps the strings with both hands to play. Created in 1969, there are now a number of adherents. Using it since 1985, Chapman "broke in' the instrument on his first album Whispers
. It's sound resembles a number of a variety of instruments, changing colors depending on how the strings are tapped. There's the sitar, the Indian lute and even a touch of the organ in what comes out of the instrument.
All the compositions played by the band are composed by Howard either alone or with band members. The titles hold out expectations for musical explorations and interpretations of interesting ideas. It doesn't quite happen for two reasons. First, there is nothing in the liner notes that describes what emotion, idea or event Howard seeks to convey. Since there are no lyrics, it is hard to tell. Second, the playing suffers from those defects that plague most seamless music, i.e., music that has little form and substance. It meanders with no rest and no opportunity for the listener to anticipate what might be coming next. Moreover, with the exception of an occasional saxophone interlude, the electrically driven instruments merge into a single sheet of sound, with little separation and virtually no dynamics. Moreover, the music tries to fuse jazz and rock with the result that one is not quite sure whether it ends up as altered jazz or altered rock.
Nonetheless, this CD has its moments. "Still Water" is introspective and serene, nice background music. "The Effect of Marco's First Lekker Bakkie in the Morning" is a musical references to the Dutch addiction to coffee, 1,300 cups per capita per year. You can hear the way that the caffeine begins to revive Marco. With clever use of instruments the song expresses how the drug wends its way to the brain to speed the transition from sleepy resistance to face the day to becoming almost alert. Finally, there's some funk in the kick off tune, "Dissent".
This album is for those who like the unusual and sounds of out of a group that relies on different and plugged in instruments to create music. If that's your bag, by all means get this CD.
Personnel: Greg Howard - Chapman Stick/Synthesizer/Shaker/Rattles; Jan Wolfkamp - Drums/ DDrum/Loops/Timbales/Percussion; Hubert Heeringa - Soprano & Alto Saxophone/ Violin/ Wind-Controlled Synthesizer; Louis Gerrits - Soprano & Tenor Saxophone; Jan van Olffen - Fretless and Fretted Electric Basses