Allan Holdsworth: FLATTire: Music For a Non-Existent Movie (2001)
In order to adequately understand this review, I will try and very briefly explain what a SynthAxe is and does. Back in the 80's this instrument was invented. It looked like something that fell out of a UFO. It was guitar-like with sets of strings, and other onboard controls that allowed the triggering/(playing) of synthesizers. What was unique was that guitarists could therefore play a synthesizer without needing a great amount of keyboards expertise. The SynthAxe was the interface that interpreted very uniquely a guitarist's skill into synth sounds. For the guitarist, Allan Holdsworth, it was yet a whole new way to achieve the sounds unvoiced in his soul and in ways he just couldn't do with a standard guitar. Holdsworth has always sought for a horn-like voicing with that ability to manipulate a note in a myriad of ways. He is known for being one of the most unique stylists on guitar but it is the SynthAxe that allows him to go places a guitar can't reach. And now the review . . .
SynthAxe, SynthAxe, SynthAxe, and some more SynthAxe so imagine Holdsworth's Sand, Atavachron (w/no guitar but all parts SynthAxe'd), yeah, that Holdsworth Enigma label era, yet . . . a very melancholy, introspective, uhh, inner-struggles-angst-new-agey- synthjazz-with-that-Holdsworth-flair. Will jazz fusion folks get into this? Read on.
I have listened to this SynthAxe showcase at least 5-7 times now. Some cuts are absolutely beautiful in their pristine simplicity and chordal-synth progression "intros" and "scene-settings", visualmusicks I should say. Yet after such moments of synthy, dreamy bliss the mood then "weirds out" towards fusion with typical Holdsworthian solo-abandon frenzy, get the picture? I venture to say that this release will take most Holdsworth fans many listens to "sink in". If you are a devoted guitarhead I doubt you will get off too much, oh well. You may just walk from this FLATTire. If you dig synths in jazz, SynthAxe gymnastics, and can appreciate a very unique musician's singular vision then by all means have a FLATTire. See the tunes echoing in the unseen life-movie in Holdsworth's head . . . birthed during a very difficult period in his life . . . as the liner notes detail.
Synthesizer-driven, visual music adherents, adventurous jazz fusion fans, admirers of all things Holdsworth, and SynthAxe players are urged to add this to their collection. Holdsworth is the SynthAxe man. It's a very uniquely rewarding listening experience.
Track Listing: The Duplicate Man [intro], The Duplicate Man. Eeny Meeny, Please Hold On, Snow Moon, Curves, So Long, Bo Peep, Don't You Know
Personnel: Allan Holdsworth - electric guitar on [intro] only, SynthAxe; SynthAxe'd bass, SynthAxe'd keys, SynthAxe'd percussives and SythAxe'd effects covering everything else sonic, Dave Carpenter - guesting acoustic bass on two songs
Record Label: Megazoidal Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock