Christy Doran's Sound Fountain: Lift The Bar

Ian Patterson By

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Christy Doran's Sound Fountain: Lift The Bar
With four records in as many years Christy Doran's Sound Fountain seems in 2020 to have eclipsed New Bag as the guitarist's going concern. However, just because New Bag hasn't recorded since Elsewhere (Double Moon, 2015) doesn't mean that the band, founded in 1997, won't still make a comeback. After all, who could have foreseen the 2016 return to the road of OM, thirty-four years after Doran, Fredy Studer, Urs Leimgruber and Bobby Burri called time on the seminal Swiss jazz- fusion quartet. With the Lucerne-based, Irish guitarist, who's as happy immersed in avant-garde projects as he is paying tribute to Jimi Hendrix, you can never rule anything out.

Sound Fountain has remained faithful to its sound since its first album, Belle Epoque (Between The Lines, 2016), which was recorded live in Argentina the year before. Avant-garde rock/jazz-rock Doran, Franco Fontanarrosa and Lukas Mantel's make a power trio like no other. The gutsy "Lift The Bar" sets the tone with its bullish rhythms, intricate unison lines and Doran's trademark guitar work—an exciting combination of free improvisation and muscular jazz-rock. Doran's judicious use of his pedal board occasionally steers the music into more experimental terrain, but gravitational pull always returns the trio to the insistent grooves and catchy motifs that are its meat and drink.

The only track not penned by Doran is Argentinian Fontanarrosa's "Aftertaste." Bookended—and punctuated—by a slow, chime-like motif, the pace for the most part is furious, with Doran's wild guitar effects conjuring textures not a million miles away from Jan Hammer's work on Billy Cobham's Spectrum (Atlantic, 1973). Fontanarrosa and Mantel each penned tunes on For the Kick of It (Between The Lines, 2019), sharing writing duties on several others, and perhaps greater input from them here might have led to a less homogeneous sound.

A lively South African township vibe colors intro and outro to "Oneiron Street," where shifting metres frame contrasting solos from Fontanarrosa and Doran—the former's charging, the latter's more incremental. Bar the knotty unison head, "Next Up" foregrounds individual virtuosity, with the leader's ambient textures following animated, unaccompanied spots from drummer and bassist. Doran's fretwork on "Out of the Rats Race" is as fiery as anything he's committed to record in his fifty-year career, whilst "One for the Road," with its power chords, Frank Zappa-esque intricacies and ambient pools, is an arresting ensemble statement. The trio signs off with the punchy, bite-sized "Wrong Place Wrong Time," which, as it fades, sounds like an adventure for another day.

Lift The Bar may not break the mould established on the trio's previous releases, but it's still a visceral, compelling ride. Definitely not your average guitar trio.

Track Listing

Lift The Bar; Aftertaste; Oneiron Street; Next Up; Out Of The Rats Race; One For The Road; Wrong Place Wrong Time.


Christy Doran: guitar; Franco Fontanarrosa: bass, electric; Lukas Mantel: drums.

Album information

Title: Lift The Bar | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Between the Lines

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