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Daniel Thatcher: Waterwheel

Dan McClenaghan By

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Daniel Thatcher: Waterwheel
The two electric guitars, bass and drums ensembles played a big part in shaping popular music. The early 1960s saw the Beatles walk this road. The Rolling Stones rolled that way, too. And prior to that British Invasion, we had the "instrumental rock sound'' of groups like The Chantays in 1964 with "Pipeline," The Surfaris, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and The Ventures, all groups that fit into the surf rock genre. From there we can go back to Link Wray's 1958 hit "Rumble" and numerous blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Of these examples of the common line-up, Daniel Thatcher's "two guitars, bass and drums" sound on Waterwheel comes closest to the surf rock comparison, taken to a higher level with a set of excellent Thatcher originals played by a top-shelf ensemble in a more cerebral and virtuosic but still highly engaging approach to creating groove-laden (and sometime not so groove-laden) and approachable sounds.

Opening with the title tune, the Waterwheel group hits a loose groove full of the intricate interplay of ringing electric guitar sustain intertwined with a flexible rhythmic backdrop, while "Three Sages" plays out as a languid ballad, drifting with an ambiguous purposefulness that shifts in and out of the more intensely rhythmic mode.

The band and the album get their name from the "Microcosmic Orbit, a pair of meridians or energy lines that store Qi." This coming from Tai Chi, where Qi is an invisible energy, an invisible force. Things get deep here for the uninitiated, but it involves unseen energies animating things and bringing them into balance—an objective, it seems, of Waterwheel's music that is successfully executed here. This brings us to the Thatcher composition "Viscous," a spacey, abstract reverie which seems balanced between Jimi Hendrix-ian hard rock and Daniel Lanois/Brian Eno soundscaping, with a sharp edge.

"Let's Grow Old Together," opening with a segment of Thatcher's bowed bass, has a tranquil bluegrass mood, guitars leaning in the steel guitar direction, while "Naturally" shuffles forward snappy guitar work and the smooth flow of the best surf rock of the sixties, and could serve nicely as a soundtrack to a video of a longboarder hanging ten on a rolling blue tube ride.

Daniel Thatcher and his band Waterwheel have put together a cohesive set of sounds, featuring an enjoyability factor that holds tight from start to finish. And kudos— in a time when the CD format is threatened with extinction—for going the full route with excellent cover art and design (artwork from Judith Roston Frielich, lettering by Lara Hanson), which lifts the entire experience even higher.

Track Listing

Odds And Ends; Three Sages; Albedo; Viscous; Let's Grow Old Together; Big Ben; Im Alpental; Lady Of The lake; Naturally; The Feast is Forward.

Personnel

Daniel Thatcher: bass; John Kregor: guitar; Matt Gold: guitar; Devin Drobka: drums.

Album information

Title: Waterwheel | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records

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