Andy Summers Music/Cargo Records [Release date 15.01.16]
A new solo album from Andy Summers? He of the heavily arpeggiated, chorused but always ear-friendly guitaring? He’s released a string of solo albums since ‘XYZ’ in 1987 and his last release was the excellent ‘Circus Hero’ with collaborator Rob Giles in 2014.
The opener, and title track, ‘Metal Dog’ is the scene setter and you’d be hard pressed to know this is the same person twiddling his guitar knobs. It’s the antithesis of his late 1970s/early 1980s heyday.
With synthesized instrumentation played by Summers throughout, the all-instrumental album explores various musical moods often punctuated by sometimes intrusive, and occasionally weird, industrial sounding synth sounds.
The whole album sounds like something cooked up in Summers’ back room in down time between peeling grapes in LA. Soundscapes and atmospheric rather than anything more specifically melodic and with underpinning world flavours. This is best summed up on the closing tracks ‘Oceans Of Enceladus’ and ‘Mare Imbrium’ which – in the time period that Summers consolidated his greatest success – we would have called ‘New Age.’
‘Animal Chatter’ develops from a semi-reggae rhythm into a jazzy, sometimes Beck-esque workout but with heavily treated guitar sounding more like a tentative synth. ‘Vortex Street’ features more processed guitar and an eastern undertow with an Oldfield-esque coda. ‘Qualia’ is dirge-like and perhaps best demonstrates the album’s unsettling juxtaposition of “fusion flavours” with synth guitar and swing time signature.
There is nothing wrong with pushing the boundaries of instrumental guitar albums but there usually has to be a semblance of tune. More than most, Andy Summers has been exploratory as a musician outside the commercial strictures of The Police, including collaborations with Robert Fripp and – in 2005 – a concerto with classical guitarist Benjamin Verdery. Whilst we might not expect anything similar to Sting & co. this must remain a muso’s album and of wider interest only to previous band completists. ***
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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