In this interview special for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Troy Redfern chats to Pete Feenstra with tracks from the album ‘Thunder Moon’. First broadcast 7 March 2021.
Self release [Release date 03.12.20]
When it comes to recording, Troy Redfern is very much a renaissance man. He’s long been in the vanguard of contemporary home recording, but it’s taken this predominantly instrumental album to finally capture his real spark.
And while his electric and acoustic guitar playing are firmly routed in the Zappa, Satriani and Vai camps -with a passing nod to Jeff Beck – the sparkling results are all his own.
He channels those influences into something unique, while still leaving enough room to explore real frisson on several spellbinding moments when he communes with the stars.
It’s a ripping broad-based album that rocks hard with sweat dripping intensity, but there’s still room for cool dynamics, subtle grooves and plenty of percussion.
The latter is something of a surprise as there is no drummer credited here. Presumably he’s done it all himself, no mean feat for a self-recording which at its best sounds like a full band thrashing away.
Apart from a short vocal on ‘Way Out East’, ‘Thunder Moon’ is an instrumental album that balances subtlety and poise with powerful tension breaking moments that recall a time when rock was still exciting.
It’s the way he sometimes teeters on the brink of several possibilities, before resolving them in his own way that makes this such a great album.
His exhilarating melodies match is solid progressions while his moments of imperious improvisation are still magically part of the song.
This album is so good it begs the question why he didn’t release an instrumental project before. If the answer is that it potentially offers him less scope, then the music here suggests otherwise. His ideas are fresh and the playing is inspirational, as he moulds occasional external influences to his own ends.
And therein lies the strength of the album. Redfern takes us on a journey that is all his own. The only retro thing here is the linear progression of the album itself which ebbs and flows as all good music should.
He sets out his stall on the bluesy ‘Westward The Sun’, which distils his virtues of tonal clarity and slide playing with a lightness of touch, as he leans into the groove. His moves from a sinewy to a huskier tone and resonant sustain over big cymbal splashes to give the track its capacity.
He lights the touch paper at the 2 and half minute mark, as he reaches for a different level of intensity with shredded bursts and a gnawing wah-wah inflected solo that recalls early Jeff Beck.
It’s the kind of intensity he returns to over the course of a well paced album on which he makes each genre bending twist and turn count.
‘The Veil’ is a good example of that, as it shifts from a Robert Fripp style percolating guitar opening into a delicate acoustic piece that could be Al Di Meola, but with an Eastern feel that will trigger the imagination of eager listeners
He switches to resonator on the down-home feel of ‘The Trail.’ It’s a piece that slips and slides as it builds up a head of steam before returning to the opening theme and a perfunctory finish.
He employs a keen tonal variety too, most notable on the echo laden, ambient drone of ‘Playing In Tongues’.
The combination of a Brian Eno style ambient back drop and angular guitar evokes the mysteries of song title itself. The same might be said of the electronic soundscape opening of ‘Ethereal Dreams’ with its Eastern sounding chording.
It’s an imperceptible evolving piece that evokes Gong, with space rock and fusion elements.
In many respect this track is the key to the album as a whole. It not only sits perfectly as a conduit between ‘Sofia’ – a percussive, Eastern flavoured Zappa style track – and the closing stripped down resonator-led title track, but it provides an extra musical colour to an album that also features the much heavier bluster and shredding of the Satriani and Vai influenced ‘East Of Eden’.
And it’s the way he successfully achieves such stylistic flow over contrasting genres that makes this album so essential.
Nothing sounds out of place, no matter how experimental. ‘Rain Over Dresden’ for example, joins the dots been Edgar Varese and Frank Zappa (circa ‘Waka/Jawaka’). The unusual mix of percussion and cello pulls our focus in different directions before the last note decays into the ether.
‘Way Out East’, is full of sonic detail as it combines electronica with an interwoven guitar line and handclaps to give it a cinematic feel, topped by Redfern’s only vocal on the album. Sonia Hammond’s sonorous cello feels like the proverbial painter’s final brush stroke.
‘Thunder Moon’ is full of passionate playing and inspirational moments, all of which are featured on the album highlight, the outrageous ‘Sub Rosa’.
The track fuses Zappa with King Crimson and the intense opening riffs and breathtaking improvisation would surely have made Zappa smile.
After the more introspective ‘Island’, I didn’t see ‘Thunder Moon’ on the horizon. It’s belligerent, intelligent, adventurous, imaginative, brilliantly played and easily a career highlight *****
Review by Pete Feenstra
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 March 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.
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