Martin Posen,
Triple Heater
(DROG, 1998)

I am not a big collector of guitar-oriented records, nor do I pretend to have any detailed knowledge of technique or style. It's not a type of musuc I seek out often, in part because it would give me too much to choose from. I do, however, know when I like a guitar album, and I can recognize the beauty of albums such as Martin Posen's Triple Heater. Forgive my lack of expertise -- all I can offer is my enthusiasm.

"Triple Heater" introduces immediately what I found most intriguing by Posen's style, and that is the mixture of lyrical moments and harsher, unexpected phrases of strong rhythm and chord progressions. The shifts between the two moods both keeps the energy within the songs and surprises with a kind of delightful jolt as each shift occurs. The lyrical beginning will lead into a more complicated melody until then Posen brings in the force behind the music with a strong beat and more intense strumming.

"Tarlika's Shadow" keeps the strong beat and mingles it with a keen sense of drama and how to derive a story from music rather than words. I never had any yearning for lyrics in Posen's work, as the guitar itself was made to create its own story as any instrument can in the right hands. This song has a great attitude built with a sense of carefully composed chords and almost fugue-like structures to create an emotional impact.

"Orison" is a much more delicate and tender selection, although there is certainly no lacking of conviction behind the note choices or progression of chords. The song shows off the clarity of Posen's technique as each note vibrates just long enough to create his desired effect.

"Bounce" is not as energetic as the title might suggest, but is instead moved by an insistent rhythm and a rolling kind of melody. The pulls back and forth evoke not the hyper bouncing of too much excitement but that moment when your sailing up off of a grand trampoline and for an instant you feel like you can fly. Somehow that feeling makes the fall back to Earth just as beautiful, and feeling of kinetic and potential energy throughout this piece give it an irresistible pull.

"Burning Bush" shines as a more complicated melody, again showcasing Posen's fast, clean fingering with the abrupt shifts in chords which all pile into a strong basic melody line. The longer time gives Posen more room to develop and create moods within the song, from confrontational to contemplative, and build its own story through those moods.

"Spinal Chords" feels more noticeably electric than the rest of the album, punctuated by long stretches of vibrato at the end of each line. The comparatively unornamented progression of chords seems to let the guitar almost speak. This is the one song which had me a little lost in that the length of the notes and the lack of a more structured melody made it easier for my attention to shift away from the music. Still, the selection has its own unique beauty.

With a title like "Son of Finlay," the next song almost must be a story. The Celtic influence is unmistakable and adds well to the chords and fingering and, even more so in this song than any other, the silences which are very consciously stretched between. These moments of arrest leave you in suspense over where the story might be headed next. The gentle finish of the tune fades out, making you wonder if the story might be continuing somewhere you can't hear it.

"Starburst" is the one tune that struck me as most unusual in how the phrases were knitted together, but it was nonetheless beautiful and intriguing.

"Jeweled Lights" is a selection that is allowed to be gentle and soothing while still being marked by the composer's knack for unusual shifts. Here the intrigue is sustained but not through force, more through persuasion, as if the notes are being led astray rather than pushed off a path. "Joao's Gem" is an appropriate, upbeat finish for the album.

The entire album is an lively collection from a masterful musician, and makes me think perhaps I should broaden my horizons more often and make that leap into instrumental music, too many choices be damned.

[ by Robin Brenner ]

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