For years Jim Steele has been an in-demand jazz and session keyboard player in the Fort Wayne area, even snagging the Best Keyboard Player Whammy in 2001. But until the recent release of Neptune Rising fans have had to console themselves with solitary tracks on compilation albums. Yes, you read that right. Fort Wayne's own instrumental guru of synth has finally put six of his compositions onto a shiny plastic platter.
"Moonshot" opens with bubbling yet tranquil sounds before the drums and bass kick in, compliments of (Fawn Liebowitz players) Tim Beeler and Kent Klee on bass and drums, respectively. The sound this seasoned trio makes is tight, as evidenced in the rock feel of "Moonshot." A Rhodes electric piano pushed through a wah pedal opens the title track, leading to mysterious organs that evoke thoughts of Iron Butterfly. Clocking in at 13:32, "Neptune Rising" is the longest track, yielding plenty of room for jazzy improvisation backed by some intense bass sounds and solid drumming. After a lengthy Egyptian stint the track melts to an echo-laden landscape of sound that slowly comes back to life with ringing feedback tones, artfully building to the original melody. "Hallucination 106" is a giant instrumental question mark with flute-like sounds and wispy strings weaving a gossamer alien web.
An angular, broken melody breaches the silence in "Blue Ice Injection," as glistening bell tones introduce more Egyptian detuned melodies, underscored by a trippy rhythm. An 80s synth sound highlights the martial "Ancestral Wind," as the slow buildup morphs into a spacey excursion of ethereal wisps of tone colors. "Wraiths of the Wood/Cobblestone Rationale" sounds just like you think it would, starting with ringing tones like the glare of the sun peeking around a tree just before sundown.
As in all Steele compositions, the pacing is dramatic with each piece solidly constructed to hold your attention, even without lyrics. Often while enjoying this album I was reminded of the music of Larry Fast (keyboardist for Peter Gabriel as well as solo projects under the Synergy name) and Brian Eno. Not ironically, part of the recording was completed at Fort Wayne's Brian Eno Headquarters (20to20 Soundesign Studios), with the other part completed by Steele at his home studio. Eno's influence is well understood and well incorporated. To experience Neptune Rising for yourself, visit www.jimsteelemusic.com and hear the skillfully wrought compositions of one of the area's most prominent keyboardists.
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