Reflex 2003
various artists

by Jason Hoffman Reflex 2003

It’s strangely gratifying to observe the development of a local business. Such has been my pleasure with 20to20Soundesign, a full recording studio that just happens to be two blocks from my home. Each year studio owner Bob Phillips releases a compilation disc of projects completed in the studio the past year, and with Reflex 2003, the fifth such anthology, it’s inspiring to hear amazing sonic improvements over even Reflex 2002.

Mark Turney, the demented mastermind behind Rue MÈlange (previously Einstein Savage) starts off the CD with “Heather,” a catchy, lilting tune featuring delicate Celtic instrumentation in 3/4 time. Soma follow with “en transit,” a bouncy guitar-based instrumental with gritty guitars held together by a solid arrangement and spacey tones. “Dreams Age Faster Than Dreamers” by Louisville, with a compelling melody, and the piano-centric Psychedelic Peanuts’ “Terra Incognita” are both rock instrumentals that manage to maintain listener attention through effective tonal and production variety. At nearly 11 minutes “Rogue Noise” by Phillips and Jim Steele, is a minimalistic, nearly atonal excursion in the vein of Brian Eno that will surely take your head to another plane. “Something Different” by Todd Harrold and 3rd Party is the final instrumental, this time a classic jazz trio with innovative drums, developing synth and constant sax improvisation.

Fort Wayne favorite Duane Eby weighs in with “Heal Me,” a vulnerable piano and vocal song that packs a massive emotional punch. Both “Own My Art” and “Phenomena” are from an ongoing project entitled Cover My Tracks where individuals play all the parts to various Usquebaugh songs. Robert Scrumm takes on “Phenomena” with a haunting, recurring piano figure, ghostly drums, and melancholy vocals, while Randy Burger turns “Art” into a breezy carnival romp with juicy brass tones and a catchy chorus that ends in “Just throw money!” Keeping true to his world music roots, Phillips captures a traditional tribal chant with lone native percussion by Dancing Feather in “The Elders,” bringing the album to a unique close.

Although only mastered at the studio, “327” by Wom Project is a blistering example of modern rock with excellent guitar tones and incredible energy. “Fate of the Heart” by Eskil/Flier and George Toledo III is a curious contrast, opening with one minute of New Age synth wash followed by a minute of oddly effected rap-esque talk before turning to a squishy, gurgling and very catchy pop song where loads of Cars keyboards collide with Tom Petty vocals. Natty guitars driving a 3/4 beat kick off “Neck Deep” by Violated By, but it isn’t long before this intelligent mixture of modern rock, punk and cynicism veers off into uncharted territory. “2thousandand1” by Vince Faris likewise takes the road more segmented, going from a jazzy trio and world-weary film noir vocals until, nearly three minutes in, the song turns into a dark, menacing rock song with a distorted organ solo, culminated with a sizzling combination of the two.

Many of the tracks on the CD were created by working with home studio owners, combining the strengths of the home (low cost) with that of the professional studio (racks of professional gear worth more than your car and extensive experience) to achieve the best results for the lowest cost. To obtain a copy of this CD and hear how other home recordists are utilizing pro-studios, contact 20to20 Soundesign at 260-483-1926.

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