Reflex 2004
various artists

by Jason Hoffman Reflex 2004
The year 2004 has long come to a close, but the new Reflex 2004, an annual review of albums and projects from 20to20Soundesign, is just making its way to my review table. As in past years the compilation album includes songs from full albums, live recordings, personal projects, demos and aborted band efforts, often yielding a rich crop of material that would otherwise never be heard.

Leading off the album is “NaÔve Ramblings” by Rue Melange (formerly Einstein Savage), a Celtic rock song bearing an 80s influence that builds slowly into an epic sound. Jeff Lipman adds big drums to his rowdy anthem demanding answers in “QNA,” from his album Timegun. With a song named “We Are the Gods of Rock” from the band Gods of Rock, what do you expect but a good old-fashioned classic rock song with organs, chunky arena guitars and, of course, a sinus-clearing guitar solo? Usquebaugh returns with “Heather,” a sweet, lilting song centered around their trademark Celtic-pop melodies and ethnic-rock instrumentation. That’s What She Said weighs in with “Johnny Rock,” a lurching, gurgling, raucous live garage rock recording that gets the body moving; and two brothers, known appropriately as Gemini, capture constant country-pop vocal harmonies in the very catchy “The Rain Pours Down,” a very promising start to a long musical career. The last band track requires full disclosure, as I was involved in its making. But that said, “Falling” by Hot Voodoo Lovin’ is a swirling miasma of freaky flanged percussion, gutsy rock guitar, wildly inappropriate sound effects and the dark feel of a psychedelic nightmare.

Fully half of the tracks this year are instrumentals, and they span a large cross-section of styles. There’s the quiet, charming guitar of Chris Holly’s “Sunday Afternoon”; the lush and cinematic synthesizer composition “Black Out” from Robert Scrimm; and the techno/dark wave/experimental “Out of It’s Cage” by the mysterious Tumbolia. “World 3” is a partnership between studio owner Bob Phillips and the famous Jim Steele where Steele’s dreamy New Age atmospheres run headlong into Phillips’ tempo shifts and caustic ring tones. An instrumental mix of “Where I’ve Been” by Soma is provided for the enjoyment of all. Without the vocals to focus the attention of the listener, one can really hear the great guitar work and punchy drums, not to mention the various production nuances that shine through. New Millennium Jazz Orchestra are true to their name in “A Time For Love” which weaves some very intoxicating melodies via a breezy horn section, at times dipping into regretful nostalgia, all bolstered by a full, symphonic sound. “Bionic” by Katzenjammer is a jazzy rock jam based on a circular musical figure, closing with an inspired guitar solo in the best jazz tradition. The backing track for Karen Moussou’s “Beachwalk” is just that, a very relaxing few minutes of seagull cries and lulling waves that make anyone yearn to visit the nearest coast.

All in all it’s another fine and productive year to 20to20soundesign. To hear what’s been going on over yonder and to hear some of the best unheard of artists in the area, contact the studio at 483-1926. Tell ‘em whatzup sent ya and receive a free can of tuna.

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