STEVE MACLEAN ENSEMBLE – GPS

Rēr Megacorp

A partial acceptability ruined by detrimental incidents. This is the lingering sensation after repeated spins of GPS, a record that leaves us chin-scratching in regard to a judgment. Guitarist and composer MacLean – who handles a pretty impressive array of instruments, also linking them to electronic / synthetic auxiliary tools – fronts a group comprising pianist Tim Inman, bassist Jimmy McGirr, drummer Dave Fields and, in three of the eleven tracks, percussionist and vocalist Todd Dadaleares. In spite of the pieces being composed, a definite improvisational spirit rules; however, the quirkier digressions appear so disjointed from the general logic that they almost annoy, or at the very least distract. Maybe this is exactly what was desired, who knows. A vague comparison could be made with Forever Einstein, recalled in the bony melodic sketches characterizing episodes such as “1st Breeze Of Summer” or “Out Of Season”. The themes are usually executed by the leader’s guitar, which sounds devoid of any virtuosistic trait in favour of a clear exposition of the scored material; obsessive arpeggios are frequently part of the recipe, but there’s no risk of mistaking MacLean with Robert Fripp in terms of metric exactitude and picking accuracy. The fact that most of the music was recorded in real time is a valid justification for the slight feel of insecurity that some of the parts reveal, making the whole sound both tentative and unsullied. What appears strange is the choice of alternating a RIO-tinged temperament with abstract interludes and inconsistent juxtapositions that certainly detract from the record’s overall value. A good move was closing the CD with “One Day In Paradise”, a processed field recording featuring great blue herons and woodpeckers, scarred at one point by the powerful noise of a jet. The beautiful finale of an otherwise unpersuasive work.

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