There’s generally a degree of pomp and derision involved when a musician strikes it out on their own for a solo CD. Tack on the fact that it’s bass guitar only and doesn’t feature Victor Wooten or Les Claypool and it’s surprising “Alone” even made it to stores. Sure there’s a niche audience who will enjoy hearing a demonstration of scales and technique, but why would they pay for it when they can just walk into a Guitar Center and hear it for free?
Evan Brewer, a veteran of bands such as Animosity and Reflux (not to mention his recent addition to The Faceless,) seems all too aware of this. A stunningly talented artist, Brewer focuses more on composition than bravado. To be sure, “Alone” is by no means a mere sonic accompaniment to justify a future series of instructional DVD’s (though such a thing wouldn’t be unwelcome.) Nor is it the self-centered instrumental masturbation one would normally expect.
Instead “Alone” plays out like an artist chasing his inner muse without worry from creative restraint. From jazz fusion to funk, progressive rock and beyond; Brewer uses the percussive versatility of the bass guitar to not only showcase his ability, but also craft some endearingly vulnerable arrangements. Whether it be through a frenzied display of slap and pop or layering tapped harmonies overtop of slap and mute ‘drumming’ there’s a clever sense of depth to the songs he’s written here.
As Brewer has displayed through a series of YouTube videos, he is readily able to play two basses at once – a quality that adds a meta layer of wonder as to whether or not some parts were multi-tracked. Furthermore, there is a considerable amount of electronic modification in terms of delay and the like that would suggest some laptop/studio tinkering was added after the fact.
On the surface it may seem that instrument geeks and shred heads will be the target audience for “Alone“. But it doesn’t feel like a stretch that those devoted to the likes of Cynic and Between The Buried And Me would find much enjoyment here.
The overall unifying theme of this release seems to be melodic prog and Brewer‘s chops are both uncanny and inspired enough to push this release past any ‘lone instrument’ concerns. True artistry is rare these days and the lack of ego Brewer instills in “Alone” is unquestionably refreshing. Sure he is in complete control of his instrument, but he doesn’t always necessarily push it to its limit.
Instead he strikes a delicate balance between songwriting and proficiency that adds multiple dimensions to what should be a one-sided affair. Yes it may sound thin at times and there are parts that almost beg for a cameo from an equally as talented drummer to flesh out the rhythmic prowess on display.
And yet for such a bold leap to undertake on his own, “Alone” finds Brewer delivering a captivating listen that not only explores the breadth of his talent and influences; but captures his passion for his chosen instrument as well.
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