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LaFosse, Andre: The Hard Bargain/Do the Math
The last track on The Hard Bargain, one of two LPs released by Andre LaFosse this year, is called "Balancing Act." This is important to point out because it's the most apt description of his two-album project, the Satriani-heavy guitar jam The Hard Bargain and the electronics-heavy Do the Math. The former he calls his "mid-life crisis rock album," the latter, in true prog fashion, his "mad scientist modular synth hauntology krautrock album." In releasing both records on the same day, LaFosse gives listeners what seems to be quite a challenge in juggling two sets of songs that come from different angles.
In the end, however, both end up focusing on the guitar, albeit in different ways. The Hard Bargain draws from instrumental guitar maestros like Joe Satriani or even Steve Vai at his most accessible, with a heavy blues inflection throughout (see opener "Subway Psychology"). Even the prominent electronic washes of Do the Math don't escape the Satriani vibe; it plays out like a less techno version of Satch's Engines of Creation LP. LaFosse's guitar playing is quite good; without ever going into overly flashy soloing he manages to craft songs that emphasize virtuosity that doesn't have to come at the expense of melody.
Unfortunately, one significant problem plagues both of these records, and it's the same thing that's made Satriani's late-career work so banal: something I like to call The Backing Track Syndrome. As good as LaFosse's playing is here, the other instruments backing his guitar are often one-dimensionally played and produced, giving the feeling of a guy jamming to pre-recorded music rather than someone writing unique songs with quality all-around instrumentation. This means a lot of the otherwise cool electronic textures on Do the Math, especially on the eleven-minute closer "Siren Song/Yawning Abyss/The Turing Test," end up going to waste.
For aspiring guitar virtuosos looking for someone to emulate, Andre LaFosse is a good choice, and there's plenty of material on both these records to find inspiration in. But as standalone albums, they lack the punch necessary to make really great guitar rock.
The Hard Bargain
1. Subway Psychology
2. Twelve Sided Dice
3. The Hard Bargain
4. Zen Gun
6. Balancing Act
Do the Math
2. Hard Sci Fi
4. The Lowest Form
5. The Process of Elimination
6. Slow Motion Saturation
7. Strange Games
8. Do the Math
10. Siren Song/Yawning Abyss/The Turing Test
Added: October 22nd 2012
Reviewer: Brice Ezell
Related Link: Artist Website
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