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Ryan, Jimmy: 21st Century Riffology
A driving force of the fabulous Flying Ryan Brothers, uber-guitarist Jimmy Ryan returns with a new take on the old, a step into the new age, in his words this album is 21st Century Riffology, so I'll let him explain…
"Technology has completely changed the way we consume media, especially our music; we now have personal playlists of tens of thousands of songs from thousands of artists delivered through tiny earbuds as an incidental aural backdrop to the hyper-accelerated, digitally saturated reality in which we exist. Mindful immersion into a full-length album with headphones in complete isolation is a quaint throwback to a different age where we actually had time to engage in such activities.
It should come as no surprise that most of our sensory input does not come from the physical reality that surrounds us, but from the media environment that saturates it. As the Information Age rages forward, we've gotten used to everything being delivered to us via digitally-encoded, selectively edited packets of information for our endless consumption. This is "The New Normal" and it's redefining the way we do…and think about…everything.
The music industry has been slow to embrace this new paradigm, where outmoded operational methods are still entrenched, the quest for the hit still dominates, and underlying song architecture is still exactly the same as it's always been. With tanking sales across all genres, it's shocking that the industry continues to base its business model on the definition of insanity (doing the same things they've always done in the same way they've always done them and expecting different results).
This release is an attempt within the genre of instrumental guitar music to consciously shift that outmoded paradigm to one that better reflects what the consumption of music means in the Anthropocene: short, tightly focused, fully realized and highly controlled bursts of guitar madness liberated from the structural constraints of the past. 21 songs in about 50 minutes.
Welcome to 21st Century Riffology, an instrumental guitar rock soundscape that provides a new musical blueprint for a future that desperately needs one."
Now, cards on the table, I'm the exact opposite of what Jimmy is describing. Luddite though I might be I don't have playlists, don't do digital platforms for my music, I look at one social media site maybe twice a day and I still find time to listen to albums – lots of albums! Hell, I don't even own a pair of ear buds!!! I do however love heavy rockin' blues dripping virtuosic guitar playing, so while I am a million miles from being Jimmy's target audience, I am still somehow 100% Jimmy's target audience!
So 21 songs in 50 minutes is an unusual approach and it's one that throws up all manner of curve balls. Styles come at you thick and fast: blues here, hard rock there. A dash of funk, a near metal assault. Instrumental guitar trickery a la Satriani, reflective artistry that makes you ponder – and then it all starts again. In places as wordless tracks from around the five minute mark down to just over sixty seconds speed past, you can lose the place. Have I heard that theme before? Is that idea complete? The feel of some picture-less movie playing out through sound an interesting and at times tricky balance to convey and to take in. But then you have to factor all of that against some of the finest guitar playing you could hope to find. "Zenology" is a study in beauty and poise, "Speedloader" is a brutish shout of crafted and honed rock guitars with a howling blues heart. "X Factor" dials up the grooving goodness through the biggest riff on the album and yet the guitar solo sings and soars, while "Slipstream" feels like it just fell out of the classic Joe Perry songbook – yes it's that good! And so it goes on, "Nailgun" almost NWOBHM in its riff at all costs attack, but the solo is so sumptuous, it's as though Satch joined Saxon for a day back in 1978! "Funkalicious" is… well… funkalicious, whereas "Inside America" evokes Jeff Healey at his best. Honestly, other than a few rushed fade outs at the end of a couple of tracks, complaining about the standard of the songsmithery and technical but hugely fluid guitar work is impossible. Yet, does 21st Century Riffology hold together as an album? Well, maybe it's a moot point, after all that was exactly what Jimmy Ryan was trying to avoid, or evolve, in the first place.
1. EVENT HORIZON
3. THOR'S HAMMER
10. X FACTOR
11. AD ASTRA
17. RED CLOUD
20. INSIDE AMERICA
Added: February 17th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: 21st Century Riffology @ The Grooveyard
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