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Yaan-Zek, Phi: Solar Flare

Guitarist and composer Phi Yaan-Zek's latest CD Solar Flare is a very impressive collage of varying sounds and styles. At first glance at the CD I was sure I was in for another album from a young hot-shot guitarist who wanted nothing more than to shred and show off his chops for 45 minutes. However, one quick listen to Solar Flare and the opposite was quickly realized. This is a musician with immense compositional talents to go along with some strong musical chops. Yaan-Zek plays a myriad of instruments, including guitar, keyboards, percussion, and mandolin, but he also has a full cast of support and guest players on the CD to flesh out the sound and give it a full band feel. The best way to descibe the music would be early 70's Frank Zappa, by the way of Mahavishnu Orchestra, round the corner to Steve Vai, with a stop over at Mike Keneally's house, and finally a drop by at Jeff Beck's. Ridiculously complex at times, especially on the jaw-dropping "Hyperspatial", which features some insane guitar/keyboard unison workouts, as well as emotional and meditative, as on the lovely blues/jazz of "High".

The way Phi composes some of these pieces, especially the more progressive ones, really reminds me of Grand Wazoo era Zappa, as he and his bandmates get a full, rich, big band sound, utilizing many instruments. Take "Out in the Boonies" for example, which starts off with some jazzy arrangements featuring sitar & xylophone sounds, flute, and keys, before the guitarists rips in with some manic John McLaughlin styled electric leads. There's some progressive funk that shows a twist of Vai on "I Phi", crazy jazz-metal on "Psychometamorph" (featuring some sick bass work from Fabio Trentini), and some sweet lyrical guitar playing ala-Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow on the compelling "Passion Reborn". "Solar Reprise" sees the band inject some serious jazz fusion & prog elements, with sax solos, Mellotron, bassoon (played by none other than Gryphon's Brian Gulland!), piano, and soaring guitar.

There's not a clunker on this piece, just one exciting track after another. This guy can flat out play, as can his band, and he writes interesting songs filled with melody, experimentalism, and chops galore. I want to hear more already-one of the surprises of 2005!

Track Listing
1) Solar Flare
2) Hyperspatial
3) High
4) Out In the Boonies
5) So Far Away
6) I Phi
7) Psychometamorph
8) Little Space Creature
9) Grasshopper Medicine
10) Passion Reborn
11) Solar Reprise

Added: July 6th 2005
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 5394
Language: english

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