Controlled By Radar is the second release from Scott McGill, Michael Manring, and Vic Stevens. The band has put together an interesting concept, a two CD set, one disc being electric, titled Right Brain, the second acoustic and titled Left Brain. Each has it's own separate characteristics and flavor, but both are prime examples of masterful modern day fusion that will tantalize the listener.
Right Brain consists of a mix of aggressive and serene electric workouts. "Umkhonto We Sizwe" kicks things off in Weather Report fashion, with the tribal percussion of Stevens and the melodic Jaco Pastorius inspired bass work of Manring laying down gorgeous soundscapes. McGill is all over the scalding "Argentine Scalp Massage" with torrents of metallic chords and effects laden solos. Fans of Allan Holdsworth, especially the period where the guitarist mixed harder edged fusion with more experimental work on the Synth-Axe will love "Have Sex Get Paid-Part II", an atmospheric piece with a multitude of sounds by McGill. The guitarist seems to be experimenting with a variety of new sounds and effects on this CD, which at times fills in where a sax or keyboard player might fit. Manring and Stevens prove to be a formidable and mighty team throughout, with Manring not only laying down muscular bass grooves but also soloing with melodic and reckless abandon much like his mentor Pastorius. Another standout track from this disc is the charged-up "Cash From Chaos", which is a bit different in scope from some of the more dense and atmospheric numbers. This piece features a driving rhythm and shards of aggressive guitar solos from McGill. "Puff Johnson" is another excuse for McGill to show off some of the new sounds he is experimenting with, and uses wah-wah and other effects to give a "sax like talking effect" that reminded me of Steve Vai.
Left Brain is much more laid back and all acoustic. Memories of Shakti, Oregon, and the acoustic works of John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paca DeLucia instantly come to mind. McGill is a fantastic acoustic player, and while he has given us snippets of his talents on this instrument in the past, here he is totally in the spotlight with Manring and Stevens giving gentle support. Manring even dishes up some funky blues on "Chicago Hot Plate", a bouncy number with fat bass lines and crystalline guitar voicings. Stevens is all over "Madinat Ash Sha'b" with furious and complex rhythms, and really drives the trio to uncharted waters. Throughout this sets ten tracks, the band goes from calm moments to dizzying acoustic rave-ups, and there is plenty to enjoy. It proves to be a great contrast to disc one.
Chalk up another sophisticated winner for this mighty instrumental trio. While the music is complex and dense as hell at times, it is always melodic and memorable. It will be interesting to see how they continue to evolve over time. If they add perhaps a sax or keyboard player full-time that might even add a scarier, ECM dimension to their sound, as now they resemble many of the great bands from that label with their no-holds-barred attack. Recommended.